SALEM — A large contingent of Willamette Valley lawmakers urged Gov. Kate Brown this week to “immediately increase testing” in the face of Oregon’s huge spike in coronavirus cases.
The 32 current and soon-to-be members of the Oregon House and Senate, including more than two dozen Democrats and the Republican House leader, spelled out in stark terms how far Oregon’s rate of testing lags nearly all U.S. states — including neighboring Washington and California, even as Oregon’s test positivity rate outranks theirs.
They wrote and sent their letter Monday, Nov. 16, one day after The Oregonian published a front-page story detailing the state’s failure to expand testing, with the number of people now being tested barely about levels from July. Like the article, their letter pointed to Oregon’s No. 49 ranking by a nationally trusted source for per-capita COVID-19 testing.
Even without enough testing, the state is now identifying an average of nearly 990 new cases a day, by far its highest rate during the pandemic.
“We cannot afford to continue with the current testing systems in place today,” the lawmakers wrote to Brown, a Democrat. “Oregonians need certainty and they need access to testing.”
The state health agency Brown oversees should provide uniform statewide guidelines for who can be tested and should make it easy for Oregonians in all counties to find where they can get a test, they argued.
“Increased testing is a key factor in decreasing the spread of COVID-19 to limit the impact on our healthcare system and our economy,” the letter said. “We urge implementation of aggressive testing strategies in advance of the holiday season and utilization of all resources available to immediately expand rapid testing availability and contact tracing.”
Brown’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment Nov. 19.