Oregon reports highest daily COVID-19 case total, may be linked to wildfires

By EMILY SHAPIRO, ABC News

(SALEM, Ore.) — After weeks of steady decline, COVID-19 cases are rising in Oregon — and wildfires may be contributing.

The Oregon State Authority reported 457 new cases on Friday — the single highest daily total since the pandemic began. The state’s coronavirus total now stands at over 32,000 cases.

Among the recent cases was an outbreak connected to Pacific Seafood in Clatsop County, the Oregon Health Authority noted Friday. That outbreak investigation began on Sept. 15 and now has been linked to 79 people with COVID-19.

The recent wildfires in Oregon, which erupted earlier this month, also likely played a role in the COVID-19 uptick, Oregon Health Authority officials said, according to ABC Portland affiliate KATU.

When people fled the wildfires, their social distancing efforts could have been compromised if they went to stay with families, friends or at a shelter.

Also, the wildfire smoke hurt the air quality, which could make people more susceptible to COVID-19 and similar illnesses.

Wildfire smoke causes air pollution by creating particulate matter, microscopically small particles that may bypass filters in the nose and throat and penetrate deep into the lungs. These particles can cause airway inflammation, leading to increased susceptibility to respiratory infections, aggravation of underlying respiratory conditions and increased risks for hospitalization and death from pneumonia.

“Air pollution makes COVID-19 worse, especially if you have underlying conditions,” Dr. Simone Wildes, an infectious disease specialist at South Shore Health and ABC News Medical Unit contributor, said last week. The combination of airway inflammation caused by irritants in smoke plus underlying conditions such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease create a “perfect storm” for poor COVID-19 outcomes, she said.

ABC News’ Dr. Leah Croll contributed to this report.

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