Oregon Botched Its Covid Response, Part 1

It is said that hindsight is twenty-twenty and that it is easy to be an armchair quarterback. Both are true, but I am going to unabashedly engage in both for a bit. Back in January/February 2020, I, like a lot of people began following the news about the Wuhan/COVID-19 virus as the pandemic blossomed in Wuhan, China. I remember reading about the ham-fisted measures taken by the communist government, (mass lockdowns of large cities, quarantines, and masking requirements), and thinking it would never happen in America, the “Land of the Free”. Boy was I wrong. I badly overestimated the competence and intelligence of the Oregon state government. Here, in a few posts, are the ways they blew it.

First, their statistics suck.

A quote often attributed to Peter Drucker is “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it”. Measurement does not solve the problem. That takes intelligent and timely action by policymakers. Oregon lacked two things. The state lacked good metrics, and it lacked a Governor and state health officials capable of intelligent and timely action, or when warranted, no action.

“…their statistics suck.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, there was an attempt by the state government to measure the spread of Covid. Oregon Health Sciences University began what they called “The Key to Oregon” study by monitoring 100,000 Oregonians by having them report their daily temperatures through a website. The goal was to “help local leaders better track, test and map the prevalence of COVID-19 across the state”. They were only able to recruit around 10,000 volunteers.

The “Key to Oregon” study, which was launched on May 1, 2020, was highly touted by the Governor and then it was dropped roughly three months later because of some sort of racial equity issue involving concerns from the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) Decolonizing Research and Data Council, (I did not make up that name).  OHSU’s press release is linked below. In other words, the state’s only serious effort to gather real-time information on the pandemic was stopped early because the Governor decided it was racist or something. I took part as a volunteer in the study, and all I got out of it was my time wasted and a free electronic thermometer.

Looking at the “Key to Oregon” press release more than a year later, one wonders if the racial disparity issue, which makes no sense, was real or if it was a pretense for halting the study for other reasons. Perhaps the results they were getting didn’t jib with the political narrative coming out of the Governor’s office and Oregon Health Authority. Maybe the “Key to Oregon” study was never meant to accomplish its stated purpose. Was it was a public relations ploy to give Oregonians the perception that state government was on top of the “crisis”?

I don’t know what the story really is if the official line is a lie, but whatever the case, Oregonians were left with a tyranny driven by metrics flowing out of the Oregon Health Authority, and a close look at those data brings to mind words like “fraud” and “incompetence”. But that is a subject for my next post.

“Key to Oregon Study press release” https://news.ohsu.edu/2020/08/27/key-to-oregon-study-transition-6812195  

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