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Too many Oregonians are regularly attending social gatherings, says state health director

About 50% of Oregonians attended 4 or more social gatherings in the past 2 weeks, with 20% attending a gathering of more than 10, according to two statewide surveys.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Most Oregonians are wearing masks but about half are still attending social gatherings with friends and family on a regular basis, according to the results of two statewide surveys conducted by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA).

State health leaders have said repeatedly that social gatherings are a primary reason for the spread of COVID-19 in Oregon.

The surveys show that while more than 80% of Oregonians say they wear masks nearly all of the time while in public indoor spaces, about 50% of Oregonians report that they attended four or more social gatherings in the past two weeks.

About 20% said they attended a gathering of more than 10 people during the same time frame and 16% said they participated in 11 or more social gatherings in the past two weeks.

"These results show that nearly all Oregonians understand it’s important to wear a mask," said OHA Director Patrick Allen. "But fewer Oregonians believe they're at risk of getting sick and too many people are socializing indoors in bigger groups."

Allen said unless more Oregonians avoid social gatherings, which he refers to as "super spreaders" of the virus, the state "won't be able to prevent more infections, and get more schools and businesses open in Oregon."

The surveys revealed that the high level of social activity happens more often among respondents under the age of 50 and outside the tri-county area and the Willamette Valley. Oregonians who reported gathering in larger groups also said they take fewer protective measures than other Oregonians.

Here are other key findings from the OHA statewide survey:

COVID-19 precautions

On average, Oregonians take personal protective measures most of the time.

  • 84% wear a face mask indoors in public nearly all the time.
  • 75% frequently wash hands nearly all the time.
  • Nearly nine out of 10 (89%) Oregonians are "very willing" to quarantine if they were infected with COVID-19, but just over six in 10 (65%) would be "very willing" to share information with a contact tracer.

Concern about COVID-19

About four in 10 Oregonians (42%) are very worried about the COVID-19 situation in Oregon.

  • Half as many (22%) are very worried about getting sick with COVID-19.
  • More people in the Latinx community are very worried about COVID-19 (70%) and very concerned about getting sick (72%). This was especially prominent among young Latinos ages 18–24, of whom seven in 10 said they were very worried.
  • Conservatives (32%) were approximately half as likely to express concern about getting sick as liberals (78%).

Social gatherings

Oregonians are most likely to gather with family or a few friends, but two in 10 report gathering in groups of more than 10 people.

  • Two-thirds of respondents (66%) report gathering together outside in a backyard, on a porch or in a park.
  • More than half (52%) report getting together with friends inside a house.
  • More than half (52%) report traveling more than an hour away.
  • More than four in 10 Oregonians (42%) have eaten in a restaurant. Fewer than one in 10 Oregonians have attended a religious service (9%), patronized a bar or club (7%) or participated in a protest (2%).
  • While the average Oregonian has gathered with others in a social setting five times over a two-week period, conservatives (7.2) and people living outside the tri-county area (7.2) reported attending more get-togethers, while liberals (4.1) and people living in the Portland metro area reported getting together fewer times (4.6) over two weeks.

COVID-19 testing

  • About seven in 10 Oregonians are confident they could get tested for COVID-19 if they wanted to get a test. About one in 10 are not sure.

Key findings of the Lara Media survey include:

  • Spanish speakers expressed high levels of concern about COVID-19 in Oregon: 72% of surveyed Spanish speakers said they were “very worried” someone they lived with would get sick with COVID-19.
  • Spanish speakers were more reluctant to talk to a contact tracer: 47% said they’d be “very willing” to talk to a contact tracer.
  • Spanish speakers expressed hesitancy to get vaccinated: 31% said they’d “definitely” get a COVID-19 vaccine.

READ: Oregon Health Authority statewide COVID-19 survey

READ: Statewide COVID-19 survey by Lara Media (conducted in Spanish)