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Social distancing could protect up to 20,000 Oregonians from getting COVID-19, models show

The models predict a best-case of 1,000 to 3,800 cases statewide if the public continues social distancing. The darker prediction is 15,000 to 26,000 cases.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The Oregon Health Authority released new COVID-19 modeling on Thursday.

It predicts a best-case of 1,000 to 3,800 cases statewide if the public continues social distancing. The darker prediction is 15,000 to 26,000 cases if the public does not.

The agency said its main goals right now are getting the following areas of concern addressed before the expected flood of coroanvirus patients.

  • More protective gear for workers 
  • More ventilators
  • More health care workers available to work
  • More space in hospitals 

State health official Dr. Dean Sidelinger said the call to stay home is worth it.

"These projections tell us the sacrifices Oregonians are making right now can help to save lives. At the same time, they paint a dark picture of what could happen if we don’t all work together," he said.

The other big news Thursday was unemployment numbers.

A staggering 76,500 people filed for unemployment in the week that began March 15. The number the week prior was 4,900 people.

RELATED: Oregon jobless claims up 15x last week as coronavirus shutdown took hold

"It's an unprecedented level of need by Oregonians for unemployment benefits. We haven’t seen anything like this before,” said Gail Krumenauer, a spokeswoman with the state employment department.

The department is swamped and knows calls are taking a long time. They are hiring more people to answer phones and urge you to sign up for unemployment online instead.

The unemployment claims show the industries hardest hit are the ones you would expect, restaurants and hotels, pretty much anything dealing with hospitality.

A lot of people are hurting right now.

"It's hard to put into words how uncertain people feel and how worried they are about public health and safety and their own economic well-being,"  Krumenauer said. "And we're really making efforts here at the employment department to make sure that we can do as much as we can to help provide some of that security in the form of unemployment insurance benefits."

RELATED: $2 trillion coronavirus deal: Who will get stimulus checks and when?

RELATED: Washington County hotels receive $10,000 checks amid COVID-19 slump