COOS COUNTY — Coos Bay Mayor Joe Benetti and North Bend Mayor Rick Wetherell updated attendees at the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce Business Connection luncheon Wednesday on their city’s past accomplishments and plans for the future.
Mayor Benetti kicked off the presentations at The Mill Casino-Hotel by informing community members of a few of the city’s improvements last year, including updating its entrance signs, park improvements, street repairs and infrastructure enhancements.
Various projects included building a new wastewater treatment plant and bridge in Eastside, as well as numerous sidewalk repairs around downtown totaling costs of over $100,000.
For 2019, Benetti said its city council is focused on boosting its tourism appeal and investing in the downtown area’s economy with a new parking lot, new business opportunities and continued street repairs.
He also spoke briefly about the much anticipated Coos Bay Village, a new retail and commercial development area, and how the city will work with developers in creating appropriate light and railroad cross-ways to increase pedestrian access.
Mayor Wetherell followed, discussing various improvements toward North Bend city parks and local businesses. Wetherell talked about its façade improvement program, which uses Urban Renewal funds to enhance businesses’ storefront and facility.
According to Wetherell, the city has already aided about 13 businesses under the program. He also discussed improvements to North Bend’s Liberty Theatre and its contribution to the area’s local tourism.
Wetherell praised the North Bend Fire Department as well as the North Bend Police Department, which added four new officers to its roster last year, in decreasing crime for the city and improving its response time, efficiency and safety.
Last July, its city council voted to increase its safety fee to $15 as a way to balance their budget and maintain the police department’s services. However, during the November general elections, a measure to increase its fee to $25 a month was unsuccessful.
“As an elected official sometimes you have to do what’s right and not what’s easy,” Wetherell said. “We need to invest our money into our city and really make it the best that it can be.”
As the year continues to unfold, Wetherell said his priorities for the city include increasing citizen education on daily workings of the city hall to help residents understand its decision making process. Its city council will also continue working on improving streets and parks, which include a major Simpson Park renovation this spring, he added.
VANCOUVER, Wash. — A measles outbreak in the Pacific Northwest became more worrisome Wednesday with word that people infected with the extremely contagious viral illness traveled to Hawaii and central Oregon after being exposed.
The revelation prompted public health officials in Oregon's Deschutes County and in Hawaii to issue alerts, although no cases were confirmed in either location.
"It raises concerns that this can go on for a long time, become geographically larger than it is and more cases over weeks and months," said Dr. Alan Melnick, public health director for Clark County, in southern Washington, which is at the epicenter of the outbreak and has a lower-than-normal vaccination rate.
There are 40 confirmed cases in the Northwest, including 38 clustered in southwest Washington, one in Portland and one in Seattle. Thirteen additional suspected cases were reported Wednesday, and some of those will likely be confirmed, Melnick said.
Officials haven't yet determined how the measles outbreak started. The first patient sought medical care on Dec. 31, but other sick people may not have gone to a doctor or hospital, he said.
Clark County, where the first case was documented, has a 78 percent vaccination rate — far below the 95 percent required for "herd immunity" for such a contagious virus.
Herd immunity, or community immunity, is when enough of the population is vaccinated to protect those who haven't been vaccinated for medical reasons or because they are too young.
"If you have a large unvaccinated population and you add measles to the mix, one measles case will infect 90 percent of contacts, and the early symptoms are not distinguishable from other respiratory illnesses — and you're contagious at that point," Melnick said.
"So it's like taking a lighted match and throwing it into a bucket of gasoline, basically," he said.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee last week declared a state of emergency because of the outbreak, and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been consulting with local and state officials.
Two children who traveled to Hawaii were not contagious when they flew, Melnick said, and they were quarantined in the islands once they arrived. They have since returned home.
Of the confirmed cases, most patients were under 10 and at least 34 patients were not immunized. One dose of the measles vaccine gives 93 percent lifelong immunity; a second dose between ages 4 and 6 provides 97 percent immunity.
The vaccine has been part of routine childhood shots for decades, and measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000. But it is still a big problem in other parts of the world, and travelers infected abroad can bring the virus back and spread it, causing periodic outbreaks.
Last year, there were 17 outbreaks and about 350 cases of measles in the United States.
Before mass vaccination, 400 to 500 people in the U.S. died of the measles every year, 50,000 people were hospitalized and 4,000 people developed brain swelling that can cause deafness, Melnick said. One to three cases out of every 1,000 are fatal, he said.
People who think they may have the measles should call their health care provider before showing up so the facility can take steps to limit other people's exposure.
Early symptoms include a fever, runny nose and malaise, followed by a red rash that starts around the head and moves down the body.
Patients are contagious four days before and four days after getting the rash.
COOS COUNTY — More of the overdose-reversing drug, naloxone, is being prescribed in Coos County than throughout the rest of the state.
In Coos County, naloxone is being prescribed at a rate of .61 per 1,000 residents, while the statewide average is .53 per 1,000 residents. This means 39 people received a naloxone prescription in Quarter 3 of 2018, according to the Oregon Health Authority.
Advanced Health has led the charge in changing how people see naloxone, as well as helping make it more available to the public.
“It’s been one year since this project launched to get naloxone out there,” said Kate Frame, the prescription drug overdose prevention coordinator with Advanced Health.
Back when she began educating people, there was little naloxone being prescribed.
“We were calling pharmacists to see if they were prescribing it and they said they don’t even have them on the shelves and that no one asks for it,” she remembered. “If naloxone is prescribed by a pharmacist, someone has to ask for it and can be trained to use it there. That was from recent state laws to expand access, but pharmacists were saying no one was asking for it.”
On the other side of it, Frame discovered health care providers at the time weren’t co-prescribing it with opioid prescriptions, which meant almost no naloxone was being prescribed.
“Through a variety of different efforts, we launched different campaigns to raise awareness that you can get it from a pharmacy and doctors can co-prescribe it when you reach the potency of that opioid, that then naloxone should be co-prescribed at the same time,” Frame said.
One local nurse practitioner had the idea to put this information into the hands of doctors and the public through brochures. Advanced Health designed its own naloxone handout and now have them spread throughout Coos and Curry counties.
The Oregon Health Authority’s data dashboard is now tracking naloxone. As Frame described it, the dashboard tracks drugs by class and previously weren’t tracking naloxone. Now that it is, the last quarter shows a “huge increase” in prescribing, which Frame sees as proof that these efforts are paying off.
“We’re continuing to partner with HIV alliance to do trainings, so not only are we raising awareness but are providing opportunities to give it out for free,” Frame said.
Advanced Health and the HIV alliance held a town hall for community members a couple months ago and from that Advanced Health launched “Overdose Aware.” The idea came from attendees who wanted to get involved.
Overdose Aware is an outreach team that goes to vulnerable locations, such as downtown areas where people could potentially overdose.
“We’re working with the businesses and people who live in those areas,” Frame said. “We want to target our communication and keep with the idea that our community needs to be as saturated with naloxone as opioids.”
On top of the increased naloxone prescriptions, Frame said Coos County is also seeing a sharp decrease in over-prescribing, though it is still higher than the state average.
“We’re also seeing an increase in providers enrolling in the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and are close to 100 percent with that for enrollment,” Frame said.
The program allows doctors to look at other medications patients are being prescribed by other providers, lowering “doctor shopping” and over prescribing.
“It helps lower risky prescribing too because some drugs react together,” Frame said. “I see the healthcare community working hard on that.”