COVID testing

A new COVID testing clinic opened last week at Walmart, giving local residents another free opportunity to get tested for the virus.

A COVID-19 outbreak linked to the Boys and Girls Club is playing havoc with schools in Coos Bay and North Bend.

Coos Health & Wellness confirmed multiple COVID cases were linked to cohorts at the Boys and Girls Club for students in first through fifth grade. As a result, Coos Bay closed classes for all kindergarten through sixth graders Thursday through Monday. North Bend announced any first through fifth graders who attended the Boys and Girls Club would be asked to quarantine at home for 10 days.

The news came as Coos Health & Wellness reported eight more COVID-linked deaths in the last week, bringing the total of people who have died after contracting the virus to 85.

Dr. Eric Gleason, assistant director of Coos Health & Wellness, said his organization is working with the Boys and Girls Club to fully understand the impact and how it may impact schools.

"We're working with the Boys and Girls Club right now to try to better understand the impact," Gleason said. "You have to assume if you've been to the Boys and Girls Club, you've been affected."

Gleason said Coos Health & Wellness worked with both school districts earlier this week, but ultimately the districts decided how to handle the outbreak.

He suggsted parents of students who went to the Boys and Girls Club should get their students tested for COVID. A drive-through clinic at Bay Area Hospital is available from 8 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday and a variety of other clinics are also available. A new COVID testing clinic opened this week in the parking lot of Walmart.

Gleason said the outbreak underscored the dangers of sending children to school, unless safety measures such as wearing masks and social distancing are followed.

"I think there is an inherant risk to having this many people in close proximity together," he said. "If we're going to safely keep people in school, we have to take safety precautions."

On Thursday, Pfizer asked the FDA for emergency authorization to offer its COVID vaccine to children ages 5-11. Many experts predict the vaccine will be approved before Halloween. Gleason said he would, personally, get his children vaccinated.

"That is going to be a very personal choice for a lot of individuals," Gleason said. "Whether are not they are getting sverely sick, they are getting sicker. I don't see a lot of mumps or measles, but I was glad to get my kids vaccinated. We want to make sure everyone is safe. The science suggets this is safe."

Coos Health & Wellness said no one under the age of 20 has been hospitalized for COVID in Coos County, but chldren are getting sick. Gleason said his concern is a future variant could impact children more.

"The variants we had prior to Delta, they were problematic, but they weren't like Delta," he said. "When Delta hit, the deaths were higher, the hospitalizations were higher almost immediately. If we continue to allow this thing to mutate, we might not be able to stop it. We don't want to see the movement forward with the variants."

Again, Gleason said the key is for anyone who is eligible to get vaccinated. While it does not guarantee no one will catch COVID, it stops most cases and greatly reduces the risk for those who get it.

"We have an opportunity to get ahead of this," he said. "We have an opportunity to keep our kids saife, keep our adults safe, keep our elderly safe, but we have to do it together."

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