Coos Health & Wellness

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COVID-19 rates in Coos County are slowly improving — but local public health officials aren’t celebrating quite yet.

The county’s two-week case rate and percent positivity are both lower than they have been in several weeks, leaving open the possibility the county could leave the extreme-risk category of virus restrictions in the coming weeks.

“We are optimistic, cautiously optimistic, that we’re moving in the right direction, but again as we said before, we just finished spring break, so we need to see how the numbers really shake out for the next few weeks,” Gleason said.

According to state figures, the county reported around 253 cases per 100,000 in population and had a test positivity of 7.6% between March 14 and 27. The two reporting periods before that both had case rates above 300 and positivity rates of 10%.

Gleason said the decreases could be because several high-case days are now more than two weeks in the past, putting them out of the state’s calculation period.

“It could be a variety of things,” Gleason said. “We could have had a day two weeks ago that was really big, where we had a lot of numbers in day, and that is now outside of that two weeks. So it could have something to do with just what the data looked like for the specific day.”

To keep the county’s case rate declining, Gleason said the county probably needs average daily case rates in the single digits.

“We’d prefer to stay down below ten,” Gleason said. “We’d like to see more of those kind of days and less of the 12, 13.”

But the outlook isn’t all positive — March was the county’s deadliest month of the pandemic, with 10 virus-related deaths reported.

That includes one reported over the weekend. A 65-year-old make tested positive for the virus March 25 and died at Bay Area Hospital March 27, according to information from the Oregon Health Authority and confirmed by CHW.

So far, 29 in the county have died with the virus, according to CHW.

“It’s been a shocking month for us and for the teams to look and see how this has gone. But there’s nothing that we can put our finger on and say, ‘well this was the reason,’” Gleason said. “This month just happens to be kind of a really sad month as far as our numbers go in that category.”

What’s more, the county hasn’t yet felt the impact of spring break gatherings. It wouldn’t be the first time the county’s reported a decline in case rates, only to see another spike as a result of holidays and events.

“This is our fourth decline in our data numbers,” Gleason said. “And every one of them has been matched by a significantly higher increase on the backend. So we’re going to keep our fingers crossed, but we’re hoping that things are moving in the right direction.”

And while the downward trend is an improvement, the county’s numbers are still high — its test positivity rate is still tied for the state’s highest, and its case rate is the state’s third highest.

That means the county needs to work to continue decreasing its case count — and ideally get to a lower risk level than the high-risk category, which still leaves a lot of restrictions on businesses.

“High should not be our goal. Our goal should be to get down to the low part of moderate and into low, so we can actually go back to whatever we think normal might look like,” Gleason said. “High would be great, but low would be pretty awesome if we could find our way down there.”

The state will announce new risk categories Tuesday, using data based on the March 21 through April 3 period. If Coos County reports fewer than 200 cases per 100,000 in population and a test positivity rate below 10%, it’ll move out of the extreme-risk category.

Coos Health & Wellness this week also received a lower allocation of first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine than it has in weeks past. According to Gleason, the agency is hopeful that actually signals an improvement in the state’s vaccination effort, as supplies are reallocated from agencies to health facilities that are more accessible.

“We’re going more and more to where the health care organizations are going to be requesting allocations from the state as far as doses go,” Gleason said. “That is a good sign that we’re moving it in the right direction.”

So far, just over 18,000 in the county have been vaccinated, putting the county’s per-person vaccination rate at ninth in the state.

Who’s eligible for a vaccine?

As of April 5, the group able to get vaccines will again expand in Oregon to include frontline workers, those in multigenerational households and those 16 and older with certain underlying health conditions — as well as those over 45 with certain conditions, those in congregate housing, seafood and food processing workers and seniors who were already eligible.

The state has a complex series of definitions for each newly eligible group: Frontline workers include those whose jobs put them close to other people, like grocery and retail workers, food service workers, and many other professions.

Underlying conditions include cancer, COPD, obesity and heart conditions, among others. A complete slate of eligibility guidelines are available on the state’s website at covidvaccine.oregon.gov/.

Starting May 1, anyone 16 or older will be eligible for a vaccine in Oregon.

Where are vaccines available?

In Coos County, Coos Health & Wellness is maintaining a vaccine waitlist, which it uses to invite eligible residents to vaccination events put on by the agency and other health partners.

CHW invites people to events in the order they became eligible, meaning health care workers and the oldest individuals are at the top of the list. Sign-ups are available online at cooshealthandwellness.org/.

In Reedsport, the Lower Umpqua Hospital District has established a call center for vaccine pre-registration. Only those who are currently eligible for the vaccine can call 541-271-2175 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and more information is online at www.lowerumpquahospital.org/.

Other locations in Reedsport are also offering vaccines, and the Douglas County Public Health Network is coordinating some mass vaccination events. Instructions on signing up for those events, and information about signing up with other providers, is available online at douglaspublichealthnetwork.org/index.php/covid-19-vaccination-information/.

Several pharmacies are administering vaccines separately. Each has its own policies, but is bound by the state’s guidance, meaning those who are currently eligible for vaccines can sign up for appointments.

Bay Area Hospital is offering some vaccine doses. Appointments can be made online at https://www.bayareahospital.org/.

Coquille Valley Hospital is also offering some vaccine doses, and appointments can be made online at www.cvhospital.org/vaccine/.

In Bandon, Southern Coos Hospital & Health Center is offering appointments, and more details are online at https://southerncoos.org/.

Safeway pharmacies at multiple locations are administering doses. Appointments can be made online at www.mhealthappointments.com/covidappt.

Walmart has begun administering vaccines. Appointments can be made online at www.walmart.com/COVIDvaccine.

Bi-Mart pharmacies at some locations are administering vaccines. Appointments can be made online at www.bimart.com/pharmacy/covid-19-vaccine.

Fred Meyer is administering vaccines at some locations. Appointments can be made online at www.fredmeyer.com/rx/covid-eligibility.  

North Bend’s Broadway Pharmacy has begun taking appointments for a limited supply of doses. A sign-up form is at the top of the pharmacy’s website at rxbroadway.com/.

Some Health Mart pharmacies, which have locations in Reedsport and Gold Beach, are administering vaccines. Appointments can be made online at www.healthmartcovidvaccine.com.

Reporter Zack Demars can be reached at worldnews3@countrymedia.net.

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