Coos Health & Wellness

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Coos County residents will see stronger virus restrictions once again starting Friday, state health officials announced Monday.

Officials from Coos Health & Wellness also announced the county’s 14th virus-related death Tuesday. A woman in her 90s with some kind of underlying conditions died with COVID-19, and she wasn’t related to any of the county’s virus outbreaks, CHW said.

The county’s move to new regulations comes because the county’s latest virus numbers put it squarely in the “extreme” category of virus risk after just two weeks in the slightly more lenient “high risk” category.

“We should’ve never really been in high (risk) in the first place. There was an anomaly on a day where there was no data in a slot that dropped us that .9 (cases),” said CHW Assistant Director Dr. Eric Gleason. “So, ostensibly we never should have never been in high, we should still have been in extreme. But it happened.”

The new restrictions will mean that, effective Friday, restaurants will once again have to close their doors to indoor dining.

Other restrictions under the framework include:

  • Indoor recreation and fitness establishments must close. This includes gyms, indoor recreational sports, indoor pools and indoor dance, among other things.
  • Outdoor recreation and fitness establishments will still be allowed, up to 50 people.
  • Outdoor entertainment establishments, like zoos, gardens and outdoor event spaces, will be limited to a maximum of 50 people.
  • Long-term care centers will be limited to outdoor visitation only.
  • Offices must close to the public and require remote work if able.
  • Outdoor social gatherings will be limited to six people, with a maximum of two households.

Since the move down to lower restrictions two weeks ago was largely driven by an anomaly in the data, the increase in cases and restrictions that followed isn’t necessarily due to failures on anyone’s part.

“We are, as a community, for the most part the vast majority of us are doing everything we need to do,” Gleason said. Instead, the cases continue to be a matter of community spread and several significant community outbreaks.

Last week, CHW officials said the county needed to have fewer than 200 cases per 100,000 in population for the preceding two weeks in order to avoid the jump back to extreme risk protections.

But state metrics announced Monday show that Coos County didn't come close, with 278.1 cases per 100,000 in population over the last two weeks.

It's not just the number of cases putting the county into the higher level of restriction, either. For the past two weeks, the county's rate of test positivity has also placed it in the high risk category.

Between Dec. 27 and Jan. 9, one in five tests administered in the county came back positive, the highest rate in the county since the pandemic began and the third highest rate in the state over that two-week period.

Gleason pointed to mass testing at several local outbreaks in the county as reasons for the spike in test positivity.

“When you have outbreaks, and you test large outbreaks, like a couple congregate care facilities, and a giant number of those people have positive tests, your test positivity’s going to go through the roof, it doesn’t even matter how many tests are being done in the community,” he said.

The county’s largest outbreak to date is still active at Coos Bay’s Life Care Center, according to Becky Fairhurst, a CHW case investigator. That outbreak is now associated with 81 cases of COVID-19 and seven virus deaths.

An outbreak at the Bob Belloni Boys Ranch now makes up 27 of the county’s virus cases and one virus death.

Lastly, an outbreak at the Bayside Terrace assisted living and memory care facility is reporting a total of four cases of the virus, including at least one resident.

That outbreak began with a staff member testing positive for the virus, which triggered testing for additional facility employees and residents, according to Caitlin VanDerSchaaf, a spokesperson for the facility’s management company. All of the facility’s staff and about 95% of residents were tested within three days of the first positive, she said.

“Frontier (Management) is and has been very responsible in all protocols/policies we have implemented to ensure ongoing safety,” VanDerSchaaf wrote in an email. “Ocean Ridge (Assisted Living) is another Frontier building and has yet to have any positive cases since this began.”

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

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