Coos County health officials reported the 19th COVID-19 related death in the county Wednesday morning.
A woman in her 70s died with the virus, according to Coos Health & Wellness. The presence of underlying conditions was unknown at the time of the announcement.
What’s more, after six weeks at the extreme-risk level, Coos County will see at least two more.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s office announced the new slate of virus risk levels for the state’s 36 counties Tuesday based on the last two weeks of COVID-19 case data.
With the same announcement, 16 counties (including Clackamas and Washington in the dense Portland metro area) dropped in risk levels due to declines in their case rates. Douglas County increased from the high-risk to extreme-risk level.
Only five counties remain in the extreme-risk category: Benton, Jefferson, Josephine, Douglas and Coos.
That level of virus restrictions is the only one which completely prohibits indoor dining at bars and restaurants.
Coos County’s virus case rates have improved marginally over the past month, with 168 new virus cases reported between Feb. 7 and 20. The same period had a test positivity rate of 8.4%, the lowest the county has seen this month, but the fifth-highest in the state this week.
“One could assume that we have not figured something out,” said Dr. Eric Gleason, a CHW spokesperson. “We’re not through this yet. Even best-case modeling says that we might be on the other end of this by December of this year. Best case. So, we still need to do the things we need to do to keep each other safe, and so far, we have not done a very good job of that if we’re still in extreme.”
According to CHW, 1,400 in the county have contracted the virus sine the pandemic began as of Wednesday.
To see lower virus restrictions, the county will have to see fewer than 200 cases per 100,000 in population for the two-week period ending March 6, and a test positivity rate below 10%. The county’s per-100,000 rate was 265 as of this week.
Fortunately, CHW has received its latest shipment of vaccine doses, which was scheduled for last week but delayed by winter storms nationwide. That shipment includes 1,800 doses designated for first doses, and 500 designated for second doses.
“It’s a much-needed boost, but it’s going to take some time in order to knock away a very large list of individuals that are technically eligible for the vaccine,” Gleason said. “If we can continue to get larger numbers of vaccine weekly, we’re more likely to be able to get through that at a faster clip, and we’re optimistic that we can make that happen in conjunction with what we’re seeing from pharmacies that are also starting to take appointments.”
Gleason said the county’s vaccine allocation committee — made up of representatives from area hospitals and health care providers — hadn’t yet determined where those doses would be allocated, but that the doses would be administered over the next several weeks.
But county health officials are facing a huge backlog in people hoping to get their COVID-19 shots: Around 11,500 people are already on the county’s list to get a vaccine.
Five thousand of those people are over the age of 70 — that’s the age group which the state made eligible to receive vaccines on Monday, but likely won’t see shots until the county can get through those in higher age groups. State officials have said they plan to announce the next phases of vaccine distribution this week.
CHW says only individuals who are on the county’s COVID-19 vaccination interest list will receive information about upcoming opportunities. Individuals can sign up for the list at cooshealthandwellness.org/.
That list will now send out weekly reminders to those who are registered after some faced confusion about whether or not their sign-ups were confirmed.
“This has been a process,” Gleason said. “And I understand the frustration that the community has had. We have also been very frustrated in trying to figure out how to make something so large work for something we’ve never had to try to accomplish before.”
A limited number of Safeway pharmacies have also begun scheduling vaccination appointments with doses received through a federal program. Scheduling for those is available at www.safeway.com/pharmacy/covid-19.html, though the site showed no open appointments as of Wednesday.