Testing for COVID

Employees Deb Steele, right, and Michelle Jurgenson are set up to register anyone wishing to receive a COVID test at Southern Coos Hospital & Health Center in Bandon.

COVID-19 cases in Coos County set another record last week as the number of cases reported in September easily broke the record set just a month earlier.

With one day left in the month, Coos Health & Wellness reported 1,154 cases of COVID were reported in September. In August, the county had 1,077 cases. The two months combined almost equal all the cases reported in the previous 14 months of the pandemic.

Before the Delta variant sent cases skyrocketing in August, the highest number of cases reported in a single month was 492 in February of this year.

As of Thursday, the county had 4,546 total cases since the pandemic began with 76 people who died after contracting the virus. Coos Health & Wellness reported several outbreaks at local senior assisted living facilities along with outbreaks and the Coos County Jail (7 cases), Shutter Creek prison (22 cases) and Southern Coos Hospital & Health Center (7 cases).

Every school district in the county has also had cases, with every individual school reporting either cases or impacts due to the virus.

"We've gone far and above our cases in August," said Dr. Eric Gleason, assistant director of Coos Health & Wellness. "We do look like we're at a plateau."

Gleason said Coos County has been unusual during the pandemic as it seems to move up in cases when other counties around us do, but the county seems to hang on at high points much longer than others. Both Curry and Douglas counties have reported steep drops in the number of cases in recent weeks, although Douglas County has continued to see a high number of COVID-linked deaths.

"We've never been this high ever," Gleason said. "In our previous peak, from December through March, we were kind of at a plateau for a while. We had a four-month plateau. If this trends out like that and we have a four-month plateau, it looks like December before we start to come back down. I expect we're going to be in this for a few months."

With more than 2,200 COVID cases reported in just the last two months, Gleason said there are a high number of people who currently have natural immunity against the virus. But, he added, that immunity will not last and is not as good as getting vaccinated.

"With the vaccine, you have a higher likelihood and antibodies for a significant amount of time," Gleason said. "The natural immunity antibodies drop off after about 90 days. We can't rely on natural immunity to get out of this. Our best way through this is with the vaccine."

Gleason said as of Thursday, 56.3 percent of adults in Coos County have been vaccinated. He said he anticipates the government will approve the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5-11 by Thanksgiving. That vaccine will be identical to the one given to adults, but in smaller doses.

"I'd like to see more people get vaccinated in general," he said. "But I don't see that happening."

Coos Health & Wellness also reported 27 percent of all cases in September, or 299 cases, were in people 19 and under.

"Just think about where we'd be if we didn't have masks," Gleason said.

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