With Coos County in its worst surge in the COVID pandemic, local health leaders are begging people to wear masks, social distance and get vaccinated.
"It has a pretty clear correlation between masks and high vaccination rates," said Dr. Eric Gleason, assistant director of Coos Health & Wellness. "You can see a significant increase with no masks and a ow vaccination rates."
As of Thursday, there were 470 active COVID cases in the county with 12 people hospitalized. Five people with COVID have died in the last week, bringing the total since the pandemic began to 46 deaths. An additional 244 people are currently being monitored after close contact with someone who tested positive.
"This is August 19, and we have had 564 cases in August," Gleason said. "This is primarily the unvaccinated population. This is really preventable for the most part. When you're unvaccinated and you get COVID, you can take it to others. We have a ton of cases out there that are from the unvaccinated population."
Gleason said in Coos County, 12.5 percent of the positive cases are among people who are fully vaccinated. None of the recent deaths has been someone fully vaccinated.
While Gleason acknowledged some people are strongly anti-mask and against the vaccine, he said the proof is in the numbers.
"People with eyes and ears can see there's a correlation," Gleason said. "I can't make you believe science. These are the numbers. This is just what it is."
Coos Health & Wellness recently issued a directive encouraging people to wear masks, social distance, wash hands and take other precautions to control the COVID surge. So are people doing as asked?
"I would say they probably are not following it," Gleason said. "All we can do is try to give you the guidance you need to keep the community safe. Until we can get those unvaccinated folks to listen, I don't know what we're going to do."
He explained natural immunity for those who catch COVID lasts only around 90 days. The vaccine is going strong at eight months, although some people have been urged to get a booster shot.
With a variety of public events planned in the near future, Gleason said unless the COVID surge is under control, the events may not happen. On Thursday, the Coos Bay Downtown Association announced the Blackberry Arts Festival scheduled at the end of August was being cancelled.
"I think it's a sad state of affairs these events may need to get cancelled," Gleason said. "Large groups of folks who refuse to wear masks kind of like you saw at the commissioners' meeting - it's lunacy."
Gleason said one area that the county is seeing a surprise increase in numbers is among children. Since August 1, 77 people under the age of 19 have been confirmed as COVID positive. With school scheduled to begin in weeks, Gleason said the districts are preparing to start with strong COVID precautions.
"I think the schools are going to do their very best to keep our youth safe," Gleason said. "We've seen some youth cases, and we will see some more. If they want to see kids in school, they need to be masked."
Gleason said the key moving forward is to wear masks and to get as many people vaccinated as possible. Vaccines are available at almost every clinic and every pharmacy in the region, and there is no charge.
For a list of sites to get tested for COVID-19 as well as a list of sites to receive the vaccine, visit www.cooshealthandwellness.org.