As the Omnicron variant rages through Oregon, the case counts are reaching record territory.
After the state reported more than 10,000 new COVID cases Friday, the Oregon Health Authority reported an additional 18,538 cases over the weekend. Another side effect of Omicron is a renewed desire for testing, a need that has left supplies low in many places. On Friday alone, Oregon reported almost 52,000 COVID tests, the third highest number since the pandemic began almost two years ago.
While case counts are soaring to levels unseen before, deaths remain relatively low in the state with 18 new deaths reported Monday.
One of those was a 90-year-old man from Coos County who tested positive and died January 7 at Bay Area Hospital.
Coos County reported 214 new cases over the weekend, bringing the active case count to 906. Just 10 days ago, the case count - which is cases reported in the last 14 days, dropped to around 250 before Omicron arrived. Since Omicron was confirmed in Coos County last week, cases have soared, and local public health officials expect the count to continue to go up.
Omicron is the most contagious variant of COVID-19 seen to date, with studies showing every person who gets Omicron passes it to 3.2 other people. That level makes it twice as infectious as the flu virus. Omicron is also much more likely to break through the COVID vaccine, as evidenced by places that have already seen a spike.
The good news with Omicron is symptoms are generally lighter than earlier variants of the virus. Most people usually report cold-like symptoms with a sore throat, runny nose and coughing as primary symptoms.
Dr. Eric Gleason, assistant director of Coos Health and Wellness, said the Omicron variant is likely to cause a rapid spread in the county followed by a rapid decrease in cases. He said he expects numbers to soar for approximately six weeks followed by a rapid decline.
Gleason said even through breakthrough cases are more likely with Omicron, the vaccine remains the best way to ensure minor symptoms.
Bay Area Hospital reported seven COVID patients as of Monday, with five unvaccinated and two fully vaccinated. One patient in the ICU was not vaccinated. The patients included one in the 30-39 age group, four in the 50-59 agre group, one between the ages of 70 and 79 and one over 80.
Countywide, eight people are hospitalized, a decrease over recent weeks.
While many pharmacies are out of COVID tests, two rapid testing locations are up and running. In Coos Bay, tests are available at Bay City Ambulance, 3111 Ocean Blvd., from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. In Coquille, testing is available at 940 E. 5th St. from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. No appointment is necessary at either site, but the testing is designed for those with symptoms.
Vaccines are also available for anyone over the age of 5 who needs a first or second shot or for those over the age of 12 seeking boosters. Boosters are recommended for anyone who has waited five months since a second shot or two months for those who took the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. A vaccine clinic is running seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Pony Village Mall. The Oregon Health Authority is hosting the drive-through clinic. There is no charge for the COVID vaccines.