Coos Health & Wellness

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Coos County’s indoor dining, recreation and entertainment establishments are reopening after 12 weeks closed — but public health officials say the county hasn’t reached the finish line yet.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced this week that the county will move Friday into the high-risk category of the state’s pandemic restrictions — a step below the extreme-risk category where the county has remained longer than any other county in the state.

Coos County was one of the few this week to see a decrease in restrictions. Fourteen of Oregon’s 36 counties now fall in the high-risk category, including six which are moving from less-restrictive classifications.

The change in Coos County means indoor dining and recreation will again be permitted starting Friday, though capacities will still be limited until the county moves into lower categories of restrictions. Among the rules:

  • Indoor dining will be limited to 25% capacity, or 50 people, whichever is smaller. Outdoor dining will be limited to 75 people, and all parties will be limited to six people from two households.
  • Indoor entertainment, recreation and fitness establishments will be limited to 25% capacity, or 50 people, whichever is smaller. Indoor full-contact sports remain prohibited, and entertainment venues must close at 11 p.m.
  • Outdoor entertainment, recreation and fitness establishments will be limited to a maximum of 15% occupancy and must close at 11 p.m.
  • Inside and outside visitation is allowed at long-term care centers.
  • Funeral homes, mortuaries and cemeteries will be limited to 25% capacity indoors, or 150 people total, whichever is smaller, and outdoor capacity will be limited to 200 people maximum. Faith institutions are advised to follow the same requirements.
  • Indoor and outdoor shopping centers, malls and retail stores will be restricted to 50% capacity, with curbside pick-up encouraged.
  • Offices may open, but remote work is recommended if able.
  • Social gatherings should be limited to six people from two households indoors, and eight people outdoors.

Monday’s numbers show the county’s made improvements in its COVID-19 case rates, finally bringing it under the 200 cases per 100,000 in population and 10% test positivity needed to escape the extreme level.

The numbers show the county had 170.6 cases per 100,000 in population and a 5.8% test positivity rate for the March 21 through April 3 timeframe, the lowest rates in months.

Still, Coos County health officials remain cautious about letting up now.

“I’m nervous, if I’m being completely honest,” said Coos Health & Wellness Assistant Director Dr. Eric Gleason. “But I’m also cautiously optimistic that if the vast majority of the community are ready for those (precautionary measures), that we can see a continued trend downward.”

Gleason points to the last time the county left the extreme risk category: Three months ago, when the county’s numbers dipped just below the threshold to allow indoor dining, gatherings, parties and events at indoor bars caused a huge spike in cases — and a three-month-long extreme-risk lockdown.

“The last time we were in high we didn’t do a real good job. As soon as we dropped to high, it was like spring break in Tampa, Florida, and we did things that were detrimental to the health of our community so quick that it made your head spin,” Gleason said. “I’m nervous.”

Fortunately, the county’s numbers are on more of a downward trend than they were the last time it dropped in risk levels.

For Gleason, the uncertainty means newly allowed activities should be done safely, and with caution (in other words: With masks and social distancing, even for those who’ve been vaccinated).

“We just need to have a different lens when we’re looking at things,” Gleason said. “Think smart about the plans you make. Think about what that could do to impact your kids, or your friends’ kids, or the kids down the street because you don’t have any.”

Coos County’s case rate is still the ninth highest of the state's 36 counties, according to Tuesday’s state data.

Also Tuesday, state officials announced a new metric making it slightly more difficult for a county to be pushed back into the extreme-risk category.

That rule requires 300 or more COVID-19 positive patients occupying hospital beds statewide, and a 15% increase in the seven-day average hospitalizations over the past week before any county can move to that level.

As of Wednesday, 163 across the state were hospitalized with the virus.

The state will reevaluate metrics in two weeks and announce new county restriction levels April 20. If the county maintains its current case rates, it’ll stay in the high-risk category. A decrease in rates below 100 cases per 100,000 in population and 8% test positivity will bring the county to the moderate-risk level, which expands the allowable occupancy of the county’s businesses.

That’d be another step in the right direction, according to Gleason.

“The high-risk level is not our goal,” Gleason said. “Our goal would be to continue to move and continue to do the things that we need to do as a community by utilizing those preventative measures, and move down to moderate, and then low, then stay there. We can’t just be happy that we made it to high.”

Coos reports 30th virus death

Coos County also reported its 30th virus-related death over the weekend.

A 93-year-old woman with underlying health conditions died at Bay Area Hospital April 5 after testing positive for the virus March 24, according to the Oregon Health Authority. 

On the vaccination front, Coos County was slated to receive a boost in doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, despite cuts to doses expected from the manufacturer nationwide. Gleason said those doses will be distributed to area hospitals and health center.

The state’s county-level data wasn’t available due to technical errors Wednesday, but statewide nearly 1.3 million people have received a dose of a vaccine, totaling more than 2 million doses distributed.

A wide section of the population is currently eligible for a vaccine, including frontline workers and their household families, those 16 and older with underlying conditions, those in multi-generational households, those displaced by wildfires and more.

Brown also announced early Tuesday the state would be expanding vaccine eligibility soon: Starting April 19, anyone in Oregon 16 and older will be eligible to receive a vaccine. A full eligibility schedule is available online at covidvaccine.oregon.gov/.

Where are vaccines available?

Several different sites across the region are administering vaccine doses, and not all use the same waitlist information, so health officials say it may be necessary to attempt multiple sites simultaneously to get a dose most quickly.

In Reedsport, the Lower Umpqua Hospital District has established a call center for vaccine pre-registration. Only those who are currently eligible for the vaccine can call 541-271-2175 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and more information is online at www.lowerumpquahospital.org/.

Other locations in Reedsport are also offering vaccines, and the Douglas County Public Health Network is coordinating some mass vaccination events. Instructions on signing up for those events, and information about signing up with other providers, is available online at douglaspublichealthnetwork.org/covid-19-vaccination-information/.

Bay Area Hospital is offering some vaccine doses. Appointments can be made online at www.bayareahospital.org/.

Coquille Valley Hospital is also offering some vaccine doses, and appointments can be made online at www.cvhospital.org/vaccine/.

In Bandon, Southern Coos Hospital & Health Center is offering appointments, and more details are online at southerncoos.org/.

Safeway pharmacies at multiple locations are administering doses. Appointments can be made online at www.mhealthappointments.com/covidappt.

Walmart has begun administering vaccines. Appointments can be made online at www.walmart.com/COVIDvaccine.

Bi-Mart pharmacies at some locations are administering vaccines. Appointments can be made online at www.bimart.com/pharmacy/covid-19-vaccine.

Fred Meyer is administering vaccines at some locations. Appointments can be made online at www.fredmeyer.com/rx/covid-eligibility.  

North Bend’s Broadway Pharmacy has begun taking appointments for a limited supply of doses. A sign-up form is at the top of the pharmacy’s website at rxbroadway.com/.

Some Health Mart pharmacies, which have locations in Reedsport and Gold Beach, are administering vaccines. Appointments can be made online at www.healthmartcovidvaccine.com.

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

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