Coronavirus

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Oregon broke another grim record Friday, announcing a new high in daily infections and in COVID-19-related deaths.

In a press conference Friday morning, state health officials announced 2,176 new cases of the virus, and 30 new virus deaths.

Those numbers mean more than 1,000 people in the state have died with the virus, and more than 80,000 cases have been reported.

"Our hearts go out to the loved ones of each of these individuals," said Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen. "Every death represents an empty seat at a holiday dinner, a hug that's missed or a morning walk that cannot happen."

The COVID-19 surge is continuing in Oregon and along the South Coast, too.

Almost every day this week, Coos County health officials reported double-digit increases in daily cases, a rate almost unheard of just weeks ago.

On Thursday, the county set a new record of daily cases, at 21. December, just four days old, has already seen more cases in the county than the entire month of September.

Hospitalizations have increased, too: While Monday saw no hospitalizations, five people in the county were in the hospital by Thursday. Four of those are at Bay Area Hospital, according to hospital officials.

County officials aren't sure yet if the increase in cases comes from transmission at Thanksgiving gatherings. One challenge that contract tracers are facing is individuals who are contacted by case investigators but aren't forthcoming about who they've been in contact with.

That can throw a wrench in case investigations, according to Coos Health & Wellness Assistant Director Eric Gleason.

"It absolutely can shortchange our contact tracers and investigators. We don't know who you've been in contact with," Gleason said Thursday. "If you don't disclose that you had close contact with those people, there are now parts of your bubble that are now wondering into the community with the possibility of spreading this even more."

On Thursday, business and organization restrictions in the county loosened to the "high risk" level under new state guidance — but without case rates slowing down, the county could be on track to hit the "extreme risk" level soon, Gleason said Thursday.

That could mean another closure of in-person dining options and gyms, similar to what business owners experienced during the two-week statewide "freeze."

Curry County has reported 26 new cases since Nov. 27, according to the county's health officer. Two people in that county have died with the virus since the pandemic began.

Douglas County this week passed 1,000 total cases the pandemic began, showing an increase of about 100 since Nov. 27.

Two Douglas County residents have died with the virus since last week.

A 62-year-old woman was admitted to the hospital Nov. 26 and tested positive for the virus. She died the next day.

A 96-year-old woman tested positive for the virus Nov. 15 and was admitted to the hospital Nov. 25. She died Nov. 29.

“Today, we sadly mourn the passing of another beloved county resident to this terrible virus," County Commissioner Tim Freeman wrote in a press release following the first of those deaths. "...we send our sincere condolences and prayers to the family, friends and neighbors of this beloved resident."

Reedsport's increase in cases has slowed since previous weeks, with four new cases in the 97467 ZIP code between Nov. 21 and 28 bring that area's total cases to 52.

The Coquille ZIP code saw that time period's largest percent increase in cases in Coos County, with 7 new cases bring the total to 28.

The Bandon-Langlois ZIP code saw six new cases in that time frame for a total of 19 cases, and the Myrtle Point area saw two new cases for a total of 12.

The Coos Bay-Charleston ZIP code was up 26 cases to 224 total, and the North Bend ZIP code saw 12 new cases for a total of 124.

During Friday's press conference, Brown also discussed the two possible COVID-19 vaccines on the brink of federal approval. If approval proceeds as expected, 35,000 doses of a vaccine produced by Pfizer will ship to Oregon starting Dec. 15, and 71,000 doses of one produced by Moderna will ship the week after, Brown and Allen said.

The state's first priority for vaccinations will be front-line health care workers and long-term care residents and employees, due to their increased risk of contracting and dying from the virus.

"As the vaccine becomes more available, we'll be exploring how we can use the vaccine as a potential tool to get our kids back into the classroom as quickly as possible," Brown said.

But even with vaccines on the horizon, Brown said safety precautions are still necessary until the vaccine has been widely administered. She thanked Oregonians for their sacrifices, as state reports show the majority of people in the state are following safety guidelines.

"Your actions, as hard as they may be, are really making a difference, and they are saving lives," Brown said. "We just need you to hang on a little bit longer, because hope is on the way."

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

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