COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations statewide are trending down, welcome news ahead of the new year, the Oregon Health Authority said Wednesday.
Statewide, the week of Dec. 21 saw 6,790 new cases of the virus, the third consecutive week of declining cases. In the same timeframe, 337 people were hospitalized with the virus, also a decline from the previous week.
Reported COIVD-19 deaths were down, too — at 86, the state saw the lowest number in four weeks, though some local health departments experienced reporting delays due to the holiday.
This week, local counties continued to see virus cases tick upwards.
Between Monday and Thursday, Coos County reported 50 new cases of the virus. It also reported three new virus deaths, a grim figure bringing the county’s death toll to nine.
All three deaths were associated with the Life Care Center outbreak in Coos Bay.
“We’ve known since the beginning that congregate care settings are always going to be the (hardest) hit and that’s the ones that we’re the most afraid of the COVID virus getting into,” said Dr. Eric Gleason, the assistant director of Coos Health & Wellness Thursday. “They’ve done a significant amount of work trying to maintain the situation, and try to do what they could to reduce the spread, but congregate care facilities by nature are just very hard to control.”
Curry County reported four new virus cases between Monday and Wednesday, and Douglas County reported 24 in the same timeframe. Neither reported new virus deaths.
On Monday, Coos County officials reported one new case of the virus at the Shutter Creek Correctional Institution, which experienced an outbreak earlier in the pandemic. The new case was attributed to an adult in custody, according to Gleason.
In Coos County, only the Bandon-Langlois ZIP code experienced an increasing case rate for the state’s Dec. 21-27 reporting period with 6 new cases bringing its total to 43 since the pandemic began.
In the same timeframe, the Brookings-Harbor area reported 21 new cases for a total of 205, and the Coos Bay ZIP code reported 21 as well for a total of 349.
As of Thursday, there were four hospitalized in Coos County with the virus.
Statewide, over 31,000 people have received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the OHA. Coos County boasts the second highest rate of vaccination in the state, with 726 people vaccinated by Wednesday.
Douglas County has administered 313 vaccinations, and Curry County has administered 113.
Much of the success in Coos County is attributable to the vaccination program at Bay Area Hospital, which has offered the vaccine to its staff members and other healthcare workers in the community. CHW has received some doses of the vaccine is making them available to emergency service employees, according to Gleason.
“Our hospital has done an absolutely (fantastic) getting the vaccine out in a timely manner to the first wave,” Gleason said. “We’re doing a really good job at this point.”
Still, Dr. Peter Lund, CHW’s chief medical officer and a wound care physician at BAH, said the community will likely need to see between 70% and 90% of residents get vaccinated in order to achieve heard immunity, where the vaccine can’t spread fast enough to survive.
He encourages those who are able to get the vaccine, even skeptics of it, to do so if they’re able to.
“Things are always risk-based. The risk of COVID seems far greater than any risk from the vaccine at this point,” Lund said Thursday. “I liken it to wearing a seatbelt. You’re always safer in an accident if you have a seatbelt on than if you don’t, but many people don’t wear a seatbelt because they’re afraid of getting trapped in their car.”
Lund got the shot himself, and his only side effect was two days with a sore arm, he said.
“As far as protecting the community, we need the vast majority of people to be vaccinated to reduce the transmission of the virus in the community,” Lund said. “I would encourage most people to get the vaccine and not be afraid of it — and also, put on their seatbelt, and get a flu shot.”