As Coos County passes the one-year anniversary of its first COVID-19 case, the recent wave of infections is still slowing down.
For the first time since early December, the county’s “active case’ count this week dipped below 100, signaling Friday that 79 people have tested positive for the virus in the county in the last two weeks.
Only one county resident was hospitalized with the virus as of Friday, also setting a new record low for the past several months (aside from April 5 the same week, which also reported just one hospitalization).
The declines have been met with a decrease in state-mandated virus restrictions, with the high-risk category going into effect Friday and allowing indoor dining and recreation to reopen at limited capacity.
Continued declines in case rates could mean further reopenings, if low case counts and rates of virus spread push the county into other categories of the state’s virus-prevention framework.
Still, health officials have said repeatedly the recent decrease isn’t the end of the line for the virus in the county: With case rates spiking across the state, and virus variants becoming more prevalent, another increase in county cases is still possible.
Coos Health & Wellness spokesperson Dr. Eric Gleason said Thursday the county should still be aiming for lower categories of restrictions.
That means residents should be cautious when doing newly opened activities that can cause the virus to spread. A karaoke party for example, which early this year caused dozens of COVID-19 cases through the community, still has the potential to spread the virus among participants.
“I don’t really recommend karaoke as an activity in high, right now, based on what we saw last time,” Gleason said. “I would say just from a public health standpoint, it’s probably one of the biggest contributors to an outbreak that we’ve had in probably this entire pandemic. So we really need to be mindful of that, and knowing how easy it was to spread last time we had a major karaoke event while we were in high.”
Still, if people are going to take part in close-contact activities, Gleason said there are still ways to be safe, like wearing masks, social distancing and washing hands and shared surfaces (like microphones, in the karaoke example).
“That being said, if they’re going to be happening, you need to really learn to sing with your mask on,” Gleason said.
What’s more, state officials began reporting Thursday an important reminder that those who have received a COVID-19 vaccine — while at much lower risk for catching the virus or being severely impacted — can still contract the virus.
According to the Oregon Health Authority, the state’s identified 168 “breakthrough” cases of the virus, or vaccinated individuals who’ve tested positive for the virus.
“OHA public health officials say it’s a reminder that while the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines are all highly effective at preventing severe COVID-19 illness and death, no vaccine is 100% effective, and vaccine breakthrough cases will occur,” the agency wrote in a press release.
CHW officials also announced Thursday an outbreak at the Coos Bay McDonald’s location. Twelve cases have been linked to the outbreak, though that figure can include secondary cases, like employees’ family members and other close contacts.
McDonald’s Owner/Operator Carl Armstrong declined to say how many of those cases were directly attributable to the business’ employees, but said the company is taking precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.
“With any confirmed COVID-19 case in our organization, our policy is to immediately close to thoroughly sanitize the restaurant, notify local health authorities, and notify employees who may have been in close contact with the infected individual(s) to self-quarantine for 14 days,” Armstrong wrote in a statement through a corporate spokesperson. “We remain committed to supporting our employees through paid time off and other resources during the entirety of their illness to help them focus on their health and wellbeing.”
South Coast cases still slowing
Cases are still slowing along the South Coast. For the week of March 29 through April 4, three ZIP codes, in Lakeside, Myrtle Point and Port Orford, reported no new cases of the virus.
The highest increase in cases in the county was predictably seen in Coos Bay’s 97420 ZIP code, with 23 new cases — the lowest weekly increase in several weeks. In Curry County, the Brookings-Harbor area reported 19 new cases of the virus.
The North Bend area reported five new cases, and both Bandon and Gold Beach reported two each. Coquille reported just one new case during that week.
The chart below shows the number of COVID-19 cases reported in each ZIP code by the Oregon Health Authority since the pandemic began. The data is listed for the week prior to the reporting date. The Powers 97466 ZIP code is not included in the state data because of its low population.