By Jacob Lewin.
The Oregon Health Authority is calling it a fourth wave of covid and it may push a dozen or so counties into the extreme risk category. Clatsop will likely NOT be getting yet more restrictions, but the numbers here have also surged. Meanwhile the county is doubling down on its vaccination efforts.
Oregon has seen a 63% increase in covid cases in the past two weeks, an increase greater than any other state, although it’s an increase from a relatively low base compared to other states. There has found significant amounts of four different covid variants and the state health authority’s Jonathan Modie says they are one key to the increase:
“Variants are a factor. They make the virus more transmissible, so you’re more infectious when you have the virus. You can infect more people than before the variants came into being.”
Over the past month, covid cases in clatsop county have roughly doubled from about 35 over a two week period to about 70 cases in the most recent two weeks. The number of people in the hospital with covid symptoms has doubled in our region, which includes most of northwest oregon, and some are very sick. But county health director Margot Lalich says while we have the variants here, a bigger driver is the reluctance of relatively young people to be vaccinated:
“Those that we’re seeing with more illness right now and even being hospitalized are that younger population. Those are the individuals that we’re targeting. And then the fact that we’re balancing maintaining restrictions while trying to open up.”
The county’s vaccination efforts are now firing on all cylinders: four public events this week, an outreach effort into the homeless community, Columbia Memorial Hospital receiving its first shipment of vaccine yesterday, Providence-Seaside today, several pharmacies on board, next week eight doctors’ offices will be offering vaccines, and the vaccine task force will be holding live facebook sessions where anyone can ask questions—in Spanish on Wednesday evening and in English on Thursday:
“This is sort of the last big sprint and hopefully we’ll see that rolling out the vaccinations and building up more community immunity thru vaccination, as much as its gone up, we’re going to see it drop as quickly.”
Task force commander Chris Laman says 95% of people who got a first shot have returned for a second. But younger people are not as eager and there are open slots for some of the one thousand firsttime shots the county is hoping to give at its clinics this week. Laman says it’s possible that the shots had been had been hard to access:
“That barrier should go away and so we anticipate or hope that the community is going to start engaging in with that and we can get the vaccination rate in our 20 to probably 60 year old population increased over the next few weeks.”
Laman says men are apparently less interested in getting the shots than women. Overall, more than 42 percent of county residents have gotten first shots so far:
“We will have enough vaccine in Clatsop County by the beginning of June to have offered 80-percent of the county the vaccine.”
Laman says the key word there is: offer.
For KMUN Radio, I’m Jacob Lewin.
The Clatsop County Vaccine Task Force will have two live question and answer sessions on Facebook this week. There will be one in Spanish on Wednesday, April 28 from 6:30 to 7:30pm and one in English on Thursday, April 29 at the same time.
The task force is hoping to hear from parents. By the end of May, a vaccine for 12 to 15 year olds is expected to be approved.