CANNON BEACH, Ore. (KOIN) — First responders in Oregon are asking people to be respectful and follow state health mandates if they plan to travel this Labor Day Weekend.
The Oregon Coast is ranked by AAA as the top tourist destination for Oregonians this weekend. But coastal communities have been hit hard by the latest surge in COVID cases.
Local firefighters who respond to COVID medical calls said they hope visitors will follow the rules put in place to slow the spread.
“We take it very seriously. Volunteers come in to respond to calls, the last thing we need is for them to get COVID from a community member,” said Jason Smith with Cannon Beach Fire. “Just come and enjoy yourself but be respectful of the mask mandate. When you’re walking downtown and enjoying downtown, you’re not going to be able to social distance, so plan on wearing a mask downtown. Plan on wearing a mask in the restaurants and businesses. That way, the manager doesn’t have to remind you; that’s the last thing they want to do.”
Oregon Coast now a delta hot spot
The delta variant has ripped through all corners of Oregon. But as seen with all forms of the COVID-19 virus, hot spots can move around from state to state and town to town. This latest wave is proving to be no different and its latest flare-up is along Oregon’s northern coast.
While cases of the virus have spiked across Oregon with the delta variant starting on July 1st, it took a month for Clatsop, Tillamook, and Lincoln counties to really feel the brunt of it and the jump from July to August has been staggering. Clatsop County saw an increase in cases of 589% in just one month. For Lincoln County, it was 742% and Tillamook County a whopping 883%. That’s more than twice as worse as Oregon as a whole which posted a 406% increase in cases from July to August.
Breaking the numbers down by individual county, Tillamook has one of the highest rates of the virus for all of August. After only recording 33.2 new cases for every 10,000 people in July, Tillamook County jumped to 282.7 new cases per 10,000 people in August. That is worse than both Douglas County (276.8 per 10,000 people) and Jackson County (253.9 per 10,000 people) which have been some of the biggest delta variant hot spots in Oregon. For comparison, in August Multnomah County only had 66.9 new cases per 10,000 people and Washington County on 65.3 per 10,000 people.
Even more troubling for Tillamook County is that the worst of the surge is still happening now. Since just August 15th, the county has recorded 564 new cases of the virus. That means 37% of all cases in the county since the start of the pandemic have been in just the last three weeks. It’s nearly a similar story for the rest of the northern coast where Clatsop County has seen 24% of all cases and Lincoln County 29% of all cases since August 15th.
Where Tillamook County really separates itself from its coastal neighbors is in the death count. The normal pattern during the pandemic is once cases spike, the next week hospitalizations rise and the week after that deaths go up. With the delta variant hitting July 1st, deaths begin to go up across the state on July 13th. Using that date as a starting point, Tillamook has seen 11 people lose their battle with the virus. That’s more than double the number of fatalities the county had previously during the entire pandemic with just 5.
It also gives Tillamook County one of the worst death rates per capita in the state with 4.2 deaths per 10,000 people. That’s far worse than hard-hit counties like Umatilla at 2.7 deaths per 10,000 people and Jackson at 2.7 deaths per 10,000. Only Douglas County with 4.8 deaths and Josephine County at 5.5 deaths are worse in the state for counties with more than 20,000 residents.
It shows that everyone still needs to be taking the delta variant seriously. It is hitting the entire country far worse than any version of the virus seen so far, and just because it isn’t flaring up in one place now doesn’t mean it won’t move there soon. The speed of damage done along the northern coast, a region that had done relatively well during the pandemic, is all the warning other counties need.