OHA: Vaccines work; Low vax counties give Brown pushback


COVID cases in Oregon have nearly quadrupled since early July

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — With the surge of the delta variant accounting for a spike in statewide cases of COVID-19, Gov. Kate Brown met on Friday with leaders in the counties that have low vaccination rates.

Also on Friday, the Oregon Health Authority answered questions about the rise in cases, the trends they see and what the latest report shows: Although the number of vaccine breakthrough cases is increasing, they are very small when compared to the more than 2.3 million people who are completely vaccinated.

“Our message today is simple and direct: the COVID-19 vaccine saves lives,” said OHA senior health advisor Dr. Melissa Sutton.

Sutton said the CDC’s COVID-19 hospitalization surveillance system tracks severe COVID cases in Oregon and 13 other states. She added a new study found Pfizer and Moderna are 91-96% effective in reducing risk of hospitalization, while the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine is 84-85% effective in reducing risk of hospitalization.

Asked if OHA could provide daily updates of the number of breakthrough cases, Sutton said “probably not because we have to do so much manual review.”

A COVID vaccination chart from the OHA on August 6, 2021

She said they have to literally go through every case to determine if it’s a breakthrough case but said OHA will be providing that information every other week on Thursdays.

Since the start of July when cases finally bottomed out from the spring surge and the delta variant began taking hold, cases in Oregon have nearly quadrupled.

Umatilla County has the worst vaccination rate for counties with at least 50,000 people: 44%. Over the last 7 days, 411 new cases were reported in the county, equaling out to 50.4 new cases per 10,000 people.

One of the biggest hotspots right now is in southeastern Oregon, and it’s proving to also be the deadliest.

The rate of COVID among unvaccinated Oregonians is 5 times greater than those who are vaccinated — and most of those who got COVID after being fully vaccinated did not need to go to the hospital.

“If you get vaccinated and now you are exposed to COVID, if you would have had symptoms they are probably much less and if you are destined to severe infection maybe now with vaccination you have mild flu like symptoms,” Dr. Marcel Curlin, an OHSU Infectious Disease specialist, told KOIN 6 News. “But there still going to be a few people — the elderly, immunocompromised people — that are vulnerable who go on to more serious disease.”

Governor gets pushback

When Gov. Brown met with county leaders Friday, her message was, in essence, this is your last chance. Get those vaccination rates up, put some mask mandates in place or she will consider another statewide mask mandate.

But the governor got pushback from those county leaders who said, in essence, it’s a personal choice and they do not plan to step in. So, Gov. Brown will “be exploring options for statewide measures” in the near future.

Charles Boyle, the governor’s Deputy Communications Director, said the county leaders asked Brown not to implement a statewide mask requirement.

“They passed along feedback from their constituents who were frustrated with Oregon’s K-12 schools masking requirement and called for continuation of local control,” Boyle said in a statement.

“It’s clear from the meeting that county leaders in areas with low vaccination rates will, for the most part, not be implementing new health and safety requirements, including mask requirements. The Governor is deeply concerned about what this will mean for Oregon’s hospital capacity. Our office will be exploring options for statewide measures to stop the spread of the Delta variant from stretching Oregon hospitals beyond their full capacity,” he said.

Daily COVID Report

Four more people lost their lives to COVID-19, the OHA reported Friday. The overall death toll now stands at 2889.

The 4 deaths — 3 men and a woman — all had underlying conditions. Two men from Jackson County were 25 and 48. The others who died were 67, one from Multnomah County and one from Lane County.

There were also another 970 new confirmed/presumptive cases of COVID-19 reported spread across 33 of Oregon’s 36 counties.

OHA also reported 496 people are hospitalized with COVID, a rise of 39 patients since Thursday. There are 135 patients in the ICU.

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