PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — More than 90% of the cases, hospitalizations and deaths attributed to COVID-19 in Oregon are people who are unvaccinated, according to the Oregon Health Authority.
The top outbreaks have recently come in Jackson and Umatilla Counties. Oregon Health Officer Dean Sidelinger said the sequenced cases of the Delta variant have increased from 30% to 50% in the most recent week of reporting — plus a tenfold increase over the past two weeks.
“The emergence of this highly contagious variant should be a red alert to those who remain unvaccinated,” OHA said in a release. “You are at higher risk now than you were earlier in the pandemic and you are putting the people around you at risk.”
Because of the delta variant, public health officials in Multnomah County have advised everyone to wear masks in indoor public places since there is no way of verifying who is vaccinated and who is not.
“Don’t wait for a sign to come up in the business,” said Jessica Guernsey, the Multnomah County Public Health Director. “[Wearing a mask again is] small in comparison to the other decisions we’ve had to make in the past around [like] reducing occupancy in businesses or even closing down.”
OHA said it is encouraging low-vaccinated counties to promote local vaccination events to help businesses get their workers vaccinated.
Delta surge in Washington
Earlier in the month, Washington state was reporting that the delta variant was responsible for about 58% of their covid cases — and health officials say it’s undoubtedly more now.
There is a lag for this kind of data, which is why the Washington Department of Health is still getting reports from June. Regardless, the health department confirmed the delta cases have definitely increased.
In Clark County alone, Public Health Officer Dr. Alan Melnick says COVID-19 cases are double what they were a week ago.
“It is concerning for a couple of reasons,” Dr. Melnick said. “The delta variant has become predominant not only in Washington — but in the United States as well.”
He said the other concern is vaccination levels. In Clark County, the vaccination rate is still under 60% of the adult population.
“Vaccination is the best way to prevent getting the disease. Certainly, masking helps as well,” he said.
With the vaccination rate in Clark County being lower and with a more contagious variant, Melnick says the community is more at risk of getting and spreading the delta variant, prolonging the pandemic.
Like everywhere else, Melnick says breakthrough cases are very uncommon. The overwhelming majority of covid hospitalizations and deaths now is among the unvaccinated.
As you see guidance for universal masking likely to go back into effect or being recommended, Melnick stresses that it’s not because the vaccine doesn’t work, its because we can’t rely on the honor system — and there’s no other way of knowing who’s vaccinated and who isn’t.