COVID Update: Numbers, Planning, Vaccines

Barreling into the new year and new president and new vaccines, we have been hearing about record high COVID-19 cases and deaths everywhere. Here’s where things stand with Oregon and Benton County. 

As of Dec. 31, 2020, the state of Oregon has had 156,276 cases of COVID-19. Currently, there are still a total of 113,909 active cases. 1,477 people have died from the coronavirus in Oregon.  

In Benton County, there have been 1,281 cases and 11 deaths. 

As reported Dec. 22, the virus is killing a higher percentage of those who catch it than was first expected. 

The Vaccine Update 

The initial supplies of the vaccine are limited, meaning the number of people able to get vaccinated is limited. The Oregon Health Authority is focused on getting to health care workers first, then staff and residents of long-term care facilities. This distribution model is the one recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

Eventually, all adults in the U.S. will have access to the COVID vaccine. Plans for that level of distribution are being made, however the priority at the moment is to first protect those most exposed and most likely to have severe complications from the virus. At this point, children will not be vaccinated due to lack of test data on anyone under the age of 16.  

Employers may require their employees to get the vaccine as long as failure to be vaccinated constitutes a threat to others in the workplace. Employers should not be held responsible for any negative or serious side effects due to the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act. 

The PREP Act allows the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to provide immunity from liability for claims “of loss caused, arising out of, relating to, or resulting from administration or use of countermeasures to diseases, threats and conditions.” Please note: “A PREP Act declaration is specifically for the purpose of providing immunity from liability, and is different from, and not dependent on, other emergency declarations.  

If you believe you should be in the first group to be vaccinated but are unsure, you can find out by sending email to COVID19.Vaccine@dhsoha.state.or.us. 

If you have additional questions, please see the OHA frequently asked question website. 

By Sally K Lehman