According to the New York Times Coronavirus Data Tracker, Benton County has added 91 cases of COVID-19 to the county’s overall case count, increasing the total since the start of the pandemic to 2,823. Daily case reports are trending up for the county at a rate of 112% compared to daily case reporting from two weeks ago. The county is still in the “high risk” category for transmission likelihood. 

Oregon reported between roughly 475 to over 1,000 new cases of COVID this week, and subsequently, the Oregon Health Authority’s Weekly Data Report shows increasing hospitalizations of those infected by the virus. The number of total case reports in the state since March of 2020 is now over 179,000, which is an increase of about 5,000 cases from last week. Nationwide, the U.S. is now reporting over 31.8 million cases total, but case reports from this past week decreased compared to the previous week.  

Governor Announced Changes to COVID County Risk Levels 

During a news briefing on Friday, Gov. Kate Brown announced new metrics for determining when counties in Oregon should be elevated in their COVID risk levels – more specifically, when counties in the “high risk” category should be moved to “extreme risk.” These new metrics include the number of hospital beds occupied by COVID patients (300 or more beds county-wide) and a 15% increase of average weekly hospitalization rates. 

So far, Benton County hospitalization rates are below these metrics. This means that, currently, Benton County remains in the high-risk category.  

Is the COVID Finish Line in Sight?  

An article published by CNN yesterday addressed the pressing question – is the finish line of COVID, the end of the pandemic, in sight? Quoting multiple state governors around the country who have said something to the effect of “the light at the end of the tunnel is near,” this article pumps the brakes and brings readers back to reality.  

According to the interviewed health experts, there is no finish line. COVID will not just suddenly end. To believe that the pandemic will magically cease to exist is not realistic.  

However, there were positive outlooks included in the article. If you are fully vaccinated, you can start considering returning to a more normal life yourself. This means you can start feeling more comfortable around people who are also vaccinated, eating at restaurants that appropriately abide by COVID regulations, etc. That does not mean that society as a whole returns to normal. Additionally, health officials reminded readers of the possibility of the U.S. achieving herd immunity, which may significantly help halt transmission of the virus, once 80-85% of the population is vaccinated. It is important to note that currently, the country has only fully vaccinated just 28% of the population.  

A Grim Milestone for Oregon 

Even as vaccines are being administered at increasing rates, our state hit a grim milestone this week, as each county in Oregon has officially recorded at least one death due to the COVID virus. Sherman County, which was the sole county in the state that had gone without a death caused by the pandemic, reported an 82-year-old individual passed away due to COVID.  

This tragic death should serve as a reminder that, as health officials are warning, we are not out of the woods yet. Case reports are continuing to rise and people are still dying. Serious caution should be taken in our daily lives to avoid indoor social gatherings and crowds, at least until your entire household is fully vaccinated. 

This is a weekly column updating the residents of Benton County on local, national, and international news on the pandemic. If you would like to make suggestions of topics to cover related to the virus, please email any resources or thoughts to covidupdate@corvallisadvocate.com.    

By: Lauren Zatkos