Benton County added another 21 cases of COVID-19 to the county-wide case count this past week, which is the lowest case rate the county has experienced since early November of 2020. This brings the counties total to 3,236 cases since the start of the pandemic. Benton County is still in the “low risk” category of virus transmission for vaccinated individuals, but according to the New York Times, the risk is still considered high for unvaccinated people. Approximately 63% of adults in Benton County have been vaccinated.
Oregon reported 1,831 new cases of COVID-19 and 36 deaths statewide this past week. This again is a decrease compared to the previous week. The U.S. similarly reported a smaller number of COVID-19 cases this week than the nation reported the week before, making it the ninth straight week of decreasing case rates country-wide.
Rural Areas Trailing Cities in Vaccination Rates
An article published by OPB on Friday compared the vaccination rates of cities, suburbs, small towns, and rural areas, and found that rural areas have the lowest rates amongst the other categories. While 64% of the adult population in the country currently has at least one dose of the vaccine, the authors found that numerous states, including Oregon, have more vaccinated individuals living in cities per capita. The vaccination rates in Oregon cities currently lead the rates in rural areas by 9%.
Health experts say that any areas with low vaccination rates can pose a risk to the entire state, and that dangerous variants with high transmission abilities are still circulating throughout the country.
According to the article, this disparity is not due to cities receiving more vaccine per capita than rural areas. Socioeconomic issues have been identified as the major reasons individuals in rural areas are getting vaccinated at a slower pace than in cities. Low income, lack of public transportation, and multi-generation or crowded living conditions have all been linked to the lower vaccine rate seen in rural towns.
The authors concluded that vaccine hesitancy exhibited by people in these socioeconomic groups needs to be addressed at a local level, and experts believe that local doctors, clinics, and politicians need to actively combat this to get rural populations adequately protected against the virus.
Oregon Looking to Lift State-wide Restrictions
Governor Kate Brown announced last week that once 70% of Oregon’s adult population has been vaccinated, many statewide COVID restrictions will be lifted. This will include policies on mask-wearing, social distancing, capacity limitations on businesses, and vaccination status verification.
This may come soon, as Oregon currently has 64% of its adult population vaccinated.
“Thanks to all of you, we are getting very close to fully reopening our economy and moving out of this chapter of the pandemic,” Gov. Brown said during a press briefing on June 4, addressing Oregonians who have been vaccinated.
However, the Governor’s announcements have been met with concern and criticism from some health experts. While 70% of the adult population may be vaccinated, that does not consider children and minors under the age of 16. While children aged 12 to 15 have been cleared for vaccine eligibility, many have not yet received the vaccine, and children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible. That means that about 10-15% of the population is not being taken into account in this benchmark 70% goal, and there are still hundreds of thousands of people left unvaccinated to date.
After 70% of the adult population is vaccinated and state restrictions are lifted, Brown plans to direct more resources into providing recovery aid to communities and businesses, to continue to monitor virus transmission and variants, and to provide guidance for fully opening the economy.
As the U.S. Recovers
On Friday, President Biden announced the U.S. will contribute 500 million doses of COVID vaccine to countries who have struggled to obtain adequate vaccines to protect their communities. This will be in addition to another 500 million doses provided by other G-7 world leaders, including Britain, Canada, Japan, and France.
This signifies the confidence that first world leaders feel that their own countries are on the path to recovery after the pandemic and marks the transition to helping the rest of the world recover and heal from COVID-19.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.