WEEKLY COVID UPDATE: March 22

According to the New York Times Coronavirus Data Tracker, Benton County added 61 cases of COVID-19 to the county’s case count. This brings the total number of confirmed cases in the county up to 2,491, with an average of 9 people being infected daily over the past two weeks 

Oregon added roughly the same number of cases each day to the statewide case count that it added last week, varying between 178 to almost 400 cases per day. The weekly COVID-19 report released by the Oregon Health Authority noted that while the death rate decreased over the previous week, the rate of confirmed cases rose by 30% compared to the week before.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported over 29.6 million cases nationwide since the beginning of the pandemic, adding between roughly 40,000 and 61,600 cases per day over the past week. The rate of confirmed cases in the U.S. is still decreasing compared to the height of transmission in January, but that rate of decrease is slowing down and plateauing. The death rate is similar in that it has been decreasing since January, but seems to be slowing down and the CDC has reported approximately 580 to over 1,500 deaths per day in the last week. These rates are comparable to the statistics recorded from the previous week.   

Vaccination Updates 

Governor Kate Brown announced an accelerated COVID vaccination program that now aims to offer eligibility to all adult Oregonians aged 16 years and older by May 1. According to the OHA, the state is scheduled to receive over five million doses of vaccine within the month of May.  

With just over 560,000 residents fully vaccinated and vaccination rates increasing, Pat Allen, Director of the OHA, predicted during a recent press conference that the promised delivery of vaccines will allow Oregonians “to return to a more normal life by early summer.”  

Currently, Phase 1B Group 6 is eligible for vaccination in Benton County. This includes adults aged 45-65 with any underlying health condition(s), migrant/seasonal farm employees, individuals experiencing homelessness, wildland firefighters, people dislocated due to wildfires, and pregnant women over the age of 16. If you are eligible, you are still required to make an appointment before being vaccinated at a county-hosted clinic. You can visit this webpage for updates on where and when the next clinic will be held. 

Spring Break During the Pandemic  

Oregon State University’s spring break is this week, March 22-26. While OSU course instruction has been predominantly remote this academic year, many students still live either in residence halls on campus or within the greater Corvallis community. As a result, there are concerns about travel that may take place during this week of what is usually a care-free break for hardworking students. Though OSU is urging students and staff to stay close and avoid travel, extra precautions are being placed to detect and mitigate for any increase in confirmed cases.  

Testing through the University TRACE program was offered to students and faculty last week and will be offered the week after spring break. In addition to the weekly testing that is conducted within the student community living in residence halls, all students living in dorms will also be required to be tested the three days following spring break – March 29-31 

2021 World Happiness Report 

For the last nine years, the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network has conducted a massive effort to gauge happiness in all corners of the world. This past year, the COVID pandemic provided additional challenges to conducting the World Happiness Report (WHR). Regardless, the UN researchers leading the report recognized the vital importance of tracking human happiness during this time of increased stress and uncertainty.  

Combining multiple data bases and the Gallup World Poll, a survey aimed at reaching all communities, cultures, and regions of the world, the 2021 WHR results were both surprising and promising. 

There are eight chapters that cover a broad range of factors influencing happiness in the WHR, and all focus on the effects of the global pandemic. Some of these topics include COVID’s influence on well-being, on mental health, on social connection, and on work and the future of employment. While there are many intricacies and different countries/cultures have responded to the pandemic differently, the researchers make general conclusions about their findings while noting that there is no possible way to assess the full impacts of the virus, as the pandemic is still ongoing.  

In general, the coarse results were surprising in that the broad rankings of countries based on reported levels of happiness did not vary dramatically from report findings in previous years. Similarly to 2017-2019 reports, the countries that ranked in the top 10 list of happiest communities this year include mainly Nordic countries like Finland (number 1), Iceland (2), and Denmark (3). The United States ranked 14th, which is, astonishingly, higher than what the U.S. ranked in 2017-2019 (16th). The researchers point to overall human resiliency in the face of opposition as a general explanation for the country rankings of the 2021 WHR. To learn more about the project and read the full report, you can visit the official website. 

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