WEEKLY COVID UPDATE: March 29

According to the New York Times Coronavirus Data Tracker, Benton County added 52 new cases of COVID-19 to its county-wide total, now up to 2,543 reported cases since the pandemic began. Benton County is still considered to be within a “high risk” category, and is currently in Phase 1B Groups 1 – 6 of the Oregon Health Authority’s vaccination plan. You can check if you are eligible on the county’s vaccine website 

Oregon’s state-wide COVID case count increased this week compared to the previous week, with between 312 to 505 cases reported each day, whereas 173 to 381 cases were reported daily the week before 

Nationwide case reports are also increasing, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported roughly 422,500 additional cases this past week.  

Vaccination Updates 

Oregon now has over 645,000 residents fully vaccinated, which is about 15% of the state’s population. Similarly to Oregon, the entire country has fully vaccinated about 15% of U.S. residents, with just over 48% of the population over the age of 65 and 20% of people over the age of 18 now being fully vaccinated. 

This past week marked a state milestone as Oregon has administered at least one dose of COVID vaccine to 1 million residents.  

In a bulletin addressed to the public, OHA Director Patrick Allen said, We continue to ensure that our vaccinations proportionately reflect the faces of our communities. 

However, according to OHA’s own data, 1% of vaccinated people in the state identify as Black, 4% Asian, and 5% Latino/Hispanic. This is less than the ethnic composition of the state when considering U.S. Census Bureau data, in which 3% of Oregonians reported themselves as being Black, 6% as Asian, and 13% as Latino/Hispanic.  

Though the Census Bureau data itself has flaws in its collection and reporting according to a report from OPB, this is still suggestive of vaccinations not being distributed at representative of minority groups in Oregon.  

Pfizer Vaccine Trials on Young Children 

Pfizer and BioNTech have announced this week that they will begin clinical trials to investigate the efficacy and safety of their COVID vaccine in children ranging from 6 months to 11 years old. Results of these trials are not expected until later this year, meaning the earliest that young children may expect to be eligible for vaccination will be early in 2022.  

While any clinical trials targeting children may seem risky, researchers believe it is crucial to understand how vaccines may affect this demographic, as children 14 years old and younger make up 26% of the population worldwide. Thus, herd immunity will not be an achievable goal unless vaccines are produced that can be proven safe and effective for children. 

Europe’s Third COVID-19 Wave 

Countries across Europe are struggling amidst the third and largest wave of COVID cases and hospitalizations.  

Estonia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Italy, Bulgaria, and others are experiencing escalating transmission rates as a result, and enforcing new and repeated closures. Cities in France, including Paris, are seeing hospitals and medical resources again being utilized to the limits, and according to an article in EuroNews, doctors are having to make decisions to treat or not treat patients in order to ration supplies.  

Poland’s case numbers have increased by more than 400% since the beginning of February, and though the country has shut down many businesses, health officials fear the restrictions have come too late. 

Most of this third wave is being blamed on virus variants, particularly the UK B.1.1.7 variant that has become dominant in Europe. This is a concerning glance into what could be a potential future for the U.S., as the B.1.1.7 and other variants continue to sweep across the nation. Many re-openings of schools and businesses in Europe are now being rolled back as economic closures are a last-ditch effort to slow the spread of the deadly virus that is already out of control 

The U.S. should take notice and alter practices at home in order to avoid the same misfortunes that European countries are currently experiencing.  

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