According to the New York Times Coronavirus Data Tracker, Benton County reported 109 cases of COVID-19 this past week. This brings the county’s case total to 3,026 since the start of the pandemic. This is an increase compared to the week previous, and case rates have increased 20% compared to case reports from two weeks ago. We are still in the “high risk” category of virus transmission.  

Oregon is currently offering free COVID vaccines to any state resident over the age of 16. Reser Stadium continues to be the only area set up as a mass vaccination clinic in Benton County; to make an appointment for your vaccination or second dose, you can visit the vaccine appointment webpage. 

Statewide, Oregon reported between 540 and almost 850 cases per day over the past week for a total of 5,146 cases. This is a slight increase compared to case reports from the week before. The U.S. reported over 331,000 new COVID cases this past week, which brings the country’s total case count to almost 32.5 million since March of 2020. However, the weekly case report declined compared to the week before. This was the third week of declining case rates nationwide.  

Variants and Increased COVID Rates in Oregon 

As noted above, COVID case rates have been steadily high and increasing in Oregon while the majority of the country is experiencing a slowing of virus transmission. The Oregon Health Authority believes this is due in part to variants that are present and circulating in the state.  

According to State Health Officer Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the variants “are attacking younger and unvaccinated people,” including young students who are returning to school and potentially exposing additional people. Dr. Sidelinger pointed out that these variants present in Oregon should be a cause for alarm and a reason for all eligible Oregonians to get a vaccine. 

Currently, the B.1.429 variant – known as the California variant – and the B.1.1.7 strain – the U.K. variant – are the most dominant variants in the state.  

OHA Report Released on “Breakthrough” COVID Cases 

The OHA released its monthly COVID-19 summary report on Thursday, which focused on so-called “breakthrough” cases. These are the transmissions of the virus to people who had already been vaccinated – this means the virus “broke through” the immunity built up 14 days after receiving the vaccine in these cases.  

Throughout the state, Oregon has reported 611 of these breakthrough cases, eight of which were fatal. The report indicates the average age of these individuals is 51 years old, and almost a third of these cases occurred in people over the age of 65. Breakthrough cases have been reported in 32 counties. 45 people with these breakthrough infections required hospitalization after testing positive. 15 breakthrough cases occurred from transmission of virus variants.  

The OHA reminded readers of the report that while breakthrough transmissions are possible, they are considered very rare as 611 of the 1.3 million vaccinated Oregonians means the rate of breakthrough occurrence is less than 0.001%.  

Teens to Become Eligible for Vaccination 

The Food and Drug Administration announced that it anticipates giving the Pfizer vaccine emergency use authorization this week for children aged 12 to 15. According to an article published by CNN, this may make an additional 5% of the population eligible to receive the vaccine, which  is another step towards returning to a more normal life.  

 However, CNN ran a poll of its readers on parents’ willingness to have their children vaccinated, and only about half of American parents responded that they would likely have their child receive the vaccine.  

Results of trials involving thousands of children and teens between 12 to 15 found no major variations in side effects experienced by the children involved in the trials compared to adults –  meaning site injection soreness, tiredness and achiness, and to a lesser extent minor fevers, were the typical side effects if any were reported.   

Health officials are confident that the Pfizer vaccine is safe and effective for children and teenagers in this age group, and recommend parents schedule an appointment for their children to be vaccinated as soon as they become eligible in order to protect both the child and other family members, and to help the country achieve herd immunity.  

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