WEEKLY COVID UPDATE: May 3

Benton County added 94 new cases of COVID-19 to its pandemic-wide case count. According to the New York Times Coronavirus Data Tracker, this means the county has reported a total of 2,917 cases since March of 2020. Benton County case rates have risen 9% in the last two weeks compared to the two weeks previous, a sign that transmission rate is increasing. We are still in the “high risk” category. 

All Oregonians over the age of 16 are eligible for a vaccine. Currently, Reser Stadium is the only active mass vaccination site in Benton County. To schedule your vaccine appointment and learn more about second doses, you can visit the county’s vaccine appointment webpage 

Oregon reported between 740 and 1,000 cases of COVID per day this past week, and the weekly reporting average of cases continues to trend upwards for the state. Statewide, there was an addition of over 5,000 cases last week, for a total of more than 184,800 since the start of the pandemic. According to a bulletin released by the Oregon Health Authority, this is the fifth week of case surges and hospitalizations due to the virus. The U.S. has reported a total of 32.1 million cases, meaning an addition of over 300,000 cases since last Sunday. However, nationwide, the case-reporting trend declined again this week compared to the week previous.  

New Restaurant and Bar Restrictions 

Governor Kate Brown announced on Tuesday during a press briefing that indoor dining at restaurants and bars will be shut down in counties that fall within the “extreme risk” category of transmission rates, effective Friday, April 30. This restriction should be in effect for three weeks at most, Brown said. 

In attempts to alleviate the financial pressure this subjects businesses to, Brown raised the outdoor seating capacity of bars and restaurants from 50 to 100 people. In addition, the Governor is working to secure and administer economic aid to businesses as part of a $20 million small business emergency relief package.  

While officials of the restaurant industry and business owners in the state are not happy about the decision, the Willamette Weekly reports over 150 lives could be saved from lowering transmission risk at restaurants through this restriction.  

While this affects 15 counties throughout the state, Benton County is not yet one of them. However, after five consecutive weeks of rising case levels in the county, restaurant owners and patrons should remain wary and take action to avoid similar restrictions placed on our local businesses.  

Study Shows Efficacy and Benefits of Pregnant Women Receiving Vaccine 

A collaborative study between researchers of Harvard Medical School and virologists, obstetricians, and gynecologists was published this week in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. The study focused on the benefits and side effects of pregnant and lactating women receiving the COVID-19 vaccine 

The study monitored 84 pregnant, 31 lactating, and 16 non-pregnant but of reproductive age women during and two to six weeks after receiving two doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. Samples were also collected and analyzed after the pregnant women gave birth.  

Results showed that the levels of antibodies present in pregnant and lactating women were equal to those found in the non-pregnant women, meaning the vaccines were just as effective in pregnant individuals. In addition, antibodies were found in breast milk of lactating women, which indicates transfer of immunity to both the fetus and newborn is possible.  

Side effects of vaccines in non-pregnant, lactating, and pregnant women did not vary, with headaches, fatigued, site injection pain, and fever being reported by all groups. No significant differences in negative side effects were found between groups. However, it should be noted that there was an increased incident of fevers reported by pregnant women after receiving the second vaccine dose, and while not different than fevers experienced by the lactating and non-pregnant study groups, these may be of higher concern to the mother and fetus. All infants were delivered healthfully in the study. 

The researchers concluded that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines appear to provide both mothers and infants with vigorous protection against the COVID-19 virus, and that negative side effects do not differ significantly between pregnant and non-pregnant vaccine recipients. 

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