WEEKLY COVID UPDATE: October 5, 2021

Over the past week, Benton County has added 173 cases of COVID-19 to its pandemic-wide case count, bringing the county’s total, since March 2020, to 4,915. This is a decrease of about 15% compared to the case report from last week.  

Young adults, or those 18- to 29-year-olds, are still being infected with the virus at a higher rate than any other age group, followed closely by those within the 30- to 49-year age category.  

Mirroring Benton County’s decrease in case reports, the Oregon Health Authority reported just over 14,140 cases statewide, which is slightly less than the week previous. The OHA released an announcement stating that the last week of September marked the fourth straight week of declining case rates in Oregon, as well as a 12% decrease in hospitalizations and a decrease in deaths due to COVID.  

It was also the fourth declining week of case rates across the U.S. The country reported 607,600 cases in the past week, which is almost 60,000 fewer cases than the week before. This is a welcome change, as health officials have been worried about how cooler temperatures, students learning in-person, and the flu would influence the pandemic this fall. 

Declining Case Rates Not a Reason to Forgo Vaccination 

While numerous states have recently announced declining case rates amongst their citizens, health officials have warned that not enough people have been vaccinated yet to truly control transmission of the virus. Just over half of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated, which experts say is not enough and hope the declining case reports do not instill a false sense of security amongst the unvaccinated. 

 While Oregon has seen an uptick in vaccination rates within the past week, only 59% of state’s the population has been fully vaccinated. In Benton County, 69.5% of the population has been vaccinated. This is relatively high, considering that a vaccine has yet to be approved for children younger than the age of 12, however, vaccination rates throughout the county and much of Oregon have stagnated in recent weeks.  

According to an interview aired on National Public Radio, the earliest a vaccine safe for younger children may come is late October 

Still Cause for Concern in Schools 

Though cases and hospitalizations due to COVID are dropping in many places throughout the U.S., the Delta variant is still a major cause of concern especially amongst younger individuals. An article published by Oregon Public Broadcasting last week reported a large increase in the number of Oregon grade schools that announced outbreaks of the virus amongst its students and/or staff.  

According to the article, which was based on OHA data, 80 Oregon schools had active outbreaks of COVID-19 as of last week. The Portland Public School District had over 1,700 students quarantined due to exposure to the virus while at school at the time the article was published. Some schools that have experienced outbreaks have identified athletic events as a major source of virus transmission.  

Schools throughout the U.S. have experienced hardships during in-person learning this fall due to the pandemic, but the likelihood of virus outbreaks occurring in school is related to the vaccine rate of the larger community. So far, states with higher populations of fully vaccinated people — such as communities in California and New York State — have seen fewer outbreaks in their school systems. In contrast, areas with low vaccination rates — such as Florida and other southern states — have already experienced mass outbreaks and deaths of school staff.   

New Study Brings Hope to COVID Noses  

A new 12-week trial aims to uncover a potential therapy to revive the sense of smell in individuals affected by COVID-19. One common symptom of the virus is a loss or alteration of taste and/or smell. Some people who have tested positive for COVID, even after recovering from all other symptoms, may continue to exhibit the loss of these senses for months or longer. Those affected by this have reported that it negatively impacts their lives and happiness.  

A team of rhinologists — scientists who study diseases and physiology of the nose (yes, nose scientists) — at the University of East Anglia in the UK are studying the effectiveness of vitamin A to restore participants’ olfactory senses. Essentially, clinic participants will use vitamin A nasal drops, be asked to sniff strongly scented items, and undergo brain scans. The team of researchers hopes to identify if and how the vitamin may repair smell pathways in the brain damaged by the COVID virus. 

The group is anticipating to start recruiting participants this December, and are asking for people who have lost their sense of smell and are interested in partaking in the trials to ask their doctors for a referral to The Smell and Taste Clinic at the James Paget Hospital.   

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