Benton County added at least 181 cases of COVID-19 to its pandemic-wide case count in the last week, bringing the county’s case total to 4,381. Benton County is experiencing its largest surge of the pandemic thus far, recording multiple daily reports of between 60 and 65 cases since the end of August. In comparison, last winter during the now second-largest wave of the pandemic, the highest daily case report was 41. 

According to the Oregon Health Authority, Oregon reported over 17,700 cases in the past week. As of yesterday, Aug. 13, Oregon surpassed 300,000 cases of the virus since March 2020.  

174 deaths occurred due to COVID-19 in the last week in the state. ICU bed availability throughout Oregon as of yesterday was 10%, with non-ICU hospital beds at even lower availability — only 7% state-wide. Over 710,000 cases were reported nationwide within the past week, meaning that although case reports are still high, this was the second week of declining case rates in the U.S. during this wave of the virus. 

A New Federal Policy 

Unless you abstain from the news entirely, you’ve likely heard that President Biden is enacting a new, tougher policy on vaccinations to spur the 25% of the adult U.S. population who are unvaccinated to finally do so.  

On Thursday, Sept. 9, the President announced the new policy requiring all employees who work for companies employing over 100 people to get vaccinated. According to the White House public plan, this rule may affect over 80 million workers in the U.S. It will be up to employers to ensure their employees are either vaccinated or test unvaccinated individuals every week.  

Under the new policy, employers must grant their employees paid time off for them to get vaccinated, and any non-compliance of large employers could result in individual fines of $14,000 per violation. 

At the same time he unveiled this policy, Biden also announced he had signed two executive orders; one requiring that all government employees must be fully vaccinated with no option to opt out and be tested weekly, and one requiring full vaccinations for contractors who work with the federal government. Additionally, all health care employees of facilities that receive funding from Medicare and Medicaid must now be fully vaccinated, which affects another 17 million workers.   

Children’s COVID Cases on the Rise 

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ most recent weekly COVID report, cases of the virus reported in children have increased at an alarming rate in the past month. Within the past two weeks, almost half a million cases in children were reported within the U.S. Since the start of the pandemic, nearly 5.3 million American children have tested positive for the virus, meaning that nearly 10% of those cases have been reported since the end of August. 

Though the AAP reports that severe illness is still considered uncommon amongst children under the age of 12, this rise in cases is particularly concerning now as children are just starting to re-enter schools across the country.  

A Little Good News 

A recent study published in the medical journal bioRxiv has found that some people are capable of harboring “super immunity” to COVID-19, including all of the current virus variants and possibly even new ones that have yet to emerge.  

The researchers found that those who have this super-immunity are individuals who originally caught the virus, and were vaccinated later on. It appears that this double-dose of virus exposure (or triple, if you consider a two-dose vaccination), produces remarkably robust antibodies; they appear to be hyper-defensive and resistant to all tested strains of COVID-19 — including Delta.  

One question the researchers can’t answer yet is, what if you are vaccinated and then catch the virus? Will those individuals have similar levels of strong antibodies? There are numerous virologist labs working across the world to answer this question, providing additional knowledge and hope to eventually get the pandemic under control.  

 Flu Shot Reminder 

With temperatures dropping and children returning to school, The Advocate wants to remind its readers to schedule an appointment for your flu shot. The flu vaccine is available at Rite-Aid on 9th Street — an appointment can be made on the pharmacy’s website, and at multiple Samaritan clinics and drive-up events. Find more information about Samaritan’s options on their flu vaccine webpage. With COVID still in the community, we don’t want to risk Corvallisites getting the flu on top of it. 

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