WEEKLY COVID UPDATE: September 7

According to the New York Times COVID-19 Data Tracker, Benton County has added 163 cases of virus confirmations to its case total in the past week. According to the County’s health webpage, 21 cases were added on Sept. 3. This brings the County’s case total to 4,082 since the start of the pandemic.  

Within the last week, Oregon has registered over 2,550 new cases of COVID-19. The U.S. added roughly 155,000 cases per day in the past week, for a total of almost 40 million presumed positive COVID-19 cases in the country since the start of the pandemic.  

Long-Haulers 

If you’ve listened to or watched the news in the last six months, you’ve likely heard the term “long-haulers.” This is a blanket statement now being used to describe those who have been infected with COVID-19, but rather than getting sick for two weeks and recovering, are battling long-term symptoms. These symptoms can range from damage to the lungs, to increased risk of heart failure, to injury to the brain.  

A study published in the past week from the medical journal The Lancet investigated the effects of long-term COVID-19 symptoms on fully vaccinated and unvaccinated communities, and found that lasting effects strongly differed. While so-called “break-through” cases (aka becoming infected with the virus even after being vaccinated) are not rare — approximately 15% of Oregon’s recently reported COVID cases were among vaccinated people — this recent study found strong support for the benefits of being vaccinated.  

According to the study, the likelihood of having long-term side effects (considered 28 days post-infection) was 50% less among vaccinated individuals compared to unvaccinated individuals. In addition, it was significantly more likely for vaccinated people to be completely asymptomatic, particularly among senior citizens, who are more likely to be heavily affected by the virus if unvaccinated.  

September 

According to The Oregonian, August was Oregon’s deadliest month since the start of the pandemic. At least 378 people died of the virus last month, and health officials are concerned about what’s to come in the remainder of September.  

The Delta variant has caused a spike in not only hospitalizations, but also deaths. The Oregon Health Authority divides the state into nine Hospital Preparedness Program Regions, and currently each Region’s ICU bed capacity ranges between 94.5% to 99% full. Two counties in the state required additional space beyond their typical morgues and funeral homes to house deceased virus-positive individuals last week.  

Besides the fact that in-person school is starting up soon, thus increasing person-to-person contact and potential virus spread, the cooling weather and decreased social distancing standards means other illnesses such as the flu may be infecting more people.  

While Oregon’s vaccine rates continue to ever-so-slightly increase, only 57% of the state’s population has been fully vaccinated. The fully vaccinated populations are concentrated in cities and urban areas, leaving the rural parts of the state more vulnerable to the more contagious variant.  

Free COVID-19 Testing 

The OHA announced last week that schools may conduct free, state-funded COVID-19 testing of both staff and students for the 2021-2022 school year. The catch? Schools must pre-register before the school year starts.  

This program is available for K-12 schools and includes diagnostic testing for any student or staff member who has symptoms or has been exposed to the virus, as well as weekly screening for unvaccinated staff and students. For staff or students needing a test, the Abbott BinaxNOW rapid test will be provided. For families of unvaccinated students, the free weekly screenings may be opted out of at any time throughout the school year. 

This free testing program for Oregon K-12 schools is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. To learn more about the free testing initiative, visit the OHA Department of Human Services announcement here. 

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