Feb. 20, 2022

United States:  Cumulative Cases: 80,072,561, Cumulative Deaths: 959,130

World:  Cumulative Cases: 423,823,808, Cumulative Deaths: 5,901,350


Studies Show Covid Infections Can Lead to Hearing Loss, Other Inner Ear Issues

According to a recent study led by otolaryngologist Konstantina Stankovic of Stanford University and RNA-virus expert Lee Gehrke of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, there is evidence of Covid infections being directly linked to inner ear problems such as hearing loss and ringing in the ears.

Research has shown that, globally, more than 40% of Covid survivors have suffered or continue to suffer long-term, sometimes debilitating symptoms after recovering from an initial infection. These “Long Covid” dysfunctions include chronic fatigue, cognitive impairments [such as difficulties with memory and concentration], joint pain, shortness of breath, etc. Now, inner ear problems — which can lead to other serious ailments like balance disorders and migraines — appear to fall into this category as well.

Thus far, it remains unclear how these Covid-related hearing disabilities emerge in those who have been infected. Stankovic believes it’s unlikely that the virus enters the body through the outer ear, though she speculates that it could migrate from the nose to the inner ear — a theory which has yet to be proven.

Similarly, another recent study on the correlation between hearing loss and Covid infections found that “hearing loss in COVID era is one of the emerging areas of concern” and also recommended “further research in the field for the better understanding and treatment of this entity.”

By Emilie Ratcliff



Feb. 19, 2022

Benton County:  New Cases: 50, Cumulative Cases: 14,548, Cumulative Deaths: 60

Oregon:  New Cases: 1,542, Cumulative Cases: 685,953, Cumulative Deaths: 6,456

While cases have risen in Benton County, there have been no new Covid-related deaths in the area.


Statewide Omicron Hospitalizations Decline Faster Than Expected

Against original predictions, the latest forecast by Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) expects hospitalizations of patients with Covid to return to pre-omicron levels sooner than anticipated.

OHSU’s Covid forecaster, Peter Graven — whose forecasts inform the Oregon Health Authority’s Covid restrictions — said the rapid decline is partially due to widespread adherence to the state’s indoor mask rule for public places, though the OHA may lift this mandate before the end of March if hospitalizations continue to decrease ahead of time. Still, several regions throughout the state continue to face a shortage of ICU beds — including Benton County.

“We have had a substantial drop in the number of hospitalized patients in Oregon over the past week or so,” said Graven in a statement. “This doesn’t mean that we’re out of the woods. The number of cases are still significantly higher than they have been for most of the pandemic, but the decline over the past week provides relief for hospitals operating under severe strain — and will benefit all Oregonians who need timely care in a hospital.”

Read the full story here… 

By Lynne Terry of Press Partner Oregon Capital Chronicle



Feb. 18, 2022

Benton County:  New Cases: 27, Cumulative Cases: 14,498, Cumulative Deaths: 60

Oregon:  New Cases: 1,845, Cumulative Cases: 684,411, Cumulative Deaths: 6,444

While things are looking better overall, of the 28 deaths attributed to Covid yesterday, one was in Benton County.


Omicron Positives

While the Omicron variant of the Covid virus has made millions of Americans ill over the last few months, there may be a silver lining. It is now estimated that, between immunity obtained through recovery and the fact that around half of eligible recipients have received their booster, 73% of Americans are immune to the Omicron variant and likely the next variant to come. As those with Covid continue to recovery and boosted rates grow, that may rise to 80% by mid-March.

Paradise Lost?

The Cook Islands, which sit northeast of New Zealand, may be facing their first cases of Covid after a tourist from New Zealand tested positive after returning home. The Islands have a double vaccinated rate of 99.6% for everyone aged 12 and above, and have had only three cases in total and zero deaths – although two of their cases have been diagnosed in the last 24 hours, and the one case prior to that was chalked up to a previous exposure.

By Sally K Lehman


Mask Policy at School District Discretion

Gov. Kate Brown’s decision to lift Oregon’s indoor mask mandate no later than March 31 will give local school districts the ability to make independent decisions about their own Covid mitigation protocols. Read the rest of the story here…

By Stacey Newman Weldon



Feb. 17, 2022

Benton County:  New Cases: 63, Cumulative Cases: 14,471, Cumulative Deaths: 59

Oregon:  New Cases: 1,714, Cumulative Cases: 682,566, Cumulative Deaths: 6,416

This time last week, there were 107 new cases in Benton County, and we have fewer than 100 today. Consistent with what experts had predicted, the number of new Covid cases has decreased significantly as the peak of the Omicron surge comes to an end.

Additionally, new hospitalizations are reflecting a downturn although hospitals across the state remain stretched.

Also down is the number of new vaccines being given. After a seven-day average of 18,000 shots in mid-January, the newest seven-day number has only 5,104 doses administered.

If you’re looking for a Covid vaccine, Benton County continues to offer the following options:

In Corvallis

Saturday, February 19, from 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m., at Lincoln Elementary School Gym, 110 SE Alexander Avenue

Sunday, February 20, from 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m., at Letitia Carson Elementary School Gym, 2701 NW Satinwood Street

Thursday, February 24, from 3:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m., at Mountain View Elementary School Cafeteria, 340 NE Granger Avenue

In Philomath

Tuesday, February 22, from 4:00 – 7:30 p.m., at Philomath High School Library, 2054 Applegate Street

In Monroe

Wednesday, February 23, from 3:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m., at Monroe High School Commons, 365 N 5th Street


Covid Vaccine Protection for Unborn

New research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that pregnant people who get the Covid vaccine do share their immunity with their unborn children. The CDC found that two shots of Pfizer or Moderna will offer a baby a 61% lower risk of catching the Covid virus in their first six months of life.

The research looked at 379 infants hospitalized across 17 states from July 1, 2021 through Jan. 17, 2022. Of the babies sick with Covid, 84% were born to an unvaccinated parent. Meanwhile, 98% of babies whose parent was vaccinated during pregnancy had detectable levels of Covid antibodies up to two months after birth.

Protection seems to be best for babies whose parent is vaccinated after 21 weeks of pregnancy, likely because antibody transfer is at its peak in the second and third trimesters. However, the CDC does not recommend pregnant people wait to get vaccines in hopes of optimizing protection for their fetus.

The study did not include people receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and did not look at the effects of booster shots. Although, the CDC did say that the additional immunity offered by the booster would likely benefit the child.

By Sally K Lehman



Feb. 16, 2022

Benton County:  New Cases: 31, Cumulative Cases: 14,408, Cumulative Deaths: 59

Oregon:  New Cases: 1,611, Cumulative Cases: 680,852, Cumulative Deaths: 6,393

As of yesterday, 20 more people died from Covid in the state of Oregon.


Oregon Legislators Looking to Help Nurse Shortage

A proposal in the Legislature aims to address the nursing shortage in Oregon, which has put quality care at risk, advocates say. Read the full story here…

By Lynne Terry of Press Partner Oregon Capital Chronicle


Omicron Takes Toll On Young

Over the last months, as the Omicron variant replaced the Delta, the number of children becoming sick with Covid has increased dramatically – particularly in those under the age of five.

Pediatric hospitalizations were between four and five times higher during Omicron dominance when compared with Delta’s dominant surge. Although children admitted to the hospital were less likely to require ventilation regardless of which variant they were sick from.

This increase prompted Pfizer to seek Food and Drug Administration approval of their Covid vaccine for those five and under, however the FDA is waiting until additional data is available from the current Pfizer studies. This data is not expected until April.

Until such time as everyone is eligible for vaccination, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continue to encourage everyone who can be vaccinated to do so, as well as the standard wearing of masks, social distancing, and hand washing they have encouraged throughout the pandemic.

By Sally K Lehman



Feb. 15, 2022

Benton County:  New Cases: 159, Cumulative Cases: 14,377, Cumulative Deaths: 59

Oregon:  New Cases: 4,741, Cumulative Cases: 679,241, Cumulative Deaths: 6,373

Over the weekend, 18 more people died in the state of Oregon.


New Covid Testing Alternative

Recently released from Cue Health is an at-home Covid testing smart device.

This module, which allows people to test at home with results sent to their phone, debuted in an advertisement during the Super Bowl with an endearing child testing since a friend tested positive.

Cue Health claims their device detects all variants of the virus – including Omicron, which is good news as several at-home testing kits have been rumored to not do this. Their website also says that the Mayo Clinic has found the Cue test to be 97.8% accurate, even without Covid symptoms, for anyone aged two and up.

The test module costs $249 by itself, or $149 with a subscription. Monthly subscriptions cost $39.99 or $74.99 – which could be limiting for many families.

On the plus side, the Internal Revenue Service considers the cost of Covid diagnosis supplies an eligible medical expense, plus some insurance companies may cover the cost of the testing unit. Also, Cue Health does offer discounts for bulk purchases – meaning a 10-pack of tests which would normally cost $750 can be bought for $712.50.

By Sally K Lehman


Behind the Scenes of Salem Hospital’s COVID-Induced Chaos

For those who question the incredible chaos that’s been occurring in Oregon hospitals since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, KLCC and OPB recently published a deep-dive. The article is incredibly well-written and those of us here highly recommend giving it a read.

According to the article, which focused on nurse Heather Gatchet in the emergency department of Salem Health’s Salem Hospital and her colleagues, the past two years have been, to put it mildly, a roller coaster.

Following an anxiety-ridden drive to work in the wee hours of the morning, Gatchet arrives to a huddle of her friends, colleagues, and comrades in chaos. “This is my team, and it feels safe again,” Gatchet told OPB’s Amelia Templeton.

Despite the over 700 days since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Oregon has seen far more cases in early 2022 than it has during any other peak of the pandemic – just like a majority of the country.

While new cases have begun to recede, the incredible volume of omicron infections is swamping hospitals across the country. Salem Hospital is no different, being forced to adapt and find ways to treat more patients that the hospital has licensed beds.

Dr. Peter Hakim, Gatchet’s coworker, emphasized how bad the situation really is. Following his mother-in-law’s recent heart attack, she was unable to get the specialty care she needed in her nearby rural hospital.

Hakim told Templeton that, “They could not find a bed for her anywhere in Washington or Oregon for 24 hours. She was sitting in this small six-bed emergency department and couldn’t get transferred out.”

Even after trying to pull some strings and contact a supervisor, Hakim was told that there wasn’t any space.

“At that point, I think our hospital capacity was about 115%,” he said. “And we had 40 people waiting in our emergency department for beds upstairs.”

While Hakim’s mother-in-law eventually got help, he says that a lot of people “are not as lucky.”

And that sense of helplessness, an inability to do something, anything, is looking to become a much more common one in the near future. Salem Health’s emergency department has had to resort to measures such as putting dozens of wheeled gurneys in the halls to accommodate the massive influx that just… doesn’t stop.

And the later in the day it gets, the higher the number of needed beds rises, without fail. Gatchet noted that it’s gotten to the point that dealing with patients in the hallways has become a daily occurrence.

She said, “They’re crying because they’re in pain, or they’re screaming because they’re having a psychiatric crisis, or we’ve put an alarm on them to alert us if they’re trying to climb off the gurney for safety reasons.”

In fact, at one point in recent weeks, Hakim had to evaluate a seriously ill patient in the bathroom. “I have to see what’s going on,” he told Templeton, “and that is the one private space we could find at the time.”

But hospitals aren’t the only ones struggling. According to Templeton, more than 70% of statewide long-term care facilities in Oregon experienced one or more COVID-19 outbreaks in January, among both staff and residents.

And wouldn’t you know it, the caretakers that are trusted with the area’s elderly are often among the lowest-paid in healthcare, leading to burnout and resignations in record numbers.

This means that hospitals can’t discharge patients to their nursing homes, as most are closed to new admissions. And those who would have, in the past, been discharged to their homes can’t be due to a lack of in-home caregivers and equipment – even wheelchairs.

Salem Health’s Dr. Sarah Webber is a hospitalist, meaning it’s her job to determine who is discharged, where, when, and how. Prior to the pandemic, she said coming up with a safe discharge plan generally took a matter of days. Now, it’s a matter of weeks.

All of this compounds into another serious issue – the longer patients stay in a hospital, the more at risk they can become to things like pneumonia, infections, and becoming bedridden. Statewide, almost 600 patients are ready to leave Oregon hospitals without a discharge plan. They now make up roughly one in ten hospitalized patients.

This is only a part of the tale that Templeton and her sources at Salem Hospital wove. It is a heartbreakingly tragic, and increasingly common tale that many seem to have ignored – but if you have the stomach for it, I highly recommend that you give it the time and attention it deserves.

By Ethan Hauck



Feb. 14, 2022

United States:  Cumulative Cases: 79,293,924, Cumulative Deaths: 942,944

World:  Cumulative Cases: 410,837,662, Cumulative Deaths: 5,829,542


New Schedule of Vaccine Clinics


Saturday, February 19, from 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m., at Lincoln Elementary School Gym, 110 SE Alexander Avenue

Sunday, February 20, from 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m., at Letitia Carson Elementary School Gym, 2701 NW Satinwood Street

Thursday, February 24, from 3:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m., at Mountain View Elementary School Cafeteria, 340 NE Granger Avenue


Tuesday, February 22, from 4:00 – 7:30 p.m., at Philomath High School Library, 2054 Applegate Street


Wednesday, February 23, from 3:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m., at Monroe High School Commons, 365 N 5th Street



Do you have a story for The Advocate? Email