Feb. 27, 2022

United States:  Cumulative Cases: 80,560,293, Cumulative Deaths: 972,930

World:  Cumulative Cases: 434,666,202, Cumulative Deaths: 5,963,158


Oregon to End Emergency Declaration, Schools Wait for Updated Safety Guidance

As statewide Covid hospitalizations continue to drop, Oregon officials announced on Thursday that, in addition to lifting the mask mandate on March 19, the state of emergency will be lifted on April 1.

“Lifting Oregon’s Covid-19 emergency declaration today does not mean that the pandemic is over, or that Covid-19 is no longer a significant concern,” said Gov. Kate Brown in a statement. “But, as we have shown through the delta and omicron surges, as we learn to live with this virus, and with so many Oregonians protected by safe and effective vaccines, we can now protect ourselves, our friends, and our families without invoking the extraordinary emergency authorities that were necessary at the beginning of the pandemic.”

Though the mask mandate will be lifted, the Oregon Education Department still recommends that schools continue to enforce masking after March 19. For schools that make masking optional, the Oregon Health Authority stated that unvaccinated students will need to quarantine immediately after an exposure.

While there is an anticipated likelihood that many Oregon schools won’t require masks, some have said they would wait for updated guidance from the OHA and the ODE to inform their decisions. Next week, the ODE will have a revised “Ready Schools, Safe Learners Resiliency Framework” that advises schools how to stay open while maintaining recommended health and safety protocols. 

Ryan Noss, superintendent of the Corvallis School District, said the CSD would wait for these updates, adding, “keeping our school[s] open and students in our classrooms will remain the priority in any decision.” 

Read the full story here… 

By Alex Baumhardt of Press Partner Oregon Capital Chronicle



Feb. 26, 2022

Benton County:  New Cases: 22, Cumulative Cases: 14,727, Cumulative Deaths: 61

Oregon:  New Cases: 924, Cumulative Cases: 692,261, Cumulative Deaths: 6,582


Oregon Health Authority Monitoring BA.2 Subvariant

While positive Omicron cases continue to decline across Oregon, the variant and its subvariants are being closely monitored by the Oregon Health Authority – particularly subvariant BA.2, which is even more transmissible than the already highly contagious Omicron strain.

To identify the variants and subvariants that might be circulating, the OHA is currently deploying two primary methods: genetic sequencing and wastewater surveillance.

Just over 6% of all positive Covid test samples are being collected throughout the state and sent to laboratory partners, including the Oregon State Public Health Laboratory, to be analyzed for sequencing. Meanwhile, the OHA’s Wastewater Surveillance Program, which was launched in September of 2020 in collaboration with Oregon State University, remains an effective early detection system that can reveal infection even in those who haven’t been tested.

According to the agency’s Variant Dashboard, analyses from genetic sequencing have shown that, thus far, subvariant BA.2 represents fewer than 1% of variants that are currently circulating in Oregon.

By Emilie Ratcliff



Feb. 25, 2022

Benton County:  New Cases: 28, Cumulative Cases: 14,705, Cumulative Deaths: 61

Oregon:  New Cases: 856, Cumulative Cases: 691,337, Cumulative Deaths: 6,578

Oregon has seen a 48% decrease in hospitalizations since January, as well as an 80% decrease in infections. The goal now is to have fewer than 400 hospitalizations in order to lift pandemic mandates. Governor Brown said today that she will likely be lifting the state of emergency in Oregon by April 1.


The BA.2 Subvariant

In the weeks leading up to the advent of the Omicron variant spreading through the U.S., it was more than twice as likely that fewer than 2,000 people would die from Covid on any given day. Over the last month, we’ve seen over 2,000 deaths every day except for President’s Day – a holiday where reporting might not have been available for all states including Oregon which does not report new cases and deaths on holidays or weekends.

The BA.2 subvariant of the Omicron variant has been found to be 30% more transmissible than Omicron, according to a study done in Denmark and the U.K. BA.2 now accounts for one in five Covid cases worldwide – even as case numbers decrease. The Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston is reported as saying that it is not time for a global alarm, but they will continue to watch this subvariant. While not experiencing the meteoric rise the world saw in Omicron, BA.2 is still causing people to watch closely.

By Sally K Lehman


Oregon to lift indoor mask mandate on March 19 

The Oregon Health Authority announced on Thursday that the state will officially lift all indoor mask requirements for public places and schools on March 19.

In a release from OHA, the number of hospitalizations has dropped and are projected to reach levels below those at the start of the Omicron surge. OHA previously announced they would be lifting the mandate by March 31, with the option to lift it sooner.

Feedback from school districts around the state indicated that preparations for the transition could be completed earlier, according to the release.

“We are able to take this important step, earlier than anticipated, because of the collective diligence and the shared sacrifice that people in Oregon have demonstrated in getting vaccinated, wearing masks and limiting their gatherings,” said Dean Sidelinger, M.D. MSEd, health officer and state epidemiologist.

It is expected by health officials that 400 or fewer people per day in Oregon would be hospitalized with the virus by that date. A recent modeling report by Oregon Health & Science University predicted the state would reach that total around March 20.

State health officials are still highly recommending that people in high-risk groups continue to wear masks in indoor public settings even after the restrictions are lifted.

By Jennifer Williams



Feb. 24, 2022

Benton County:  New Cases: 34, Cumulative Cases: 14,677, Cumulative Deaths: 61

Oregon:  New Cases: 1,156, Cumulative Cases: 690,481, Cumulative Deaths: 6,519


Masks Remain a Must at Oregon Hospitals

While Covid hospitalizations in Oregon are trending down, healthcare settings will be continuing with mask mandates according to the Oregon Health Authority.

“We have to remember that it takes a team to provide any level of care in a health care setting,” said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, M.D., M.S. Ed., state epidemiologist and health officer. “There are the nutrition folks who deliver meals and make sure people are fed, the pharmacist who delivers prescriptions, the administrative support staff, plus the people cleaning and turning over rooms who come to pick up the laundry — everyone in that setting is in close proximity to each other.”

Add to the list couriers, vendors, and visitors, and the number of people who may have unknowingly been exposed to Covid grows to the point where continued mask usage becomes an important element in keeping everyone safe. Also, the number of patients who may be immunocompromised in a hospital setting is significantly higher than in day-to-day life.

“That’s why the mask mandate in health care settings is broad and not just targeted on that interaction at the bedside,” Sidelinger said.

Lawmakers Limit Zoonotic Sales

The Oregon Legislature passed a bill that will disallow live-animal markets in an attempt to reduce the spread of zoonotic disease. This diseases spread from animals to humans, and it’s on the rise due to loss of habitat, climate change, and the exploitation of wildlife which are being used for foods, clothing, and trafficking.

House Bill 4128 will prohibit the sale of live animals for use as food.

Diseases of concern include Covid-19, Ebola, bird flu, swine flu, SARS, MERS, and HIV.

By Sally K Lehman



Feb. 23, 2022

Benton County:  New Cases: 95, Cumulative Cases: 14,643, Cumulative Deaths: 61

Oregon:  New Cases: 3,372, Cumulative Cases: 689,325, Cumulative Deaths: 6,485

Since Friday, 29 people in Oregon have lost their lives due to Covid – one of them was from Benton County. That said, the fact that only 95 new cases have been reported in Benton County in that time period speaks well for the end of the Omicron surge.


Schools Make Mask Plans

School leaders across the state are five weeks away from having the power to make masks optional for students and staff without the risk of fines or the loss of Covid relief funds. Read the full story here…

By Alex Baumhardt of Press Partner Oregon Capital Chronicle


Worldwide Covid Vaccines

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization, has said that the pandemic could be ended this year if 70% of the world population would get the necessary vaccines by July.

“If that is to be done, the acute phase can really end, and that is what we are expecting. It’s in our hands. It’s not a matter of chance. It’s a matter of choice,” he said during a visit to Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, which produced the first mRNA COVID vaccine made in Africa with backing from WHO and the COVAX Initiative.

The expectation of this vaccine is that it will not require the same storage and shipping cold temperatures that are required by other vaccines – likely because it was developed with hotter temperatures in mind. This vaccine will begin trials in November. Approval is expected in 2024.

In other vaccine development news, Cuba has been a standout. At the start of the push to create Covid vaccines, the island nation decided to develop their own in hopes that one would be effective.

“It was best, for protecting our population, to be independent,” says Vicente Vérez Bencomo, director-general of the Finlay Institute of Vaccines in Havana.

They succeeded with a vaccine named Soberana 02 which has proven to be 90% effective against symptomatic Covid – particularly against the Delta variant. Another Cuban vaccine named Abdala has a three-dose potency of 92% in its latest trials. Additionally, as of Nov. 18, 2021, 89% of Cuba’s population had received at least one shot.

By Sally K Lehman



Feb. 22, 2022

United States:  Cumulative Cases: 80,145,282, Cumulative Deaths: 960,157

World:  Cumulative Cases: 426,240,207, Cumulative Deaths: 5,908,945

As the world nears 6 million dead from Covid-19, the virus continues to wreak havoc on the U.S. with another 745 lives lost.

The U.S. still accounts for more than 16% of all reported deaths worldwide, and accounts for nearly 19% of all reported cases.


BA.2 Causing Concern

The newest Covid variant causing concern is an Omicron strain called BA.2. This subvariant has taken over as the primary strain running through communities, causing a second Omicron surge in Denmark. BA.2 is also prevalent in Bangladesh, Brunei, China, Guam, India, Montenegro, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, and South Africa.

The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention refer to BA.2 as “stealth” Omicron, because its genetic mutations make is difficult to distinguish from the Delta variant when using PCR tests. This also leads WHO and CDC to worry that the subvariant can cause illness as serious as the Delta variant while being as communicable as Omicron, particularly since BA.2 continues to spread as Omicron dissipates.

Nathan Grubaugh, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health, said to NPR, “A lot of us were assuming that it was going to quickly take off in the United States just like it was doing in Europe and become the new dominant variant.”

And, yes, BA.2 has been found coast-to-coast and currently accounts of about 3.9% of all new cases nationally. The numbers of cases also seem to be doubling, so it is being closely monitored to gauge its growth. Also being monitored is the way in which current decreases continue, in case the growth in BA.2 cases lengthens the time it takes to come out of the Omicron surge.

The Omicron phase is not complete. The Omicron variant is still infecting over 100,000 people each day and killing around 2,000 people each day in the U.S. Additionally, it is possible to be re-infected by the Omicron variant, although a second case of this variant is most likely if a person had mild symptoms or present asymptomatically.

By Sally K Lehman


Oregon Student Safety Coalition Forms Amid Covid Concerns

University graduate employee unions and student governments across Oregon have formed a new coalition with the following specific goals: increased protections for students attending in-person classes, increased transparency in COVID data reporting on campus, increased remote instruction availability, and increased student and employee involvement in COVID-related decision-making.  Read the full story here…

By Grace Miller



Feb. 21, 2022

United States:  Cumulative Cases: 80,087,617, Cumulative Deaths: 959,412

World:  Cumulative Cases: 424,902,220, Cumulative Deaths: 5,906,108


Older Adults Struggle with Increasing Malaise as Pandemic Continues

Much like younger generations, many older adults throughout the country have been struggling with persistent anxiety, malaise, and lack of motivation over uncertainty for the future as the pandemic drudges on with new variants and surges. Added to this are the distressing concerns that seniors have been — and continue to be — more vulnerable to becoming seriously ill and dying from infection than other age groups, as well as the painful feeling that time is running out and death is drawing nearer.

“Folks are becoming more anxious and angry and stressed and agitated because this has gone on for so long,” said Katherine Cook, chief operating officer of Monadnock Family Services in Keene, New Hampshire, which operates a community mental health center that serves older adults.

Even those who adapted well initially are now saying their patience — and fortitude — wearing thin, and their distress is growing.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, many older adults hunkered down and used a lifetime of coping skills to get through this,” said Bonnie Olsen, a clinical psychologist at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine who works extensively with older adults. “Now, as people face this current surge, it’s as if their well of emotional reserves is being depleted.”

“I’ve never seen so many people who say they’re hopeless and have nothing to look forward to,” said Henry Kimmel, a clinical psychologist who focuses on older adults in Sherman Oaks, California. “Older adults are thinking about mortality more than ever and asking, ‘How will we ever get out of this nightmare?’ I tell them we all have to stay in the present moment and do our best to keep ourselves occupied and connect with other people.”

Read the full story here…


Schedule of Vaccine Clinics


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


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