COVID UPDATE – Week Ending Jan 16, 2022

COVID UPDATE – Week Ending Jan 23, 2022

Jan. 20, 2022

Benton County:  New Cases: 233, Cumulative Cases: 10,761, Cumulative Deaths: 46

Oregon:  New Cases: 8,527, Cumulative Cases: 549,942, Cumulative Deaths: 5,908

 

Federal Government Offers Free Masks

The Biden Administration announced that the U.S. Strategic National Stockpile of Personal Protective Equipment – meaning face masks – will be used to provide free masks to Americans. Beginning late next week, you will be able to get some of the 400 million masks which the federal government has been holding back since the Trump Administration.

To find your free mask, go to your local pharmacy or community health center. Each person should be able to receive three masks, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that they can be reused.

By Sally K Lehman

 

It’s Time to Change the Narrative 

It’s been two years since we first heard the whisperings of COVID-19 and now health experts say Americans have all but tuned out the messaging and warnings following the dangers of the new variant. While hospitals continue to grapple with the increase in hospitalizations, Access Health CEO Jeff Fortenbacher spoke with NPR and said Americans are tired of listening to the same information.

“It just cuts across that whole issue of trust and suspicion and not getting the information,” he said, adding that many are just checked out after two years of the same messages. “I mean, it’s almost like white noise.”

According to the most recent numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Omicron variant is averaging 1,500 new deaths a day in the United States alone. Public health officials think now is the time to change the narrative. Fortenbacher specifically talked about the conversations around the vaccine with the new variant.

“Those who are fully vaccinated are far less likely to die or get hospitalized,” he said. “But during the omicron surge, COVID-19 caseloads are climbing, and the fact that vaccinated people are getting infected at all seems to contradict a common, though inaccurate, notion that COVID-19 vaccines block infections.”

He went on to say the messaging around masking needs to be more realistic and, in his experience, people would respond better if health officials used words like recommending and not mandating.

Health officials in Oregon have taken a tougher stance on indoor mask mandates, requiring masking for all indoor public space for the foreseeable future. Even with the mandate in place, the Oregon Health Authority continues to report a staggering rise in cases.

By: Jennifer Williams

 

Jan. 19, 2022

Benton County:  New Cases: 813, Cumulative Cases: 10,528, Cumulative Deaths: 46

Oregon:  New Cases: 28,024, Cumulative Cases: 541,415, Cumulative Deaths: 5,893

The case and death numbers since last Friday have taken Benton County past the 10,000 case mark without increasing the number of county deaths. In the state, the last three days have added more than 28,000 cases while only adding 10 new deaths to the statewide count. These numbers seem to confirm what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said about the Omicron variant being very contagious but not as deadly as previous variants of concern.

 

Free Covid Tests

The federal government launched their free Covid test website a day early. Americans can now order free at-home tests at CovidTest.gov. Each household can request up to four free tests to be delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.

While you can order tests earlier than expected, don’t expect them to arrive quickly. It’s assumed the tests will take until the end of the month to begin showing up at doors.

Also under the policy that supplies tests through the government, insurance companies will now be required to reimburse customers for up to eight at-home tests per person per month if they are required to purchase tests out of pocket. Only tests bought after Jan. 15 qualify.

Those using Medicare will not be reimbursed for purchased tests.

By Sally K Lehman

 

Jan. 18, 2022

 

Covid Isn’t Chickenpox

If you had the chickenpox as a child around the same time as all of your friends, it’s likely your parents allowed you to catch them in what is called a “Chickenpox Party” – the idea being that once you’ve had the disease, you won’t have it again. The general idea is making a comeback with Covid. There are a lot of people out there thinking that it would be best to just get the highly contagious Omicron variant so they can get it over with. Here’s why that’s not a good idea.

You Can’t Control How Sick You Get

While we’ve all been hearing about how this variant is less extreme than its predecessors, it can still land you in the hospital. Even if you’re vaccinated and boosted, you can still get very sick with a disease they don’t know enough about yet. This is more troubling if you happen to have an underlying condition.

Covid Has Extreme Side Effects

One thing that we’ve learned over the last two years is that Covid has long term side effects. According to the Mayo Clinic, long term health issues after recovery from Covid include: “Fatigue, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, cough, joint pain, chest pain, memory issues, concentration or sleep problems, muscle pain or headache, fast or pounding heartbeat, loss of smell or taste, depression or anxiety, fever, dizziness when you stand, and worsened symptoms after physical or mental activities.”

You Could Spread It

If you become infected with Covid, the symptoms don’t come immediately. Because of that, you could be spreading the virus to others – including the elderly or immuno-compromised – before you know you’re sick. You could spread the virus to a child too young to be vaccinated.

The Hospitals Can’t Take It

The Omicron variant already has our hospital systems working overtime to keep up. If you allow yourself to become sick on purpose, you’re adding to the problem. And if those hospitals are full, who will take care of you if you’re sick?

Supplies Are Still Short

There is not only a shortage in hospital space, there is a shortage in hospital supplies. While the Food and Drug Administration has approved two pills that can be taken at home, finding either of those treatments will be harder than you think. Oregon only recently got its first doses of the Pfizer pills, and they are being distributed to: “Peacehealth Riverbend in Eugene, Grand Ronde Hospital in La Grande, Salem Health, St. Charles Health in Bend, and Asante Three Rivers Medical Center in Grants Pass.”

Immunity Last Only Months

Any natural immunity you may have will last for months, not years. Additionally, if you become immune to the Omicron variant, that doesn’t mean you’ll be immune to other variants, and there will likely be new variants coming.

Even Chickenpox Isn’t Good For You

While that “Chickenpox Party” mentality might seem like a good idea still, remember that your and my parents were wrong, because even the chickenpox shouldn’t be sought after – it leaves the virus in your body that can lead to shingles later in life. And like the chickenpox, Covid now has a safe and effective vaccine that will protect you from the worst the virus has to offer.

By Sally K Lehman

 

People Can Spread Covid to Deer

Pair of whitetail deer cautiously grazing in the hill country of Texas.

Recent studies have revealed that humans are now spreading Covid to deer.  One study found at least six cases of coronavirus-infected white-tailed deer in Ohio who were infected by humans. Another state where people are infecting deer is Iowa.

In the U.S., there are over 30 million free-range deer. If the virus continues to spread throughout the population, consequences could be severe. The virus could mutate after being transmitted to a non-human species, or create a new variant altogether.

“The sheer possibility that these things are happening and it’s unknown makes this very unsettling,” said virologist Suresh Kuchipudi.  “We could be caught by surprise with a completely different variant.”

It’s Happened Before

Back in 2020, Dutch farmers infected animals on mink farms, which then infected humans, which led to mutations in the virus.

“Whenever the virus jumps into a different species, that could lead to adaptation,” said Kuchipudi, “meaning it’s important to bring the virus under control.”

He continued, “If we let the virus continue to circulate among humans, we are not only endangering the vulnerable sector of our population, but we could also be putting our animals and environment at danger.”

In Oregon, deer populations play a vital role in ecological systems. They serve as game for animals such as coyotes, bears, and cougars, as well as being a food staple for humans. Although once widespread across Oregon, the Columbian white-tailed deer are now considered endangered and are limited to the Douglas County region. Although this population is protected under the Endangered Species Act, the virus could have devastating consequences if spread to this small group of deer.

By Rebekah Harcrow

 

Jan. 17, 2022

Where to Find the Best Masks

With the pandemic via the Omicron variant, masks seem to likely be in our future for a while yet. Therefore, the New York Times and Colorado State University made a list of the best N95, KN95, and surgical masks and where to find them.

The masks included on the list had to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration to block at least 95% of 0.1-micron particles, come from legitimate sellers, and be a good value. One other criteria was level of comfort and how well the mask stays in place.

Kimberly-Clark N95 Pouch Respirator came in at the top of the list. Granted, this mask has an odd shape – sort of a duck bill of protection which offers better air flow. But its headband keeps the mask in place, and it is approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Also, this masks can be found on Amazon for $46 – $57 for a pack of 50.

Well Before WB-N-200 N95 Respirator Mask provides a good headband and room around the mouth and nose for ease of breathing. A more heavy duty material makes this mask feel more protective. NIOSH approved, this masks is only available at Well Before and currently costs $1.59 per mask.

Powecom KN95 Respirator Mask came in third, and is the first on this list with ear loops as opposed to headband – although you can buy this mask with a head strap if you prefer and can afford the added cost. To guarantee that you’re getting the correct mask, find them at Bona Fide Masks where you can buy 10 ear loop masks for $12 and 10 head band masks for $15.

DemeTech DemeMask Surgical Mask is the first surgical mask on the list. This is the typical folded-front mask you’ve likely seen on TV dramas and, thanks to litter bugs, on the ground. These are lightweight, with soft ear loops – in fact, the Times calls their straps “strikingly soft.” These masks are FDA cleared to block 98% of 0.1 micron particles provided you wear it with a good seal. Currently, a 50 pack of these masks can be found at Amazon for about $22.

To read about other the other masks on their list, go to The New York Times.

By Sally K Lehman