As I write this article for the September issue, Washington County is dealing with a huge increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Governor Brown issued a new executive order mandating that all Oregonians five and older wear masks in indoor public places effective Friday, August 13. The governor ordered on Friday, August 27, that masks will also be required in all public outdoor settings where physical distancing is not possible, regardless of vaccination status. While the rule does not apply to outdoor gatherings at private residences, masks are strongly recommended in those settings when it’s impossible to physically distance.
Per Washington County Public Health, the Delta variant is eight times more transmissible than the original strain. Vaccines continue be highly effective at preventing infection, hospitalization, and death. Virtually all deaths and hospitalizations in the U.S. are among unvaccinated people. Breakthrough cases of COVID-19 can occur in fully vaccinated people; however, they are much less common and tend to produce mild illness.
In Oregon, the Delta variant is now the overwhelmingly dominant strain. It is sweeping through our unvaccinated populations, leading to severe illness in some cases, hospitalizations, and unfortunately new deaths.
The county continues to see increases in outbreaks at worksites, schools, and among unvaccinated groups. There are outbreaks in long-term care facilities, congregate settings, in workplace settings, and in schools/daycares/camps. Nineteen percent of COVID infections are in children between birth and 19 years old. Local school districts are taking every precaution to keep our children safe when they return to the classroom.
I ask that if you have not been vaccinated, please do so. Vaccinations are free, effective, and reduce the risk of hospitalization for those 12 and older. On August 23rd the FDA approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, having been subject to a full review by the FDA. This approval puts the vaccine on par with other marketed vaccines. The FDA’s full approval applies to people 16 and older. Those ages 12 through 15 can still receive the vaccine under the existing emergency use authorization.
Discuss the vaccination with your trusted health care professional. If you have questions about the vaccine, you can call 211 or 1-833-907-3520 to receive help in several languages. There is a plentiful supply of vaccine and many walk-in opportunities including pharmacies, mobile clinics, and local events. If you think you may have been exposed to covid there is an information webpage in English (www.co.washington.or.us/HHS/CommunicableDiseases/COVID-19/testing-sites.cfm) and Spanish (www.co.washington.or.us/HHS/CommunicableDiseases/COVID-19-Espanol/prueba-covid-19.cfm). If you are getting tested because you had close contact with someone who has COVID-19, it’s best to wait three to four days after you were together before getting tested. The test may not be accurate if you get it done too soon. You should stay home and away from unvaccinated individuals while you wait.