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Baker: Post-Easter spike follows pattern of other holiday surges as vaccine interest takes a dive

PAT KRUIS/MADRAS PIONEER
 - Jefferson County Public Health Director Michael Baker is disappointed that more people aren't receiving the vaccine.

After a full month at lower risk, a spike in COVID cases shot Jefferson County up two levels to high risk. On Monday, the county counted 48 cases for the prior two-week period, which puts the county three cases above the dividing line between moderate and high.

"We're seeing cases from Easter gatherings. We're seeing cases associated with churches," says Jefferson County Public Health Director Michael Baker. "We're seeing cases of family coming from somewhere out of the area, and then we're seeing cases connected to Deschutes outbreaks."

The change to high risk means:

Restaurants may not exceed 25% capacity or 50 people, whichever is smaller.

Indoor gyms may not exceed 25% capacity or 50 people, whichever is smaller.

Places of worship may not exceed 25% capacity or 150 people, whichever is smaller.

The new restrictions go into place on Friday.

Baker sees a pattern in the spiking numbers. "Just look at the calendar. Every holiday is followed by a spike in cases within 10 to 14 days," says Baker. "Our first spike was Mother's Day, which is coming up again."

One glimmer of good news. "We're seeing fewer hospitalizations than we would expect with the increase in cases," says Baker.

Fewer hospitalizations means less impact on the health care system. The Oregon Health Authority now takes the rate of hospitalization into account when categorizing a county as extreme risk. Less people going to the hospital makes it less likely the county will reach the extreme level.

At the same time the case numbers spike, public health sees flagging interest in vaccination. Monday, the first day everyone age 16 and older could get a shot, the county prepared for 1,000 vaccinations. Only 221 people showed up.

"It is very disappointing especially since we partnered with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs to get extra doses," says Baker.

Baker attributes the lower interest to apathy on the part of those who think we're past the COVID danger, and to fear of those wary of the vaccine.

"Our county is divided right down the middle," says Baker. "I have a 50/50 chance the next person will be either terrified of COVID or doesn't believe there's a problem. We've got to be nimble with our ability to reply."

The department is faithfully moving ahead with plans for vaccination clinics in the area.

Jefferson County COVID vaccine clinics

April 21 First Baptist Church of Madras 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.

April 24 First Baptist Church of Madras 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.

April 30 Camp Sherman 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.

May 5 First Baptist Church of Madras 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.

May 7 Jefferson County Fairgrounds Noon - 7 p.m.

May 14 Culver 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.

May 19 First Baptist Church of Madras 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.


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