County's COVID-19 deaths spike after outbreak at care facility
The scourge of COVID-19 hit especially hard in Yamhill County over the past several weeks with word that nearly a dozen residents of a care facility had died from the virus.
The county health department reported Dec. 17 that 11 residents of the Marjorie House Memory Care Community in McMinnville had succumbed to the coronavirus over a 10-day period beginning Dec. 5 and continuing through Dec. 15.
"The individuals who sadly died tested positive for COVID-19," said Lindsey Manfrin, county health and human services director, in a release.
All of the deceased had underlying health conditions, the release said, adding that an additional 35 people associated with the facility have tested positive for COVID-19.
The county health department, in conjunction with the Oregon State Department of Human Services, is working with staff at the community to install protocols at the facility. Those include teaching isolation practices, barring entry to the facility for nonessential visitors, health screening and temperature checks for essential visitors, and enhanced sanitizing of areas most frequented by people.
"Our hearts go out to everyone involved in this incredibly sad situation we find ourselves in," Manfrin said.
County's grim numbers
The deaths in McMinnville represent a substantial jump in the county, which has been relatively spared from the virus up to this point with no deaths reported for a number of months since the pandemic broke out in the United States in March. The county reported 16 deaths as of mid-November, a number it sustained for nearly four weeks before the breakout in McMinnville.
Now the county has suffered 33 deaths and a case rate unparalleled since the outbreak began. The number of reported cases in the county has topped 2,400 and more than 67,000 negative cases had been tallied.
McMinnville has proven to be the hotspot in the county with 1,077 cases and a rate of 298 cases per 10,000 residents. Newberg tallied 613 cases as of Dec. 23, a rate of 216 per 10,000 residents.
Although Dayton has only had 173 cases, it has established a rate of 363 per 10,000 to lead the county by percentage. Lafayette has earned a rate of 302 per 10,000 residents and 113 cases.
Forty-six percent of the cases in Yamhill County are among the white population (127 cases per 10,000 residents), which accounts for 76.6% of the county's overall population at 82,030 people. The Hispanic/Latino population accounted for 804 of the county's cases as of Dec. 23, a rate of 16.2% among the 17,378 residents (462.25 cases per 10,000).
Vaccinations come too late for some
Hospitals throughout the nation have begun receiving the vaccine for COVID-19 and are busy preparing plans for who will receive the drugs and when.
On Dec. 11, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration issued emergency use authorization for the first vaccine found to prevent COVID-19, created by Pfizer and BioNTech in record time over the past nine months. A second vaccine, produced by Moderna and the National Institutes for Health, was approved by the FDA last week and should be available nationwide beginning this week.
Locally, hospitals are preparing to begin administering the vaccines as soon as possible.
"With these authorizations, local hospitals are expected to receive their first supply next week and Yamhill County Public Health will receive their supply in the coming weeks," a news release from the department said last week.
Providence Newberg Medical Center has received a portion of the 2,000 vaccine doses of the Pfizer vaccine distributed to Providence Health & Services outlets around the state.
"We are finalizing our plans for where and when these vaccines will be administered," PNMC spokesman Mike Antrim said, "and caregivers are signing up to receive the vaccines as they are available. We are giving priority to frontline caregivers whose work places them closest to patients with COVID-19."
He added that the addition of the Moderna vaccine, once it is approved by the FDA, will allow Providence to "have enough doses available to reach our caregivers in greatest need of the vaccination by the end of the year."
Following OHA protocol, the vaccines will be distributed in phases to the highest risk populations — hospital workers, emergency medical personnel, and residents and staff at long-term care facilities. As more vaccine becomes available, additional health care workers will have the option of being vaccinated. Ultimately, additional groups and the general public will be eligible for vaccination."These additional priority populations have not been specified at this point in time," the OHA release said. "We will continue to update the public as more information becomes available."
Continue the fight
Despite the arrival of vaccinations, public health authorities are urging people to continue to take precautions to avoid contracting the virus.
"We will only get ahead of this if we get a substantial portion of the population vaccinated," said Dr. William Koenig, Yamhill County Health Officer. "Until then it is critical to continue to wear a mask, maintain physical distance, wash your hands often and keep your social circles small."
Passing a mark nobody wanted to excel in
Oregon passed a grim threshold last week with more than 100,000 cases of COVID-19 confirmed among residents. More than 1,300 had died from the virus as of Dec. 23.
"While this significant number reflects how widely the novel coronavirus has spread within our communities, I want to acknowledge every Oregonian who has been affected by this pandemic and thank the vast majority of Oregonians who've taken steps to protect their families, their neighbors and the most vulnerable members of our communities," said Rachael Banks, Oregon Health Authority public health director, in a release.
Oregon, according to the CDC, is 44th among the 50 states in average daily cases of the virus, with two of its less-populated neighbors — Idaho and Nevada — suffering 125,000 and 194,000 cases, respectively.
"COVID-19 hasn't spread as fast as it has in most other states," Banks said. "But every infection, every hospitalization and every death are one too many. The safe and effective vaccines we're distributing across the state offer real hope we can end this pandemic. But it's too soon to drop our guard."
Cases continue to climb, but …
According to modeling recently done by the OHA, the effective reproduction rate — defined as the "expected number of secondary cases that a single case generates" — was 1.22 as of Nov. 28, indicating that more people are staying home, are physically distant, traveling less frequently and wearing masks at a greater level.
The model showed that the current level of transmission could result in nearly 2,200 new daily cases and 110 additional daily hospitalizations by Jan. 1, further taxing the state's health care systems.
"If people are not diligent about mask wearing and physical distancing, resulting in a rise in transmission like what Oregon experienced in early November, new daily cases could rise to 2,550," the release said. The resultant number of individuals who would need hospital care would similarly rise to as many as 125 per day.
However, the release stressed: "If people remain diligent against the virus, transmission could mirror the levels from mid-October, with daily cases at about 1,200. Under that scenario, hospitalizations would drop substantially to about 55 per day."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.