With COVID spread on rise, county recommends masks
As the more contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 becomes the dominant strain among those testing positive for the virus in the United States, community spread in Oregon is increasing at a rate that has public health experts concerned.
Cases are spiking in Yamhill County as well, leading health officials to echo a statewide recommendation that all individuals — regardless of vaccination status — wear masks in indoor, public settings.
"Yamhill County has experienced a recent increase in COVID-19 cases," a release from the county said. "It is presumed that the Delta variant of COVID-19 is present within Oregon and Yamhill County, which is responsible for this concerning increase. Current data shows that the Delta variant is as much as twice as contagious than previous strains. While both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals have contracted this strain, it is primarily affecting those who are not yet vaccinated and virtually all deaths and hospitalizations have been unvaccinated individuals."
Since plateauing at a weekly case count of 22 the week of June 20, Yamhill County has seen weeks of 38 cases, 42 cases, 39 cases and 65 cases. The number of people hospitalized for the virus went from zero the week of June 20 to nine as of July 29. A total of 81 people have died from the virus in the county since the pandemic began.
With the total number of eligible people fully vaccinated for COVID-19 sitting at just under 56% in Yamhill County, there is room for the virus to continue to spread rapidly in the community, particularly among the unvaccinated who comprise nearly all of those now being hospitalized.
Herd immunity against COVID-19 can only be reached if a sufficient percentage of the population is vaccinated, between 70% and 85%, according to some scientific experts.
"According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) transmission indicator, Yamhill County is experiencing substantial transmission (50-99.99 cases per 100,000 people)," the county health department's release said. "CDC recommends all individuals (vaccinated or unvaccinated) living in substantial or high
"Given the recent statewide increase in cases, OHA now recommends that even those in low transmission communities wear masks as well, vaccinated and unvaccinated alike. Yamhill County Public Health echoes these recommendations and encourages community members to mask up when in indoor, public spaces."
Yamhill County Health and Human Services director Lindsey Manfrin called the increased spread "concerning" and encouraged everyone above the age of 12 who hasn't received the vaccine yet to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Shots are more readily available than ever before as demand has gone down. Locations with available appointments can be found at www.vaccinefinder.org.
Studies have proven the two-shot Pfizer and Moderna and one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccines to be safe and effective with minimal instances of serious side effects. While some vaccinated individuals have contracted COVID-19 — referred to as "breakthrough" cases — upward of 90% of serious COVID cases in the U.S. are among the unvaccinated.
"Right now, our vaccines are effective," Manfrin said. "We need more people vaccinated to prevent opportunities for the virus to mutate in a way that makes the vaccines less effective. With the Delta variant, this is more urgent than ever. The highest spread of cases and severe outcomes is happening in places with low vaccination rates."
Vaccination has become a political wedge in the past several months, with misinformation and obfuscation gaining a foothold on social media and cable news. But public health experts emphasize that the virus does not discriminate based on political beliefs: It hunts the unvaccinated the same way it hunted everyone before these life-saving vaccines were developed, and it spreads rapidly among those without inoculation.
"Despite all our differences, we should all be looking to help family and friends through this difficult time," Dr. William Koenig, a public health officer, said in the county's release. "Vaccination works, so roll up your sleeve and step forward."
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