April 7, 2021 — On Tuesday, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced that positive cases of the novel coronavirus are increasing statewide. With that in mind, four counties are in a two-week caution period for facing backward movement with case counts. Lane County just moved down to “low risk” of community transmission on March 26, so will remain there through the caution period.
According to the governor’s office, “Counties that reduced their COVID-19 spread enough to move down in risk level in the previous two-week period, but see their numbers go back up in the next two-week period, are given a two-week caution period to re-focus efforts to drive down creeping case numbers and give local businesses additional certainty on their plans for operating.”
Lane County Public Health (LCPH) Public Information Officer Jason Davis said the county was notified of 35 positive cases on Monday and 116 cases over weekend, bringing the county total to 10,998 total cases.
“That dovetails with the increase we saw last week with numerous days in double-digit cases,” he said. “We are seeing a significant increase in our overall cases.”
According to Davis, the warm spring weather, spring break and spring holidays are coupling with climbing vaccination numbers to give people a false sense of security about COVID-19.
“There are a lot of lessons learned as we start to take advantage of more liberty and a decreased sense of risk,” Davis said. “Pretty much every single one of our upward trends began with just a couple cases. And those few cases, even though they seem like such a relief from our high cases this winter, they can turn very rapidly back into those double digits — as they have.
I would ask for the community’s help, and all our partners’ help, in trying to reverse this. Please, please, do your very vest to make your gatherings as healthy as possible.”
In fact, Davis considers the county to be at double the amount of infectious people than when the county was first considered “low risk.”
He said the case rate is 88.7 cases per 100,000, or within range to be redesignated as moderate risk.
“Since we just moved down from moderate to low risk, we will be utilizing that grace period as we do our very best to reverse these trends,” Davis said.
According to LCPH, the current rise in cases comes from three main categories: multi-household gatherings, large parties and workplaces.
“Obviously, multi-household gatherings are completely preventable. You don’t have to have them. I know it’s the time of year when the weather starts getting nicer and you want to have a backyard barbecue, but we really urge folks to forgo those for now while we’re seeing these drastic case increases,” David advised.
When people do gather, he urged them to take steps to keep people safe. This includes meeting outdoors when possible; keeping safe distance between people; wearing masks; and only relaxing those if someone is considered fully vaccinated and spending time with other fully vaccinated people.
To counter this, vaccinations across the state are continuing to go up. As of press time Tuesday, Oregon had administered 2.03 million doses of vaccine, including first or second doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
LCPH reported that approximately 32.7 percent of Lane County adults have received at least one dose of vaccine.
That number will climb with Brown’s announcement to expand COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all Oregonians over age 16, effective April 19.
“If we’re starting with 32 percent of our population going into that general eligibility, then we’re in a really great place in terms of moving towards community immunity,” Davis said.
The state is rolling out additional doses of each of the vaccines, but LCPH said it was equipped to handle the increase in eligible residents. The county’s goal is to get 70-75 percent of the overall adult population vaccinated.
“This will protect us from large-scale outbreaks and rapid case increases,” Davis said.
To help with this, Lane County has been conducting mass vaccination sites, with three sites now equipped for large-scale events. These are Autzen Stadium, Lane Community College and Lane Events Center, all in the Eugene area.
“Last weekend, we were able to vaccinate a little over 10,500 individuals at our mass vaccination sites,” Davis said. “A lot of good work is being done there in terms of being able to vaccinate quite a few people all at once.”
The county will continue to plan both mass vaccination clinics and targeted clinics. People can sign up for their vaccine at lanecounty.org/coronavirus or by contacting LCPH at 541-682-1380 or email [email protected]
“If you look at the map of Oregon counties, Lane County is one of a number of counties of the 36 counties which are experiencing pretty drastic case increases,” Davis said. “We’re not alone, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to reduce that situation. We have the capability, we have the power, and we demonstrated as a community in the past that we are able — by using masking, distancing and prioritizing our social gatherings — to really reverse these trends and be a bubble of safety and health, even amidst large-scale, state-wide and national trends on the up.”
For more information, visit covidvaccine.oregon.gov and lanecounty.org/coronavirus.