A third surge of COVID-19 cases has begun in Wasco County. From April 4 to mid-day today, April 16, the county had 43 cases, and the county will be moving up at least one, and likely two, risk categories. The county had 22 cases in all of March.
Wasco County has been at the lower risk category since Feb. 26. New risk levels will be announced Monday, to take effect next Friday.
As a county with 15,000- 30,000 population, risk is measured by the number of cases within a 14-day period. Lower risk is less than 30 cases over 14 days. Moderate risk is 30 to 44 cases, and high risk is 45 to 59 cases.
The lower risk category allows 50 percent indoor seating capacity at restaurants and a midnight closure. Moderate risk also allows 50 percent capacity, but an 11 p.m. closure. The high risk category is 25 percent indoor capacity and an 11 p.m. closure.
Faith institutions can have 75 percent in-person capacity at the lower risk category, 50 percent in the moderate risk, and 25 percent at high risk. Indoor gyms can have 50 percent capacity at lower and moderate risk and 25 percent at high risk.
Grocery stores and other retail stores can have 75 percent capacity at lower and moderate risk and 50 percent at high risk.
Vaccination remains the best tool to stop the pandemic. Wasco County has vaccinated 34.38 percent of its population. Starting Monday, April 19, everyone 16 and older is eligible for the vaccine. To book an appointment, visit https://www.ncphd.org/book-vaccine or call 541-506-2600.
North Central Public Health District Epidemiologist Jeremy Hawkins said roughly a third of the current cases are from a single outbreak. All of the cases now occurring are driven primarily by spread within households and people attending gatherings of all sizes, he said.
“Early indications are that this is the start of what I would consider locally here our third surge of cases,” Hawkins said. “That would certainly track well with what’s happening around the state and country.”
Hawkins is hopeful vaccination efforts “will help blunt this surge. We’ve already seen a couple different scenarios where vaccinations are working. We’ve seen cases where people in households are not getting infected if they’re fully vaccinated. And we’ve seen a couple instances of people who are pretty vulnerable otherwise who got infected but had one dose of the vaccine and so their symptoms have been pretty minimal. Maybe headaches and a stuffy nose. A cold essentially.”
Wearing a mask, avoiding gatherings and getting vaccinated remain the best ways to reduce the surge.
(For more information, please visit COVID-19 Vaccine in Oregon, contact North Central Public Health District at (541) 506-2600, visit us on the web at www.ncphd.org or find us on Facebook.)