By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

County stays at high risk another week

The county reported one death on Wednesday and another on Thursday, bringing its total to 78 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. According to the Oregon Health Authority, an 82-year-old woman who tested positive on Feb. 1 died on March 8 at Willamette Valley Medical Center. It was not clear why the report of her death had been delayed by three months. She had underlying conditions.

OHA had not yet released data on the second death as of press time.

The county reported 14 new cases on Thursday, bringing it to a total to date of 4,619 cases.

Statewide, deaths and hospitalizations from COVID-19 decreased last week. The Oregon Health Authority said new cases had declined by 25% last week.

As of Thursday, according to Yamhill County, 55.4% of the eligible population 16 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine.

According to the OHA weekly report, there are still several active outbreaks in Yamhill County, including one at Fircrest Senior Living in McMinnville, which began on April 28, and has spread to six people.

In addition, the OHA said, an outbreak at the Allison Inn & Spa in Newberg that began on April 26 has spread to five people and an outbreak at the Delphian School in Sheridan that began May 17 has now spread to 42 students and six staff members or volunteers.

It said an outbreak was reported at C.S. Lewis Academy in Newberg on May 17, that affects one student, and an outbreak at Edwards Elementary School in Newberg, reported on May 16, has infected two students. A continuing outbreak at Willamina Middle and High School in Wilamina, reported on May 13, it said, has infected five students. An outbreak at Grandhaven Elementary School in McMinnville reported on May 10, it said, has infected two students.

During a meeting with journalists on Tuesday, experts from Oregon State University said they are concerned about spread among children.

Professor Chi Chinhuei, director of the Center for Global Health, told journalists that new variants, particularly the B.1.1.7 variant that is dominant in Oregon “seem to infect more children and teenagers.”

Chinhuei said that “I would recommend that if you bring your children, your family to public indoor places, make sure your children are masked to protect them. Likewise, if you are having a gathering with family, friends who are not fully vaccinated, protect your children with masks.”

Both Chinhuei and Professor Brett Tyler, director of the Center for Genome Research and Biocomputing, told journalists that the nationwide relaxation of masking requirements concerns them.

“We want to vaccinate as many people as possible. Because we are continuing to face new variants that are more contagious and so far we are lucky the available vaccines are still effective, but there’s no guarantee in the future of that if we continue to allow it to spread,” Chinhuei said.

Other experts said that many Latino and indigenous populations continue to have a hard time accessing the vaccine, and that counties must find creative ways to make vaccines available, at times and places arranged for people whose work schedules are inflexible. Another frequent barrier, is scarcity of interpreters for non-English speakers in a variety of languages.

“Hispanics have received only 8% of the vaccinations even though the Hispanic population has been highly affected with 34% of the infections … we still have a long ways to got to go,” Professor Courtney Campbell said.

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