By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

State drops outdoor mask rule

The Oregon Health Authority announced this week that it is dropping the state’s outdoor mask mandate, effective immediately, although masks must still be worn indoors in public locations.

OHA Director Patrick Allen said the lifting of the mandate reflected the state’s success in slowing hospitalizations caused by COVID-19. At the same time, he said, the agency is saddened to acknowledge that deaths in the state have now surpassed 5,000.

“Recall where we were when the mask regulations were first implemented last summer. Our daily cases were numbering in the four digits and our hospital census was more than double what is today,” Allen said.

[See below: COVID-19 vaccines available at county clinics]

“Our collective adherence to these life-saving measures has spared Oregon from the extreme impacts experienced in other U.S. states. Oregon is the fourth lowest in cases and sixth lowest in deaths nationally.” Allen said new daily cases have decreased by 64% since September, and the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 has declined “from a peak of 1,178 on Sept. 1, to 404 as of today.”

The state “ranks 19th among states for the percentage of population who have received at least one dose of a vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Oregon ranks 19th among all states and the District of Columbia in the administration of booster doses,” Allen said.

In addition, he said, about 17% of Oregon children ages 5 to 11 have received at least one vaccine dose.

The state also changed its requirements for unvaccinated children exposed to COVID-19 at school; they may continue to attend school, while otherwise remaining in quarantine for seven days, so long as they test negative for the disease.

Allen noted that “Mask wearing for people who are unvaccinated, for the elderly, for immunocompromised people, for people at higher risk of contracting the disease and for people who are living with someone in one of those categories, is still strongly recommended.”

In addition, he said, “mask wearing is still recommended for people who are in crowded outdoor settings for an extended period.”

Oregon is one of only five states with an indoor mask mandate, according to the New York Times, although cities and counties in some areas have taken matters into their own hands. In Colorado on Tuesday, Denver joined other metropolitan counties in requiring unvaccinated people to wear masks indoors, citing a hospital system on the verge of collapse.

Oregon health officials have been breathing a sigh of relief as the deadly summer surge caused by the Delta variant of the coronavirus has been receding, and 70% of Oregonians have been vaccinated, with doses now available for children 5 and older, and booster doses available for adults.

However, the state’s numbers are similar to those of last November, when state officials were sounding the alarm over rising infections, deaths and hospitalizations.

The Oregon Health Authority has recorded 147 deaths so far in November, as of Tuesday, Nov. 23. There have been 5,066 deaths total recorded in the state since the beginning of the pandemic.

By Nov. 23 of last year, a Monday, the OHA had recorded 110 deaths for the month, and a total of 826 deaths. Those numbers jumped by 20 the following day, to 130 deaths for the month, and 847 total.

The OHA reported 1,174 new infections that day.

On Monday, Nov. 22 this year, the OHA reported 1,753 new cases of COVID-19. It reported 869 new cases on Tuesday.

Hospital cases remain high.

On Nov. 23 of last year, the OHA reported that “The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients across Oregon increased to 456, which is 44 more than Friday. There are 109 COVID-19 patients in intensive care unit beds, 18 more than Friday.”

On Nov. 23 of this year, the OHA reported, “The number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 across Oregon is 404, which is nine more than yesterday. There are 92 COVID-19 patients in intensive care unit beds, which is six more than yesterday.”

Statewide, it said, “There are 44 available adult ICU beds out of 681 total (6% availability) and 316 available adult non-ICU beds out of 4,090 (8% availability).”

In Region 2, the six-county hospital region that includes Yamhill County, there were three adult ICU beds available, and 24 adult non-ICU beds on Tuesday.

Deaths per month have grown harder to track, as the OHA has fallen behind, and various server and technical problems have contributed to a backlog the agency has spent the last few weeks reporting on.

On Monday, Yamhill County Public Health reported 10 deaths that occurred in September, found by the OHA during the periodic reconcilations with vital statistics the agency performs.

September was the deadliest month of the pandemic, and the county has now reported 23 deaths from that month. It has reported 15 so far for October.

The county has seen a total of 141 deaths, and 9,636 cases.

Vaccine breakthrough cases, although significantly lower than infections among people who are unvaccinated, remain a concern.

Yamhill County reported that, for the week of Nov. 8-14, 73.7% of new COVID-19 infections in the county were among people who were unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, while 26.3% were breakthrough infections.

Statewide, according to the OHA’s report for that week, 25.5% of new infections were from vaccine breakthroughs, a drop from the 29.7% recorded for the previous week.

“The rate of COVID-19 cases among unvaccinated individuals in the most recent week was more than 4.5 times the rate of COVID-19 cases among those who are fully vaccinated,” the report states. “Community spread remains elevated throughout the state and is particularly high in areas with lower vaccination rates.”

Vaccination continues to provide a high degree of protection from being hospitalized or dying from a breakthrough infection, however, the OHA wrote, deaths have increased.

“The proportion of vaccine breakthrough cases who have died with COVID-19 has increased over time. This trend is likely multifactorial and may be associated with increased COVID-19 transmission in our communities, increased disease severity associated with infection caused by the Delta variant and waning immunity over time in elderly populations,” the report states.

Last March, it says, 122 people died from COVID-19 in Oregon; four of those were from breakthrough cases.

In August, 571 people statewide died from COVID-19, and 128 of those were from breakthrough infections. In October, the report shows, 445 Oregonians died from COVID-19; 112 of those were from breakthrough infections.

Oregon performs genomic sequencing on about 6.9% of COVID-19 tests, to track which variants are most prevalent in the state. The OHA said those tests show that Delta continues to be the predominant variant, and the one most associated with vaccine breakthrough infections.


COVID-19 vaccines available at county clinics

Yamhill County is offering first, second and booster shots for all COVID-19 vaccines, including pediatric doses at the following times and locations:

- Every Monday from 4 to 6:30 p.m. at the Public Health building, 412 N.E. Ford Street, McMinnville;

- Every Wednesday from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Public Health building;

- Every Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Public Health building, except Nov. 26;

- Monday, Nov. 29 from 4 to 8 p.m. at Dayton High School, 801 Ferry Street. This event will offer pediatric doses, and booster shots of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines;

- Tuesday, Nov. 30 from 2 to 7 p.m. at a drive-through clinic at the Yamhill County Fairgrounds, 2070 N.E. Lafayette Ave.,

- Friday, Dec. 3 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Palmer Creek Lodge, 606 Fourth St., Dayton;

- Saturday, Dec. 4 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Duniway Middle School, 575 N.W. Michelbook Lane, McMinnville;

- Tuesday, Dec. 7 from 3 to 7 p.m. at Sheridan High School, 433 S. Bridge St., Sheridan,

- Saturday, Dec. 11 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at A-dec, 2601 Crestview Drive, Newberg.

Parental consent is required for children ages 5 to 14. Teenagers 15 to 17 do not need parental consent. Younger teens attending a clinic alone will need to bring a signed consent form, available on the county’s website, or a note from a parent or guardian that includes the guardian’s name, relationship to the child, the child’s date of birth, the guardian’s consent to the vaccine, and signature.

All shots are free. People who have insurance are asked to bring their insurance cards, however, as the company may be charged an administrative fee.

People are also asked to bring photo ID. However, they will not be turned away if they lack photo ID or health insurance.

For more information, visit the county’s website at



Just in time for the new, improved virus.

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