By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

WHO urges caution as COVID-19 cases decline

New cases of COVID-19, hospitalizations and deaths declined last week in Oregon, and Yamhill County saw what Public Health characterized as “a dramatic and welcomed reduction in cases last week.” Positive test rates in the county have dropped to the lowest levels they have been in months, although still concerning. 

The county responded by removing several of the data markers it has been reporting from its website, although it said it would continue to report new cases and deaths.

Oregon reported 1,728 new cases and 23 deaths on Wednesday. Yamhill County reported 27 new cases and one death on Wednesday. It reported 42 new cases and one death on Thursday.

Several countries, including the U.S., have been dropping mitigation measures, but the World Health Organization this week urged caution, noting that worldwide deaths rose for the sixth week in a row, and urging people not to stop wearing masks and practicing other mitigation efforts. 

Oregon has shown more caution than some states, saying it will drop its indoor mask mandate by late March. It has also suffered lower infection rates than many states, but is still a high transmission area.

The United States has recorded more than one million excess deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, and has an official COVID-19 death toll of more than 900,000. The U.S. is still reporting about 2,300 new deaths, per day. People of color have been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic.

Studies have shown that COVID-19 significantly increases risk of dying for a year after infection, increases risk of heart attacks and strokes, and leaves a high percentage of people disabled. A new study reported in The Washington Post this week showed that it also leaves people at higher risk of developing mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.

The CDC is still recommending wearing N95 masks indoors, and the White House has announced a plan to distribute “high quality” masks for children nationwide.

The Oregon Health Authority reported that for the week of Feb. 7 to 13, new cases declined 40% from the previous week. They have dropped 70% over the past month, the OHA said. Hospitalizations also decreased, by 18%. There were 129 deaths reported in the state last week, compared to 144 the previous week.