CORONAVIRUS, Government, Oregon

Oregon passes 2,000 coronavirus fatalities

Ansu Drammeh, R.N., a cardiovascular intensive care nurse at OHSU, is given the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Wednesday, December 16 by Ryan Thrower, D.M.D., who, according to OHSU, is the first dental resident in the United States to administer a COVID-19 vaccine.

As the state approaches the anniversary of the first Oregonian confirmed to have died of COVID-19 on March 14, the state passed 2,000 deaths attributed by the Oregon Health Authority to COVID-19. According to the state agency, 2,002 people have been tallied who died in association to the disease since the pandemic began, and today’s tally puts the coronavirus case count at 146,138 confirmed and presumptive cases. 

The marker came during a scheduled press conference held on Friday by Governor Kate Brown and the state’s top health officials to give an overview of the state’s vaccination schedule. With the United States in a race to vaccinate while the virus sprouts new variants that are believed to be more contagious, the mixed bag of news brought some hope to state officials.

“Almost a year after COVID-19 arrived in Oregon, I can also say that we are fortunately faring better than almost every other state in the country with regards to infection and mortality rates. Oregon currently has the 4th lowest infection rate and mortality rate in the nation. On the vaccine front, we are ranked 12th in the nation for getting shots in arms,” Brown said. 

The governor noted that the Biden administration is increasing the allotment of vaccines that Oregon and other states are scheduled to receive by more than 20%. Brown noted that currently, Oregon is starting to vaccinate people age 80 and older who are living independently in some counties, with the plan to start vaccinating more on Feb. 8. Vaccinations for people in long-term care facilities have already been underway. 

Over the coming weeks, those in the age range of 75 and older will be eligible beginning February 15, people age 70 and older on Feb. 22, and those age 65 and older on March 1. 

OHA Director Pat Allen believes that 75% of those eligible for a vaccine and who want one — which includes seniors, frontline healthcare workers, and those in the state’s prison system — will be vaccinated by early April. 

The process of rolling out the vaccine in Oregon and elsewhere has been fraught with issues, including those not eligible receiving vaccines, initial delays in beginning vaccinations, and confusion on how to get a vaccine. 

More confusion is certain to follow, the governor and Allen said. 

“Next week when seniors begin to become eligible, we will see some degree of chaos,” Allen said, noting that frustration and confusion are coming. 

“We will fall short. As much as we want to offer every older adult seamless access to a vaccine next week and over the rest of this month, the numbers don’t lie. The gap between our eligible population and our allocated doses will be wide at first. As much as we want older Oregonians to have a simple, convenient consumer experience, we’re still building a new vaccine distribution system to respond to a novel coronavirus pandemic,” Allen said. 

The state’s failure to have a plan in place that avoids the predicted chaos and confusion comes despite the Oregon Health Authority having more than a year to prepare for the eventuality of a vaccine. 

More information on how to obtain a vaccine if you are eligible can be found by calling 211 or by visiting the state’s vaccine website at Starting Monday, the site will  feature a new tool — Get Vaccinated Oregon — built by Google that will aid those trying to find out their eligibility and how to get a vaccine.

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Chas Hundley is the editor of the Banks Post and sister news publications the Gales Creek Journal and the Salmonberry Magazine. He grew up in Gales Creek and has a cat.

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