On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization officially announced the SARS-CoV-2 virus as a worldwide pandemic.
As the initial spike in positive COVID-19 cases waned, many states — including Oregon — began lifting restrictions pertaining to business occupancy and public gatherings.
Those restrictions appear to be coming back with the spike of cases in Oregon, including Douglas County.
In the past two months, a mutation of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, better known as the delta variant, has been suspected of causing a massive uptick in positive COVID-19 tests, hospitalizations and deaths across the United States and the world.
“This delta variant spread like wildfire,” Douglas Public Health Officer Bob Dannenhoffer said.
Recovery team spokesperson Tamara Howell confirmed Tuesday that there were 129 new confirmed positive COVID-19 cases and 10 presumptive positives. Forty-two county residents were hospitalized due to the illness, including 37 locally, four out of the area and one who needed to be transported out of the state.
Of those hospitalized locally, 33 were reportedly unvaccinated, according to Dannenhoffer.
Additionally, the Douglas Public Health Network is monitoring 893 patients who are in isolation with positive tests, as well as 441 potential contacts in quarantine. For perspective, there were 452 Douglas County residents in isolation as of Aug. 1.
Dannenhoffer said the current spike in positive and presumptive positive COVID-19 cases in Douglas County has basically sent the county back to the starting line. Less than six weeks after transitioning the Douglas County COVID-19 Response Team to the recovery team, there are talks to reassemble among the Douglas County Board of Commissioners.
“This is a far worse time than we’ve been before,” Dannenhoffer said. “Two weeks ago, the most cases we had were 41, with 21 people in the hospital. We’re clearly seeing far more deaths.”
Douglas County had lost 95 residents to the coronavirus as of Monday.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced that new masking mandates could be coming as early as Wednesday.
“Oregon is facing a spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations — consisting overwhelmingly of unvaccinated individuals — that is quickly exceeding the darkest days of our winter surge,” Brown said in a statement. “When our hospitals are full, there will be no room for additional patients needing care, whether for COVID-19, a heart attack or stroke, a car collision, or a variety of other emergency situations. If our hospitals run out of staffed beds, all Oregonians will be at risk.
“After a year and a half of this pandemic, I know Oregonians are tired of health and safety restrictions,” Brown added. “This new mask requirement will not last forever, but it is a measure that can save lives right now.”
Vaccinations are available through Pfizer and Moderna, which are both a two-dose sequence, and the single-shot Johnson & Johnson. Those vaccines initially appeared to help curb the spread of COVID-19 and allowed people to return to their normal lives.
“The vaccines were never meant to be a cure-all, but rather a preventative measure,” Howell said.
The Oregon Health Authority reported 5,558 new positive and presumptive cases in its reports released Monday and Tuesday, including 23 deaths.