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Regional Interests

Southwest Washington COVID-19 infection rates highest since pandemic started

Respiratory therapist Jenn Ellingson reflected on how much her colleagues have banded together to get through the pandemic. Respiratory therapists have been at the center of care teams attending to COVID-19 patients. (OHSU/Erin Hoover Barnett)
Respiratory therapist Jenn Ellingson reflected on how much her colleagues have banded together to get through the pandemic. Respiratory therapists have been at the center of care teams attending to COVID-19 patients. (OHSU/Erin Hoover Barnett)

Health experts in Southwest Washington are worried that COVID-19 infection rates are higher now than at any time since the pandemic started.

Dr. Alan Melnick with Clark County Public Health said the pandemic is headed in the wrong direction. The area is seeing 10 times as many cases now, as two months ago.

“These case increases are occurring in all age groups with the highest rate among young adults, 20 to 39 years of age,” said Melnick.

Dr. Lawrence Neville with the PeaceHealth Network is also worried the efficacy of the vaccine appears to be waning among some people.

“Nursing home residents, people who were vaccinated very early in the pandemic, they do seem to be slightly more vulnerable to getting COVID despite the vaccination,” Neville said.

Neville said he’s concerned the Labor Day Weekend will see many people gathering together, further spreading the virus. He asked people to consider getting vaccinated.

“There’s a lot of talk now about: ‘Does America have a common good anymore?’ And I believe strongly that it does. And that common good really involves: ‘Are we willing to sacrifice for each other?’ And I don’t want to minimize the sacrifice we’re asking of everybody… but it won’t go on forever. It will pass and we will be glad that we did it for each other,” Neville said.

In Oregon, health care systems are expected to continue to experience severe strain from COVID-19 infections. Dr. Peter Graven, the lead data scientist in OHSU’s business intelligence unit, is predicting a peak in hospitalizations on Monday.

“We’re in a dire state, but I am seeing some signs that this is going to level out in the next week,” he said. “We’re seeing evidence that people have changed their behavior to protect themselves and others, and that will need to continue if we’re going to be able to free up space in our hospitals.”

Health officials worry the virus will continue to spread as children who can’t get vaccinated head back to school, and as social gatherings move indoors for the fall. But they say, the risk can be mitigated if people eligible for the vaccine get their shots.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting