The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said this week that COVID-19 cases are on the rise again, with about one-third of people in the nation now living in counties with high community levels.
The CDC ranks counties by low, medium and high COVID community levels using data on the total number of COVID cases in the area, the number of hospital beds being used and hospital admissions.
Locally, Clark County, as well as Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties in Oregon are all considered by the CDC to have “high” COVID community levels. The CDC recommends that residents in “high” community-level counties wear a quality mask — such as a N95 or KN95 respirator mask — while indoors in public, stay up-to-date on COVID vaccinations and get tested if they have any COVID symptoms.
The rising COVID rates have prompted some West Coast jurisdictions to reinstate indoor mask mandates that went away in March 2022. A few area school districts, including the Gresham-Barlow, David Douglas and Centennial school districts in Multnomah County, have resumed mandatory mask wearing for staff, students and school building visitors, and the Los Angeles Department of Public Health said this week that the most populated county in California may resume its indoor mask mandate by July 14.
In Clark County, the seven-day rate of new COVID cases per 100,000 people ticked up to 196 the first week of July — up from from 159 cases per 100,000 residents the week before — with 11.3% of the county’s intensive care hospital beds occupied by patients with confirmed or suspected COVID cases.
The state of Washington’s COVID cases per 100,000 people was at 246 cases as of Monday, July 11, and 12% of the state’s hospital beds were occupied by COVID patients.
According to national statistics, COVID is responsible for the deaths of about 300 people in the United States each day. In Clark County, 851 people have died from COVID, according to the Clark County Department of Public Health.
According to health experts at Kaiser Permanente, COVID cases are expected to continue to cause problems on the local level through the summer.
“So many people are getting COVID-19 right now because BA.4/5 is the dominant variant in Oregon, and these subvariants are the most contagious that we have seen in the pandemic,” Dr. Katie Sharff, Chief of Infectious Disease for Kaiser Permanente in Portland, stated in a news release released by Kaiser Permanente on July 6. “BA.4 and BA.5 are masters of immune evasion, which increases risk of reinfection, even if you are fully vaccinated or previously had a COVID-19 infection.”
Kaiser Permanente stated that “there is hope that Omicron-specific vaccine boosters will help curb the spread this fall,” but said, until then, people should “be aware of how to help reduce transmission to loved ones … and what treatments they may need if they become ill.”
“People who weren’t previously infected with COVID are getting it now, and people who have already had COVID-19 are also getting reinfected,” Sharff stated in the news release. “For many, symptoms are mild and can be managed at home with rest and hydration. However, for elderly, immunocompromised and higher risk individuals we do have treatments available to reduce the risk of severe disease and hospitalization. Home antigen testing can be helpful to confirm infection, but it is important to remember the limitations of these antigen tests. A negative result does not always mean you are … free and clear.”
To keep track of COVID community levels by county, visit tinyurl.com/4dp68ze6.