Baker County is on pace to remain in the lowest risk category for COVID-19 spread, with the least-stringent restrictions on businesses and activities, into the second week of March.
The county dropped into that category on Feb. 12, and will stay there at least through Feb. 25.
While the county is in that risk category, restaurants and bars can have indoor dining up to 50% of their capacity. Gyms, fitness centers, theaters and museums have the same capacity limit.
Since recording 55 new cases for the seven-day period ending Jan. 15, the county’s number of infections has plummeted, with fewer new cases over the past month — 50 — than for that single week.
The weekly totals for new cases since Jan. 15 were 14, seven, 13 and nine.
The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) updates risk levels for each of the state’s 36 counties every two weeks.
Risk levels for the next two-week period — Feb. 26-March 11 — will be based on statistics for the period Feb. 7-20.
For that period, Baker County had 15 new cases through Feb. 16.
To remain at lower risk, the county has to have 29 or fewer cases during that two-week period. That means the county can’t have more than 14 new cases for the four-day period, Wednesday, Feb. 17, through Saturday, Feb. 20.
Baker County’s risk level is also based on its test positivity rate. To remain at lower risk, the county has to have a positivity rate below 5% from Feb. 7-20.
As of Tuesday, the county’s positivity rate was about 3.6%, according to OHA figures.
The Baker County Health Department administered its entire supply of 315 doses of the Moderna vaccine during a clinic on Feb. 12 at Baker High School, said Nancy Staten, the department’s director.
Most of the people who received their first dose that day are 80 or older, Staten said.
That group became eligible for the vaccine, based on state guidelines, on Feb. 8.
As of Feb. 15, people 75 and older are eligible, and starting Feb. 22, the eligibility threshold will drop to age 70.
Staten said on Monday, Feb. 15, that the Health Department will receive 100 doses this week. She said the county will concentrate this week on administering second doses to people this week, making them fully vaccinated.
Staten said she hopes the county will receive enough doses next week to schedule another large vaccination clinic on Feb. 26.
She said she’s optimistic that will be possible based on a recent announcement by state officials that Oregon’s weekly allocation of doses is increasing from 75,000 to 82,000.
Although the county doesn’t have a tally of residents who are 80 or older, Staten said the county made good progress during the Feb. 12 clinic at administering the first dose to that age group.
If the Feb. 26 clinic happens, Staten said she expects that people 75 and older will have appointments during that event. Residents can call 541-523-0015 to be placed on a waiting list.
She said it was “amazing to watch” the county employees and volunteers help people get their first dose during the Feb. 12 clinic.
Staten said that if the state allocated enough doses, the county could administer more than the 315 shots given that day.
The Baker City Safeway and Albertsons pharmacies, both of which received 100 doses of the Moderna vaccine earlier this month, together administered about 85 first doses between Feb. 12 and Feb. 16, said Jill McGinnis, director of communications and public affairs for the company that owns both grocery chains.
Starting Feb. 22, people 70 and older will be eligible to be vaccinated based on Oregon’s priority guidelines.
McGinnis said shipments of additional doses to the Baker City pharmacies were canceled this week, possibly due to winter weather across the country.
But deliveries of vaccines to the pharmacies will resume next week, she said.
As of Tuesday, Feb. 16, a total of 1,550 Baker County residents had received their first dose of vaccine, and 493 were fully vaccinated, according to the OHA.
That means 12.1% of the county’s population of 16,800 is partially (9.2%) or fully (2.9%) vaccinated.
That’s slightly above the statewide figure of 11.4%.