A COVID-19 particle is pictured in this image provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC/CONTRIBUTED PHOTO]

Baker County’s worst month in terms of COVID-19 cases and deaths concluded Thursday, Sept. 30 with a report that a 63-year-old Baker County man had died on Sept. 24 at the VA Medical Center in Boise, after testing positive on Sept. 3.

His death was the sixth COVID-19-related fatality among county residents during the month, and the 25th overall during the pandemic.

The previous record for a month was four deaths, in March 2021. There were three deaths in February 2021.

In a press release in response to the death of the 63-year-old man, Nancy Staten, director of the Baker County Health Department, said: “All of us here at the Health Department offer our condolences and our hopes for solace for his loved ones. This surge in cases has also brought a wave of losses for the county, and my heart goes out to each and every family member and friend who is grieving right now.”

The Health Department reported 12 new cases on Thursday, bringing September’s total to 465.

The previous monthly high was 300 cases, in August 2021.

September’s total more than doubles what had been, until August, the monthly maximum — 196 cases during December 2020.

In the press release, Staten urged residents to take precautions, including getting vaccinated, noting that the virus poses a threat to people of all ages, whether or not they have underlying health issues.

“While it’s still true that those with underlying health conditions are most likely to have complications, we’re seeing very healthy people without underlying conditions end up very sick and hospitalized,” Staten said. “It’s not inevitable. If we all take simple steps — stay home when you’re sick, wash your hands frequently, avoid social situations where the virus can spread easily, and get vaccinated — we can do a lot to keep ourselves and each other safe.”

Breakthrough cases

The Oregon Health Authority released its weekly report Thursday about breakthrough cases — infections in people who are fully vaccinated.

Baker County’s breakthrough case percentage rose during the most recent week for which numbers are available, Sept. 19-25.

Of the 86 cases that week, 18 were breakthrough cases, according to OHA — 20.9%.

The breakthrough case rate the previous week was 10.8% — 15 of 139 cases.

Baker County’s breakthrough case rate remains lower than the statewide average during the surge in infections caused by the more contagious delta variant, however.

The county’s breakthrough case percentage for the past six weeks, ending Sept. 25, was 14.7%. The statewide average during that period was 20.8%.

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