A 59-year-old Baker County man died on July 13, six days after testing positive for COVID-19, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) reported on Thursday, July 15.

The man had underlying medical conditions, according to OHA.

His death was the 16th in Baker County attributed to the virus since the pandemic started in March 2020, and the first since May 15.

“I send my condolences to his family and friends, I’m so sorry for their loss,” Baker County Commissioner Mark Bennett said.

“We clearly still need to be aware that the virus continues to be active in our community, and variants are spreading that are even more contagious,” said Bennett, who has served as the county’s incident commander throughout the pandemic. “Unfortunately, this isn’t over. I encourage everyone to be mindful of protecting themselves and others, especially those with underlying health risks.”

The man who died July 13 is the youngest among the county’s COVID-19 deaths. Another 59-year-old man from Baker County died on Feb. 2. He also had underlying medical conditions.

The 14 others were all older than 70.

Nancy Staten, director of the Baker County Health Department, said in early July that she’s concerned the county could be vulnerable to future COVID-19 outbreaks due to the county’s relatively low vaccination rate.

As of Friday, July 16, seven of Oregon’s 35 other counties had a vaccination rate lower than Baker County’s rate of 45.6% of residents 18 and older.

Those counties are: Lake (36.2%), Malheur (37.3%), Gilliam (42.0%), Grant (42.1%), Umatilla (42.2%), Harney (42.7%), and Morrow (44.4%).

The statewide average is 67.8% among residents 18 and older.

The average number of vaccinations given in Baker County has plummeted since a series of clinics at Baker High School in February, March and early April.

The county administered 3,034 doses — 26% of its total doses — on just five days during that period.

The county hasn’t given more than 96 doses in any day since June 11. The biggest daily number since then was 39, on June 17, and the county’s seven-day running average of doses administered has been declining during July, from 20 per day on July 1 to eight on July 14.

The daily total of vaccinations administered in the county has ranged during July from a high of 33 on July 2, to a single dose (of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which unlike the others requires only one shot), on July 11.

Baker County’s highest vaccination rates are among residents 80 and older (67.8%, compared with 77.6% statewide) and ages 70-79 (64.7%, statewide 83.5%).

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