Vaccination clinic

About 85 doses of COVID-19 vaccines were given during a drive-thru clinic on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, at the Baker County Fairgrounds.

Richard Erwin was among about 85 people who turned out on a chilly day to get a COVID-19 vaccination during a drive-thru clinic at the Baker County Fairgrounds Thursday, Jan. 13.

“I just figured I needed to get my booster,” Erwin said. “I had the two regular shots. I just needed to get my booster shot. A little more precaution, I think.”

Daniel Turk received his second COVID-19 vaccination.

“I feel fine,” Turk said. “I don’t like needles. I’m not really a fan of doing this but I feel like it’s necessary. But physically I feel great.”

Turk was accompanied by Ashlinn Robertson, who said she was offering moral support.

Robertson said she received her booster dose during the Baker County Health Department’s most recent drive-thru clinic, on Dec. 12-14.

Terry Fosback and Sherry Buxton received their booster doses as well during the Jan. 13 event.

“The doctor told us to get boosters,” Fosback said.

Nancy Staten, director of the Baker County Health Department, said she was pleased with the turnout during the clinic, which ran from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The clinic boosted Baker County’s vaccine dose number to its highest one-day total since Dec. 14, the last of the three days of the clinic. A total of 445 doses were administered in the county during that three-day period, most of them at the clinic, also at the Fairgrounds.

Since then the county’s seven-day running daily average of doses given has dropped from 90 to 20.

The Jan. 13 clinic happened during the county’s biggest surge in COVID-19 cases since September.

Baker County reported 36 cases on Thursday, Jan. 13, the second-highest one-day total during the pandemic.

The record high is 37 cases, on Sept. 9, 2021, and Sept. 14, 2021.

For the first 12 days of January, the county reported 197 cases. That’s more than the totals for December (106), November (143) and October (168).

The daily case rate of 16.4 exceeds that of September, which set records with 465 total cases and a daily average of 15.5.

Staten said that although the Health Department is receiving a handful of positive test results from residents who did at-home tests, she believes more people have been infected recently than the official numbers show.

Breakthrough cases and hospitalizations

During the most recent week tallied, Jan. 2-8, Baker County had 35 breakthrough cases — infections in fully vaccinated people — out of 91 total, a rate of 38.5%.

Oregon’s overall breakthrough rate for that week was 26.4%, according to the Oregon Health Authority (OHA).

Health officials say the breakthrough case rate is likely to increase, as the now-dominant omicron variant is more likely to infect vaccinated people.

But officials also note that vaccination continues to reduce the risk for developing severe symptoms that require hospital treatment.

In December, breakthrough cases accounted for 19.7% of the 188 COVID-19-related deaths in Oregon, according to OHA. Statistics on breakthrough case deaths are not available at the county level.

Omicron is also less virulent than the delta variant that drove the surge last summer, which peaked in Baker County in mid-September.

OHA reported on Thursday, Jan. 13, that across the state, 777 people with COVID-19 were being treated in hospitals. That’s in increase of 32% from Jan. 6, but it’s below the peak of about 1,200 patients in early September 2021.

The number of patients currently in intensive care in Oregon is also well below all-time records. There were 144 COVID-19 patients in intensive care in the state on Jan. 13, compared with about 310 in early September 2021.

Staten said she was encouraged by the turnout to the Jan. 13 vaccination clinic because “our best line of defense is being vaccinated and boosted.”

She said the growing evidence that omicron is less likely to cause severe illness or death is welcome. But she said the sheer number of cases means more people are likely to need medical treatment than was the case during most of the fall.

“I want to be optimistic but I also want to be realistic,” Staten said. “Hopefully we won’t see the level of hospitalizations that we did with the (delta) variant.”

Testing clinic set for Jan. 22

The Health Department will have a free COVID-19 testing clinic on Saturday, Jan. 22 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the former Baker Clinic building at 3175 Pocahontas Road, just east of Saint Alphonsus Medical Center.

People are encouraged to pre-register at doineedacovid19test.com.

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