County preps for COVID-numbers rise

Medical-grade masks needed to enter Samaritan facilities

With a massive surge in COVID-19 numbers late last week, local health officials are scrambling to prepare for anticipated demand for vaccines and the impact on local medical facilities.
That comes amid a rapidly changing landscape – the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Thursday, Jan. 13, blocking the federal government’s workplace vaccine mandate, soaring case numbers, and a possible treatment breakthrough announced by Oregon State University.
The state’s counties had recorded 47,272 new cases of COVID-19 during the week of Monday, Jan 3, through Sunday, Jan. 9 – six times higher than two weeks ago and three times higher than the previous pandemic record for weekly cases, according to the Oregon Health Authority. The OHA reported a total of 35,338 new cases for the period between Jan. 7 and midnight on Jan. 12, bringing its total to 494,945. The peak day thus far has been Jan. 10, during which 10,429 confirmed and presumptive cases were reported to OHA. Updated numbers for Linn County were not available.
In the upper Willamette Valley region, which includes Linn County, 83 of 86 staffed ICU beds were occupied, according to OHA figures for Wednesday, Jan.12, the most recent data available, and 539 of 551 non-ICU beds were filled.
Meanwhile, last week Linn County Public Health re-instituted vaccination clinics starting Jan. 4, after focusing on individual appointments through the county’s mobile unit for several months. Statewide, a record 7,615 COVID new cases were reported, the large majority of them the omicron variant, on Thursday. Linn County has had 16,724 cases and 209 deaths at last count, late last week.
Megan Jones, 21, indicated she was happy to get her Pfizer COVID-19 booster shot Jan. 6 at the Linn County Fair & Expo Center.
“I want to protect myself and other people,” Jones said as Medical Reserve Corps volunteer Carol Gresham administered her shot.
Jones’ fiancé, Alex Goth, got his booster shot as well.
Neva Anderson, the county’s Emergency Preparedness Coordinator, said volunteers and county staff have ample supplies of all three vaccines — J & J, Pfizer and Moderna. Although first and second doses are available, Anderson said the majority of shots are boosters.
The county is not providing COVID-19 tests.
“People are thankful they don’t have to wait in line,” Anderson said. “It’s been a steady flow and most people are in and out in less than 20 minutes.”
Anderson said people are concerned about the new omicron COVID-19 variant.
Anderson said more than 600 shots had been given from Tuesday until about noon on Thursday.
Mid-Valley Media Reporter Troy Shinn completed a vaccination trifecta. Medical Reserve Corps volunteer Steven Hammond of Albany had given Shinn his first two doses of the Pfizer vaccine months ago and Thursday, he administered Shinn’s booster shot as well.
As of Friday, Linn County is now able to administer Pfizer booster shots to children 12 to 15 years of age.
The vaccination clinics will continue from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. January 10 to 14 and January 17 to 19.
Linn County will provide shots for children ages 5 to 11 from 3 to 7 p.m. on January 10 at the Albany Fire Station 11 and for all ages from 3 to 7 p.m. on January 11.
Shots will be given at the Albany Police Station from 4 to 6 p.m. January 17 and January 24.
Walk-ins are welcome, no appointments needed.
Samaritan Health announced Monday, Jan. 10, that due to “a great increase in demand” for COVID-19 testing, it was temporarily limiting tests to patients with symptoms or known exposure to coronavirus, and offerring testing by appointment only beginning Tuesday, Jan. 11, and until further notice at its COVID-19 testing sites in Lebanon, Albany and Corvallis.
“These were difficult decisions to make, but with cases of the omicron variant surging regionally, these changes were necessary to be sure we are able to provide coronavirus testing to the patients who need it most, and in a timely manner for the best possible patient care,” said Robert Turngren, MD, chief medical officer for Samaritan Health Services.
Mid-Valley residents who need testing because they are experiencing coronavirus symptoms or have been exposed to someone known to have COVID-19, may visit samhealth.org/COVIDtesting for information. Those without access to the internet may call toll free 844-469-2427.
Samaritan’s drive-up COVID-19 testing sites offer PCR tests. Results typically take one to three days and will be delivered through the MyChart patient portal or with an automated phone message. Notifications through MyChart are more expedient and convenient, and people are encouraged to sign up for a MyChart account. Visit samhealth.org/MyChart to learn more.
Other testing options include home test kits, which can be purchased over the counter at pharmacies or retail stores. Home test kits are appropriate if you are experiencing symptoms that don’t require medical attention or have no symptoms but think you were exposed to someone with COVID-19. If you have no symptoms, wait three to five days after the potential exposure to perform the home test.
Those experiencing COVID-19 symptoms that need medical attention are asked to contact their primary care provider or visit a Samaritan Urgent Care/Walk-In Clinic near you. Only visit an emergency department if you have life-threatening conditions.
Also, Samaritan is requiring medical-grade face masks – often known as procedure masks or surgical masks, N95s or KN95s, in all its facilities. The masks must be well-fitting and not have valves. Bandanas, gaiters, face shields and cloth face masks are no longer allowed in Samaritan facilities, the company said in a statement Monday.
Meanwhile Oregon State University researcher Richard van Breemen published a report on Jan. 11, announcing a chemical screening technique invented at OSU shows the ability to prevent the virus that causes COVID-19 from entering human cells.
Breemen, a staffer at Oregon State’s Global Hemp Innovation Center, College of Pharmacy and Linus Pauling Institute, and collaborators, including scientists at Oregon Health & Science University, found that a pair of cannabinoid acids bind to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, blocking a critical step in the process the virus uses to infect people. The study results were published in the Journal of Natural Products.
To read more on the study, visit beav.es/wZz.
– Alex Paul, Linn County Communications Officer. Lebanon Local staff contributed to this report.