Vaccines

Syringes and vials of the Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines await distribution at a Umatilla County Public Health mass vaccination site in Pendleton on Friday, April 30, 2021.

Walla Walla County remains at “the tip of showing community spread” of COVID-19, according to Nancy Wenzel, administrative director of the Department of Community Health.

As of Tuesday, July 6, the test positivity rate in the county is 19.4%. That means nearly one out of five tests being processed for the disease is positive. On June 29, that number was 13.9%, but at 21.5% on June 22.

Citing a number of public health concerns that cropped up the previous week, including finding West Nile virus in a mosquito in Burbank and the discovery of the worrisome delta variant of COVID-19 in Walla Walla County, Wenzel said last week has been very busy but that county health officials were meeting to decide on plans of moving forward.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Tuesday the delta variant of the coronavirus is now the dominant strain circulating the United States, now accounting for more than half of the country’s active cases.

According to NPR, in some areas of the country the delta variant accounts for more than 80% of new infections.

It appears the vaccines being used in the U.S. are highly effective at protecting against serious illness, hospitalization and death, reported NPR, but the new estimates come as Israel’s health experts are suggesting the Pfizer vaccine’s protection against the delta variant is waning.

Data on the New York Times’ virus case counts shows Walla Walla County is averaging 8.4 new cases of COVID-19 daily, or 14 people per 100,000. Umatilla County has an average of 8.9 new cases per day, or 11 per 100,000 people.

For information on vaccination clinics in Walla Walla go to ubne.ws/vaxclinics. Those without computer access can call 509-524-2647 and leave their name, birth date, phone number and a message.

Numbers for Walla Walla County, June 29-July 6:

  • Total COVID-19 cases rose by 87, from 5,542 on June 29 to 5,629 Tuesday, July 6.
  • Active cases on Tuesday, July 6, totaled 77, with 40 new cases since Friday, July 3. Three residents were hospitalized as of 3:30 p.m.
  • The local death toll stayed at 66 people, according to local officials, while state officials are reporting 69 related deaths.
  • 59,900 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been given, up about 500 from the week before.

Umatilla County Commissioner George Murdock said Tuesday that while people are “so darned happy” to have Oregon opened back up, COVID-19 is still present.

“It is important to remember the governor’s emergency order remains in place until Dec. 31 and things could change in Oregon if serious problems emerge,” Murdock said.

“We have predicted that COVID numbers would continue to be high in Umatilla County based upon the fact we have more vulnerable people per capita than most counties in Oregon,” he said, noting that CDC data shows about half of the county’s residents are not vaccinated and remain at risk.

That risk rises as people mingle, gather and move about more freely, Murdock said.

“The whole matter is very frustrating because we believe there remains a serious risk and yet we need to respect the fact this is an individual choice,” he said.

Risks increase when the delta variant is factored into the unvaccinated population and some counties in the nation have resumed pandemic restrictions, Murdock added.

A vaccination clinic sponsored by Oregon Health Authority will be open 4-8 p.m. daily through July 18 at the Blue Mountain Community College parking lot, 113 N. Columbia St. in Milton-Freewater. All three vaccine formulas are available and bilingual staff will be on hand.

Numbers for Umatilla County, June 29-July 6:

Note: Data as of Friday, July 2.

  • There were 13 new cases of the coronavirus on Friday and total COVID-19 cases were at 8,719, up by 54 people from Tuesday, June 29.
  • The death toll remains at 87 people.
  • 26,489 county residents have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. In that latest number, 2,430 vaccinated folks live in Milton-Freewater, an increase of 46 people from the previous week. In Athena, two more people received shots, bringing the total to 472. The same applies to Weston, which increased by two people for 308 resident who have been vaccinated.

Numbers for Columbia County, July 6:

  • 133 total cases, as was the case on June 29.
  • The death toll stands at six.
  • Vaccine doses increased by 29, from 3,179 to 3,208.

Information for Columbia County is from Washington state Department of Health.

Washington state Department of Health:

  • 1,189 over the holiday weekend; 453,665 total.
  • 21 new deaths over the holiday weekend; 5,960 total deaths.

Oregon Health Authority:

  • 85 new cases; 209,494 total.
  • One new death; 2,782 total.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322.

Sheila Hagar has written for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin since 1998. Sheila covers health, social services and city government in Milton-Freewater, Athena and Weston in the Walla Walla Valley.

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