Today, Governor Brown announced statewide indoor mask requirements. Indoor mask use will be mandatory starting Friday, Aug. 13, in response to surging COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Additionally, it’s become clear that gatherings should take place outside as much as possible.
We all hoped the days of regular mask-wearing were a thing of the past for vaccinated Oregonians. Unfortunately, the Delta variant has changed that.
Based on the modeling released this week from Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), August and September will challenge all of us, because it’s clear that the pandemic is surging back. The fifth wave is much more severe than could have been anticipated just weeks ago.
Medical experts now know that the Delta variant of COVID-19 creates a larger viral load in our systems and the virus stays in our systems longer. This means it’s far more contagious.
Today, Oregon smashed its previous record for hospitalizations due to the virus with 635 people in hospitals across the state. The previous record was 584 last November. We are on pace to exceed the number of available hospital beds in the state by around 500 patients by early September, per OHSU projections. Today’s record number of hospitalizations is a stark reminder that the pandemic isn’t over and that the Delta variant, which is now the dominant variant circulating in Oregon, is 2–3 times more infectious than early COVID-19 variants.
This means our hospital capacity is as low as it’s ever been. While this is a risk for COVID patients, it’s also an enormous risk for other Oregonians who are sick or need surgery but won’t have access to a hospital bed.
If you are unvaccinated, please get vaccinated as quickly as possible. Vaccines are safe, effective and widely available. While it’s discouraging to see some breakthrough cases, vaccinated people are still much less likely to get severely ill or die. The CDC noted this week that 99.999% of fully vaccinated Americans have not had a deadly COVID-19 breakthrough case.
Vaccines are also the best way to prevent the growth of a new variant that may be stronger than Delta. Let’s all commit to stopping the next variant!
While this news is certainly distressing, let’s remember that we’ve successfully flattened the curve four times. Now, we must do it again. Try to be as cautious as you can – double-mask, stay home, do all the things that have kept us safe so far.
Recommendation on additional vaccine dose for immunocompromised people in Oregon
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control And Prevention (CDC) have recommended an additional dose of COVID-19 vaccine be administered to people with moderately to severely compromised immune systems.
Before the additional dose can be administered to immunocompromised patients in Oregon, the CDC recommendation must be reviewed and approved by the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, which meets today, Aug. 13.
The workgroup’s decision will be published on OHA’s website as soon as it is available.
School-Based Health Centers and Vaccinations
School-Based Health Centers (SBHCs) are a vital community tool for supporting young people’s health and well-being. Located in schools or on school grounds, these clinics provide medical care, behavioral health services and, often, dental services to school-aged youth. Oregon has over 75 SBHCs across the state which makes them easily accessible for many families.
SBHCs can make sure that your child is prepared to start the school year healthy. They offer well-child visits and can ensure that children are caught up on the immunizations required for school. The health care staff is also ready and willing to answer your questions about vaccination. And if your child is 12 or older, an SBHC can also provide them with the COVID-19 vaccine.
To learn more about SBHCs, check out the full story on the Oregon Vaccine News blog.
Helping children wear masks
While masking has become a routine practice for many of us, kids who are mostly at home have been able to avoid wearing masks for long periods. With school starting soon, some kids may need a little help getting comfortable with masking up. Masks will be required for Kindergarten through 12thgrade in Oregon.
Children who are sensitive may find it difficult to become comfortable with wearing a mask. Dr. Elizabeth Super, a pediatrician at Oregon Health & Science University’s Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, wrote a great article called, From “No!” to Masking Pro: Helping Your Hesitant Child Mask Up,on the Oregon Pediatric Society’s website.
Dr. Super gives the following tips as a as a pediatrician and a parent of two school age children:
- Encourage: The more you wear the mask, the better!
- Model: Put masks on your children’s teddy bears and draw pictures with masks. Point out celebrities and athletes who are wearing masks if you are watching television together.
- Positive Reinforcement: Reward for mask time ON, not for the mask being off.
- Routine: Make masking part of your routine. Try out different masks. Some children prefer different textures. Have children pick out fabrics to sew home-made masks.
- Storytelling: “Other heroes wear masks, too! Firefighters, pilots, and doctors wear masks. Now you can be a hero and wear a mask, too.”
For specific advice on how to help younger children mask up, check out Kids & Masks: The Why & How 5 tips to help your child wear a face mask or covering.
Find more masking tips at Mask Up Oregon Kids.