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On Jan. 1, Lincoln County went down a risk level in the Governor’s COVID-19 ‘Risk and Protection’ framework. But with virus cases once again on an uptick, Lincoln County Public Health expected the county to move back into ‘Extreme Risk’ this week.

However, after the initial predictions, Lincoln County Public Health is now reporting a case rate of 198.9 per 100,000 people in the county during the two-week period, leaving Lincoln County just inside the mark for “High Risk.”

“Extreme Risk” counties have a case rate of 200 or more per 100,000 people.

“Our test positive rate is low, but it is our total number of cases that is causing this change in status,” Health Department Director Rebecca Austen said in Public Health’s update last Friday. “For the two-week period of Dec. 27, 2020 - Jan. 9, 2021, we have already seen 89 cases. If we end up with 97 cases in two weeks, we will be at the extreme risk level.”

The Oregon Health Authority listed 96 cases during that two week period.

Despite the rise in case counts, Public Health reported that Phase 1a of vaccine distribution is in full swing with over 900 people in the county receiving the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine so far. Lincoln County received all doses of the Moderna vaccine with second doses scheduled to arrive three weeks after the initial shipment. Pacific West Ambulance, North Lincoln Fire and Rescue, Lincoln Community Health Center and Public Health have been receiving the vaccines for distribution.

“One way we can keep each other healthy, support our health care workers and get Oregon back on its feet is to get vaccinated against COVID-19,” Austen said. “When we get vaccinated, we slow the surge to help our nurses, doctors, schools, fellow community members and businesses.”

Austen said the county is nearly finished with vaccinated first responders and are now moving to others in Phase 1a.

Examples for Phase 1a include, but are not limited to:

• Group 1: Hospitals; urgent care; skilled nursing and memory care facility health care providers and residents; tribal health programs; emergency medical services providers and other first responders.

• Group 2: Other long-term care facilities and congregate care sites, including health care providers and residents; hospice programs; mobile crisis care and related services; individuals working in a correctional setting; personnel of group homes for children or adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

• Group 3: Outpatient settings serving specific high-risk groups; in home care; day treatment services; non-emergency medical transportation.

• Group 4: Health care personnel working in other outpatient and public health settings, School employees including teachers, support staff and daycare.

The county is working daily to distribute all the vaccine they get from the State of Oregon. Right now, the state determines how many doses of the vaccine they will get, so that limits how fast they can distribute and vaccinate.

Austen said Phase 1B might start in the next few weeks and will include people age 75 years and older and frontline essential workers. Phase 1C will include people age 65 and older, adults with high-risk medical conditions and other essential workers. Finally, Phase 2 will be open to all people in the community. Public Health will do extensive outreach as they get closer to each of these phases.

“We understand that some people may be nervous about the COVID-19 vaccines, this is totally reasonable,” Austen noted. “Fortunately, researchers have been working on vaccines for the coronavirus family for years, so they did not have to start from scratch. As researchers have been working intensely to develop and test the vaccine, they have been transparent in sharing data, holding live hearings and pausing trials when it’s been important to slow down. Vaccine makers have also pledged that they would not seek FDA approval until phase 3, the final phase, of testing is done.”

Austen said knowing that has given Public Health ‘trust and confidence’ in the vaccination. Public Health is also encouraging the community to get up to date on all vaccinations including the seasonal flu shot.

“By staying updated on immunizations, we can make sure our sacrifice and efforts to fight COVID-19 keep everyone safe,” Austen said.

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