Most new coronavirus cases in Clatsop County involve people who are unvaccinated against COVID-19, a pattern found across Oregon and the United States.
Of the last 11 reported virus cases in the county as of Friday, nine were unvaccinated, according to the Public Health Department.
The pattern is playing out on the North Coast as most government restrictions to contain the virus have been lifted and locals and visitors are engaged in summer activities.
Mass vaccination events in the county have ended and the pace of vaccinations has slowed over the past several weeks.
“It’s going to be a very slow, uphill climb for our county,” said Margo Lalich, the county’s interim public health director. “And I don’t know if we’ll get there.”
Clatsop County set a goal of having 70% of the population — 27,533 people — vaccinated to try to achieve herd immunity against the virus. As of Friday, 55.2% — 21,772 people — had been fully vaccinated.
The county announced that Friday’s weekly update from the vaccine task force would be the last. Instead, the county said it would share vaccine updates and related information on the county’s website and on social media.
The Oregon Health Authority, which tracks county vaccination rates among people 18 and over, lists Clatsop County as having 65.5% with at least one dose of vaccine and 60.8% as fully vaccinated. The rates place Clatsop County in the top third of Oregon counties for vaccinations.
The county has reported 1,103 virus cases, 25 hospitalizations and 10 deaths since the pandemic began.
Despite a surge of virus cases in late June, which prompted the state to put the county under caution, and about 40 new virus cases over the past three weeks, the urgency to take precautions has appeared to wane since the state lifted restrictions at the end of June.
The county has transitioned to a more targeted approach to close in on the vaccination goal. New outreach will identify smaller communities across the county that may be experiencing accessibility barriers, Lalich said.
“These events are open to the community, but we are also meeting people where they live in case there could potentially be transportation barriers or with individual work schedule,” she said.
Lalich said her team has observed that many people were reluctant to get vaccinated because they wanted to see how others would respond to a vaccine. Others changed their view after someone in their personal circle tested positive for the virus.
She hopes people recognize that many of the health precautions the county has asked people to take are not necessarily unique to COVID-19.
“I just want to reiterate that many of the things we have in place for COVID are things we have had in place for years during flu season,” Lalich said. “You stay home if you’re sick, proper hand-washing, don’t go to work if you’re sick. That is not new information, it’s just that people are paying more attention because we have a novel virus circulating in our community and around the globe.”
The Public Health Department expects virus cases to rise as more things return to normal. Officials believe the risk of exposure from new cases is as good a reason as any to get vaccinated.
“Even though Oregon has opened up, many restrictions are still in place,” Lalich said. “Being vaccinated, we know, can prevent infection most of the time. If someone does get infected, the risk of illness or hospitalization goes down when someone is fully vaccinated.”