Footnotes

The State of the Coronavirus in Oregon

April 23, 2021 Portland Monthly Season 2 Episode 15
Footnotes
The State of the Coronavirus in Oregon
Chapters
Footnotes
The State of the Coronavirus in Oregon
Apr 23, 2021 Season 2 Episode 15
Portland Monthly

On Monday, everyone 16 and older became eligible to schedule a vaccine appointment, which is good news for folks who do not like living through a pandemic. But the bad news is, the pandemic is far from over. Recent data suggests that case numbers are increasing in 89 countries, including in the United States, where we’re currently seeing twice as many cases as in the past month.

In Oregon, even though nearly one million Oregonians, or 23 percent, are fully vaccinated, we’re seeing similar data.

“As of today OHA has reported 173,626 COVID-19 cases in Oregon," says state epidemiologist Dean Sidelinger. “But recent data are troubling, showing that the virus is again on the march throughout our state, sickening our friends and neighbors. Daily cases, hospitalizations, our positive case rate, and, sadly, COVID-19 deaths are all on the upswing. Daily cases of COVID-19 have more than doubled in just over a month, increasing from a seven-day moving average of 249 on March 6, to a daily average of 595 cases.” 

So today on Footnotes, we wanted to talk a little bit about recent coronavirus news and how it affects Oregon. From the Johnson & Johnson pause, to vaccine hesitancy, to herd immunity, this is the state of the coronavirus in Oregon.   

Guests

  • Dean Sidelinger, Oregon state epidemiologist 
  • Patrick Allen, director at Oregon Health Authority 
  • Chunhuei Chi, professor of international health at Oregon State University

Links

Show Notes Transcript

On Monday, everyone 16 and older became eligible to schedule a vaccine appointment, which is good news for folks who do not like living through a pandemic. But the bad news is, the pandemic is far from over. Recent data suggests that case numbers are increasing in 89 countries, including in the United States, where we’re currently seeing twice as many cases as in the past month.

In Oregon, even though nearly one million Oregonians, or 23 percent, are fully vaccinated, we’re seeing similar data.

“As of today OHA has reported 173,626 COVID-19 cases in Oregon," says state epidemiologist Dean Sidelinger. “But recent data are troubling, showing that the virus is again on the march throughout our state, sickening our friends and neighbors. Daily cases, hospitalizations, our positive case rate, and, sadly, COVID-19 deaths are all on the upswing. Daily cases of COVID-19 have more than doubled in just over a month, increasing from a seven-day moving average of 249 on March 6, to a daily average of 595 cases.” 

So today on Footnotes, we wanted to talk a little bit about recent coronavirus news and how it affects Oregon. From the Johnson & Johnson pause, to vaccine hesitancy, to herd immunity, this is the state of the coronavirus in Oregon.   

Guests

  • Dean Sidelinger, Oregon state epidemiologist 
  • Patrick Allen, director at Oregon Health Authority 
  • Chunhuei Chi, professor of international health at Oregon State University

Links

Gabriel Granillo

Hello and welcome to another episode of Footnotes. My name is Gabriel Granillo and I am the digital editor at Footnotes. 

 

On Monday, everyone 16 and older became eligible to schedule a vaccine appointment, which is good news for folks who do not like living through a pandemic. But the bad news is, the pandemic is far from over. Recent data suggests that case numbers are increasing in 89 countries, including in the United States, where we’re currently seeing twice as many cases than in the past month.

 

In Oregon, even though nearly one million Oregonians, or 23 percent, are fully vaccinated, we’re seeing similar data. 

 

Dean Sidelinger

“As of today OHA has reported 173,626 COVID-19 cases in Oregon.” 

 

GG

This is state epidemiologist Dean Sidelinger from a press conference on April 16. 

 

“But recent data are troubling, showing that the virus is again on the march throughout our state, sickening our friends and neighbors. Daily cases, hospitalizations, our positive case rate, and, sadly, COVID-19 deaths are all on the upswing. Daily cases of COVID-19 have more than doubled in just over a month, increasing from a seven-day moving average of 249 on March 6, to a daily average of 595 cases.”

 

GG

So today on Footnotes, we wanted to talk a little bit about recent coronavirus news and how it affects Oregon. From the Johnson & Johnson pause, to vaccine hesitancy, to herd immunity, this is the state of the coronavirus in Oregon.  

 

First, let’s start with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine—this is the one-shot coronavirus vaccine. Recently it was discovered that the J&J vaccine had caused a rare blood-clotting disease in six women who had received the dose. One woman died. As a result, the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration has issued a pause on distribution of the vaccine while they look into the rare but serious side effects. 

 

The pause means Oregon will see different vaccination figures in the coming weeks. Patrick Allen, director of the Oregon Health Authority says that, even though the pause should be reflective of the precautions put in place when it comes to vaccine efficacy, it does curb the pace of Oregon’s vaccination efforts. The continued shortfall, he says, could result in as many as 70,000 fewer doses per week. 

 

Patrick Allen

“Until we receive clarity on when Johnson & Johnson shipments will begin, we would expect to see approximately 154,000 prime doses per week into early May.”

 

GG

What do those temporary supply limitations mean for Oregonians looking for a vaccination?

 

PA

“We’ll continue to see tight appoint availability in many parts of the state for the coming weeks, at least until we know more about the availability of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. However, we still expect to have enough doses to vaccinate all Oregonians who are 16 and older before summer.” 

 

GG

News of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine strikes a particularly dissonate chord for a couple of reasons. Not only is it setting many states back in their vaccine distribution efforts, but because of its one-and-done approach, many clinics, including one in Morrow County, Oregon, hoped to use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to serve rural and harder-to-reach communities. This news also doesn’t bode well for optics. At a time when vaccine hesitancy has ebbed and flowed, the Johnson & Johnson news, as well as news about increasing vaccination numbers, affects the messaging Oregon health experts hope to relay to the public.   

 

Here’s Patrick Allen again. 

 

PA

“I think hesitancy based on fears or concerns or misunderstandings about information certainly is a concern. I actually even more worried about, as we move to younger and younger people being eligible for the vaccine, people just not thinking that it’s really important for them to get the vaccine because they don’t feel that they’re at very much risk. And they, individually, may not be at very much risk, but disease spreads from people to people, and if they get and pass it on, eventually, it will get to somebody who is at risk. And that’s really one of the messages I think we’re going to have to work on communication, is that notion of ‘you’re not getting the vaccine just for you, you’re getting it for your friends, your family, and your community.’”

 

Chunhuei Chi is a professor of international health at OSU, and he says we can separate vaccine hesitancy into two groups: those who are hesitant because of concerns about the safety of vaccines, who are perhaps more easily swayed by science and by seeing their friends and family get the vaccine; and those who are vaccine resistant. This group, Chi says, will be harder to convince.  

 

Chunhuei Chi 

“And remember, from the beginning of this pandemic, largely contributed to our leader, President Trump, that initially, for the first three months, his public narrative was, ‘the whole pandemic is fake news.’ And even though he has since changed his statement in mid-march when it got serious in the United State—he has changed—but unfortunately many of his supporters, followers haven’t changed. And there are still sizable Americans, both in Oregon and in other states, who still think there’s no such thing as a pandemic. And if there’s no such thing as a pandemic, why would they want to be vaccinated?

 

“The low trust, low confidence of science by a segment of the population is partially contributing to how we got here, that the United States ends up being one of the countries that has the worst consequences of this pandemic. And that will continue to be a hurdle for how we get out of here.” 

 

GG

Chunhuei says that one to maybe sway the opinions of those who are vaccine resistant could involve a major republican figure coming out in support of the vaccines and their efficacy. And the one he feels could help the most is former president Donald Trump. 

 

CC

“It will take him, in a major media forum, to advocate for his supporters to get vaccinated. I’d seen one interesting poll. Among the republican voters, the one whom they trust the most about health and medicine is former president Trump. Way more than they trust their own doctors.” 

 

GG

And all of this, the rising cases and deaths, the J&J news, the vaccine hesitancy, leads to the big question: when, oh, when can we get the fuck back to normal? Well that depends on a few things. And you may have heard this term being thrown around recently: herd immunity 

 

Herd immunity is achieved when a population has sufficient indirect protection and has become immune to an infectious disease. This immunity, which is enough to prevent frequent spread of the infection, can be developed one of two ways: 1) vaccination or 2) previous infection. The more people that are immune, the fewer people the virus can latch onto.

 

But how important is herd immunity to returning to normal? Chunhuei says herd immunity is only the means, and arguable probably the most effective means. He says there are other means, but those will be a lot tougher to achieve. 

 

CC

“The tougher means to get to normal, which many other countries did—countries like Iceland, New Zealand, Taiwan, Vietnam—they did that early on. So these countries are back to normal life, such as Taiwan, they resumed to mostly normal life since June 2020. And that’s by implementing very strict isolation/quarantine and strict facial mask regulation. And we were not able to implement that last year. That’s how we got here. And that’s the other means to resume to normalcy. It’s either by strict safety/hygiene measure, which we were not able to implement, or by vaccination. 

 

“And so I think one point we can get out is, particularly for those pandemic deniers—just like climate deniers, we also have pandemic deniers— no amount of science or evidence or data will convince them. Instead, the point of communication is, ‘we want to get back to normal life, we want to help our economy.’ I think that’s probably more effective to this group of people. And there are only two ways for us to achieve that, aiming toward the ends to control the spread of the pandemic. Either through very strict measures, or through vaccinations.”

 

GG

That was Chunhuei Chi, a professor of international health at Oregon State University. We also heard from state epidemiologist Dean Sidelinger, and Oregon Health Authority director Patrick Allen. For more coronavirus coverage and to listen to more episodes of Footnotes, visit us at pdxmonthly.com 

 

Thanks so much for listening to this week’s episode of Footnotes. We’ll see you next week.