As Baker County’s Public Health Officer, Dr. Eric Lamb, oversees the health operations for the Baker County Health Department. With the latest spike in COVID-19 cases, the Health Department is working with more people who are sick now than at any other time during the pandemic. Many of them are very sick, and Dr. Lamb is concerned about the health of our community, and what this means for Baker County’s schools, workforce and businesses.
“Baker County has fared better than many other areas of the state and nation. The number of hospitalizations or transfers to other hospitals have been about 50, and unfortunately, there have been 18 COVID-19 related deaths. However, right now we are seeing a spike in cases and hospitalizations that threatens to overwhelm hospital capacity,” says Dr. Lamb. The spike in cases has increased the rate of local hospitalizations. He attributes the surge in cases to the County’s low vaccination rate, which the Oregon Health Authority reports at 47.3% of residents 18 and older. “If we had gotten to an 80% vaccination rate, the pandemic would be over for us right now.”
The Oregon Health Authority reported 665 COVID-19 related hospitalizations in Oregon Wednesday, the highest number at any time during the pandemic.
“This is a call to action, everything you do can make a difference. First, absolutely stay home if you’re sick, don’t pass illness to others. Second, get vaccinated. The virus will keep mutating and spreading until we eliminate potential carriers. I like to think of it like fighting a wildfire. Unless we remove the fuel in front of the fire, it will keep burning. Widespread vaccination is the quickest way that we can stop this virus. Natural immunity will take another 3-5 years or more for this virus to burn out – if it doesn’t keep mutating. Third, wash your hands often, and fourth, wear a face covering indoors to avoid unknowingly spreading the virus to others.” says Lamb.
Dr. Lamb recommends everyone 12 and over to get vaccinated. Baker County provides transportation services for those needing assistance to access vaccination and testing. To take advantage of these services, contact the Baker County Health Department at 541-523-8211.
Dr. Lamb has heard concerns about the vaccine approval process being sped up. “President Donald Trump initiated Operation Warp Speed to bypass the bureaucratic red tape to get these vaccines in arms as quickly as possible. What was not rushed was the clinical trials and studies,” said Dr. Lamb. Full FDA approval is expected in September for the Pfizer vaccine, with the other two vaccines closely thereafter. “Help keep our kids in school, get our workforce back to work and our economy moving forward. Consider getting vaccinated.”