Even when mask mandates were completed in most places, medical experts in both Oregon and Washington urged people to continue wearing masks to prevent infection.
OREGON, USA – Health authorities in both Oregon and Washington tracks an increase in COVID-19 cases, but said Wednesday that there is no cause for alarm yet.
At separate news conferences, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) and the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) spoke about the state of coronavirus in each state.
“Unfortunately, we are not done with COVID yet,” said OHA’s Dr. Tom Jeanne. “But we are closer to normalcy than ever.”
“[It’s] the transition away from pandemic reaction to learning to live with COVID, “said Washington DOH’s Dr. Scott Lindquist.
Both states reported a steady increase in COVID-19 cases as people regroup and reduce mask use. However, admissions have not increased in the same way.
“Means we have good capacity in our healthcare system,” said Dr. Umair A. Shah of Washington DOH.
“Very different from where we were a year or two ago,” Jeanne said.
Experts across the board credited high immunity rates, above 80%, with most people vaccinated against COVID with at least one dose.
The Washington DOH warned that immunity is declining over time and urged people to get a booster shot if their primary series immunization was more than four months ago.
Both states use wastewater tests to track the spread of the virus in communities.
“I think you can take it for granted that there is a lot of COVID-19 out there,” said Dr. Paul Cieslak from OHA. “If you are in a crowded environment, you will be exposed to the virus.”
The BA2 subvariant is the dominant strain. In Washington, it accounts for about 90% of documented cases. The variant is highly contagious but tends to be less severe.
In Oregon, the OHA said the average reported case numbers have risen to more than 600 a week, up from a few hundred a few weeks ago. Due to unreported home covid tests, the OHA said these case numbers could actually be 5-10 times greater.
But because fewer cases result in serious illness and hospitalization, the state is not yet concerned. It keeps track of numbers and tracks forecasts to ensure that hospital capacity remains at a reasonable level.
“The latest model projects a small increase in admissions over the next few months,” Jeanne said.
Even with mask mandates completed in most places, medical experts in both Oregon and Washington urged people to continue wearing masks to prevent infection, especially in crowded areas.
However, the OHA said it had no plans or measurements in place to reinstate a mesh mandate.