Since Friday, July 23 through late morning Friday, July 30, Wasco County has had 62 cases of COVID-19. More were coming in Friday afternoon.

Of those 62 cases, 55 were in unvaccinated people.

The 62 cases would be enough to put the county in the “extreme risk” category under the county risk level framework the state of Oregon previously used. It puts the county in the “high” risk category that the CDC uses.

Contact tracers at North Central Public Health District have noticed changes in the spread of COVID compared to last November. Then, if someone in a household was positive, other household members — but not necessarily all of them — would eventually, over weeks, also test positive.

Now, entire households are quickly becoming sick at about the same time.

“It’s so much stronger and faster,” said Maria Acevedo, a contact tracer for NCPHD. Among a large number of cases that came in last Monday, she said, “Not a lot of them got admitted to the hospital, but a lot of them went to ER.”

Among the 62 cases since last Friday, 48 were among those younger than 50, and 19 were in people 19 or younger.

That is consistent with national reports that cases are occurring in younger people now, largely because older people are largely vaccinated.

Several recent changes in guidance highlight the high transmissibility of the Delta variant that is now believed to be responsible for 80 percent of cases in Oregon.

First, the CDC now recommends that vaccinated people who have been exposed to someone with a positive test should get tested, said Jeremy Hawkins, epidemiologist for North Central Public Health District. Previously, they were not advised to get tested after an exposure.

Second, guidance earlier this week from federal and state health officials recommends everyone, whether vaccinated or not, wear masks in public indoor places.

Oregon has also determined that students in grades k-12 must wear masks in the coming school year.

NCPHD and other participating providers in Wasco County are now offering $50 gift cards (or vouchers to submit to NCPHD for gift cards) to people getting their first dose of vaccine. Also participating is One Community Health, Mid-Columbia Medical Center and its clinics, Deschutes Rim Clinic in Maupin and Rite Aid Pharmacy.

In response to the spike in cases, the Wasco County Board of Commissioners have returned to remote online meetings, and have reinstated COVID-19 updates. The next meeting of the board is Wednesday morning, Aug. 4, from 9 a.m.

For more information, visit COVID-19 Vaccine in Oregon, contact North Central Public Health District at 541-506-2600, or visit www.ncphd.org or find us on Facebook.