North Central Public Health District (NCPHD) has found a significant amount of Wasco County’s recent spike in COVID-19 cases is due to Thanksgiving gatherings, according to a Dec. 9 press release from the district.
A steady single-digit amount of cases were reported in the six days after the holiday. Then a double-digit increase began, reflective of the typical roughly five-to-seven-day timeframe from date of infection to onset of symptoms, NCPHD reported.
That increase in cases included 48 cases reported in 48 hours, on Dec. 4 and 5. From Dec. 3, through Dec. 8, the county recorded 97 cases.
Enough time has passed since Thanksgiving that NCPHD is now seeing people who got infected from someone who themselves got infected at a Thanksgiving gathering, said Tessa Yoo, a COVID disease intervention specialist for the health district.
A handful of people attended Thanksgiving gatherings while they were mildly symptomatic, said Jeremy Hawkins, an epidemiologist for NCPHD.
But others only developed symptoms or tested positive a day or two after Thanksgiving.
“In general we think people are capable of spreading the virus up to 48 hours prior to when their symptoms start,” Hawkins explained. He noted the incubation period is 14 days after exposure, so the fallout from Thanksgiving itself could be experienced through this Thursday, Dec. 11.
The health district has received a significant amount of calls from people who said they were exposed to someone on Thanksgiving and are inquiring about testing.
Yoo said she has had a lot of people who test positive tell her they believed they just had a cold. “I feel like a lot of people don’t realize you don’t have to be super sick to have COVID,” she said.
Vaccines for COVID are on the horizon, but it is expected to be well into next year before they will be available for the general public. It is critical to continue wearing a mask, keeping distance from others, washing hands, avoiding being in poorly ventilated areas with others, and staying home when sick, the NCPHD stated.
On Dec. 11, NCPHD announced new quarantine timelines based on updated state and federal guidelines. The updated guidance was created by the federal CDC and followed by the Oregon Health Authority.
All people who have had close contact with confirmed and presumptive cases must quarantine during the period in which they are most likely to become infectious. Close contact means being within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or is presumed to have it.
The primary recommendation continues to be for all close contacts to stay home and at least 6 feet away from everyone, including household members, for the 14 days after their last exposure to a person with COVID-19. Quarantine may be ended earlier in the following circumstances:
1. Quarantine can end after Day 10 without testing and if no symptoms have developed.
2. Quarantine can end after Day 7 if a COVID test which is done in the 48 hours before ending quarantine comes back negative.
People can discontinue quarantine at these time points only if no symptoms have developed during that time, and they continue daily symptom monitoring through quarantine Day 14.
If any symptoms develop, those in quarantine should immediately self-isolate and tell their healthcare provider or NCPHD.
The option for a shortened quarantine does not apply to residents in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, or adult foster homes. It also does not apply to people living in behavioral health residential treatment centers, and facilities for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. It also does not apply to patients in hospitals or inpatient hospice facilities.
Hood River update
Oregon has also seen a record single day death toll of 36, and Hood River County has reported its fourth death from COVID-19.
As Hood River County residents make their plans for the upcoming holiday, the health department is urging people to stay safe amid the surge in COVID-19 cases.
"We have reported a record single week increase of 85 new county cases (Friday), the largest number in a single week for our county since the pandemic began,” said Hood River County Public Health Officer Christopher Van Tilburg, M.D. in a press release.
“This is a critical time in the pandemic, when we are seeing a rise in community transmission of COVID-19 in the county, state, nation and worldwide,” he said.
“The first shipment of coronavirus vaccines is due to arrive in Oregon around Dec. 15 and will be distributed according to Oregon’s COVID-19 Vaccination Plan, Van Tilburg noted.
“The beginning of vaccination provides us hope that the pandemic will eventually come to an end. Since the vaccine will take time to be distributed widely, it’s important to continue taking all safety measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community.”
In coordination with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Oregon has a plan to distribute COVID-19 vaccine once a safe and effective vaccine is ready. OHA has submitted a draft plan to CDC. This plan is only a first step. OHA is reaching out to public health, healthcare and community organizations to work with them as they continue to develop this plan: "We want to understand how our current systems for getting people vaccinated may need to be rebuilt to meet the needs of communities who are disproportionately affected by COVID-19."