BAKER CITY — Baker County is in the midst of its biggest surge in COVID-19 cases in two months, and most of the recent infections are in residents 40 or older.

“It is still here, and it is still spreading,” said Nancy Staten, director of the Baker County Health Department. “Some of the people we’re working with are quite sick, some are hospitalized.”

Some patients are being treated at Saint Alphonsus Medical Center-Baker City, and some in Boise, Staten said. She didn’t have specific numbers of patients.

Baker County reported 12 cases on Monday, June 21, and seven cases on Tuesday, June 22. Monday’s dozen cases were the most in one day since April 21, when there were 14 cases.

Prior to the past week or so, the county’s most recent significant surge in infections was during the first three weeks of April.

Between April 22 and June 21, the county had more than seven new cases on only one day — May 5, with 10 cases.

June’s total, through the 22nd, is 60 cases, which is nine more than were reported during May.

June’s daily average remains well below that of April, however. June’s daily average through the 22nd is 2.7 cases per day.

April, with 162 cases, had a daily average of 5.4. Only December 2020, with 196 cases, had more.

May was the quietest month of the pandemic since October 2020.

June started with a slight rise in the daily average, but the trend has accelerated considerably since June 9 — 42 of the 60 cases in June were reported from June 10-22.

Staten said the sources of the new cases include two workplace outbreaks. She declined to name the businesses, and a weekly workplace outbreak report from the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) wasn’t available by press time.

OHA defines a workplace outbreak as a workplace with at least 30 employees that has five or more cases.

Some cases have also been traced to private social gatherings, Staten said.

Others are “sporadic,” meaning the county’s contact tracers haven’t been able to identify the infection source, she said.

Age range changes

One significant shift from May involves the age ranges of people infected.

There were no cases in May among residents 70 and older.

But from June 13-22, four county residents 70 or older were infected, Staten said.

The biggest shift, though, was among residents in their 50s. There were six cases in that age range during May, accounting for about 11.7% of the total cases.

But from June 13-22, there were 11 cases in that age group — 29% of total cases, the highest percentage of any age range in that 10-day period.

The second-largest group was people in their 40s, who accounted for seven cases (18% of total, June 13-22).

From June 13-22, about 68% of the county’s cases were people 40 or older.

That age range accounted for 25% of the county’s total cases during May.

Vaccinations

Staten said Baker County has had fewer than five “breakthrough” cases — people who are infected after being fully vaccinated.

She said none of the 19 cases on June 21-22 was a breakthrough case.

Staten points out that the recent rise in infections has been concentrated in age groups that have relatively low vaccination rates.

The 50-59 age range, for instance, which accounted for almost one-third of new case over the past 10 days, has a vaccination rate of 39.2%. Statewide, the rate for that age range is 65.6%.

Staten encourages people to get vaccinated, and everyone 12 and older is eligible.

Vaccines, which are free, are available through the Health Department and at local pharmacies, the hospital and some other health care clinics.

More information is available by calling the Health Department at 541-523-8211 and on the county’s COVID-19 website, www.bakercountycovid19.com.

As of Wednesday, June 23, Baker County’s vaccination rate — 43.9% of residents 16 and older — ranked 27th among Oregon’s 36 counties.

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