COVID-19 killed two Grant County residents in two days last week.
On Thursday, the Grant County Health Department reported the COVID-19-related death of a 63-year-old Grant County woman with underlying conditions, who died at St. Charles Medical Center in Bend on March 23. Friday, the health department reported the COVID-19-related death of an 87-year-old Grant County woman who had underlying conditions as well.
Meanwhile, according to the health department, 11 more people in the county tested positive for the virus.
Public Health Administrator Kimberly Lindsay said, while the county is not seeing a virus variant, the strain of COVID-19 the county is seeing is particularly potent.
“This strain that we have of COVID is robust,” she said. “It is for me potentially the most robust that I’ve seen. Clearly, we’ve seen more deaths, and I’ve seen more people need to access the emergency room.”
Lindsay said that it is not the only strain in the county, and she cannot tell why this version of the virus is causing more severe illnesses.
“I can’t say why,” Lindsay told the Eagle. “But it is. And so to that end, I think that it behooves all of Grant County to not let their guard down.”
Lindsay responded to criticism the health department faced over stating the deaths were “COVID-19-related.”
She said noting someone’s underlying conditions — which could be almost anything from diabetes to high blood pressure — is not a judgment on why or how the person died.
“Because none of them could be fully ruled out, we have to state that there were underlying medical conditions,” she said.
To illustrate the point, she said if someone with high blood pressure were to die from an infection caused by an ingrown toenail, they would list high blood pressure as an underlying medical condition.
“Underlying medical conditions can’t be ruled out as contributors,” she said. “I’m not saying that I agree or disagree, but if there are underlying medical conditions, it has to be stated.”
County leaders weigh in on an uptick in cases
County Judge Scott Myers said whether people believe that COVID-19 is real or not, they should be concerned about what will happen to businesses, public offices and the day-to-day operations of the county should positive cases continue to increase.
“The downside of not taking the pandemic seriously is what happens if we keep getting positives,” he said.
Myers said restaurants and public buildings would have to close if the county continues to see a spike in cases.
County Commissioner and Prairie City Mayor Jim Hamsher said the virus is real and affects people differently.
Hamsher said it does not just affect the elderly. He said he has seen middle-aged people have severe health issues with it.
“If you have existing medical conditions, it can be severe and deadly for you,” he said.
Hamsher said that vulnerable populations are affected by any infectious disease — flu or the coronavirus — and can produce disastrous consequences when they spread to a nursing home, as was the case earlier this month.
Hamsher said he is waiting to get the vaccine since he was in close contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.
“They recommend you wait 90 days if you’ve had it or been in close contact because you have those antibodies, and the vaccine fights with those antibodies,” he said.
For his part, Myers said he got the vaccine the day he became eligible.
He said the only hesitancy he had in getting the vaccine would have been if there had been a shortage of doses and there were older adults who wanted them. He said he would have stepped aside.
“I just thought, with my contact with other people, the public and family, I needed not to be susceptible to getting it and carrying it to someone else,” Myers said.
County Commissioner Sam Palmer did not respond to the Eagle’s request for comment.
Lindsay said Monday the county received 200 new vaccine doses and 100 booster shots.
She said the county vaccinated people in eligible groups who the health department had previously scheduled and others on the Grant County waitlist.
Lindsay said the health department would hold a Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccine event from 10-11 a.m. April 7 at Seneca City Hall. She said another event is being planned on April 8 in Monument, Dayville and Long Creek.
To join the vaccine waitlist, email email@example.com with name, date of birth, phone number, address and any chronic health conditions. If unable to email, call 541-575-0429.