(Update: Adding video)
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- St. Charles President and CEO Joe Sluka updated the community Friday on the risks posed by the rising numbers of the "much more transmissible' delta variant of COVID-19 and again urged Central Oregonians be cautious in public -- and to get vaccinated, if they haven't.
Here's Sluka's newsletter, in full:
July 23, 2021
"As much as I hate to say it, the delta variant of COVID-19 is increasing in our communities.
"Over the past two weeks, wastewater samples throughout the state of Oregon show an increase from 5% to 40% of this more transmissible variant of the virus. We believe our current vaccination rate in Central Oregon is not high enough to provide herd immunity against the delta variant, in part because it spreads more easily than earlier versions of the virus. In fact, studies show that delta appears to be much more transmissible than the original version of COVID-19.
"Keeping all of this in mind, we expect to experience a new spike in COVID-19 cases among unvaccinated individuals in the near future. And although our counties have worked so hard to make vaccines available, we still have large numbers of people who have not received the vaccine. Children under the age of 12 remain ineligible for any of the vaccines and are at a high risk of contracting the new variant and spreading it to others.
"Throughout the country, we are seeing huge spikes in COVID-19 in areas with low vaccination rates. Daily reported cases in the U.S. rose by 43% in the past week and hospitalizations rose by 33%. In some states, hospitals are once again being overwhelmed.
"Honestly, I’m worried.
"At St. Charles, we continue to have hospital bed capacity and staffing challenges that have been exacerbated by the global pandemic. We are working so hard to ensure we can care for you if you need us.
"But please know you have a part to play as well. You can help by taking actions that reduce the spread of the virus.
"For example, I still choose to wear my mask in some indoor public places and hope that you are doing so as well. I wear a mask to protect those who can’t be vaccinated and the most vulnerable among us.
"In addition, I think it’s prudent at this point to avoid large indoor gatherings where you don’t know the vaccination status of those in attendance. The vaccines are highly effective at preventing serious illness and hospitalization from COVID-19, but we have had a handful of cases in vaccinated individuals where hospitalization was necessary.
"It’s OK to continue being cautious, regardless of your vaccination status. In fact, I would encourage you to do so.
"More than anything, if you haven’t done so yet, please get vaccinated. Talk to your health care provider about which of the three available COVID-19 vaccines is right for you. All of them are free and available through individual health care providers, pharmacies and our local county health departments. You can find information on vaccine availability at www.CentralOregonCOVIDVaccine.com.
"Also, consider talking with your friends and family members who have been vaccinated about their experiences. These videos show familiar faces from Crook and Jefferson counties sharing their thoughts on why the COVID-19 vaccine is important. Give them a watch and share them with others.