LANE COUNTY, Ore.--Long-term care facilities make up 44 percent of all the active outbreaks in our area, and four out of the five deaths reported on Thursday are connected to known outbreaks.
Health officials said most of the last 15 or 20 deaths are connected to outbreaks in long-term care facilities. Outbreaks are defined as three or more cases, or one or more deaths.
Avamere Riverpark of Eugene has recorded the most cases in Lane County with 114 to date. That facility also reported the most COVID-19 related deaths with five.
Many long-term care facility workers said this isn't surprising given the virus is so easily brought into these communities.
"A large part of it is that you have people living and working in close proximity, and the idea and purpose behind long-term care is the people residing there need assistance and care, and there's no way to provide that care from six feet away," Amira Fahoum, an employee at Compass Senior Living, said.
However, she is hopeful a vaccine will protect the elderly and those who care for them and ultimately prevent outbreaks. They are encouraging everyone at their facility to get the vaccine when it's available but they're waiting to see if DHS will make it a requirement.
Once Pfizer gets the green light for its vaccine, vaccination would start soon after. Officials say it will be given to frontline health care workers and support staff first, along with residents of long-term care facilities.
The next groups to get vaccinated could be more health care workers, other essential workers and those with underlying health conditions.
Jason Davis, a spokesman for Lane County Public Health, says the county is moving forward with plans to make sure that when the COVID-19 vaccine is available locally, that we are ready. This includes looking at storage options and making sure we have adequate deep freeze places to keep them, given it takes a colder temperature than most.
"Thankfully our community has gone through mass vaccination efforts and we have terrific partners to carry out those efforts and our hospital groups have been very active in our planning and logistical concerns," Davis said. "And the University of Oregon having been through the meningitis effort its very familiar with what it takes to do mass vaccination efforts."
Just like the COVID-19 vaccine, the Meningococcal B shot required more than one dose to be effective. In 2015, ten thousand University of Oregon students got the first dose after six cases were reported on campus, including one death.
The UO held mass vaccination clinics to provide all three rounds of the Meningococcal B shot to make it convenient for students to get the shot. However, this time around, the county's ability to act and distribute the vaccine are dependent on factors outside of our control from the federal and international level.
Davis said this will be a slower process than most of us would like. During the first phase, health officials are taking into consideration where they work and where they are during different parts of the day, so they can easily access that specific group like they did with UO students.
On Thursday, a panel of outside scientists and doctors endorsed Pfizer's vaccine, recommending that it be approved by the FDA. The advisory board said the vaccine appears to be safe and effective for people over 16.
A final decision by the FDA is expected within days.
Stay with KEZI 9 News for updates.