LA GRANDE — Vaccination rates across most Eastern Oregon rose nearly 3% as the delta variant of COVID-19 surges in the nation. According to Oregon Health Authority data, more than 98% of all new COVID-19 infections are from the delta variant.

Umatilla County saw the largest increase in vaccination rates, climbing 4.1% to a total of 47.9% of the population having received their first dose since Aug. 1. Both Union and Morrow County recorded a 3.6% increase during the same time period. Wallowa County increased its vaccination rate by 3.1%, giving it the highest vaccination rate out of all of the Eastern Oregon counties at 62% through Friday. Baker saw a modest 2.5% increase in vaccination rates, while Grant County recorded the lowest increase at only 1.9% over the month of August.

The Oregon Health Authority reported 3,207 new and presumptive cases of COVID-19 in Oregon on Aug. 26, and on Monday, Aug. 29, reported 5,545 cases over the weekend. As well the total number of hospitalizations across the state is at 1,120.

Union County added 15 new reported cases of COVID-19, bringing its two-week total to 345 cases. The two-week total corresponds to an infection rate of 1,317 cases per 100,000 residents. Earlier in the year, any county that saw more than 200 cases per 100,000 residents would fall under extreme risk and would be subjected to restrictions.

The Monday report added 62 more cases in Union County over the weekend, to bring the total to 2,312 and the two-week infection rate to 1401 cases per 100,000 residents. The 31st death was also reported, an 85-year-old woman who died Saturday, Aug. 28, and had underlying conditions.

“We are far exceeding the hospitalization numbers we saw during the pre-vaccination surges of last fall and winter. This is putting an unprecedented strain on our local hospitals,” said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the state health officer in a press release. “This affects every Oregon family and it is not sustainable.”

On Monday, Aug. 23, the Food and Drug Administration announced the Pfizer vaccine had received full approval for use for patients 16 and older, making it the first vaccine to be approved beyond emergency use in the United States.

The Pfizer vaccine, named Comirnaty, remains under emergency use authorization for individuals under the age of 16.

Vaccination rates have increased after months of stalling due to vaccine hesitancy and rising infection rates, a surge that led Gov. Kate Brown to impose vaccine mandates on state workers, medical workers and school faculty.

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