A few weeks ago, I sent out a message explaining that we were in a race to vaccinate as many people as possible against COVID-19 before the new variants of the virus could catch up with us.

Unfortunately, as of this moment, it feels like we are losing the race.

Recently, Deschutes County recorded the highest number of positive COVID-19 cases in one week since the beginning of the pandemic. Nearly 600 new cases were reported in the tri-county region from April 18-24 – many of them in children and young adults.

At the same time, hospitalizations are increasing as well. Late last month, we had 36 COVID-19 positive patients in the Bend hospital. Because we have done such a great job of vaccinating our older population, the average age of our hospitalized critically ill patients has dropped by about 13 years. Unfortunately, with this recent wave of spread, and perhaps related to new variants, we are now seeing people in their 20s, 30s and 40s who are very sick with this virus and in need of intensive care.

We are once again faced with canceling some elective procedures for patients because we are simply out of hospital beds and staff to provide that care. These are patients who have already waited for months in many cases. They are in pain and suffering. We don’t want to delay their care – but the resurgence of COVID-19 cases means our resources are tapped.

Our St. Charles team of caregivers and providers started all but four days in the month of April with the Bend hospital at 90% capacity or higher. We have nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists, environmental services, food services caregivers and so many more who are working very hard to care for our community.

This is not the time to give up. We have tools that will give us that boost of energy to pull ahead in the race. Masking, handwashing and distancing remain absolutely critical – perhaps now more than ever.

And, the most important thing you can do today is get your COVID-19 vaccine. I know many of you already have taken this step, but we still have a long way to go to reach herd immunity. This is especially true in Jefferson and Crook Counties where vaccination rates are hovering around 30% of the population. Deschutes County is doing slightly better with about 43% of the population vaccinated.

But we are now at the point where we have more vaccine appointment slots available than we can fill. You can still visit to make an appointment at the tri-county mass vaccination clinic at the Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center. You are now able to pick a time that's most convenient for you – no more pre-registering or waiting to receive a link in an email. Just schedule and go. It's that easy.

If you have been hesitating, now is the time to get vaccinated.

Be a part of the solution. Help us win the race.


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