Benton County and City of Corvallis optimistic about student population influx

Local experts encourage mask-wearing and vaccination against COVID-19

Oregon+State+University+students+return+to+campus+and+Corvallis%2C+Ore.+residents+and+businesses+respond+to+the+influx+of+population+in+the+city.+Approximately+20%2C000+OSU+students+call+Corvallis+home+each+year.

Jess Hume-Pantuso, Photographer

Oregon State University students return to campus and Corvallis, Ore. residents and businesses respond to the influx of population in the city. Approximately 20,000 OSU students call Corvallis home each year.

Ashton McCracken, News Contributor

As leaves begin to fall in Corvallis, Ore., preparing for fresh beginnings, thousands of students have arrived on campus to pursue new growth in their lives amidst a pandemic.

Students’ arrival to Oregon State University has created significantly less community worry concerning the spread of the COVID-19 virus than the 2020-21 academic year.

Despite the coming addition of about 20,000 students to Corvallis, the city remains optimistic regarding the health and safety of people on campus and in the community.

Patrick Rollens, public information officer for the City of Corvallis, attributes this optimism to high student and community vaccination rates, enabling a safer return to the area.

While Rollens stated there has been regular discussion about the return of OSU students to campus, he said he is not aware of any specific community concerns about students’ impact on COVID-19 cases in the city.

Similarly, City Councilor Charlyn Ellis from Ward 5, a region of Corvallis adjacent to the university in Ward 4, said, “So far, I have not heard any major concerns from Ward 5.”

Dr. Adam Brady, an infectious disease specialist at Samaritan Health Services, echoed the city’s optimism.

“Vaccinations, in addition [to] the masking requirements from the state and Benton County, will go a long way in protecting everyone on campus and in the community from exposure,” Brady said.

While representatives from the City of Corvallis are unaware of major community concern caused by students returning to campus, Xan Augerot, Benton County commissioner and chair, acknowledged the inability of children under 12 years of age to get vaccinated.

Augerot said she hears “frequent” concerns from parents regarding possible exposure of their younger children to the virus in an area with a high influx of OSU students.

The Delta variant has further complicated health and safety measures as it is currently the dominant variant in the United States and among the most transmissible COVID-19 mutations.

Brady stated, “The COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to be highly effective at preventing serious illness from the Delta variant.”

However, case outbreaks resulting from the arrival of students to campus remains a possible threat to community health.

Rollens stated that the City of Corvallis communicates closely with the Benton County Health Department and receives regular COVID-19 reports and forecasts in order to be prepared for any scenario.

In addition to the health of the Corvallis community, Rollens emphasized the importance of local businesses to the city’s economy and their susceptibility to COVID-19 outbreaks and mandates.

Benton County is prepared for the possibility of an OSU outbreak as well.

Augerot explained the county government is “not inclined to shut things down,” but it will continue observing case numbers and will act with the goal of not overloading hospitals.

“Get vaccinated if you haven’t yet,” Brady said. “No vaccine is 100% effective, but the vaccines available now are by far the most effective tool we have to prevent the spread of this virus.”

Public Information Officer for Benton County Alyssa Rash added the importance of participating in safe activities, performing good hygiene and isolating if you are sick.

Rash stated, “Even if you are fully vaccinated, wear a mask when interacting with people from outside of your household.”

Rollens said the city, county and OSU are working together to protect the community. He asked students to “please bring a sense of grace and good manners” to campus and Corvallis.