PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The new delta variant sweeping across the country’s unvaccinated population is raising the number of new COVID-19 cases, and Oregon is no exception.
Since the spring surge in Oregon peaked at the end of April, the state has continuously dropped in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths to levels not seen in nearly a year. A major factor is the timing of vaccinations being widely available to residents during the spring, with Oregon going from averaging over 821 new cases a day to less than 190.
That was the level reached just last week when Oregon reported only 1,282 new cases from July 1 through July 7.
Why is that July 1 date especially important? Because it’s the day Governor Kate Brown fully reopened Oregon. Since then, we are seeing cases and hospitalizations going back up, the pattern of every surge in the state throughout the pandemic says that deaths are soon to follow.
It’s important to note the state’s reopening is not the only cause for this.
Case rates have gone up following every major holiday (Thanksgiving, Christmas/New Year’s, Easter, Memorial Day) as people gather to celebrate, and the Fourth of July was no different.
It’s also at time when the new delta variant is becoming the most prevalent and contagious version of the virus in America. CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports the delta variant is 2-3 times more contagious than the original Wuhan strain.
How much of a rise are these three factors causing in Oregon? It’s still too early to tell a full number, but in just a short comparison from this week to last week, there was an 18.55% rise in cases.
That’s also the first time Oregon has gone up in cases since the spring surge peak. It’s also a turn around from 3 weeks ago when Oregon was dropping in cases by 20.21%. In fact, this week’s total new cases of 1,527 is higher than in either of the last two weeks — meaning not only is the state rising in cases, but at a faster level.
Oregon is also seeing hospitalizations start to rise again. OHA officials have reported 8 straight weeks of lower numbers of patients in the hospital because of the virus. On July 10, only 99 patients were reported, the first time the state had less than 100 in a single day since the state began releasing daily hospital numbers in November.
But since that record low, hospitalizations are on the rise with 122 as of July 14. That’s an 18% increase in less than a week.
It’s not all grim news for Oregon though. The state recently became the 18th in the country to reach at least 70% of its populations getting at least one dose of the virus. That effort is showing benefits in how limited it is keeping new cases from rising even higher compared to states far less vaccinated.
The latest hotspot for the delta variant in the country is Missouri which has only a 55% vaccination rate for adults. In Missouri’s Greene County, less than 35% of the population has been vaccinated. The city of Springfield, which is located in Greene County has two hospitals treating around 260 patients combined for COVID right now. That’s double than the entire state of Oregon has at the same moment.
It’s a similar case in Arkansas right now where the state saw 1,476 new cases of the virus in just a 24-hour period on Tuesday.
In contrast, Oregon has only ever seen more than that many cases in a single day twice, both during the worst of the winter surge, and that despite Oregon having nearly 33% more people in it than all of Arkansas.
Unlike previous surges of the virus across the United States, the delta variant is really a story of vaccinated versus unvaccinated.
As Dr. Anthony Fauci said on “Face the Nation” on July 10, people who “have a high degree of vaccination are quite protected against the delta variant.”
Oregon has anchored itself firmly in the vaccinated group of states, but there’s still a long way to go. The rise in cases shows that while the delta variant is much less of an issue in Oregon thanks to the vaccine, there is a large enough percentage of the unvaccinated to keep the virus spreading and deadly.
KOIN 6 News Producer Justin McWhirter has been tracking COVID statistics for months.