PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — As omicron is poised to become the dominant COVID-19 variant, Oregon health officials predict cases will soon be surging in the state.
Gov. Kate Brown held a press conference on Friday afternoon to discuss the incoming wave with representatives from the Oregon Health Authority and from the Oregon Health and Science University, who forecast a spike in cases by January. OHSU modeling shows the state has a three-week window to prepare for the surge.
“A big wave is coming and it threatens to be bigger than any wave we’ve seen before,” OHA Director Patrick Allen said. “We’re tired of being swamped and battered by each new surge of infections, hospitalizations and deaths.”
Omicron cases are expected to exceed the number of delta cases which peaked at 1,200. Officials predict omicron will reach 3,000 cases.
“Now we must double down on following the measures we know will keep us as safe as possible,” Dr. Renee Edwards, the Chief Medical Officer at OHSU Health, said. “The time to act is now.”
Brown announced the state aims to administer booster shots to a million Oregonians by the end of January, which health officials echoed is an attainable goal.
“While we are all still learning about this new variant, it is clear from the experiences of the United Kingdom and other countries that we have only weeks to prepare before Omicron hits our communities and health care systems in full force,” Brown said. “Masks, vaccines, and the incredible efforts of our health care workers, public health partners, and National Guard members have seen us through the Delta surge. We will need to make the same statewide, collaborative efforts to see us through Omicron.”
According to Allen, previous surges in the state decreased once preventative measures — like masks — were in place.
Additionally, research shows more Oregonians wear masks in public than Americans in any other state. Other states have started to follow Oregon’s lead in re-implementing the mask mandate, according to Brown.
Earlier this week OHA announced more than 3 million Oregonians are at least partially vaccinated. Those who are unvaccinated have a COVID rate 4 times higher than vaccinated people.
Dr. Peter Graven said infections and the rate of hospitalizations is spiking in the United Kingdom and Denmark with cases doubling by the day. Denmark has reported several breakthrough cases, despite the country having a similar vaccination rate as Oregon.
“It [omicron] can infect fully vaccinated individuals, especially those who have not received their booster shots,” Dr. Edwards said. “It’s not too late to protect yourself and those you care about from becoming gravely ill or even dying from COVID-19.”