PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon health officials say COVID-19 cases are expected to peak next week before dropping off.

Oregon health leaders say recent COVID-19 forecasting shows case numbers starting to level off and hospitals will not be as severely strained in the coming weeks. However, hospitals are currently still overwhelmed as the virus is rapidly spreading throughout the state.

State health official and epidemiologist, Dr. Dean Sidelinger shared an update on COVID Friday morning. Later on in the day, the Oregon Health Authority reported a total of 10,947 new confirmed and presumptive cases, bringing the state total to 570,892.

The OHA also reported there are a total of 1,091 individuals in the hospital with COVID-19 as of Friday.

Find more statistics from OHA’s daily COVID-19 report at the bottom of this article

According to OHA, there’s been a sharp increase in the number of positive cases, while hospitalizations and deaths have declined. As case numbers continue to grow health officials are considering implementing more permanent precautions.

“Our hospitals still reeling from the delta surge are now struggling from the additional stress of the omicron onslaught,” said Sidelinger.

Yet, Sidelinger says cases are expected to decline soon.

“There is some light at the end of this very dark tunnel. The recent modeling suggests that cases could peak within the next week or so with hospitalizations – a lagging indicator – peaking in the following weeks,” he said.

Sidelinger said the projected peak for hospitalizations is about 1,500 in early February.

Several staffing agencies are contracted to help provide staffing to hospitals to increase capacity or fill in when employees are out sick. OHA is also working with non-hospital agencies to provide recovery units.

Also on Friday, the Washington Department of Health announced that households can request up to five free COVDI-19 test kits from the state. They launched an online portal to sign up and households should expect delivery within a week or two.

Although Washington has launched a free test kit site, Sidelinger confirmed that Oregon is not planning to mail out any tests to homes.

KOIN 6 News asked why there are no plans for a similar distribution, despite the state having half a million test kits stocked up in a warehouse.

“Some of these test kits are allocated for ongoing programs that are needed to support staffing needs in hospitals to ensure that staff is available to provide the quality of care we all deserve,” Sidelinger explained. “We can’t distribute these kits without redistributing kits and allocating these kits on an ongoing basis, because staff needs to test on a regular basis to ensure the protection of themselves, fellow employees and the patients they care for.”

Sidelinger added that thousands of the kits are also set aside to replenish test kits used at schools around the state, and for those who have socio-economic and geographic barriers to access testing.  

He did say the state is expecting an additional 600K tests in the coming days that will go out to communities.

Full press conference below

On Thursday the Oregon Association of Hospitals & Health Systems said cases from the highly contagious omicron variant will send the state’s hospitalizations higher than they were even during the peak of the delta variant.

Meanwhile, health officials announced the state was considering a permanent indoor mask mandate. The permanent aspect of the mandate means there would be no set expiration date for it, but officials said they’d be able to end the mandate when they thought it was necessary.

According to Sidelinger, the Oregon statute prevents another temporary rule to replace one that has expired. Instead, officials are adopting a permanent rule that has similar provisions as the temporary one.

COVID-19 cases and deaths

Out of the 1,091 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Oregon, 144 patients are in an ICU bed. There are now 46 available adult ICU beds, representing 7% availability.

There are 281 non-ICU adult beds currently available, also representing 7% availability.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported Fridat are in the following counties:

Baker (40), Benton (181), Clackamas (845), Clatsop (80), Columbia (201), Coos (200), Crook (114), Curry (28), Deschutes (663), Douglas (226), Gilliam (1), Harney (1), Hood River (43), Jackson (661), Jefferson (213), Josephine (243), Klamath (253), Lake (11), Lane (1,196), Lincoln (109), Linn (480), Malheur (99), Marion (1,221), Morrow (43), Multnomah (1,487), Polk (261), Tillamook (38), Umatilla (317), Union (68), Wallowa (20), Wasco (72), Washington (1,280) and Yamhill (252).