‘Impending doom’? Oregon likely to see spike in COVID deaths

Coronavirus

We took a hard look at the recent data and uptick in cases

FILE – In this Jan. 9, 2021, file photo, a hospital worker places a “COVID Patient” sticker on a body bag holding a deceased patient at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in the Mission Hills section of Los Angeles. Coronavirus hospitalizations are falling across the United States, but deaths have remained stubbornly high. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The pandemic is not over yet in Oregon, and if you look at data trends, we can expect for more Oregonians to die in the coming weeks.

Last week, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made an impassioned plea to Americans not to let their guard down in the fight against COVID-19, warning of a potential fourth wave of the virus and saying she has a recurring feeling “of impending doom.”

As we’ve seen with every rise in cases in the state, deaths follow a similar pattern two weeks afterwards. Since the early part of March, Oregon has hit a plateau. Cases have been steadily on the rise since the week of March 14th when we hit 2,031 cases. The next two weeks saw more cases (2,450 & 2,822) and we are currently on pace for this week to be even higher (current pace is 3,297.0).

OHA COVID data

That three week surge now puts us in the two-weeks later window of rising deaths. Through five days we’ve had more deaths already this week than in the full seven days of any of the last four weeks. That means deaths are now on the rise. And with cases still going up, we have no end in sight yet for the surge of the rising deaths window to finally start to ebb.

Another cause for concern is higher ratio of deaths per new case we are seeing based on that two-week window. Over the winter we hit two peaks for both during a post-Thanksgiving case and a post-Christmas/New Year’s case. The week of 11/29 we hit a high of 10,564 cases. Two weeks later we hit a high of 192 deaths. That averages out to 55.02 new cases per death from either side of the window. This shows how strong the case level rise correlates with the death level rise two weeks later. On 12/27 was another peak in cases at 8,184 with the death peak of 1/10 at 188. That averages to 43.53 cases per death on either side of the window.

To contrast this, look at the two-week window numbers we just had in reaching the spring plateau. On the week of March 14th we had 2,031 cases and the week of March 28th we recorded 16 deaths. That’s an average of 126.94 cases per death. Higher numbers on this are a good thing, showing the rise in cases are proving less deadly.

But cases have been rising rapidly lately. On the week of March 21st we had 2,450 cases, and this week (two weeks later) we’re on track for a seven day total of 67.2 deaths. If we stay on that trajectory, it puts us at a new cases-to-deaths average of 35.46 in our current two-week window.

Vaccines for older and at risk Oregonians have had some effect, but it still hasn’t shown up yet on a grand scale. If vaccines were preventing deaths it should post the new cases to death average at a much higher ratio. The state has given out 2 million doses, but it hasn’t been enough yet to change the normal patterns the pandemic has produced since the beginning. In other words, even with shots, we’re about to see a lot more people die in Oregon – and it’s likely already too late to save them.

Justin McWhirter is a KOIN 6 News Producer and this is his independent evaluation of recent data distributed by the Oregon Health Authority.

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