OHA: ‘Community-wide impacts are as significant as ever’

Coronavirus

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — During a press conference on Friday, state health officials advised Oregonians should anticipate widespread impacts in the coming weeks amid the omicron surge.

The press conference came amid a week that set record highs for new daily COVID-19 case counts in Oregon.

Health leaders discussed a crisis plan they have ready as local hospitals face the anticipated omicron surge hitting the region.

These crisis care tool guidelines are used if there is not enough staff or equipment to save the lives of every patient coming in the door. 

State health care leaders are trying to ensure there is equity and no discrimination against patients based on factors such as age, or whether they’ve been vaccinated against COVID.

The care decisions would be based on the likelihood of survival to hospital discharge.

The crisis guidelines are for worst case scenarios after hospitals have transferred patients to other facilities, delayed non urgent surgery and care, and using existing bed and space for critically ill patients. 

Currently, there are only 42 adult ICU beds open in the state.

Hospitalization of children under 5 with COVID, who are too young to get the vaccine, are climbing. 

More than a million Oregonians are not vaccinated. Even if you feel you are not at high risk of complications, you can easily spread omicron. 

“The good news is we’re far better equipped to fight the virus in 2022 than we were even in 2021,” said Oregon State Health Officer Dr. Dean Sidelinger. “We have expanded our vaccine capacity, several mass vaccination sites are open and opportunities for boosters are widely available.”

COVID-19 modeling predicts hospitalizations in Oregon will peak by late January, and the peak will be nearly 30% higher than that of the delta variant. The director of the Oregon Health & Science University Office of Advanced Analytics, Peter Graven warned the surge happening on the East Coast will soon sweep over to the west.

“The reality is it is spreading among vaccinated people,” said Graven. Despite being protected from severe illness, those vaccinated are still at risk of being infected. Graven said this means that everyone can have a large impact on reducing the spread.

With the peak still weeks away, hospitals are already overwhelmed. To remedy this Gov. Kate Brown announced Friday she will deploy up to 500 National Guard members to assist in hospitals across the state.

Between Dec. 26 and Jan. 1, OHA recorded 15,239 positive COVID cases, with 10,579 of those among the unvaccinated and the remaining 4,660 were breakthrough cases.

“If you are unvaccinated consider this a red alert,” said Dr. Sidelinger. “You are at greater danger of getting the virus and passing it along to others than at any time during this pandemic.”

Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill advises Oregonians can expect more schools to transition to distance learning in the coming weeks, noting the primary reason being too many staff members are ill or in quarantine.

With that, 271 cases were reported Thursday among children ages 12 to 17. This comes as a few schools in the metro area have canceled classes Friday due to “excessive staff and student absences” resulting from COVID.

Gill said even though the symptoms from omicron are less severe, the “community-wide impacts are as significant as ever.”

In December, Brown announced the state’s goal of boosting one million Oregonians by the end of January. According to OHA, more than 750,000 people need to get their booster dose to reach the goal.

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