PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Health officials say the current heatwave could push already crowded hospitals past their limits.
A record 670 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 across Oregon on Thursday, five more than the previous day, as well as 177 patients in ICU beds.
The Oregon Health Authority said the state has seen more than a 500% increase in COVID hospitalizations in the past month and many hospitals are already at capacity.
“I am working furiously along with hospital and health system leaders to do everything we can to prevent as many heat-related hospitalizations and deaths,” said Multnomah County Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines. “And getting people to put on their masks and get their vaccines. We are in one of the worst moments, frankly, of the last year and a half.”
Public health officials in Multnomah County said a local spike in homicides and gun violence is also contributing to capacity woes.
The heatwave in June was one of the deadliest natural disasters in recent Oregon history, killing more than 100 people across the state. The New York Times reported Thursday there may have been many more deaths that weren’t included in the official death toll.
“I actually do think that’s accurate,” said Vines. “It’s a known phenomenon that there are excess deaths during heatwaves. There can be more gun violence, more drownings. Deaths that happen under a physician’s care don’t get certified by the medical examiner so it’s not always clear if heat was a contributing cause to someone who is more medically fragile.”
Multnomah County has opened additional indoor and outdoor cooling centers to help people get through this latest heatwave. Masks will be required inside indoor shelters. Officials also strongly encourage community members to check on friends, family and neighbors during this time.