PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — COVID-19 case numbers in Oregon are on a steady rise as a new variant spreads and residents toss their masks, but hospitalization rates are still averaging fewer than 100 patients per day statewide — a far cry from previous peak virus surges of up to 1,100 patients, state health officials said Wednesday.
The seven-day average of daily cases as of Tuesday has more than doubled since early April and is now at 600 new cases per day, which is likely a “significant undercount” because of home tests that are not reported, said Tom Jeanne, Oregon’s deputy state health officer.
Studies done elsewhere indicate that the actual number of positive cases nationally could be between five to 10 times higher than those reported to health authorities, but officials remain focused on the hospitalization rate as a gauge of the surge’s severity, he said. There were 740 new cases Monday, the latest data available, and five deaths; officials expect hospitalizations will see a slight increase into May and June.
“We’re missing the majority of cases,” Jeanne said. “We can still follow the general trends, even if the magnitude is not exactly right, and what we worry about the most is the hospital capacity and our ability to treat people and keep them alive if they get COVID-19.”
Forecasts done by Oregon Health and Science University project hospitalizations to peak at 220 per day on June 10.
Health officials said 83% of Oregonians have had at least one COVID-19 vaccine and more than 75% have completed the two-shot series. About 44% have gotten a booster dose.
Those who have not gotten vaccinated or who have not completed the vaccine series or gotten a booster should do so, because the virus is still circulating widely, said Dr. Paul Cieslak, senior health advisor for the Oregon Health Authority. He estimated that between 50% and 60% of so-called breakthrough cases are occurring in people who have not been vaccinated or fully vaccinated.
“I think you take it as a given that there’s a lot of COVID-19 out there … If you’re in a crowded setting, you’re going to be exposed to the virus and what’s going to protect you is if you’ve been vaccinated and boosted or had prior infection,” he said. “There’s still a lot of it out there — and it’s not going away.”
People who are at high risk for severe illness, such as those with autoimmune conditions, diabetes or older adults, should check with their doctor now about how to access anti-viral treatments should they become infected, he added.
Oregon is receiving about 1,200 courses of the medication Paxlovid per week, and clinical studies show the medication is 89% effective in preventing hospitalization from COVID-19, if started shortly after symptoms appear, he said.
Oregon Health Authority news release:
OHA monthly media availability provides update on COVID-19
Today kicked off the first Oregon Health Authority (OHA) monthly media availability providing updates on COVID-19 in Oregon.
Tom Jeanne, M.D., M.P.H., deputy state health officer and deputy state epidemiologist, OHA Public Health Division, and Paul Cieslak, M.D., medical director for communicable diseases and immunizations, answered reporters’ questions and gave an update on the state’s ongoing management of COVID-19.
OHA releases biweekly COVID-19 reports
The COVID-19 Biweekly Data Report, released today, shows an increase in cases and deaths and a slight decrease in disease-related hospitalizations over the previous biweekly period.
OHA reported 5,980 new cases of COVID-19 during the weeks of April 4 to April 17, a 76% increase over the previous biweekly total.
There were 202 COVID-19-related hospitalizations during the biweekly period, a drop from the 245 reported over the previous two weeks.
There were 241 COVID-19-related deaths, up slightly from the 239 reported during the prior two weeks.
There were 145,100 tests administered during the weeks of April 3 to April 16, with a test positivity rate of 3.6%.
Today’s COVID-19 Biweekly Outbreak Report shows 31 total active outbreaks in care facilities, senior living communities and congregate living settings with three or more confirmed COVID-19 cases or one or more COVID-19-related deaths.
Note: this marks the first time both reports are being published on a biweekly basis, consistent with the new reporting schedule shared last month.
COVID-19 Case and Vaccination Stories dashboard update
Oregon’s COVID-19 Case and Vaccination Stories dashboard has been updated with new data and information that covers the Omicron surge of the COVID-19 pandemic. A county filter has also been added to the following visualizations: vaccination rate and case rate over time, vaccination rate and hospitalization rate over time, vaccination rate and death rate over time, vaccination rate and number of hospitalizations over time, and vaccination rate and number of deaths over time.
The COVID-19 Case and Vaccination Stories dashboard reviews the past case surges and events of the pandemic to analyze and provide insights for the future. The updated dashboard compares the surges of fall 2020, spring 2021, summer 2021 (Delta) and winter 2021-2022 (Omicron) by looking at the peaks of case rates, hospitalization rates and death rates.
The visualizations also examine the effects of increasing vaccination rates on decreasing case, hospitalization and death rates by comparing between people under 65 years of age and those 65 years and older. The comparison illustrates the effects of the vaccine being available to older adults earlier than it was for most younger people—leading to higher vaccination rates among older residents.
Throughout the pandemic, higher vaccination rates have been associated with lower case rates, as seen in the comparison of case rates across surges between people 65 years of age and older (90% vaccinated) and people under 65 years of age (71% vaccinated).
The Omicron surge during winter 2021 also demonstrated the importance of boosters. Compared with the Delta variant, fewer people who were infected with Omicron experienced severe disease. However, because Omicron spread to more people in Oregon in a shorter amount of time when boosters were not yet widely available, there was another surge of hospitalizations that strained the Oregon health care system.
Vaccines remain the most effective tool in slowing the spread of COVID-19. For more information on where to get a vaccine or your booster dose in Oregon, click here.