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Peak yet to come, as Oregon sets daily COVID case record

State Epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger updates the COVID-19 situation in Oregon
Oregon Health Authority
State Epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger updates the COVID-19 situation in Oregon

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon health officials predicted Friday the number of COVID-19 cases will reach its peak within the next week, amid a boom caused by the omicron surge.

And authorities believe in early February, coronavirus-related hospitalizations will likely surpass previous surges’ numbers.

Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the state epidemiologist, said the omicron variant is fueling “steadily rising hospitalizations, record shattering daily cases and staggering test positivity rates. This is distressing for all of us.”

The Oregon Health Authority reported 10,947 new coronavirus cases on Friday - a new record. Prior to omicron, the highest single-day case tally in Oregon was 3,207 new cases last August.

Although Friday’s case count is a record for the state, it is likely that the number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 is much higher, officials say.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a discrepancy between the number of cases reported to public health and the true number of COVID-19 cases,” Tim Heider, a spokesperson for the Oregon Health Authority, told The Associated Press. “Initially, this was true because of the proportion of COVID-19 cases that cause mild or no symptoms. Over time, testing acceptance has also driven this discrepancy. The use of at-home self-test kits has furthered this discrepancy.”

As more and more people use at-home self-test kits — giving them an instant, at times inaccurate, answer whether or not they are infected with COVID-19 — they are not required to report their results to the state, likely resulting in a significant undercount of cases.

Although the undercount impacts health officials ability to understand the “true burden” on disease in real time, Heider said it does not impact “our ability to respond to surges appropriately” nor does it effect the state’s federal resource allocations.

Earlier in pandemic, daily case counts played a pivotal role in shaping the policy responses to the pandemic. In the first half of 2021, capacity restrictions in Oregon’s counties were partially determined by number of cases per capita.

However as case counts have become less accurate — due to accessibility challenges, asymptomatic cases that do not get tested and unreported at-home test kit results — some health officials no longer view the case count as of high importance.

Peter Graven, a data scientist at Oregon Health and Science University and author of the influential COVID-19 statewide forecast used by the health authority, said the accuracy of the case count has little effect on his forecast.

“For my own model, I actually don’t look at cases at all,” Graven said.

Instead, he said one point of data to pay close attention to is hospitalizations.

Health officials reported on Friday that more than 1,000 individuals in the hospital with COVID-19. Hospitalizations are projected to peak around Feb. 1, with 1,550 patients.

“We’re well on the way to eclipsing last fall’s highs,” Sidelinger said, referring to the delta surge’s peak of nearly 1,200 hospitalizations.

State data currently shows about 94% of adult in-patient beds in hospitals are occupied.

On Thursday, the Oregon Association of Hospitals & Health Systems described the strain on hospital staff and raised concerns about increasing cases in the coming weeks.

Several staffing agencies are contracted to help provide staffing to hospitals to increase capacity or fill in when employees are out sick. In addition, elective surgeries in many hospitals are being cancelled to open up more beds.

Although hospitalizations are nearing record numbers in Oregon, health officials say the good news is that patients with COVID-19 are generally not as sick as the people battling the illness during the last wave.

In addition, Sidelinger said many Oregonians are taking steps to mitigate the spread of the virus, including get vaccinated and boosted, limiting large gatherings and wearing a mask.

“I want to thank the vast majority of Oregonians who continue to take these steps to protect themselves, their loved ones in our communities,” Sidelinger said. “Your actions have helped keep the death rate from COVID among the lowest, when we compare ourselves to other states.”

The Associated Press

Comments

12 Comments

    1. There have been some limited stories like that, KGW had one with exclusive access here several months ago, but they talked to staff – they did not talk to patients, for obvious reasons (including patient privacy/confidentiality policies/laws). A few have spoken afterward of their experiences to local media over the two years, but that’s been several/many months. They don’t, in other words, “have to,” and considering the caustic attacks of the anonymous (and non-anonymous Facebook) comment crowd/judgmental people, I sure can understand why they wouldn’t want to. Probably would bring far more criticism than support and not enlighten/change any minds/views in this intensely sharp, often bitter and nasty debate (just watch the thread on FB on any COVID-related posting to our page).

        1. I can’t think of a media outlet, here or anywhere, who “shuns” it despite the headaches and misgivings. Can’t afford to – millions get their news that way and expect us and … every govt. entity, business, etc. to be there. Yes there are toxic mobs, but personally it keeps me in touch with family and friends. Everything has tradeoffs.

      1. They must also be fed up with all the minorities who don’t trust the government and refuse to be vaccinated. I didn’t realize they had such racist views in healthcare…

      2. it’s funny the “left” thinks it is only rabid right wingers who don’t trust big pharma and big government. What does that say about you? Obey without question massive corporations? Obey what any government official tells you? And all the “left” people who don’t want this jab? Are they all rabid right wingers? Submit your way to freedom. There’s a pony in their somewhere.

      3. You don’t know nurses. About half of my friends and family circle is employed in healthcare. Doctors, nurses, techs, fire/rescue. I hear what they say in and out of official capacity. The nurses at St Charles are burnt out and fed up with St Charles, not patients. Nurses don’t care about covid. To them it’s just another respiratory virus in a sea of respiratory viruses. Do you have any idea how many different respiratory viruses put people in the hospital on a regular basis? You guys make it sound like before covid, hospitals were just sitting around waiting for a car wreck. Covid made things busy but it’s not new. Nurses are frustrated with management and policy, not patients. Because I’ll let you in on a little secret. About half of inpatients put themselves there through bad decisions and poor lifestyle. Nobody who gets “fed up” with poor decisions is a nurse. A nurses job IS poor decisions. It’s what they do. Show some respect.

  1. Told Ya- The Hoax continues to unravel with this shocking confession… “there has been a discrepancy between the number of cases reported to public health and the true number of COVID-19 cases,” Tim Heider, a spokesperson for the Oregon Health Authority, told The Associated Press. “Initially, this was true” !!! Whazzat ??? “a Discrepancy” ??? Our media and politicians relied on discrepancies to push their Coup ? No worries kiddies- cause Kalamity Kate Lyin Joe and Hunter Ho are all doing such a great job… it’s only just “another record number of cases- hospitalizations and who knows what else is to come once the suspect vaccines start showing long term effects”. Go Joe Go- we demand 7 Mo !

  2. Outrageous !… “Sidelinger said many Oregonians are taking steps to mitigate the spread of the virus”… If this were true- then why is the state suffering through record levels of new cases- hospitalizations and deaths… all after a spring and summer blitz of record setting Jabs ???

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