Oregon hospitals are near breaking point during COVID surge

Health officials say hospitals in Oregon are close to their COVID-19 breaking point as the state is expected to hit a peak in hospitalizations in the coming weeks.

Fueled by the highly contagious omicron variant, hospitalizations could soon surpass the pandemic peak, officials said Friday. As of Thursday, there were 1,130 coronavirus-related hospitalizations. The record is 1,178 since September 1.

“(The pandemic) is not behind us yet,” said public health officer and epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger.

As of Thursday, only 59 adult intensive care unit beds were available and 94% of non-ICU beds were occupied.

“Our hospitals are struggling to maintain the delicate balance between providing care for people with the virus and those who need medical care,” Sidelinger said.

Additionally, earlier this week, health officials reported that Oregon had passed 6,000 coronavirus-related deaths.

“What makes these losses more painful is that almost all of our most recent deaths could have been prevented by COVID-19 vaccines, which remain the best protection against serious illness and death,” Sidelinger said.

Nearly 75% of Oregon adults are fully immunized, however, less than half have received their booster.

A report released Wednesday by the Oregon Health Authority shows that more than 70% of COVID-19 cases last week were in unvaccinated people. Breakthrough cases – fully vaccinated people who test positive for the coronavirus – accounted for around 29% of cases last week.

Since the start of the pandemic, at least 104,088 breakthrough cases have been identified in Oregon, about 17% of the total number of cases reported in the state throughout the pandemic. About 2.9% of the state’s breakthrough cases have been hospitalized and less than 1% have died. The median age of those deaths is 81, officials said.

But officials say there is good news – cases are leveling off.

“We may be seeing a light – a slight slowing in omicron’s momentum,” Sidelinger said. “Due to recent modeling, daily statewide cases appear to have reached pandemic heights, offering a glimpse of hope, in an otherwise bleak pandemic landscape.”

Last week, 47,361 new cases of COVID-19 were reported, a decrease of 9.5% from the previous week.

Although cases are declining, Sidelinger said it will take several more weeks for hospitalizations to peak and then come down to a level that no longer overwhelms hospitals.

Health officials continue to urge people to get their shots and booster shots, wear masks in public and limit large indoor gatherings.


Cline is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues.

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