PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon still hasn't hit the projected peak hospitalization rate of the omicron wave of the coronavirus, but the gap has shrunk dramatically in the past week, partly due to rising hospitalizations but also thanks to a lower peak forecast.
The latest forecast from Oregon Health and Science University, released on Friday, projects a peak of 1,220 statewide hospitalizations on Feb. 6. That's several days later and substantially lower than the previous estimate, which predicted the state would hit a peak of 1,550 cases today.
“We have flattened the curve a lot,” Dr. Peter Graven, Ph.D., director of the OHSU Office of Advanced Analytics, said in a statement on Friday. “It’s really important for people to stick with it for another week.”
The Oregon Health Authority reported 1,099 confirmed COVID hospitalizations as of Monday. The latest count from Apprise, the data arm of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, showed 1,164 COVID hospitalizations as of Tuesday, including suspected cases.
“The current number of hospitalized patients in Oregon is at near-record levels,” Graven said. “Hospitals have very little space right now to handle new cases of COVID-19 on top of what they’re already dealing with. Our hospitals and health care workers remain under severe strain.”
The Apprise count is just shy of Oregon's current record for simultaneous COVID hospitalizations. The state reported 1,178 hospitalizations on Sept. 1 at the peak of the delta variant wave, pushing hospitals close to the breaking point.
The hospitalization rate should start to descend after Oregon passes the peak in another week, Graven said, because at that point the virus will begin finding fewer and fewer Oregonians who are susceptible to severe infection.
Statewide daily case rates appear to have peaked on Jan. 20 and are now declining, although they remain far higher than at any point in the pandemic before omicron.
The OHA logged 10,940 cases on Jan. 20, and the 7-day daily case average reached an all-time high of 8,215 on the same day. Weekday case numbers have steadily decreased since then, and the 7-day average has trended downward every day except for Jan. 28.
The most recent OHA report logged 13,443 cases over the three-day period from Friday to Sunday, but that's substantially less than the 19,400 reported on the prior weekend and the 28,037 reported on the weekend before that.
Oregon State epidemiologist and health officer Dr. Dean Sidelinger acknowledged that statewide case numbers had plateaued and appeared to have started declining at a news conference on Friday.
However, he cautioned that the rest of the state tends to lag behind the Portland metro area in terms of both case and hospitalization trends, so some areas could still see rising cases even as Portland's begin to recede.