PORTLAND, Oregon — Across Oregon, doctors are sounding the alarm as COVID-19 case numbers spike, but there is no statewide action to counter it.
“The case increase is staggering,” said Dr. Cynthia Maree with St. Charles hospital in Bend.
“The rate that we’re seeing increases in our area, in Oregon and the United States, is higher than we’ve seen any other time during this pandemic,” Dr. Maree said.
At the beginning of July, St. Charles hospital had a handful of COVID cases. By early August, there were roughly 20.
In Medford, Asante Health, which has three hospitals in southern Oregon, there were eight COVID patients in early July. By early August, the number grew to 60.
“Unfortunately I think our community is undervaccinated as far as the percentage. And we're really stressing how important it is to get vaccinated to stay out of the hospital,” said Asante Health spokesperson Lauren Van Sickle.
Eastern Oregon's Umatilla County has hundreds of COVID cases, and most people there are not vaccinated, said county health officer Dr. Jon Hitzman.
“We’re seeing 30, 40 and 50-year-olds who are actually healthy, getting very, very sick. And some of them are dying. These are unvaccinated people,” Dr. Hitzman said.
In Portland, Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU) had 21 COVID-19 patients as of Aug. 4. Fifteen of them were in the intensive care unit.
“We’re definitely seeing a rise in our hospitalized patients with this delta variant,” said Dr. Renee Edwards, chief medical officer at OHSU. “Particularly in our ICUs, quite frankly. We’re not seeing the same increase in general hospitalizations, but the significant number of patients that are being admitted to our ICUs is very evident.”
Despite the rising numbers, Gov. Kate Brown and the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) have not taken statewide action for the general public to slow the spread of the virus.
In late July, OHA recommended that everyone in Oregon where a mask indoors, vaccinated or not, but no mandates have been imposed. Then on Wednesday, Brown announced that health care workers will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly COVID testing starting Sept. 30.
But the reaction is much different compared to mid-November 2020 — before a vaccine was available. When cases climbed above 1,100 per day and hospitalizations totaled more than 350, the governor ordered a two-week shutdown in several counties.
“The cycle of this virus is such that we are seeing case rates topping 1,000 per day now, and that means our hospitals are headed for some very dark days ahead,” Brown said in a November press conference.
With so many still unvaccinated in Oregon, there may be more dark days ahead.
In the past week, there have been multiple daily case counts above 1,000. On Tuesday, the state reported 1,575 new cases and a total of 379 COVID patients in the hospital.
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