SALEM, Ore. — Oregon had a record 281 new confirmed coronavirus cases Wednesday, but officials predict that the increase may become much steeper during the next month - potentially reaching 900 new cases per day.
The state has had five straight weeks of case growth, reaching nearly 9,000 total confirmed cases.
“Our latest projections showed that we are on track to hit a worst case scenario model that we had just two weeks ago,” Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the state’s epidemiologist, said at a news conference.
“We all have to remember that the numbers, I speak about, are people. They are our fellow Oregonians,” Sidelinger said. “These are people who are sick, and tragically some of whom have died. These are people with families. These people are our neighbors.”
Based on projections, Sidelinger said if Oregon continues on the path it is on, coronavirus hospitalizations would increase from eight people per day to 27.
The coronavirus death toll in Oregon has risen to 208 people and 118 people are currently hospitalized.
“Our healthcare system is becoming increasingly burdened,” Sidelinger said.
As of Wednesday, Sidelinger said, hospitals have adequate intensive care beds and ventilators to handle the number of cases the state has — according to the state's website, there are 784 ventilators available.
Sidelinger said that COVID-19 is circulating more widely in the community, and rising fastest in rural counties — specifically in Central and Eastern Oregon.
The Oregon Health Authority has also noticed a substantial increase in cases for all age groups younger than 50.
The Oregon Health Authority reported this week the state's first known outbreak at a child care center in Lake Oswego. Officials said 28 cases, which include children, staff and family members, have been connected to an outbreak at Lake Grove KinderCare.
Sidelinger described the increasing trends as “ominous.”
People throughout Oregon are now required to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces to slow the spread of coronavirus.
“Modeling from the Oregon Health Authority shows that if we don’t take further action to reduce the spread of the disease, our hospitals could be overwhelmed by new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations within weeks,” Gov. Kate Brown said.
Oregon is just one of more than 20 states that have implemented face covering requirements.
"Wearing a face covering is a simple, common sense way to protect yourself and others. What an easy way to save a life," Brown said.
For weeks the governor and health officials have urged residents to wear a mask, wash their hands and practice physical distancing. During the press conference they stressed that if people do not follow those guidelines, the spread of the disease could become much worse and “overwhelming.”
“The choices each of us makes will decide whether we reduce the spread of this virus and find a way to keep businesses open -- or whether we let down our defenses and allow the virus to take hold,” Brown said.
In addition, on Tuesday Brown extended the COVID-19 state of emergency for 60 days.
Despite a surge in cases, Oregon continues to have one of the lowest infection rates in the country.
“At the end of the day, the number of cases we see will be a reflection of our collective efforts as Oregonians,” Brown said. “And my sincere hope is that these steps can prevent shutting down businesses again.”
The coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough for most people. But for some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
Straight Talk: Where Oregon stands in the coronavirus pandemic