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OHSU data scientist predicts Oregon hospitals will be full with COVID patients until mid November

Experts say when the test positivity rate is between 5-8%, they expect hospital population to drop. In some Central Oregon counties, the rate is between 18-26%.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The newest COVID-19 modeling shows Oregon hospitals may be full with COVID-19 patients for another six weeks. 

Peter Graven, a data scientist at Oregon Health and Sciences University, has published his latest modeling that shows the trend of the virus in the state. 

“I think by the end of October, middle of November, we should be out of crisis and into more manageable levels of hospitalizations," Graven said. "But unfortunately, until that time we still have a lot of people that are in the hospital for COVID."

He estimates about 26% of Oregonians, which is equivalent to more than a million people, are not vaccinated and have also have not yet been infected by the COVID virus. Graven said those are the people the virus will try to reach. His modeling shows once someone is infected, they pass the virus on to another six or seven others on average.

“Eventually, it will run its course and either you'll be infected or you'll be vaccinated,” he said.

The surge in cases has eased in some areas but not Central Oregon.

In late August, St. Charles hospital in Bend had more than 60 COVID patients.
On Sept. 13, the number had risen to about 100 per day, according to Dr. Doug Merrill, the Chief Medical Officer for the St. Charles healthcare system.

RELATED: Frustration and anger inside an Oregon hospital overwhelmed with COVID patients

“We're pretty full in the ICU," he said Monday. "I think we have one bed available right now."

The hospital system has increased the number of beds by about 20% by using post-operative areas and in some cases putting two sick COVID patients in the same ICU room.

Dr. Merrill said it would be impossible to keep up if not for the help of 30 members of the Oregon National Guard, 114 travelling nurses and other medical professionals provided by the state, as well as another 100 traveling medical professionals that St. Charles hired through other firms.

Weeks ago, as they saw the beginning of the COVID surge, hospital leaders thought St. Charles would hit its peak around Sept. 17. They no longer believe that.

“There's an excellent correlation between the rate of positive testing in the community and then two weeks later what things look like in the hospital," Dr. Merrill said. "If we see the positive testing drop into the 5%-8% range, then we anticipate that we're going start to see a drop in the hospital population."

The most recent numbers available for the week ending Sept. 12 are not encouraging. Here's what the test positivity rate looked like in the three counties surrounding Bend, according to the Oregon Health Authority:

  • Deschutes County: 18.8% positivity rate
  • Jefferson County: 21.2% positivity rate 
  • Crook County: 28.6% test positivity rate

For comparison, Multnomah County, with the highest population in the state and one of the highest vaccination rates, had a test positivity rate during that of 7.4% during that same time period.

Have a question or comment for reporter Pat Dooris? Send him a note at pdooris@kgw.com

RELATED: What happens when students and staff are exposed to COVID-19 in Oregon?

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