PORTLAND, Ore. — Health officials in Oregon are seeing a drop in new daily COVID-19 cases for the third straight week as hospitalizations also decline. However, they warn Oregonians need to continue to follow safety protocols like wearing masks in public spaces to keep the trend going.
Gov. Kate Brown held a news conference on Tuesday with officials from the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and the Oregon Department of Education (ODE).
Dr. Tom Jeanne, Oregon's deputy state epidemiologist, pointed to the latest data from the OHA. He said as of Sept. 28, the seven-day average of daily cases was 1,646. That's compared to the same average of 2,200 on Sept. 1. Over the same time period, the number of positive COVID-19 tests dropped to 8.9% from 12%.
"Thank you Oregonians once again for unselfishly stepping up to turn back the rising tide of infection," said Jeanne. "Your collective effort has eased stress on hospitals across the state.
Despite the hopeful news, Jeanne said there are still far too many people with coronavirus in hospitals across the state. He said statewide there are currently 823 people in the hospital with COVID-19, which is hundreds more compared to Oregon's COVID-19 peak last November. Jeanne added that the OHA is reporting over 800 hospitalizations every day and admissions into intensive care units account for nearly 25% of that total.
"Neither trend is sustainable and we must all continue to do our part to ensure that there are enough available beds for everyone who experiences a medical emergency or needs hospital care," Jeanne said.
He also said the recent reopening of Oregon universities and other students returning to school in person, along with large events like the Pendleton Round-Up could have an impact on COVID-19 cases.
Health officials in Umatilla County in Eastern Oregon are seeing COVID-19 cases linked to the Pendleton Round-Up. So far, there are 44 cases of illnesses tied to the event. Joseph Fiumara, the county's public health director, told county commissioners on Monday that the current number of cases includes those who got COVID-19 at the event and those who attended while already sick.
Gov. Brown said she is "gravely concerned."
"We know that our rural communities more generally are more medically vulnerable [and] do not have the extensive health care capacity that we have in metro Oregon," said Gov. Brown.
She is also concerned about the strain COVID-19 related hospitalizations is putting on health care staff. Gov. Brown said she will continue to support hospital and health care systems around the state, but did not provide specific details.
COVID-19 booster shots
Gov. Brown said there is plenty supply of the Pfizer vaccine in Oregon for people eligible for booster shots. The state is following guidelines from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). People are eligible to receive booster shots six months after they received the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine and if they meet one of the following requirements:
- Over 65 years old
- Lives in a long-term care setting
- Has an underlying medical condition that puts them at higher risk of COVID-19 and are between 18-64 years old
- Works in a job that puts them at high risk of COVID-19 exposure. The list includes health care workers, grocery store workers, firefighters and police among others)
About 300,000 Oregonians are currently eligible for the Pfizer booster and there are 400,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine available, according to Rachel Banks, the director of the OHA's public health division.
Banks said the state is also planning for large-scale vaccine clinics for booster shots and is looking for "child-friendly" sites, with the anticipation that there may be authorization for kids ages 5-11 later this fall.
Oregon Health Authority reported 1,658 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 in its daily update on Tuesday. It also reported 41 deaths. Tuesday’s numbers bring the state’s total number of reported infections since the beginning of the pandemic to 326,191 and the state’s death toll to 3,750.
Oregon has now administered 2,967,292 doses of Pfizer Comirnaty, 1,901,384 doses of Moderna and 214,028 doses of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines.
As of Tuesday, 2,731,271 people have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 2,501,554 people have completed a COVID-19 vaccine series.