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1,500 Oregon National Guard members to help hospitals with COVID-19 surge

Right now, Oregon has the highest number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals than ever recorded throughout the pandemic.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Hundreds of Oregon National Guard members will deploy to hospitals across the state soon to help frontline workers deal with the rising number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and cases as the delta variant spreads.

Gov. Kate Brown announced Friday that 1,500 guard members are prepared to help more than 20 hospitals in Oregon with COVID-19 testing, running equipment as well as providing other logistical and necessary services to help hospital staff. 

The initial deployment will be on Aug. 20 with 500 guard members. The COVID-19 number in the week leading up to their deployment will determine where they will go, according to Major Stephen Bomar, director of public affairs for the Oregon Military Department. 

Right now, there are a record 733 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Oregon, including 185 patients in intensive care units (ICU), Gov. Brown said Friday. 

"When our hospitals are full with COVID-19 patients, there may not be room for someone needing care after a car crash, a heart attack, or other emergency situation,” Brown said in a video message. 

The pandemic hit its worst stage in Oregon with three consecutive days of record high COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. On Thursday, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) reported 2,387 presumptive and new COVID-19 cases, the highest one-day total since the beginning of the pandemic. Thursday's numbers from the OHA, updated daily, also reported 670 patients in the hospital with 177 of them in ICU beds.  

RELATED: Oregon surpasses COVID-19 records for case numbers, hospitalizations and ICU beds

Hospitals around the state, in both the Portland metro area and in rural counties, have stressed they are already at capacity. 

In Jackson and Josephine counties in Southern Oregon, the situation is particularly dire. On Thursday, officials from those counties held a press conference where Jackson County announced it had requested more hospital staff, ventilators and a field hospital. A field hospital is a temporary hospital or mobile medical unit that provides emergency care to patients before they are transferred to more permanent facilities. 

Around 95% of those hospitalized in the region are currently unvaccinated, the Jackson County Health Officer said. 

RELATED: Yes, at least 95% of people currently hospitalized for COVID-19 are unvaccinated

The governor's announcement regarding the Oregon National Guard is just one of the latest measures the state has taken this week to combat the surge of cases and hospitalizations. On Friday, a statewide indoor face mask mandate went into effect. All Oregonians age 5 and older are now required to wear masks in indoor public places, regardless of vaccination status. 

Gov. Brown also announced earlier this week all state employees must be vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 18.