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Oregon's COVID numbers show difference between omicron, delta surges

Although omicron cases are outpacing the summer's delta variant peak by the thousands, deaths are relatively low. Hospitals, however, are feeling the strain.

OREGON, USA — Oregon's latest coronavirus case numbers show a significant surge, attributed to the fast-spreading omicron variant. However, deaths are relatively low when compared to the previous delta variant surge.

Oregon Health Authority released data showing there was an average of 7,892 new COVID cases in the state over the last week. Charts compiled by KGW show that number from January 2022 compares to about 3,000 cases per day at the delta peak in August and September of 2021.

Hospitalizations, however are nearing the delta peak, overwhelming an already strained medical system.

INTERACTIVE GRAPHS: New daily cases in Oregon. Mouse over or tap each data point for more details

KEZI-TV interviewed ICU nurse Candace Maccarone at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Corvallis, who said many of her coworkers have moved on to less stressful positions.

"We definitely have had more death in our ICU in the last two years than we have in my career," Maccarone said.

She knows with the sheer numbers of the omicron surge, the work is far from done.

"Our intensive care unit is, if not full, nearly full most days and nights," said Dr. Brian Delmonaco at Good Samaritan.

The challenge goes beyond COVID patients. Many people have waited to go to the hospital for other medical needs.

"People held off getting checked out for their heart and then they had a heart attack," Maccarone described. "Or they've been having headaches and they come in and they've had a brain bleed"

The situation is similar at St. Charles Medical Center in Bend.

"Very anxious about what's ahead of us over the next month," said Dr. Doug Merrill, chief medical officer at St. Charles. "Our ERs are already overrun, headed for basically triple their normal volume."

RELATED: Non-COVID patients face more delays for surgeries, treatments in Oregon

Dr. Ralph Yates, chief medical officer at Salem Health told KGW last week his hospital was at 112% capacity.

"Those are real numbers, and that's a real problem," he said.

Salem Health has had to shift some patient checkups to a gymnasium to handle the excess volume.

"We'll be doing more of that as we need to," Yates said.

Even if a hospital has room, Good Samaritan's CEO Laura Hennum told KEZI, many face the same challenge.

"We don't have enough people to provide the care," Hennum said.

"Even though there's an empty bed, doesn't mean there's somebody to take care of that patient," Maccarone added.

The more encouraging news, however, is that the omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to appear less deadly.

OHA reported 33 COVID-related deaths over the week of Jan. 9, 2022, compared to 245 deaths at the delta peak in summer 2021.

INTERACTIVE GRAPHS: Weekly deaths in Oregon. Mouse over or tap each data point for more details

KGW asked OHA on Wednesday if data were available to connect deaths to specific COVID variants. OHA responded saying its data dashboards do not include the number of deaths by variant responsible.

The ten most recent deaths reported this week were all people ages 60-90. At least half had underlying health conditions.

Hospitals continue to report that people who are vaccinated are not ending up in the ICU. Health experts are repeating the call for people to get vaccinated and boosted, to wear masks and to distance for people at higher risk.

For health care workers like Candace Maccarone in Corvallis, those community efforts go a long way.

"Need a refresher. I think we all do," she said.

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