PORTLAND, Oregon — The nation reached a dark milestone this week with half a million deaths connected to COVID-19. But there is some light looking forward. Hospitalizations in Oregon are way down. Providence Portland has no COVID-19 patients in its critical care unit for the first time in a year.
Over the past year, Oregon hospital beds and COVID-19 critical care units filled with hundreds of sick people every week. More Oregonians were hospitalized in late November/early December than at any other point in the pandemic. Just three months later, Oregon Health Authority (OHA) data shows a steep drop in hospitalizations. As of Monday, there are 167 COVID positive patients in Oregon hospitals, include 47 in intensive care units and 21 on ventilators.
Elissa Reinhart cares for the sickest COVID-19 patients as a nurse in Providence Portland's critical care unit. She coordinates the most aggressive coronavirus treatment, ECMO, for the worst cases.
"Everybody in our unit is very tired. It's been a long year," Reinhart said. "It's been exhausting. You see really sick patients and really hurting, scared family members. And you get very tired trying to emotionally support people through something that is so unknown when you don't have a lot of good answers."
Providence Portland Medical Center currently has zero COVID-19 patients in its critical care unit, and only two are admitted in the hospital.
"I'd been off for a couple days and came back in; our COVID unit was empty and I was floored and thrilled I can't believe it," Reinhart said. "It's the first time since all of this started that we haven't had any patients in there. It was a relief to think there could be an end in sight."
KGW checked in with other metro area hospitals. Twelve people with COVID-19 are at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, with four in critical care. OHSU has three people with COVID-19 in ICU beds. Adventist Health Portland has four patients, while Hillsboro Medical Center doesn't have any patients in its critical care units. Sixteen COVID-19 patients total are admitted in the OHSU Health system, locally.
Twenty patients with COVID-19 are hospitalized at Salem Health, with six in the ICU. One person is hospitalized in the ICU at Kaiser Westside Medical Center, and between Kaiser's two local hospitals there are currently a total of 13 COVID-19 patients.
"It's a light at the end of the tunnel that maybe it wont be like this every day forever," Reinhart said.
While the number of severely sick Oregonians drops, those on the front lines said this ray of light doesn't mean it's time to drop our guards.
"Keep it up because it is paying off," Reinhart said. "Don't give up at the end. We're almost there."