Health

Oregon reports another record of daily COVID cases

By SARA CLINE (Associated Press/Report for America)
PORTLAND, Ore. Jan. 7, 2022 12:26 a.m.

For the fourth consecutive day Oregon has shattered previous high marks of daily COVID-19 cases, with health officials reporting 7,615 new cases on Thursday.

Prior to the first confirmed omicron variant cases being reported in Oregon in mid-December, the state's record of single day cases had been 3,207 in August. Since then the high mark has more than doubled.

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Health officials in some of Oregon’s largest counties — including Multnomah, where Portland is located — warned Thursday the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations will likely continue to rise during the next several weeks.

“I suspect all of us are going to feel the squeeze of omicron spreading quickly through our communities and people calling out sick," said Dr. Jennifer Vines, Multnomah County’s health officer. "It’s going to disrupt hospitals, childcare, businesses and public services, as people stay home when they’re sick.”

Over the past week, Oregon has averaged 4,001 cases a day, a 162% increase since just last Thursday. Infections, fueled by the highly contagious but less virulent omicron variant, have spread exponentially since Christmas. However, Oregon continues to report some of the lowest case rates nationally during the new surge.

On Thursday, nearly one-fourth of the state's reported COVID-19 tests were positive for the virus.

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Hospitals for the first time also reported the biggest single-day uptick in weeks, with 588 people in care who tested positive, a 12% spike since Wednesday.

There currently are only 42 available adult intensive care unit beds and 95% of the state’s staffed adult non-ICU beds are full.

“Unfortunately, after several weeks of hospitals slowly going down after the delta surge we’re just starting to see or hear about an uptick in hospitalizations,” Vines said. “It is cause for concern, given that our hospitals and health systems are already under intense strain.”

In Multnomah County, Vines said EMS calls are up 40% over a usual average volume and at least one large Portland area emergency department — which was not identified by name — was “physically out of space” yesterday afternoon.

“Most of us I think are going to encounter omicron and most of us will have mild or no symptoms,” Vines said. “Some of us, relatively few of us, may get severe disease from Omicron. And the way the virus spreads — so quickly — means that it can very easily find the people who are going to be most at risk for severe disease.”

Unlike past waves, the growth rate of cases has far outpaced COVID hospitalizations. However, local scientists estimate that roughly 1,650 coronavirus patients will be hospitalized statewide on the predicted peak in late January, which would surpass the delta surge.

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Cline is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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