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The COVID-19 virus.

OPB

More than 1,000 patients are now hospitalized in Oregon with confirmed or suspected covid-19 infections.

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That puts hospitals on track to exceed their delta surge peak by this weekend or early next week. That’s according to the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems.

While the last surge was concentrated in Southern and Central Oregon, the current surge is affecting hospitals in every region of the state.

Fewer patients need ventilators than during the last surge. But other critical resources are in short supply. Those include blood and COVID treatments like the new Paxlovid pill.

Here are the top headlines and latest updates on the ongoing spread of the coronavirus in Oregon.

Oregon reports more than 8,500 COVID diagnoses Wednesday

The Oregon Health Authority reported 8,538 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, bringing the state to 549,942 diagnoses since the start of the pandemic.

There were 921 hospitalized patients with COVID-19 statewide, which is 10 more than Tuesday. Of those, 134 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds, down 18 from the day prior. Only 7% of adult ICU beds remain available and 6% of adult non-ICU beds remain available in the state.

The state also reported an additional 15 COVID-19-related deaths, raising the state’s death toll due to the coronavirus to 5,908.

Oregon’s mask mandate up for discussion

A hearing held by the OHA is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday about the state’s ongoing indoor mask mandate. The agency is hoping to make the mandate “permanent.” Despite how that may sound, this consideration does not mean masks will be required in Oregon’s indoor spaces forever.

The current mandate was put into place during the height of the delta variant surge last fall and is set to expire early next month. Now that cases have spiked again due to the omicron variant, officials want to extend the mask requirement beyond that expiration date. If the mandate is extended, it can still be ended at any time. Health officials say the extension is necessary in order to control the spread of COVID-19 and reduce hospitalizations and deaths in Oregon.

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Omicron surge stretching long-term care in Oregon

Omicron is stretching thin those already impacted by the pandemic, and long-term care facilities are no exception. Staffing shortages continue to affect the quality of care at nursing homes around Oregon.

And while vaccination rates among residents and staff have gone up at many long-term care facilities, some are still not reporting this data at all. We get an update on long-term care in Oregon from Fred Steele, the state’s long-term care ombudsman.

Listen to the interview from Think Out Loud.

Oregon’s largest school district responds to criticism from nurses

A day after school nurses in the Portland area sent a letter critical of COVID-19 efforts at the state’s largest district, Portland Public Schools responded by defending the steps it’s taking.

The nurses’ letter pressed the district to make improvements, writing, “Messaging that schools are safe — without taking the steps to make them safe — does not keep children safe.”

The letter listed a number of shortcomings inside school buildings, such as inadequate distancing among students, improper mask-wearing, lack of HEPA filters and insufficient nursing staff to properly track and respond to illness.

The district’s lengthy response, provided to OPB late Tuesday afternoon, lists efforts the district and staff are making to keep schools healthy, but it starts by acknowledging the significant difficulties schools face during a challenging phase of the pandemic.

Read the full story: Portland Public Schools responds to criticism from school nurses

Around the world: Study estimates how long a third shot protects

We’ve known for about a month now that a third shot of the vaccine is critical for protecting against infection with the omicron variant — and for keeping people out of the hospital.

Now researchers in the U.K. have the first estimates for how long a third shot of the Pfizer vaccine will last. And the findings are mixed.

Protection against infection is likely short-term, lasting less than six months, but protection against severe disease appears more robust, researchers with the U.K. Health Security Agency reported.

Read the full story - Booster longevity: Data reveals how long a third shot protects

This is a developing story. Watch for updates.

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