The omicron variant of the coronavirus was first detected in Oregon on Dec. 13 with three cases. In the nearly six weeks since, omicron has taken hold of Oregon. It’s caused a record surge of cases and attempts to find tests. It’s forced schools to make hard choices so students can learn safely. And hospitals are squeezed.
Here are the top headlines and latest updates on the ongoing spread of the coronavirus in Oregon.
Oregon Health Authority reports more than 10,000 new cases
On Thursday, the Oregon Health Authority reported eight more COVID-19 related deaths, raising the state’s death toll to 5,916, and 10,034 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 statewide, bringing the state total to 559,960 since the pandemic began.
According to the OHA, Oregon’s positivity rate is rising. During the week of Jan. 9 through Jan. 15, Oregon received results for 320,710 COVID-19 tests, which was a 24% increase over the previous week and a new weekly high. The percentage of positive tests for that week rose to 22%, up 1% from the prior week.
The OHA is scheduled to hold a press conference at 11 a.m. Friday with state epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger.
Oregon’s hospitals are close to running out of beds
Oregon is facing a backlog of patients waiting to move into the state’s understaffed long-term care facilities.
As of Thursday, 582 people who were occupying hospital beds were ready to be discharged, but they can’t find a bed somewhere else.
“They may need a nursing home, a rehab bed, behavioral health support, or they may not even have a home to go to,” said Becky Hultberg, President of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems.
That’s roughly 10 percent of all adult hospital beds statewide being occupied by people ready for discharge. For comparison, about 20 percent of the state’s beds are currently occupied by patients with COVID-19.
Debate over Oregon’s indoor mask mandate
The Oregon Health Authority heard a steady stream of opposition Thursday to its plan to extend the state’s indoor mask mandate indefinitely. Speaker after speaker objected to the state’s current mask requirements, arguing many other states have ended such rules and Oregon should follow suit.
Oregon’s temporary indoor mask rule is set to expire next month. But health officials concerned about rapidly rising COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations have proposed extending the mask requirement through a permanent rule. Health officials have said they will rescind that when it’s no longer needed.
This is a developing story. Watch for updates.