Starting Sept. 14, the Oregon Health Authority will stop publishing a daily online update on statewide COVID-19 case numbers and deaths.
Instead, those numbers will be updated weekly, on Wednesdays.
OHA director Patrick Allen said there’s no longer the need for policymakers or the general public to have information to act on daily.
“We’re at a place where we are with other respiratory viruses where people need to know what’s going on generally,” he said.
Allen said the data reporting change is also due to the need to shift focus and to reassign OHA analysts to other priorities: tracking the monkeypox outbreak, preparing for a flu and RSV season that could be worse than usual, and focusing on ending racial inequalities in health.
The agency has set a goal to eliminate health inequities in Oregon by 2030.
The agency will continue to provide weekly updates on wastewater monitoring of COVID-19 and on hospital capacity, two indicators that public health officials think may be more a more useful metric than case counts, given how many people use home tests and don’t report the results.
Most of the other COVID-19 dashboards and reports, including cases by zip code and outbreak reports, will be updated monthly.
In other news, new bivalent booster shots that protect against the parent strain of COVID-19 and the currently circulating omicron variants are now available in Oregon. Initial shipments of about 70,000 doses have gone to commercial pharmacies, local public health departments and a handful of clinics that partner with OHA. With additional shipments on the way, the shots should also be available at more medical clinics and doctors offices starting next week.
Wastewater data and test positivity rates suggest there are still relatively high transmission levels of COVID-19 statewide, but the virus isn’t causing as many deaths and hospitalizations, due to the number of people with protection from vaccination or a prior bout with the virus.
The number of patients in the hospital testing positive for COVID-19 is currently about 20% of what it was during the delta and omicron peaks.
Hospitals are still reporting long emergency department wait times and are canceling elective procedures due to the pandemic gutting the health care workforce and leading to sicker patients overall.
Starting this week, OHA is publishing data on monkeypox cases by sexual orientation, gender identity, and transgender status. That data shows that in Oregon, like other states, most but not all cases have been in gay, bisexual, or queer men.
Nationally, there are signs the monkeypox outbreak may be slowing, but the data doesn’t yet show that in Oregon.