Saturday, September 18, 2021
Sept. 18, 2021

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COVID surge hits Oregon hospitals hard

Facilities are seeing highest virus-related patient counts of pandemic, state reports


PORTLAND — As COVID-19 cases continue to climb in Oregon, some counties — most where less than half of the area’s adult population is vaccinated — are experiencing their highest hospitalization numbers during the pandemic.

Statewide coronavirus-related hospitalizations increased to 379 people on Tuesday, 39 more than the previous day. Some hospital officials, including those at Oregon Health & Science University, said they are postponing some surgeries that are not urgent, KOIN-TV reported Monday.

In addition, Oregon health officials reported 1,575 newly confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, the most since early January.

“The vaccines that we currently have available to us in Oregon, and across the United States, are highly effective at preventing hospitalizations and death from COVID-19,” Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the state epidemiologist, said Friday. “But that depends on people being vaccinated.”

About 29 percent of adults in Oregon are unvaccinated and more than 102,000 vaccine doses have been thrown away due to non-use. The impacts of the virus on unvaccinated people are apparent when looking at high infection rates in counties with low vaccination rates.

In the southwest hospital region, which includes Jackson and Josephine counties, between 49 percent and 55 percent of adults have been vaccinated. This week the region’s COVID-19 hospitalizations have reached a high for the area with 83 people. The previous record of coronavirus-related hospitalizations in the region was 69 in January.

In the eastern hospital region, which includes Baker, Malheur, Morrow, Umatilla, Union and Wallowa counties, between 38 percent and 58 percent of the adult population has been vaccinated. Hospitalizations in the region have reached a record high of 18 people, which was also reported in November.

Health officials said they are working with hospitals to increase their capacity limits.

“We have been having conversations with our hospital partners and our regional coalition about ways they can increase the capacity in hospitals,” Sidelinger said. “Much of that is happening with some delays of nonemergency procedures so that they can free up space and staff to care for folks with COVID-19 and other acute illnesses that come in.”

Democratic Gov. Kate Brown announced last week that the state will require students and staff in K-12 schools to wear masks indoors this fall and that state employees, visitors or customers must wear masks in any indoor state agency regardless of their vaccination status.