Monday, September 20, 2021
Sept. 20, 2021

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COVID-19 surge straining Eastern Oregon hospitals

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PENDLETON, Ore. (AP) — More than half the patients hospitalized as of Tuesday at CHI St. Anthony Hospital in Pendleton, Oregon, have tested positive for COVID-19, officials said.

The hospitalizations come as Umatilla County reports about 8% of the state’s total cases over the past two weeks despite accounting for just 2% of its population, the East Oregonian reported. The county’s case rate during that time period was more than seven times higher than Oregon’s highly-populated Multnomah and Washington counties.

Umatilla County has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Oregon, with fewer than 40% of residents fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Oregon Health Authority reported this week that hospitalizations statewide spiked to the highest totals since April with 259, up 52 since Monday. As of Tuesday afternoon, the Oregon Health Authority webpage monitoring hospital bed capacity showed that of the three hospital regions east of the Cascades, there were only eight intensive care unit beds available out of 81.

In Pendleton, CHI St. Anthony Hospital has reported a “significant uptick” in positive COVID-19 cases in the past week, nearing peak numbers seen last winter, spokeswoman Emily Smith said in an email.

Local hospitals at times refer critically ill patients to other facilities for a higher level of care. But regional hospitals have been unable to accept transfers because they are full with patients, Smith said.

For one patient in need of a transfer, health care workers contacted 15 hospitals before finding one with an available bed, Smith said.

On Monday, the hospital emergency department’s physician director reported a threefold increase in patients testing positive in the department in the previous five days, Smith said. On Friday and Saturday, approximately 40% of patients who came to the hospital with COVID-19 symptoms tested positive. None had been vaccinated against COVID-19, Smith said.

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