The number of Oregonians known to be infected with COVID-19 climbed by 25% this past week even though the overall number of tests administered dropped 15%, reflecting the omicron variant’s tightening grip on the state.
While omicron has been surging nationwide in the past few weeks, Oregon clearly is now following suit, albeit at a slower pace. Across the U.S., new infections rose by 61% week to week, while testing declined by 24%.
In Oregon, new known infections grew from about 5,600 for the week ending Dec. 19 to nearly 7,000 cases for the week ending Sunday. The latest number almost certainly is an undercount because some counties didn’t report their case numbers from the long Christmas weekend. On top of that, the state can’t track the results of the increasing number of people who used store-bought home tests to self-check for the virus in advance of holiday travel and gatherings.
The percentage of Oregonians testing positive for COVID-19 – known as the positivity rate – rose to 9%, up from 5% a week ago.
With most omicron infections thought to be milder than those caused by delta and many occurring in fully vaccinated people, experts say what matters most are the numbers of people experiencing severe disease and the potential for death. On that front, the outlook worsened slightly, with the number of hospitalized patients rising 42 patients since Thursday to 381 patients on Monday.
The latest forecast from Oregon Health & Science University last week predicts omicron peaking in the state with more than 1,200 hospitalized patients by early February, slightly above the pandemic record set Sept. 1. But hospitalized patients might reach 1,700 if Oregonians don’t embrace COVID-19 safety precautions, according to the forecast.
The Oregon Health Authority’s deputy state epidemiologist, Tom Jeanne, said the latest numbers are a “stark reminder” that the fight against COVID-19 and its variants isn’t over, but that residents can make a difference by getting vaccinated and boosted, wearing masks and physically distancing.
“The COVID-19 data OHA is reporting today show us that what we’ve been warning Oregonians about the last several weeks is coming to pass: Omicron is poised to become the state’s dominant variant and will likely drive a new surge in cases, hospitalizations and, sadly, deaths,” Jeanne said, in a written statement.
The federal government believes omicron is already dominating. As of Dec. 18, the CDC estimated omicron was responsible for 93% of COVID-19 cases in the four-state region of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska. But Oregon officials have few hard numbers so far. As of Dec. 21, the Oregon Health Authority said it is aware of only 13 COVID-19 samples in the state that have been confirmed as omicron.
Latest case counts: The state on Monday reported 3,585 new known infections and 25 newly reported deaths for the four-day period Thursday through Sunday.
Where the new cases are by county: Baker (9), Benton (105), Clackamas (428), Clatsop (10), Columbia (30), Coos (26), Crook (6), Curry (1), Deschutes (324), Douglas (52), Grant (5), Harney (8), Hood River (13), Jackson (169), Jefferson (25), Josephine (104), Klamath (18), Lane (256), Lincoln (32), Linn (155), Malheur (9), Marion (97), Morrow (7), Multnomah (1,032), Polk (23), Tillamook (12), Umatilla (37), Union (20), Wasco (10), Washington (540) and Yamhill (22).
Deaths: Those who died ranged in age from 44 to 95:
A 91-year-old woman from Deschutes County died Aug. 18 at her home.
A 44-year-old woman from Clackamas County tested positive Nov. 20 and died Nov. 22 at Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center.
A 55-year-old man from Yamhill County tested positive Nov. 9 and died Nov. 27 at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center.
A 69-year-old man from Umatilla County tested positive Oct. 5 and died Nov. 1 at Providence Portland Medical Center.
A 90-year-old woman from Clackamas County tested positive Oct. 16 and died Nov. 11 at her home
An 80-year-old woman from Yamhill County tested positive Oct. 21 and died Nov. 7 at her home.
A 48-year-old man from Deschutes County tested positive Oct. 25 and died Nov. 4 at St. Charles Bend.
A 95-year-old man from Deschutes Count tested positive Oct. 25 and died Nov. 4 at his home.
A 78-year-old woman from Clackamas County tested positive Nov. 2 and died Nov. 10 at Providence Willamette Falls Medical Center.
A 79-year-old man from Linn County tested positive Nov. 5 and died Nov. 12 at Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital
A 74-year-old woman from Linn County tested positive Nov. 10 and died Nov. 10 at her home
A 51-year-old man from Clackamas County tested positive Nov. 1 and died Nov. 11 at Providence Portland Medical Center
A 64-year-old woman from Marion County tested positive Nov. 10 and died Nov. 10 at her home.
A 93-year-old woman from Josephine County tested positive Dec. 13 and died Dec. 23 at her home.
A 65-year-old man from Jackson County died May 11 at his home.
A 92-year-old man from Jackson County tested positive Dec. 22 and died Dec. 24 at Providence Medford Medical Center.
A 47-year-old man from Jackson County tested positive Dec. 13 and died Dec. 22 at Providence Medford Medical Center.
An 80-year-old man from Jackson County who tested positive Dec. 9 and died Dec. 22 at Asante Three Rivers Medical Center.
A 62-year-old woman from Douglas County tested positive Dec. 16 and died Dec. 23 at Mercy Medical Center.
A 68-year-old woman from Douglas County tested positive Dec. 8 and died Dec. 18.
A 69-year-old man from Douglas County tested positive Nov. 7 and died Dec. 22 at Mercy Medical Center.
A 95-year-old woman from Washington County tested positive Nov. 28 and died Dec. 19 at her home.
An 82-year-old woman from Lane County tested positive Dec. 6 and died Dec. 22 at McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center.
An 88-year-old woman from Klamath County tested positive Dec. 13 and died Dec. 23 at Sky Lakes Medical Center.
A 49-year-old man from Klamath County tested positive Nov. 24 and died Dec. 21 at Sky Lakes Medical Center.
Hospitalizations: 381 people with confirmed cases of COVID-19 are hospitalized Monday, 23 more than Sunday. That number includes 94 in intensive care units, two more than Sunday.
Vaccines: The state reported 6,259 people receiving first shots since Thursday.
Since it began: Oregon has reported 414,190 confirmed or presumed infections and 5,623 deaths, among the lowest per capita numbers in the nation. To date, the state has reported 6,679,032 vaccine doses administered, fully vaccinating 2,759,458 people and partially vaccinating 279,738 people.
— Aimee Green; email@example.com; @o_aimee