Governor Brown, OHA leadership discuss hospital crisis, vaccination requirements

Today, Governor Kate Brown announced new vaccination requirements for Oregon health care and K–12 staff during a press conference. Here’s what you need to know.

Hospitals close to reaching capacity

The requirements come during an alarming increase in hospitalizations. “With over 845 Oregonians hospitalized for COVID-19 and 226 in ICUs, our hospital and ICU beds are over 93% full,” said Governor Brown. “Overwhelmingly, the Oregonians who are being hospitalized or who are dying from COVID-19 are unvaccinated.”

Governor Brown acknowledged the toll this level of hospitalization takes on health care workers and the effect it has on hospitals to treat non-COVID-19 related patients. To help with the crisis, Governor Brown is:

  • Deploying the National Guard and nurse strike teams.
  • Establishing temporary decompression units to free up hospital beds.
  • Removing barriers to discharge patients who no longer need hospital care.
  • Convening a Hospital Crisis Prevention and Response group of health care professionals.
  • Asking Biden-Harris administration for federal resources and support.
  • Working to secure FEMA assistance.

OHA Director Patrick Allen reiterated that the current hospital situation is “dire.”

“Our health care system is on the verge of collapse in parts of the state,” said Director Allen. Director Allen said OHA will help alleviate the hospital burden by:

  • Working with Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) and long-term care facilities (LTCF) to create surge beds to ease overcrowding in hospitals.
  • Pursuing a fully-staffed field hospital from the federal government.
  • Supporting six hospital emergency departments with the use of 24 EMT-Paramedics secured through the FEMA National Ambulance Contract.
  • Deploying an initial 500 National Guard members to hospitals around the state starting Aug. 20.
  • Requesting medical personnel from other states.
  • Contracting eight nurse crisis teams to staff surge beds in LTCFs.
  • Working with licensing boards to set emergency rules that allow more flexibility in health care staffing.

Vaccination required for health care workers

On Aug. 4, Governor Brown announced she would direct OHA to issue a new rule outlining required health and safety measures for personnel in health care settings.

Oregon Secretary of State later published the rule, which required COVID-19 vaccination or testing for health care providers and health care staff in health care settings.

However, due to the rise of hospitalizations, Governor Brown is now requiring vaccination with no option for a testing alternative.

“In the weeks since I announced Oregon’s original test-or-vaccination policy, the Delta variant has put enormous pressure on our health systems,” said Governor Brown. “There are simply not enough resources to stand up weekly testing systems while also responding to the current crisis.”

OHA will post the amended rule when it is available.

Vaccinations required for all K–12 staff and volunteers

Governor Brown reiterated the need for schools to follow safety measures to open for full-time, in-person classes this fall. Oregon Department of Education (ODE) and OHA issued a K–12 face covering rule earlier this month. Now, all K–12 school staff and volunteers will be required to get vaccinated.

“Because children under 12 still are not eligible for vaccination, masks are a critical tool to prevent our kids from getting sick at school,” said Governor Brown. “Just as important is ensuring all the adults around our students are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.”

All teachers, educators, support staff and volunteers will need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 18 or six weeks following FDA approval.

OHA will post the new rule when it is available.

Oregon’s COVID-19 numbers

Director Allen and State Health Officer Dr. Dean Sidelinger also provided a comprehensive overview of Oregon’s COVID-19 numbers. Here are the key takeaways.

  • Hospitalizations
    • As of Aug. 19, 845 people in Oregon are hospitalized with COVID-19 and a record 226 are in intensive care units.
    • 546 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized for the week ending Aug. 15 — the highest weekly figure of the pandemic.
    • 93% of hospital beds are occupied.
    • 94% of adult ICU beds are full.
  • Vaccinations
    • The seven-day running average of vaccinations is now 6,037 shots per day.
    • The seven-day running average of first doses is 4,126 — a 24% increase from the end of July.
  • Cases
    • There were 12,741 COVID-19 cases reported between Aug. 9 and Aug. 15. — a 54% increase from the previous week.
    • Last week, OHA reported 8,304 cases — 40% more than the previous week.
  • Pediatric (17 and younger) data
    • There have been 31,394 COVID-19 cases in individuals ages 17 and younger, which makes up 12.7% of all COVID-19 cases.
    • 0.9% of patients have been hospitalized at some point during their illness.
    • Two pediatric COVID-19 patients have died.

Grip of Delta variant is tightening

With cases and hospitalizations rising, Dr. Sidelinger urged Oregonians to get vaccinated, wear masks in indoor public settings and avoid high-risk activities.

“If you are unvaccinated, you have never been more vulnerable to being sickened by the virus, passing the virus on to your loved ones, getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19,” said Dr. Sidelinger. “If you are unvaccinated, you are risking the health of your family, your loved ones and everyone you encounter while infected.”

Dr. Sidelinger reiterated the safety and effectiveness of all three vaccines authorized for emergency use in the US. He also touched on the importance of mask wearing and how it can protect those who are unvaccinated.

“The virus that causes COVID-19 is mainly spread through respiratory droplets and aerosols that float in the air,” said Dr. Sidelinger. “Face coverings provide a barrier to these droplets – that when coupled with other intervention steps – reduce transmission.”

Get vaccinated

All three COVID-19 vaccines are extremely effective in preventing severe COVID-19 infection leading to hospitalization. If you are 12 or older, visit OHA’s Find a COVID-19 Vaccine in Oregon webpage to schedule your vaccine appointment today.

You can watch a recording of today’s press conference below.