OHA leadership discuss increase in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations

Oregon Health Authority (OHA) Director Patrick Allen was joined by State Public Health Officer and Epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger to discuss Oregon’s recent increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in a public media briefing. Here’s what you need to know.

Despite Oregon’s reopening, pandemic continues

Director Allen began Thursday’s briefing with a reminder that — while Oregon has reopened — people who remain unvaccinated against COVID-19 remain at high risk of becoming seriously ill and passing the virus to someone who might wind up in the hospital or dying.

“New COVID-19 cases are surging for people who are unvaccinated,” said Director Allen. “The number of new cases we’re reporting each day has doubled since last week.”

To express his point more clearly, Director Allen noted that people who are partially vaccinated or unvaccinated now make up more than 9 in 10 of all new infections, hospitalizations and deaths. Contrarily, fully vaccinated people remain well-protected against COVID-19 and its variants.

“As I heard a health officer say earlier this week: if you’re not vaccinated and you haven’t had COVID-19 yet, you will,” said Director Allen. “It’s only a matter of time.”

Director Allen added that counties with low vaccination rates are seeing the highest COVID-19 infection rates, while counties with high vaccination rates constitute almost all the counties with the lowest infection rates.

You can view a scatterplot of that information below.

Need for local-level public health interventions

In a June 4 press conference, OHA Director Patrick Allen noted that it will be the responsibility of county commissioners and local public health officials to slow the spread of COVID-19 following Oregon’s reopening. Today, Director Allen reiterated the need for local health officials to take action, particularly in areas where there are high infection rates and low vaccination rates.

“As we’ve learned with previous COVID-19 waves, the sooner we employ effective interventions, the sooner we can flatten the curve, prevent new infections, avoid more hospitalizations and save many lives,” said Director Allen.

Director Allen encouraged leaders in low-vaccination counties to encourage people to get vaccinated, ask residents to wear masks in indoor public places and implore unvaccinated folks to avoid gathering.

He also reminded folks that OHA is ready to help.

“We will send you more vaccine doses,” said Director Allen. “We can help with case investigators and contact tracers. We can get you more testing. We’re eager to work with you to schedule more vaccine clinics and conduct outreach in your communities.”

COVID-19 by the numbers

Director Allen and Dr. Sidelinger provided a high-level overview of the COVID-19 situation in Oregon. Here are a few key points:

  • According to the CDC, Oregon has vaccinated 71% of adults.
  • 60% of Oregon’s total population has received at least one dose.
  • Counties have vaccinated between 37–75% of their populations.
  • Oregon has the fifth lowest COVID-19 death rate in the nation.
  • The 7-day average of daily cases is now more than double what it was three weeks ago.
  • Weekly cases of COVID-19 are 48% greater than what they were on June 30.
  • Oregon has tracked nearly 3,000 cases involving Variants of Concern and the Delta variant has increased 10-fold in the past two weeks.

Tale of two pandemics

In a June 4 press conference, Director Allen and Dr. Sidelinger made reference to a “tale of two pandemics,” calling attention to the different realities that vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals face in the ongoing pandemic. In the July 22 media briefing, Dr. Sidelinger elaborated upon much of the same.

“One pandemic is subsiding for more than 2.4 million Oregonians who have received a COVID-19 vaccine,” said Dr. Sidelinger. “But for the remaining Oregonians — especially those in communities where vaccinations are lagging — the resurging virus still looms large.”

Dr. Sidelinger pointed out that the spread of COVID-19 among unvaccinated people has only worsened with the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, which has become the most dominant variant in Oregon.

Dr. Sidelinger pointed out that people who were not fully vaccinated accounted for 92% of the 7,241 COVID-19 cases recorded in June and more than 9 in 10 COVID-19 associated deaths during the same time period. With that data in mind, he insisted that folks who remain unvaccinated get a vaccine.

“You are at higher risk now than you were earlier in the pandemic and you are putting the people around you at risk,” said Dr. Sidelinger. “The best protection against contracting the virus is getting vaccinated.”

Get vaccinated

Vaccination remains the safest and most effective way for all people in Oregon to get back to doing the things they love. 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 full recording of the media briefing below.