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Hospital cases rise, but outcomes improve, Shames says

Seven people with COVID-19 have been hospitalized in the past seven days, but Jackson County Medical Director Jim Shames says the local health care system has plenty of capacity and is more prepared than it was in the early stages of the pandemic.

As of Wednesday, 23 Jackson County residents had been hospitalized since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Jackson County Health and Human Services data. One week ago, on July 15, 16 people in Jackson County had been hospitalized.

Shames described the rise in hospitalizations as “a concern.” With the county’s latest infections skewing younger, Shames said he was concerned those people would have contact with elderly people.

“It’s kind of what we were afraid would happen,” Shames said. “A certain percentage will get sick and need to go to the hospital.”

Shames said the county’s hospitalization rate lags behind its actual case numbers because symptoms that require hospitalization may take days or weeks to develop. As of Wednesday, about 39% of the people who have been hospitalized were younger than 60.

“More than a third are in a group that is generally thought to be somewhat protected,” Shames said. The largest age group of people in the hospital are in their 50s, with eight.

Others in the hospital include one person in their 30s, three people in their 60s, four people in their 70s and seven people 80 or older.

Shames said local hospitals are more prepared now owing to “months of preparation and planning for worst-case scenarios.”

Shames also said that hospital outcomes are improving. Local doctors now have a better understanding of the different phases of infection, and can better dial in medications and protocols while avoiding complications.

For instance, doctors now have a “somewhat effective” antiviral medication they can prescribe, but Shames said Remdesivir is most effective in the early stages of infection.

In later stages, doctors have learned that corticosteroids such as dexamethasone can treat the acute breathing problems that arise as a complication from the coronavirus.

“You add all those things up and the overall mortality is improved,” Shames said. “We’re treating the disease better.”

Jackson County recorded 11 new cases Wednesday and reassigned one case to another area, bringing the latest case count to 257.

Eighty-eight of those patients are considered “active infectious,” meaning they are more likely to infect others. Infectious cases include four children younger than 9, seven youths from 10 to 19, 19 people in their 20s, seven people in their 30s, 14 people in their 40s, 14 people in their 50s, nine people in their 60s, six people in their 70s and eight people older than 80.

The Oregon Health Authority reported 264 new COVID-19 cases and two more deaths in Oregon Wednesday, bringing the latest count to 15,393 cases and 271 deaths.

The 270th case was a 77-year-old Umatilla County man who tested positive July 9 and died July 20 in his residence. The state’s 271st death was an 82-year-old Umatilla County man who tested positive July 16 and died Monday at Good Shepherd Hospital in Hermiston.

No deaths have been recorded in Jackson County.

Multnomah County reported 51 new cases Wednesday, with 45 cases in Washington County, 31 in Marion County, 24 in Umatilla County, 24 in Clackamas County, 13 in Malheur County, six in Klamath County and one in Josephine County.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.