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Oregon COVID outbreak began with unvaccinated worker

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. (AP) — A COVID-19 outbreak at an Oregon assisted living facility that has infected 64 people and killed five began with an unvaccinated worker, public health officials said.

The outbreak at Gateway Living in Springfield began July 5, The Register-Guard newspaper reported. The facility has 105 employees and 101 residents; only 63% of the staff and 82% of the residents are completely vaccinated.

Lane County Public Health spokesman Jason Davis said the outbreak began with an unvaccinated employee who worked while infectious.

The outbreak arrived as an immense surge of COVID-19 cases hit Oregon, driven by the especially contagious delta variant as well as vaccine obstinacy in some quarters.

COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased 990% in Oregon since July 9, according to health officials. Many hospitals have canceled elective surgeries, and some patients are housed in hallways instead of rooms. More than 90% of the state’s ICU and hospital beds are full, and health officials say the overwhelming majority of people hospitalized are unvaccinated.

The state is deploying crisis teams of hundreds of nurses, respiratory therapists, paramedics and nursing assistants to the hardest hit regions. Officials in Tillamook County, west of Portland, said Friday they no longer have capacity to store the bodies of those who have died and are asking the state for a refrigerated morgue truck.

About 60% of the cases from the Gateway Living outbreak are so-called breakthrough cases, among people who have already been vaccinated. It’s not yet clear how many of the cases were among residents, employees or family members and others outside of the facility.

Seven of the people infected are hospitalized.