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Jackson County reports 49 new COVID-19 cases

Jackson County reported 49 new COVID-19 cases Friday and two additional COVID-19-related deaths.
OHSU analyst recommends continuing Oregon mask mandate

Jackson County reported 49 new COVID-19 cases Friday and two additional COVID-19-related deaths.

Statewide, the Oregon Health Authority reported 1,090 new COVID-19 cases and 28 deaths.

Information about those who died wasn’t immediately available.

An Oregon Health & Science University forecast released Thursday predicted the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Oregon won’t drop below 200 until the beginning of February 2022.

Hospitalizations haven’t been that low since July of this year, when the highly contagious delta variant of the COVID-19 virus began driving unprecedented spikes in severe illness and death across the state, OHSU said.

With an estimated one-in-five Oregonians still susceptible to infection — meaning they haven’t yet been vaccinated or recently infected — a surge in new cases is still possible if large numbers of unvaccinated Oregonians gather together indoors during the holiday season, OHSU said.

“We are still in a precarious situation,” said Peter Graven, director of the OHSU Office of Advanced Analytics. “Right now, hospitals can’t handle much of a surge in COVID-19 cases without impacting the timely delivery of health care to other people. We can’t really afford to take off our masks — especially people who aren’t vaccinated.”

The latest data from OHA shows 438 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Oregon hospitals Thursday.

That’s down from a pandemic peak of 1,178 Sept. 1 of this year.

“Once our levels get down to a point where we can handle some increase in cases in our hospitals, that’s when we can take on some risk of relaxing indoor mask requirements. We are not there yet,” Graven said.

It’s not clear how long Gov. Kate Brown will continue requiring masks in indoor public and workplace settings in Oregon. After briefly lifting the mask mandate, Brown reinstated the mandate this summer when COVID-19 cases began surging.

The governor’s office has said the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division will continue to monitor COVID-19 numbers in assessing Oregon’s mask requirements in the coming weeks and months.

This week when asked by a Washington, D.C. reporter when Oregon would lift its mask mandate, Brown did not lay out a timeline.

"What's most important to me throughout this pandemic (is) that Oregonians stay alive and be healthy and safe, that we keep our kids in school with as minimal disruption as possible, and that our businesses are able to stay open and continue to thrive, so that is where we are focused," Brown said.

Despite falling COVID-19 hospitalizations, hospitals remain under strain as they catch up with surgeries and other procedures that were delayed during the surge.

Meanwhile, nursing homes are facing staffing shortages and COVID-19 safety restrictions. Hospitals are having trouble discharging patients who are ready to leave hospitals but still need continued care at nursing homes.

With the summer and fall COVID-19 surge waning in the Rogue Valley, the number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 in Jackson and Josephine county hospitals fell to 37 Friday, according to hospitalization data.

Nine of those patients were in intensive care, with four on ventilators, data show.

For people planning to travel for Thanksgiving, the five Oregon counties with the highest per capita COVID-19 rates over the last week are Sherman County along the Columbia Gorge and Crook, Wheeler, Jefferson and Deschutes counties in Central Oregon, according to OHA.

The five counties with the lowest COVID-19 rates per capita are Wallowa County in northeast Oregon, Clatsop County on the northern Oregon coast, Lane County, which includes Eugene, and Washington and Multnomah counties in the Portland metro area, OHA data show.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.