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Weekly COVID-19 cases more than double in Jackson County

Positive cases increased from 403 to 867

The number of COVID-19 cases in Jackson County is spiking and COVID-19 hospitalizations are rising in most of Oregon as the state prepares for a wave of infections triggered by the omicron variant of the virus.

Hospitalizations haven’t jumped yet in Jackson and Josephine counties, but the Portland area has seen almost a doubling in the number of COVID-19 patients from 127 on Dec. 22 to 248 on Monday. Hospitalizations are also rising in areas that include Salem, Eugene and Bend, state hospitalization data shows.

The Salem area has virtually no hospital beds left, with only two open intensive care unit beds out of 88, and only six regular beds available out of 553.

From Thursday through Sunday, Jackson County recorded 572 new COVID-19 cases, the Oregon Health Authority said.

Jackson County Public Health reported the COVID-19-related deaths of a 93-year-old woman at Providence Medford Medical Center, a 61-year-old man at Providence, a 75-year-old woman at Providence and a 71-year-old woman at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center. All four had underlying health conditions.

Oregon as a whole logged 9,701 new cases and 11 additional deaths, OHA said.

Jackson County Public Health warned on Monday that the county has begun to see a surge in COVID-19 cases.

For the week extending from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, Jackson County reported 867 new cases — more than doubling the previous week’s count of 403 cases.

Hospitalization numbers tend to rise following a spike in cases as some people with the virus become severely ill.

On Monday, the four hospitals in Jackson and Josephine counties were caring for 58 patients with COVID-19. Of those, 18 were in intensive care unit beds, with two on ventilators, according to hospitalization data.

Rogue Valley hospitals had three ICU beds open out of 59 total. They had 39 open regular beds out of 433 total regular beds.

Asante, which runs three of the four hospitals, said on Monday that 84% of its COVID-19 patients were unvaccinated, 94% of COVID-19 patients in ICU beds were unvaccinated and both of its patients on ventilators were unvaccinated. In the past 90 days, 85% of Asante’s COVID-19-related deaths have been among unvaccinated people.

Unvaccinated people make up most of the COVID-19 patients in hospitals even though a majority of Rogue Valley adults are vaccinated.

Among Jackson County residents who are 18 and older, 67.8% are vaccinated against COVID-19, while Josephine County has a vaccination rate of 61.4% for that age group. Statewide, the vaccination rate for adults is 81%, according to state data.

More than one-third of Oregon adults have received a COVID-19 booster shot as well. Health officials are urging people to get their initial vaccinations or get booster shots to increase their protection against the omicron variant.

Oregon Health & Science University issued a new forecast Friday about the impact of the omicron wave on hospitals.

During the summer and fall COVID-19 surge triggered by the delta variant, hospitals around the state were overwhelmed. Hospitalizations peaked at 1,187 on Sept. 1 across Oregon.

On Friday, OHSU predicted hospitalizations would peak at about 1,650 patients by the end of January. Hospitalizations will then fall rapidly as the virus finds fewer people to infect who haven’t been vaccinated or previously infected.

Although omicron tends to cause less severe illness than the delta variant, it spreads more rapidly and can better elude immunity from vaccination or previous infection, OHSU said.

People who previously got the Pfizer or Moderna two-dose vaccination can boost their immunity against omicron from 35% to 75% by getting a booster shot, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Everyone age 5 and older is eligible to get vaccinated.

Wearing a mask indoors, avoiding gatherings and poorly ventilated spaces and washing your hands often are additional tools to help slow the spread of COVID-19, Jackson County Public Health said.

“It is important to add layers of protection on top of getting vaccinated. Not every tool we have to fight the pandemic is perfect; adding layers will provide additional protection and help slow the spread,” Jackson County Public Health said on Monday.

Free vaccines are available without an appointment seven days a week at a mass vaccination site at The Merrick, 200 N. Riverside Ave., Medford. Hours are noon to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays. The walk-thru site offers vaccines to everyone age five and older.

For information about other vaccination sites in Jackson County, call 211 or visit jacksoncountyor.org/hhs/COVID-19/Vaccine-Appointments/where-to-get-vaccinated-in-jackson-county.

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