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Jackson County reports 424 COVID-19 cases

OHSU: Public response is helping hospitals

Jackson County reported 424 new COVID-19 cases Thursday and two more COVID-19-related deaths.

A 66-year-old woman died at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center, and a 99-year-old woman died at Providence Medford Medical Center. The Oregon Health Authority said the 99-year-old woman had underlying health conditions, but it was still checking Friday to see if the 66-year-old woman also had health problems.

Statewide, Oregon reported 8,672 new COVID-19 cases Friday and 13 COVID-19-related deaths, including those in Jackson County. People who died ranged in age from 44 to 99, OHA said.

Oregon Health & Science University released a new COVID-19 hospitalization forecast that is almost unchanged from last week. OHSU predicts COVID-19 hospitalizations will peak across the state at 1,650 people on Jan. 28.

That number would severely strain Oregon hospitals, OHSU said.

But data shows the situation would be far worse if Oregonians weren’t taking steps such as wearing masks and limiting gatherings, OHSU said.

Without the public’s help, the forecast would be for 2,130 people hospitalized with COVID-19 by Jan. 28. That would be a crushing influx of patients and almost 1,000 more than the peak of the summer and fall surge that strained hospitals, OHSU said.

On Friday, Oregon hospitals were caring for 811 people with the virus, according to hospitalization data.

The number of people with COVID-19 in Portland region hospitals is continuing a three-week spike with no signs of abating. The number hit 461 patients on Friday — higher than the Portland region’s peak of 456 during the summer and fall surge of 2021.

Hospitals in the Portland region were 98% full Friday.

Hospitals in Jackson and Josephine counties were caring for 88 patients with COVID-19 on Friday. Numbers are rising gradually but are still far lower than the previous surge peak of 223 COVID-19 patients that crushed Rogue Valley hospitals.

The Rogue Valley was the hardest hit area of the state during the past surge.

On Friday, local hospitals were 93% full.

OHSU said not everyone in Oregon hospitals who tests positive for the virus is in the hospital because of COVID-19. They may be there primarily because of heart attacks, cancer, car crashes and other conditions but may also happen to have the virus.

The rapid spread of the highly contagious omicron variant of the virus means the proportion of COVID-19-positive patients in hospitals will continue to increase, OHSU said.

Although they may not be there primarily because of the virus, the cases add to the burden on hospitals because COVID-19 patients must be isolated and other safety measures have to be taken. A COVID-19 infection can also worsen other conditions and complicate a patient’s care, OHSU said.

The incidental cases are somewhat balanced out by COVID-19 patients who are no longer counted in state figures because they’ve been in the hospital long enough to no longer be infectious. But they still take up hospital beds, OHSU said.

Omicron appears to cause a lower overall rate of severe illness than the previously dominant delta variant. But its rapid spread, combined with its ability to evade previous immunity from vaccination or infection, is driving an unprecedented surge of daily infections in Oregon, OHSU said.

People who’ve been vaccinated and then had a booster shot have the most protection against the omicron variant and other known variants, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Unvaccinated people make up the minority in Jackson and Josephine counties, but they made up 79% of COVID-19 patients in Asante’s three Rogue Valley hospitals Friday and 94% of COVID-19 patients in intensive care unit beds. There was one vaccinated COVID-19 patient on a ventilator, Asante reported.

Over the past 90 days, unvaccinated people have accounted for 88% of COVID-19 patients who died at an Asante hospital, the health network said.

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