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Thousands of at-home COVID-19 tests arrive

Jackson County Public Health received thousands of at-home COVID-19 test kits to distribute to the community.
OHSU: COVID-19 hospitalizations in Oregon may have peaked

Jackson County Public Health announced Friday it has received 29,430 at-home COVID-19 test kits to distribute to the community.

The kits came from the Oregon Health Authority, which purchased 6 million tests to help detect COVID-19 around the state.

“We are currently collaborating with multiple community partners in Jackson County to assist with the distribution of the test kits to the public. We want to ensure that there are multiple sites throughout the county where people can pick up two test kits per household,” said Tanya Phillips, health promotion and preparedness manager for Jackson County Public Health. “We will provide additional details next week on where and when the public can access these tests.”

Test kits also began to arrive this week through the mail for people who ordered them through the U.S. Postal Service.

Each rapid-result kit contains two tests.

The tests arrived at a time when COVID-19 is still widespread in the Rogue Valley.

Jackson County logged 240 new COVID-19 cases Friday and no new COVID-19-related deaths. Josephine County reported 129 new cases and one death.

Statewide, OHA reported 4,872 new cases and 33 additional deaths Friday. The number of newly diagnosed cases is continuing to drop.

Jackson County Public Health said the rapid-result COVID-19 tests don’t work well on people who have no symptoms. With tests in short supply, the department is asking people to use the test only if they don’t feel well or if they know they’ve been exposed.

Test within seven days of first feeling sick if you have COVID-19 symptoms, which include fever, cough, shortness of breath, muscle pain, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, runny nose or congestion. If you are symptomatic and the first test is negative, repeat the test after one or two days, Jackson County Public Health advised.

If you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 and were within 6 feet of the person for at least 15 minutes, test five days after exposure, health officials said.

The iHealth COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test kits can be used on anyone age 2 years and older. To ensure testing is done properly, adults should perform the nasal-swab test on children 15 and younger, health officials said.

If you do test positive or are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, assume you are contagious. Stay home and away from others, even those in your own household, for at least five days. Only go out if you need to seek medical care, health officials said.

Tell your close contacts that you have or believe you have COVID-19.

Because of the high volume of cases, Jackson County Public Health is no longer doing contact tracing of close contacts of COVID-19 positive cases, so it’s up to you to let them know, health officials said.

Call, email or text people with whom you were in close proximity starting two days before your symptoms began. You should recommend that they quarantine at home. The sooner you let your contacts know, the sooner they can take action to stop the spread, health officials said.

A close contact is someone who was within six feet of you for more than 15 minutes during your period of transmissibility. This time does not have to be consecutive and is cumulative over a 24-hour period.

Your period of transmissibility generally starts 48 hours before you began to experience symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ask your medical provider if treatment is right for you. Early treatments are the most effective, so talk to your provider as soon as possible. For treatment information, visit the OHA website at govstatus.egov.com/or-oha-covid-19-treatments.

The state has set up a COVID-19 case support hotline at 1-866-917-8881 and a website at oregon.gov/positivecovidtest for people to voluntarily self-report a positive test result from an at-home test kit. People can also get advice via the hotline or website.

Testing sites are still operating in the community. To find a site in Jackson County, visit jacksoncountyor.org/hhs/COVID-19/COVID-19-News/covid-19-testing-information.

For information on where to get COVID-19 vaccinations, including booster shots, see jacksoncountyor.org/hhs/COVID-19/Vaccine-Appointments/where-to get-vaccinated-in-jackson-county.

Across Oregon, the number of new COVID-19 cases has been subsiding since late January.

The statewide COVID-19 hospitalization count was 1,092 patients Friday, OHA said.

Oregon may have already hit its peak of COVID-19 hospitalizations from the current surge driven by the omicron variant of the virus, according to Peter Graven, director of the Oregon Health & Science University Office of Advanced Analytics.

COVID-19 hospitalizations statewide appear to have peaked last week at 1,130 patients during the omicron surge, he said.

Graven said the peak would likely have been 1,540 people hospitalized with the virus if Oregonians hadn’t taken steps to slow the spread and reduce the strain on hospitals.

“The way Oregon handled omicron is almost as good as you’re going to see,” Graven said. “Oregon pushed out booster shots, Oregonians modified their behavior early, before omicron fully arrived here, and we kept our masking rates relatively high compared with other states. Because of that, our surge was way lower than other places on a per capita basis.”

The average per capita hospitalization rate in the United State is about one-third higher than in Oregon, he said.

Oregon’s combination of immunity from prior infection and vaccination should give it protection from another hospitalization surge.

Graven said he expects it will be much more difficult to generate large new spikes in hospitalizations going forward, even though people’s immunity will wane over time.

“We’re going to still have plenty of cases in Oregon, because with any hill there are just as many infections on the way down as on the way up,” Graven said. “But we have a lot of immunity in the population now. It’s going to be harder and harder for the virus to put somebody in the hospital.”

Oregon’s highest COVID-19 hospitalization peak ever was 1,178 people during the delta-fueled surge in the summer and fall of 2021.

Fewer people are landing in intensive care unit beds from omicron, which is highly contagious but generally causes less severe illness. However, the sheer number of new omicron infections has put massive strain on regular beds in hospitals.

Most parts of Oregon, including the Rogue Valley, are down slightly from their omicron hospitalization peaks. However, on Friday the Eugene and Roseburg region and far Eastern Oregon were at their highest COVID-19 hospitalizations yet of the omicron surge, according to hospitalization data.

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