PORTLAND, Ore. — The latest projections from Oregon Health & Science University do not show any marked improvement in Oregon's ongoing surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, the university said on Thursday, as mandates designed to combat the virus increasingly go into effect.
"We’re seeing the number of people hospitalized going up at rates we’ve never seen before,” said Peter Graven, Ph.D., lead data scientist in OHSU’s Business Intelligence unit. “We had hoped to see the new statewide masking mandate make a difference in flattening the rate of infection, but we’re not seeing that yet.”
Graven's latest data projects that 1,197 people will be hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide by September 6, an increase of more than 100 from Thursday's numbers. Graven said that his data shows that Oregonians are responding to the surge with more frequent masking, in addition to modest upticks in daily vaccination rates and fewer gatherings. However, those countermeasures have not yet been enough to significantly slow the spread of severe illness.
Hospitals across the state remain under severe strain, with OHSU noting that 45 percent of Oregon intensive care unit beds now occupied by COVID-19 patients.
Healthcare administrators have been pleading with the public to take steps that will reduce the spread of infection in order to reduce overcrowding at hospitals — urging people to get vaccinated, wear masks, and maintain physical distancing.
“I’ve been a physician for more than 30 years – over 20 of those at OHSU – and never before have I experienced the level of crisis that we find ourselves in now,” said Renee Edwards, M.D., M.B.A., chief medical officer for OHSU, one of two level 1 trauma centers in Oregon. “In addition to the enormous surge in COVID patients, we also continue to see a large volume of severely ill patients who don’t have COVID-19, including those who delayed care during the past year due to the pandemic.”
Edwards addressed Oregonians, adding, “We are in a crisis and we desperately need your help. If we all do our part now, it will make a difference: every mask, every vaccine, every attempt to limit gatherings is important at this time.”
Two leaders from OHSU and Doernbecher Children’s Hospital published an op-ed in the Oregonian on Wednesday, noting that patients young and old have been waiting hours or sometimes days for hospital beds, as healthcare workers administer medical care in waiting rooms, conference rooms, and hallways.
“If Oregonians do not take immediate action to reverse the increase in COVID-19 cases in our state, the consequences will be even more catastrophic than they are already,” wrote Dana Braner, M.D., physician-in-chief, OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital; and Matthias Merkel, M.D., Ph.D., senior associate chief medical officer, Capacity Management and Patient Flow, OHSU Health.