MEDFORD, Ore. — The latest update from Jackson County Public Health reveals an alarming trend locally that mirrors what Oregon state officials have been warning about — a sharp increase in the number of people hospitalized due to COVID-19.
Local public health officials do not typically track COVID-19 hospitalizations with the same kind of daily count that they use for new cases, but Jackson County Public Health does keep a running tally of total hospitalizations since the beginning of the pandemic.
As of Tuesday morning, that tally stood at 210 hospitalizations. One week ago, that number stood at 169, meaning that there have been dozens of newly hospitalized cases in the intervening days. At the beginning of July, after the early "peak" of cases that prompted Oregon to enter lockdown, there were only 10 total recorded hospitalizations in Jackson County.
According to Oregon Health Authority data, hospital Region 5 — which includes medical facilities in both Jackson and Josephine counties — has a total of 57 staffed adult ICU beds. 48 are currently occupied, with just 9 available. For beds that are non-ICU, Region 5 has 447 staffed, 386 occupied and 61 available.
There are other hospital regions in the state that are arguably in a worse position, particularly along the southern Oregon coast and in north-central Oregon, but there is no question that the recent warnings from hospital officials of dwindling capacity reflect a real possibility of reaching a dire point throughout the state.
Jackson County Public Health reported 60 new cases on Tuesday, bringing the county total since the beginning of the pandemic to 2,960. Outbreaks at several local long-term care facilities continue to grow — reaching 108 cases and two deaths at Avamere Three Fountains, 64 cases and one death at Avamere Health Services of Rogue Valley, and 67 cases at Table Rock Memory Care, in addition to five smaller outbreaks.
Case counts in Jackson County have been lower of late than the record-breaking levels seen last week, but it's far too soon to represent a trend. Last week also began with several days of lower case counts.
Wednesday marks the beginning of Governor Kate Brown's mandated two-week "freeze," instituting restrictions on businesses and gatherings at a level not seen since the height of "Stay Home, Save Lives" in the spring. Like the stay-at-home order, the freeze is intended to flatten the viral curve and relieve the strain on medical providers.
"Starting November 18, Oregon will be in a statewide Two-Week Freeze to stop the rapid spread of COVID-19 across Oregon," Jackson County Public Health said. "These risk reduction measures are critical in limiting the spread of COVID-19, reducing risk in communities more vulnerable to serious illness and death, and helping conserve hospital capacity so that all Oregonians can continue to have access to quality care."
The Two-Week Freeze measures include:
- Limiting social get-togethers (indoors and outdoors) to no more than six people, total, from no more than two households.
- Limiting faith-based organizations to a maximum of 25 people indoors or 50 people outdoors.
- Limiting eating and drinking establishments to take-out and delivery only.
- Closing gyms and fitness organizations.
- Closing indoor recreational facilities, museums, indoor entertainment activities, and indoor pools and sports courts.
- Closing zoos, gardens, aquariums, outdoor entertainment activities, and outdoor pools.
- Limiting grocery stores and pharmacies to a maximum of 75% capacity and encouraging curbside pickup.
- Limiting retail stores and retail malls (indoor and outdoor) to a maximum of 75% capacity and encouraging curbside pickup.
- Closing venues (that host or facilitate indoor or outdoor events).
- Requiring all businesses to mandate work-from-home to the greatest extent possible and closing offices to the public.
- Prohibiting indoor visiting in long-term care facilities (outdoor visitation permitted for supporting quality of life).