SALEM, Ore. — Despite climbing case rates in southern Oregon's most populous counties, a recently adopted statewide hospitalization metric continues to keep those counties from being moved from High Risk status up to Extreme Risk.
Governor Kate Brown's office released the state's latest county risk levels on Tuesday. For southern Oregon, the changes are few — Curry County will move down to Moderate Risk status from High Risk. Jackson, Josephine and Klamath counties remain at High Risk despite case rates that would otherwise qualify them for Extreme Risk status, while Lake County will continue at Lower Risk.
With vaccination for COVID-19 continuing across the state — and with the majority of Oregon seniors having received a vaccine — the decision to add a statewide hospitalization metric attempts to gauge the severity of outbreaks and the risk of overwhelming health care systems, rather than looking at positive cases alone.
For those counties currently kept at High Risk in spite of rising cases, Extreme Risk status will only come if the state hits several metrics — COVID-19 patients occupying 300 hospital beds or more, and a 15 percent increase in the seven-day hospitalization average over the last week.
However, hitting that hospitalization threshold may not be far from reach. As of Tuesday, the Oregon Health Authority reported 255 people hospitalized with COVID-19 across the state, with 58 patients in intensive care. On March 30, those numbers were 139 and 35, reflecting the gradual rise in cases and hospitalization rates this month.
As of Tuesday's announcement, 11 Oregon counties qualified for Extreme Risk based on their county metrics, but were assigned to High Risk because the hospitalization "triggers" had not been reached.
Between April 23 and May 6, there will be 23 Oregon counties at High Risk, three at Moderate Risk, and 10 at Lower Risk.
“As we face more contagious variants and increased spread of COVID-19 in our communities, the best way to protect yourself and others is to get vaccinated," said Governor Brown. "Until you, your family, your friends, and your neighbors are fully vaccinated, it's also critical that we all continue to wear masks, maintain physical distance, and stay home when sick.”