PORTLAND, Ore. — With coronavirus case rates already regularly topping 1,000 per day this week, the Oregon Health Authority released new modeling on Friday that predicts cases will reach levels seen only last fall and winter by mid-August, accompanied by a sharp increase in hospitalizations.
The COVID-19 forecast posits that the effective reproduction rate of the virus — the number of secondary cases expected to result from a single case — was 1.58 through July 14, double the 0.74 found in mid-June.
If that transmission rate continues unimpeded over the next two weeks, daily cases would increase to 390 cases per 100,000 people, or about 1,170 cases and 95 new hospitalizations per day.
“Vaccine immunity is helping prevent further spread of COVID-19," the report concluded. Without vaccine immunity at its current level, the OHA project that the average rate of infection would be 3.18 over the same period.
Even if the Delta variant were to comprise 95 percent of new cases, the report finds, the adoption of protective measures such as wearing masks and avoiding large gatherings would curb the projected increase in hospitalizations and daily cases. Delta is currently believed to account for 80 percent of new Oregon cases.
“Today’s modeling report, although sobering, confirms the importance of protecting ourselves and others by getting vaccinated against COVID-19,” said state epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger. “By vaccinating more people, we can more quickly drive down hospitalizations and new cases.”
The OHA also said that it is investigating a COVID-19 outbreak linked to the Pendleton Whisky Music Fest that was held in Pendleton on July 10. Cases associated with the festival have been identified in Umatilla, Morrow, Union, and Wallow counties, as well as in Washington state.
Local, state, and Tribal public health officials are working to identify other cases linked to the festival. As of Friday, there were 58 cases among attendees.
"This outbreak is the first one of its size and scope to be traced to an outdoor entertainment event since the lifting of statewide COVID-19 prevention measures at the end of June," the OHA said.
The agency said that the Pendleton outbreak highlights the importance of actions that Oregonians can take to limit spread, such as wearing masks and getting vaccinated.
"In response to the resurgence of COVID-19 in Oregon, OHA recommended this week that all persons, regardless of their vaccination status, wear a mask indoors in public spaces," the agency continued. "OHA also encourages all Oregonians to consider masking if they plan to attend crowded outdoor events like fairs, sporting events, outdoor theater performances, rodeos or concerts, especially if they are at higher risk for complications from COVID-19 or live with individuals who are unvaccinated or at higher risk for complications from COVID-19."
OHA reported 1,076 new confirmed and presumptive cases of the virus on Friday, alongside three more deaths. Hospitalizations from COVID-19 reached 298 — perilously close to the 300-mark that state officials chose as a trigger for Extreme Risk status back in April.
While there is growing evidence that even vaccinated people can spread the Delta variant with relative ease, Oregon's latest data shows that the majority of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths occur among the unvaccinated. Throughout June, 92 percent of cases were among unvaccinated people, and 94 percent of deaths. A report on this data for July is expected in early August.