By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

New COVID-19 cases up 140% last week in Oregon

New COVID-19 cases increased 140% in Oregon last week, and hospitalizations rose 57%.

The state has set new records for daily cases in recent days: with 3,534 new COVID-19 cases on Dec. 30. On Jan. 4 it reported 4,540 new cases, and on Jan. 5, 6,203 new cases.

“We already have seen the impacts of the highly transmissible Omicron variant across the country since late December,” Tom Jeanne, M.D., M.P.H., deputy state health officer and epidemiologist said in a press release from the Oregon Health Authority. “Our data show the Omicron variant is here and now fueling the surge in cases. It will likely lead to a rise in hospitalizations and, sadly, deaths.”

Deaths, which lag behind case increases by two weeks or more, decreased.

The United States set a global record for new cases on Wednesday, reporting nearly a million new cases. Reuters reported that hospitalizations across the country increased by 50% in the last week.

Yamhill County reported 200 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday — eclipsing its previous record of 142 new cases, set on Monday, Sept. 13. Tuesday’s report may have included undercounts from the long weekend.

On Wednesday, the county reported 34 new cases, bringing it to a total to date of 10,828 cases and 163 deaths.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention touched off protests when it shortened recommended isolation times after a confirmed COVID infection to just five days, and said that people could end their isolation and return to work without a negative test, if their symptoms were “resolving,” and they wore a mask for another five days.

On Wednesday, the American Medical Association joined the growing chorus of criticism, saying the new guidelines are confusing and likely to vastly increase the already massive spread of new infections.

“Nearly two years into this pandemic, with Omicron cases surging across the country, the American people should be able to count on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for timely, accurate, clear guidance to protect themselves, their loved ones, and their communities. Instead, the new recommendations on quarantine and isolation are not only confusing, but are risking further spread of the virus,” the organization said in a press release.

It acknowledged that “living during a pandemic is challenging,” and that new data requires changing guidelines.

However, it said, “According to the CDC’s own rationale for shortened isolation periods for the general public, an estimated 31 percent of people remain infectious 5 days after a positive COVID-19 test. With hundreds of thousands of new cases daily and more than a million positive reported cases on January 3, tens of thousands—potentially hundreds of thousands of people—could return to work and school infectious if they follow the CDC’s new guidance on ending isolation after five days without a negative test. Physicians are concerned that these recommendations put our patients at risk and could further overwhelm our health care system.”

It said that a negative test result should be required for ending isolation after testing positive.

Tests have been
difficult to obtain for many, with some even in Yamhill County spending hours in line.

“We urge the administration to pull all available levers to ramp up production and distribution of tests. But a dearth of tests at the moment does not justify omitting a testing requirement to exit a now shortened isolation,” the AMA statement said.

In Yamhill County, Public Health offers free testing twice a week at the county fairgrounds in McMinnville, located at 2070 N.E. Lafayette Ave, every Tuesday and Thursday, from 2 to 7 p.m.

The site offers PCR tests and rapid tests that return results in 30 minutes.

No insurance is required. To receive a rapid test, people must be experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or have had close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 positive case to receive a rapid test. The county said that people experiencing symptoms, whose rapid test results are negative, should also do a PCR test.

PCR tests return results in three to five days; symptoms or known contacts with an infected person are not required.

Other test sites are also available; call 211 to learn more.

Health and Human Services Director Lindsey Manfrin told the News-Register that “We are working diligently on creating more access to testing.”

Demand for testing is skyrocketing; the OHA reported that 34,728 tests had been reported on Tuesday, saying that was the “sixth highest single daily count reported statewide during the pandemic.”

The state has ordered 1.1 million at-home rapid tests for distribution, and the OHA said they began arriving on Wednesday. Manfrin told county commissioners on Thursday that the county also ordered a supply of tests that it has been distributing to homeless shelters and at-risk populations, working with partners such as Unidos, to try to make sure they are made available particularly to people working in high-risk jobs with poor ventilation and crowding.

Gov. Kate Brown has called for a million Oregonians to receive booster shots by the end of January. The state is administering an average of more than 12,000 shots per day; however, The Oregonian reported this week that it would have to administer about 28,000 per day to meet Brown’s goal.

The OHA is opening several new mass vaccination sites, including one at the Spirit Mountain Casino in Yamhill County, that will open on January 15. The outdoor, drive-through clinic will be open from noon to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays.

Yamhill County reported six new deaths this week, although some occurred in November.

A 55-year-old man tested positive Nov. 9 and died Nov. 27 at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center.

An 80-year-old woman tested positive Oct. 21 and died Nov. 7 at her residence.

A 67-year-old man tested positive Nov. 2 and died Nov. 16 at his residence.

An 86-year-old woman from Yamhill County tested positive Nov. 10 and died Nov. 25 at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center.

A 47-year-old woman from Yamhill County tested positive Dec. 27 and died the same day at Salem Hospital. A 72-year-old woman tested positive Oct. 23 and died Nov. 28 at her residence.

The percentage of vaccine breakthrough cases has increased across the state; it comprised 36.7% of new cases, for the week of Dec. 19-25; the most recent data available from the state.

Manfrin noted that that hasn’t so far been the case in Yamhill County, where the most recent data, for Dec. 21 to 26, shows breakthrough cases comprising 28.6% of cases. However, she told county commissioners this week, she expects that number to increase, as the Omicron variant spreads.

Oregon remains under an indoor mask mandate to control the spread of COVID-19, and violations may be punishable by a $500 fine.

“It is important to remember that COVID-19 is still present in our community, and you should consider the risk of all activities you choose to participate in. We continue to recommend that our community members take everyday precautions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19,” the county states on its website.

It urges residents to wear cloth or disposable masks in public and when around anyone outside their immediate household; staying home when sick, and getting tested; maintaining a six-foot distance from people outside their immediate households, covering coughs and sneezes; washing hands often, for at least 20 seconds, and avoiding touching one’s eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.

In addition, the webstate states, people should follow general good health practices, including “staying current on your vaccinations, including the flu vaccines, eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep to help your body stay resilient.”

Note: This article has been updated to correct the number of booster shots being administered per day. 


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