By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

Oregon hospitals may exceed Delta’s peak in matter of days


Oregon’s hospitals are struggling on the brink and, as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 surges, have less staff than at any previous point in the pandemic, Becky Hultberg, President and CEO of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, told journalists at a briefing on Thursday.

“Today we have 1,059 patients with confirmed or suspected COVID and that’s 74 more than yesterday. Our Delta patient hospitalization peak was just over 1,200 and we’re on track to exceed that possibly by this weekend, or early next week,” Hultberg said. “Hospitalizations have been growing steadily and that growth is accelerating. Last week we were seeing increases of 30 to 40 patients a day. So if you project this trend out, you can see the challenges ahead of us.”

Hultberg said that Omicron is affecting hospitals differently than the Delta variant, which hit the hardest in southern Oregon and rural counties. Omicron, Hultberg said, is hitting hospitals across the state.

“The next couple weeks are going to be really tough and it’s important for people to understand that. There is a war gong on in our hospitals against this virus, that’s not visible to the public,” she said.

Hultberg said the public needs to understand the urgent need to continue wearing masks, using ventilation when people have to be indoors, getting vaccinated, and maintaining social distancing, while political leaders and policy makers need to understand that “the health care system we have in 2022 is not the same health care system we had in 2019.”

She said that with exhausted, overworked staff, one of five out of whom have quit, nationwide, the health care system cannot adapt easily to policy changes.

Hospitals are operating at about 96% capacity, compared to a normal capacity of about 60 to 70%, she said.

One of the
problems putting a strain on the availability of hospital beds is delay in the ability to discharge patients who still need care, but no longer require hospital care. Contributing to the problem, Hultberg said, are problems with insurance for people needing to go to nursing homes, a lack of beds for patients with behavioral issues, and a high number of homeless patients.

There are no easy solutions, she said, noting that assistance from the National Guard and contracts with nursing homes to provide wings for COVID-19 patients are helping, but not solving the shortages.

Although some people have argued that some patients are being diagnosed with COVID-19 after or at the time of hospitalization, Hultberg said it makes little difference.

“COVID can manifest in a couple ways. One is that a person is completely healthy, they get COVID and end up in the hospital; and that is happening,” she said. In other cases, “they have an underlying condition, like a heart condition that is exacerbated by COVID. It is still a hospital bed that is taken up that might not be taken up if it weren’t for COVID.”

Yamhill County reached a cumulative total of 12,000 COVID-19 cases a week ago, and has now surpassed 13,600.

On Thursday, the county reported 292 new cases, bringing it to a total to date of 13,658 cases and 168 deaths.

Children and teen-agers continue to comprise the fastest-growing rate of new cases in the county, with 624 new cases in the past four weeks. Statewide, new pediatric cases began increasing dramatically at the end of December according to the Oregon Health Authority. It reported that 1,377 new pediatric cases were reported the week of Dec. 19. By Jan. 2, that number was 11,627. It fell slightly last week, to 9,996 new cases.

For the week of Jan. 2, 33 children in Oregon were hospitalized from COVID-19. The age breakdown was 13 children ages 0 to 4, six children ages 5 to 11, and 14 children ages 12 to 17. The OHA reports that 64 children in the state have suffered from Multi-System inflammatory syndrome, a complication of COVID-19 that can cause many different organs to become inflamed. In some cases, it can be deadly. Researchers don’t yet know why some children get it. Three children in Oregon have died from COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recently updated its guidance on masks, to advice using N95 and KN95, instead of surgical or cloth masks. The White House has announced that it will send 400 million masks to pharmacies and health centers around the country for people to pick up free of charge.

To wear an N95 or KN95, put the mask on with clean hands, and shape the nose wire over your nose, to eliminate gaps. If you feel air escaping, adjust the nose piece or tighten the straps, and try again.

Masks with straps that go over the head, instead of over the ears, may be helpful to prevent slipping. Try to avoid touching the front of the mask when taking it off, or putting it back on.

The OHA advised that “N95 and KN95 masks can be worn for several hours a day for about a week, or until soiled or they no longer fit snugly. Between uses, store these masks in a dry place, like in a paper bag. Leaving them in the sun can help decontaminate them.”

If you cannot obtain an N95 or KN95, adding a cloth mask over a surgical mask can improve its ability to block virus particles. Do not wear masks with ventilators, as those defeat the purpose of the mask.

For children, the OHA said, “There are currently no N95 masks made in child sizes, but some KN95 masks come in smaller sizes. Kid sizes are easily found in disposable and cloth masks, and any mask is better than no mask. Make sure any mask your child wears fits snugly around the nose and mouth with no gaps. Children under two should not wear any masks.”



So, after roundabout two years of this, CDC admits that the cloth face diapers don't work. I can only speculate what might be next.


Look at countries where routine use of masks was already common (Taiwan, Singapore, etc), and look at their covid death toll. If we had the same death rate as most of them, we would be looking at the neighborhood of 20,000 - 30,000 dead. Instead, we're far north of 800,000. And you say face masks don't work?


From the CDC website....” any mask is better than no mask”.


tagup……you surely don’t expect our resident troll to be interested in FACTS do you? (That would be SO out of character.)


Haha.....I don’t.....but the truth is important and needs to be reinforced.....


tagup - AMEN!


Oregon hospitals are freaking out because they got rid of a huge amount of nurses because of the mask mandates that have now been shot down by the supreme court. Hmmm, praise your hospital workers for over a year and call the "heroes" but then turn around and treat them like garbage. No wonder additional staff are quitting. I'd quit. It is all a bunch of double standards and loudest voice is right kind of crap. The immunologist that tried speaking up have been silenced and are just laying low getting ready for their testimony when the schmidt hits the fan.

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