By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

WHO warns against abandoning efforts to limit COVID transmission

The World Health Organization warned last week that nations should not stop fighting the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Since Omicron was first identified just 10 weeks ago, almost 90 million cases have been reported to WHO. More than were reported in the whole of 2020. We are now starting to see a very worrying increase in deaths in most regions of the world,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization said on Feb. 1.

“We’re concerned that a narrative has taken hold in some countries that because of vaccines and because of Omicron’s higher transmissibility and lower severity, preventing transmission is no longer possible and no longer necessary. Nothing could be further from the truth. More transmission means more deaths.”

The United States has significantly higher death rates from COVID-19 than other wealthy nations, and deaths from the Omicron variant have surpassed those from the Delta variant last summer. More than 902,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the U.S. since early 2020.

More than 6,200 people have died in Oregon, including 183 in Yamhill County. Of those, 26 have been reported since January, although the county and state report some deaths several months after they occur, as some are found through ongoing data reconciliation of death records.

“We are not calling for any country to return to so-called lockdown. But we are calling on all countries to protect their people using every tool in the toolkit. Not vaccines alone. It’s premature for any country either to surrender or to declare victory,” Dr. Tedros said.


Omicron has been widely reported as milder than Delta — in adults, although it is more severe in children — largely because it is less likely to attack the lungs and require the use of a ventilator. But the disease also kills in other ways, and it causes high rates of longterm disability in survivors, both children and adults, even among people whose initial cases were mild.

Measures for mitigating risk of transmission include improving ventilation in public buildings, widespread masking and avoiding gatherings.

But another issue facing the United States and Oregon is widespread lack of hospital capacity. Oregon had a relatively low ratio of hospital beds to residents before the pandemic, and that combined with the relentless impact on healthcare workers has stressed the entire system. According to Becky Hultberg, President and CEO of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health System, one in five healthcare workers nationwide has quit.

The OAHHS has been warning of the impact on hospitals for months.

In September, it noted that “Hospitals continue to report significant staff shortages as some health care workers are leaving jobs and others are taking time off due to illness, exhaustion, or stress.”

A January 2022 press release said the pressure has not eased.

“This fall, the data show a health care system that was pushed to the edge,” Andy Van Pelt, CEO of Apprise Health Insights said in the press release. “Hospitals have been under pressure from COVID for nearly two years. Oregon barely avoided a collapsed system in the fall, but we are still facing major challenges.”


Willamette Valley Medical Center warned on its Facebook page on Jan. 31 that emergency wait times were “longer than usual” because of increased demand, and issued a reminder that it does not conduct COVID-19 testing.

Testing is available twice a week through the county Public Health department and daily at Spirit Mountain Casino, from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Providence is offering PCR testing by appointment; call 971-326-8718 to schedule. For more information, see the county’s website, at hhs.co.yamhill.or.us/publichealth/page/testing. However, because testing is limiting, the county is urging people with mild symptoms who don’t require medical care not to seek a test, and to assume they have COVID and isolate themselves for the recommended period instead.

New cases began dropping in Oregon in late January, but deaths more than doubled, and the test positivity rate remained above 20% the week of Jan. 23-29. New results will be released on Wednesday evening or Thursday morning.

The rate fluctuates from day to day, but in Yamhill County on Feb. 2, the most recent date available, the testing positivity rate was 24.5%.

On Friday, the Oregon Health Authority reported there were just 247 available adult non-ICU beds out of 4,124 in the state, and 51 available adult ICU beds out of 634 total. In the six-county region encompassing Yamhill County, there were four adult ICU beds, and four adult non-ICU beds in total.

But it’s not only lack of staff tying up available beds.

In August, the OAHHS said that “Two other factors are affecting capacity (measured by the number of staffed beds): difficulty in discharging patients into continuing care facilities where they can finish their recovery (such as skilled nursing) and an increase in ED boarding (patients waiting for an inpatient bed sometimes spending days in the emergency department). ED boarding is up 10 percent from December 2020 to March 2021 according to Apprise data.”

Hultberg said in late January both of those issues are still causing backups and bed shortages.

In addition, “hospitals are in a much worse position regarding staffing than at any prior point,” she said.

The latest forecast model from Oregon Health and Sciences University, released on Friday, said cases are still increasing in southern coastal and eastern regions of the state, but appear to be flat or declining in the remainder.


Yamhill County reported 119 new cases on Friday and two deaths. It had not yet updated for Monday as of press time.

Oregon, which has maintained an indoor mask mandate throughout the Delta and Omicron surges, had a per capita peak rate of 36% lower than the U.S. as a whole, according to OHSU. Nonetheless, it said, as of Feb. 2, 32% of the state’s ICU beds were occupied by COVID-19 patients.

In Region 2, which encompasses Yamhill County, it said, 33% of ICU beds and 30% of non-ICU beds were occupied by COVID-19 patients.

Statewide, there were 28 Oregon children hospitalized for COVID-19 as of Feb. 2.

The Omicron variant has caused Oregon children younger than 18 to be hospitalized at a rate of 3.25 per 100,000. “Other states are showing rates up to 3 times higher. More likely is up to another 30% increase in pediatric patients to a per capita level of 4.5 or about 40 total patients," according to the forecast.

The forecast said that “Deaths per day are expected to increase over the next 2 weeks but are not expected to reach levels observed during the Delta wave.”

Comments

Rotwang

Ivermectin will knock back the Wuhan virus. But, they won't allow it to be used.

Lulu

So will bleach, according to Trump.