Cases of Covid-19 may begin to increase within a month, marking the fall-winter surge of the virus along with an expected uptick in flu infections, a top health official said on Wednesday.
“Even though we’re all tired of talking about Covid-19, Oregonians are still getting the disease,” said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the state’s chief health officer, at an online media briefing with
The current numbers are good: The state’s seven-day average dropped from 580 cases a day on Sept. 7 to about 480 this Tuesday. Hospitalizations have declined from a peak of about 460 on July 17 to nearly 250 on Wednesday. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classified nine counties in eastern and southern Oregon as at moderate risk, about the same as last month.
But one indicator shows an increase: Oregon State University’s wastewater sampling in some areas has gone up. This rise coincides with increasing infections in Europe. During the pandemic, infection and hospitalization trends in Europe appeared in the US several weeks later, first on the East Coast and then in the West.
In Europe on Wednesday, health authorities said Covid cases were rising and a spike was likely, Reuters reported.
Oregon officials also expect an increase in flu infections this winter based on trends in the Southern Hemisphere, where winter cases from June to August have been higher than the previous year.
Sidelinger said Oregon health officials have no plans to impose new mandates. He said any new restrictions would be based on hospital capacity. Even as hospitalizations for Covid are down, Oregon hospitals are strained by staff shortages and an increase in patients with more acute illness as they put off care during the pandemic, hospital officials say.
“Hospitals are still experiencing disruptions in care during the pandemic and health care workforce shortages,” Sidelinger said. “We continue to get reports from hospitals of people who are in the emergency room waiting for beds, people waiting to be discharged.”
He indicated that any restrictions would be based on a lack of hospital staff to treat those in need of care.
Sidelinger called for Oregonians to be reinforced. An updated Pfizer booster for children 5 to 11 years old was approved this week by federal officials and the Western States Scientific Safety Review Task Force, which includes experts from Oregon, Washington, Nevada and California. Moderna’s updated vaccine is approved for children over 6 years of age. The latest boosters target the original strain and the latest variants, BA.4 and BA.5. The latter is now dominant in Oregon.
The updated booster has been given to more than a quarter of a million people in Oregon — about 6 percent of the population. That compares to 3.5% nationwide.
Sidelinger said that rate needs to be raised to better protect Oregonians.
“Seven in 10 Oregonians have received at least one Covid-19 vaccine, and we hope that seven in 10 Oregonians will also receive an updated booster vaccine,” he said.
Health officials recommend that people get a booster two months after the last vaccine and three months after an infection.
With lower demand, the state began closing its sites for large quantities of vaccines. To take a photo, check state website. Health officials say it’s safe to get the Covid and flu shots at the same time.
Sidelinger also reported a drop in monkeypox cases, although he cautioned that the virus is still spreading.
“The number of new daily cases reported to OHA has slowed significantly over the past two months, to about 10 cases per week in September compared to about 30 cases per week at the peak of the outbreak in early August,” Sidelinger said.
So far, 230 people, including two children, have been infected in nine counties: 11 in Clackamas, two in Columbia, one in Coos, one in Hood River, 22 in Lane, eight in Marion, 157 in Multnomah, one in Union and 27 in Washington. About 22% of those infected come from Spanish-speaking countries, almost double their share of the state’s population.
The majority – 65% – are gay or bisexual, the data show. The virus is spread through prolonged close contact, often sexually.
Sidelinger attributed the drop in cases to behavioral changes and increased vaccinations. The state urged providers to work with community groups and hold vaccine events at venues such as Pride events to help protect vulnerable individuals.
By Lynn Terry of Press Partner Oregon Metropolitan Chronicle