Oregon recorded a record number of COVID-19 deaths last week, nearly 200, but health officials said new infections and hospitalizations from the virus are decreasing.
The state reported Wednesday that 195 people died from COVID-19 the week of Jan. 11 to 17. That's more people reported dead in a week than died in the months of May and June combined.
It's the second consecutive week that pandemic deaths set a new record in Oregon. But many of the fatalities actually occurred in November and December—at the height of a statewide virus surge believed linked to holiday gatherings—and were slowly reported to state officials by overwhelmed counties.
According to OHA, people ages 70 and older make up 77% of COVID-19-related deaths. There are 208 COVID-19 outbreaks at senior living communities and congregate living settings.
It's not all bad news: The Oregon Health Authority's most recent weekly COVID-19 report shows a 4% decline in new cases.
The total number of cases was 7,860, with a test positivity rate of 5.9%, and 332 people were hospitalized, a 7% decline. People between the ages 20 and 49 accounted for 54% of the cases.
"The rising case count that surged in December and into early January continues to be a factor in the reported death rates. The high number of deaths is tragic and sad. We grieve each loss to the pandemic. The pandemic continues to pose a threat to our friends, neighbors, co-workers and communities," wrote OHA Public Information Officer Tim Heider in an email response.
Pacific Islanders have the highest rate of hospitalizations, at 10.6%, compared with all other racial demographics, according to the weekly report. The second-highest are Indigenous and Black Oregonians.
People of color have been overrepresented in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations since the beginning of the pandemic, while white people are currently underrepresented in total case count, making up 47.3% of all cases last week.
"The state's plan to vaccinate Oregonians is guided by this concern and focuses on the inequitable burden of disease and other negative health conditions on communities of color and indigenous and American Indian/Alaska Native," Heider wrote. "To support this approach, we've created the 27-member Vaccine Advisory Committee, which represents groups disproportionately affected by the pandemic."