Oregon COVID-19 Hospitalizations Continue to Rise

The data may not mean the same thing as last time, but hospitals are still warning of staffing shortages.

Oregon COVID cases and hospitalizations continued to climb this week, with the Oregon Health Authority reporting 1,045 patients in hospitals with COVID-19.

Over the past week, OHA reports an average of 8,010 cases a day, a slight increase since the beginning of last week. That suggests the wave of cases spurred by the Omicron variant has not yet crested.

A smaller percentage of Omicron cases have resulted in hospitalizations, but the current caseload means that experts project the state will see more COVID-19 hospitalizations than ever before. (The current projection is that COVID patients will need 1,500 staffed hospital beds statewide before Omicron subsides.)

It’s clear that the state does not have a full picture from the case count of what’s happening. Home testing is more common than earlier in the pandemic, and as many as 100 positive home tests a day are authenticated and included in the state’s tally, Oregon Health Authority officials said last week. The positivity rate remains exceedingly high at 22.9%.

Because there are so many more cases during this surge, more hospital patients are incidentally testing positive when they go to the hospital to seek care, so that number too contains some uncertainty.

OHA has not broken out that data. Neither have the state’s association of hospitals, though both downplayed the significance of incidental COVID diagnoses.

“I don’t have a breakdown in Oregon of hospitalizations because of or with COVID-19, but whether it is someone hospitalized with COVID or because of COVID, it is still a hospital bed that is taken up,” said Becky Hultberg, president and CEO of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, at a Jan. 20 press briefing.

The number of hospitalizations is “pushing the system everywhere to a breaking point,” Hultberg added. “There is good news. The good news is that most patients in the hospital with COVID-19 aren’t as sick as they were during the Delta wave. But the sheer number of patients is exacerbated by staffing....The next couple of weeks are going to be really tough, and it is important for people to understand that there is a war going on in our hospitals against this virus that isn’t visible to the public.”