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17 in 20 Oregonians Sickened by the Delta Surge This Month Were Unvaccinated

State health officials say they don’t know what percentage of hospital beds are occupied by unvaccinated people.

Health officials say 85.6% of the Oregonians who contracted COVID-19 in the first two weeks of August were unvaccinated.

Just 5.8% of those 2,982 vaccinated people diagnosed with the virus were hospitalized. Less than 1% died, a new report says.

The report, issued Thursday afternoon, is the most detailed look yet at the vaccination status of people sickened in the largest two-week surge Oregon has seen since the pandemic commenced. Yet officials with the Oregon Health Authority say they do not know what percentage of the 845 people currently hospitalized with the virus had received a vaccination.

“Because the majority of COVID-19 cases in Oregon have unknown hospitalization status, we are unable to provide exact proportions of unvaccinated and vaccine breakthrough hospitalized cases,” said Delia Hernández, a spokesperson for OHA. “That said, we do know that the vast majority of hospitalized COVID-19 cases in Oregon are unvaccinated individuals, and this is consistent with national data.”

The exact numbers would be useful data for Oregon to have on hand as the governor attempts to use persuasion and mandate to increase the vaccination rate. Earlier Thursday, Gov. Kate Brown announced that health care workers and school staff will be required to get vaccinated this fall—in effect overriding a 1989 law that exempted doctors and nurses from workplace vaccination rules.

The percentage of Oregon’s “breakthrough” cases—14.4%—matches the best understanding of the Delta variant, which appears more transmissible to vaccinated people, but is unlikely to cause severe illness or death to people with the protection of a vaccine.

How unlikely? That’s not clear in the Oregon data. Hospitals have released individual reports of how many of their sickest COVID patients are unvaccinated. But health officials do not appear to have collected that data statewide.

What we do know is that more than 50 people per 100,000 are hospitalized with COVID-19 in Jackson and Josephine counties, the epicenter of the Oregon Delta surge and one of the least vaccinated regions in the state. (Over the past week, Josephine County averaged 134 new COVID cases per 100,000 people each day—nearly six times the per capita rate of Multnomah County.)

Dire reports from southwest Oregon say intensive care units and morgues are at capacity. Yet Josephine County officials have refused to promote vaccinations and masks—calling such public health measures too politically divisive—or postpone the county fair.

Last week, Brown overruled local officials and issued a mask requirement. Today, she mandated vaccines for several key professions. So far, her office has made no mention of shutting down businesses or events.