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COVID surge complicates care in Lincoln County health system

A visualization of the SARS virus. It is a type of coronavirus and displays the coronavirus' signature crownlike appearance under a microscope.
Lincoln County, like much of Oregon, has seen a dramatic upswing in confirmed COVID-19 cases this month.

Lincoln County continues to experience its highest number of COVID-19 cases during the pandemic. And that’s making things complicated for the rural county’s health care system:

Since the beginning of this month, there have been more reported cases of COVID-19 in Lincoln County than there were during the entire first year of the pandemic. But with fewer cases requiring hospitalization during the omicron surge, the county’s two hospitals haven’t reached the same level of patients as they did during last fall’s delta surge.

Still, Samaritan Pacific Communities CEO Lesley Ogden said the near record-level of hospitalizations around the rest of the state is causing challenges locally.

“Why do we care so much if our hospitalizations are okay within the county? We care because we can’t move patients to a higher level of care," said said during an update Wednesday to the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners.

Ogden said Samaritan’s Lincoln City hospital will stop most surgeries starting next week and will use that part of the facility for overflow beds.

Later in the meeting, Lincoln County Sheriff Curtis Landers announced that a COVID-19 outbreak had affected 25 inmates and 10 deputies at the Lincoln County Jail.

He said inmates have been placed on lockdown in order to prevent further spread, but he added that it’s not an ideal situation.

“Adults in custody are locked up most of the day with very little time to come out of their cell to shower, contact friends and family, do what they need to do, which makes everybody a little upset in the facility, if you can imagine,” the sheriff said to commissioners.

Landers said none of the cases have required hospitalization. And he said some of the staff members who tested positive earlier this month are returning to work over the next few days.

Staff and inmates will be tested again on Saturday, and Landers said he hopes the tests will show that the peak of the surge has passed.

"Certainly a sobering day in many ways, " said Commissioner Claire Hall, following the reports from the medical community and the sheriff. "It drives home the point, if anybody thinks we're out of the woods with this pandemic, even though we're almost two years in now, that that's not the case at all."

Chris Lehman has been reporting on Oregon issues since 2006. He joined the KLCC news department in December, 2018 and became News Director in March, 2023. Chris was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and graduated from Temple University with a degree in journalism. His public broadcasting career includes stops in Louisiana and Illinois. Chris has filed for national programs including “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”
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