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This pandemic is not over: Oregon Health Authority reports increased COVID cases, everywhere

COVID image.jpg
Adam Nieścioruk
Two months after Oregon ended the statewide mask mandate, OHA advises masking can help reduce the spread of the prevalent BA.2 Omicron strain.

In a COVID-19 pandemic response update Wednesday, Oregon’s top epidemiologist confirms the Omicron BA.2 strain remains highly transmissible and widespread.

Omicron variant CDC image.JPG
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Omicron variants BA.1 and BA.2 are prevalent in Lane County and infections are increasing in communities, public health officials say.

Over the last month, daily reported case counts more than doubled-- from a rolling count of 600 cases per day to 1,350. Dr. Dean Sidelinger said these are actually undercounts- since most new cases aren’t being reported to Public Health departments. That’s because so many residents are testing at home or not taking tests at all.

“Unfortunately, these developments tell us that the pandemic is not yet over,” Sidelinger said. “If you’re in a gathering of people outside your home, sooner or later you will be exposed to the virus. This could be where you worship, where you work, where you recreate, where you shop or where you connect with friends and family.”

OHA press conference screenshot
Dr. Dean Sidelinger is top epidemiologist and State Health Officer with the Oregon Health Authority.

Sidelinger encouraged vaccination and boosters for all eligible. First boosters are approved for everyone 5 years and older. Second booster shots are approved for everyone over 50, including the immunocompromised and people who initially received a single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The top health officer also suggested masking for the medically vulnerable and those in a household with very young children and elders. People living in a county where the federally determined risk level is “medium” should consider wearing a mask indoors, Sidelinger said. Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas, Deschutes, Columbia and Benton counties are currently at that risk level.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
As Omicron variants continue to infect communities, vaccination is "the best protection against severe illness and long COVID-19," OHA officials insist.

Sidelinger said people who have compromised immune systems or underlying medical conditions “should consider contacting their health care providers now to make a plan to get tested and receive treatment,” before they become ill.

Even as hospitalizations have doubled in the last four weeks, Sidelinger said the Oregon Health Authority is optimistic that COVID-19 patients will not overwhelm hospitals. At the height of this peak, OHA forecasts the hospitalization rate to reach 321 occupied beds by June 10.

Through summer 2022, health officials don't expect sustained transmission rates. They say this is thanks to the vaccination rate, immunity and that more people will spend time outside. But, Sidelinger said, "if new variants develop in Oregon, in other states or countries that come to Oregon, that could change- as we move inside in the fall."

The federal government is currently providing eight free COVID-19 rapid antigen tests to be delivered to your home: https://special.usps.com/testkits

Tiffany joined the KLCC News team in 2007. She studied journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia and has worked in a variety of media including television and daily print news. For KLCC, Tiffany reports on health care, social justice and local/regional news. She has won awards from Oregon Associated Press, PRNDI, and Education Writers Association.