Oregon hospitals near breaking point as COVID-19 surges

Aug 18, 2021, 5:01 PM | Updated: 6:26 pm

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Just 41 intensive care unit beds were available in Oregon on Wednesday as COVID-19 cases continue to climb and hospitals near capacity in a state that was once viewed as a pandemic success story.

Oregon, which earlier had among the lowest cases per capita, is now shattering its COVID-19 hospitalization records day after day. Oregon — like Florida, Arkansas and Louisiana — has had more people in the hospital with COVID-19 than at any other point in the pandemic.

As of Wednesday, 850 coronavirus patients were hospitalized in Oregon — surpassing the state’s record, which was set the previous day. Before this month, the hospitalization record was 622 in November, during a winter surge and when vaccines were not yet available.

More than a third of the state’s 652 adult ICU beds are being used for COVID-19 patients. Health officials say that the overwhelming majority of hospitalized virus patients are unvaccinated.

For more than a year Oregon faced some of the nation’s strictest safety measures — county risk levels, mask requirements inside and outside, limited gatherings and restaurants closed for indoor dining. Health officials say the state’s consistently low COVID-19 case counts throughout the pandemic can be attributed to tight restrictions.

On June 30, Gov. Kate Brown officially lifted coronavirus restrictions. At the time 136 people with COVID-19 were hospitalized.

But as safety measures were removed, and the highly transmissible delta variant tore through the state, COVID-19 cases rapidly increased.

Earlier this month, Renee Edwards, the chief medical officer at Oregon Health & Science University, said that Oregon’s low “immunity level as a state when considering previous infections” and the number of vaccinated people has placed the state at high risk for new infections.

For weeks Oregon health officials have warned that COVID-19 cases, fueled by the highly transmissible delta variant, would fill hospitals by September if infection rates didn’t slow significantly. Now, a little more than halfway through the month of August, 94% of the state’s hospital beds for adults and 93% of ICU beds are full.

“When our hospitals, emergency departments, and ICUs are full, that means a staffed hospital bed may not be available when you and your family need urgent or intensive care, whether for COVID-19, or a car crash, or a heart attack or stroke,” Gov. Kate Brown said via Twitter on Tuesday.

Oregon divides the state into hospital regions to better coordinate emergency response. In hospital region two in western Oregon — which consists of Benton, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, Polk and Yamhill counties — officials report that there are zero ICU beds left.

Other hospital regions are heading towards full capacity as well.

In hospital region one — which is home to Oregon’s most populous counties and where about half of the state’s hospital and ICU beds are located — there are 17 adult ICU beds left.

State health officials have warned that, without health and safety interventions in place, hospitalizations will far exceed the health system capacity in coming weeks. Officials at Oregon Health & Science University estimate that the state will be short by as many as 500 hospital beds by early September.

Despite new safety and health measures — including vaccine requirements for health care workers and state employees and a statewide indoor mask mandate for everyone, regardless of vaccination status — Oregon continues to report all-time high COVID-19 numbers.

On Friday 500 National Guard members will be deployed to serve as equipment runners in the most stricken hospitals and help with testing.

In an attempt keep hospital beds open, health systems across Oregon have opted to postpone elective procedures, nurses and physicians say they are overwhelmed and health officials are desperately urging people to get vaccinated and wear masks.

Sara Cline is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - A man takes photos as a black plume rises over East Palestine, Ohio, as a result of a contro...
Associated Press

EXPLAINER: Toxic gases connected to Ohio train derailment

A day after crews released and burned toxic chemicals transported by a wrecked train in Ohio, residents remain in the dark about what toxic substances could be lingering in their evacuated neighborhoods. About 50 cars, including 10 carrying hazardous materials, derailed in a fiery crash Friday night in East Palestine, according to rail operator Norfolk […]
24 hours ago
In this photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivers a s...
Associated Press

UN experts: North Korean hackers stole record virtual assets

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — North Korean hackers working for the government stole record-breaking virtual assets last year estimated to be worth between $630 million and more than $1 billion, U.N. experts said in a new report. The panel of experts said in the wide-ranging report seen Tuesday by The Associated Press that the hackers used […]
24 hours ago
President Joe Biden delivers his State of the Union speech to a joint session of Congress, at the C...
Associated Press

Transcript: Biden’s second State of the Union address

Transcript of President Joe Biden’s second State of the Union address, as prepared for delivery and as provided by the White House: Mr. Speaker. Madam Vice President. Our First Lady and Second Gentleman. Members of Congress and the Cabinet. Leaders of our military. Mr. Chief Justice, Associate Justices, and retired Justices of the Supreme Court. […]
24 hours ago
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on ...
Associated Press

President Joe Biden in State of Union attempts to reassure condition of nation

President Joe Biden called on Republicans in his State of the Union speech to work with him to “finish the job” of rebuilding the economy.
24 hours ago
FILE - A CSX freight train sits on a siding in downtown Pittsburgh, Nov. 19, 2022. Several thousand...
Associated Press

In a first, some CSX railroad workers to get paid sick leave

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Several thousand workers at CSX will soon get one of the things that pushed the U.S. railroad industry to the brink of a strike last fall: paid sick time. CSX announced a deal Tuesday with two of its 12 unions, becoming the first major railroad to offer that benefit that most […]
24 hours ago
Associated Press

Trudeau says Canadian health care isn’t living up to promise

TORONTO (AP) — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that Canada’s health care system isn’t living up to its promise, and he plans to add billions more in funding. Trudeau said wait times in emergency departments have become dangerously long, people are waiting too long for essential surgeries and millions of Canadians are without […]
24 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Company looking for oldest air conditioner and wants to reward homeowner with new one

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.
...
Fiesta Bowl Foundation

Celebrate 50 years of Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade magic!

Since its first production in the early 1970s, the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe has been a staple of Valley traditions, bringing family fun and excitement to downtown Phoenix.
...
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
Oregon hospitals near breaking point as COVID-19 surges