Oregon health care systems will continue to experience severe strain from an unprecedented surge in COVID-19 infections with the peak number of hospitalizations expected to arrive Monday, Sept. 6, according to an updated forecast from Oregon Health & Science University.
“We’re in a dire state, but I am seeing some signs that this is going to level out in the next week,” said Peter Graven, Ph.D., lead data scientist in OHSU’s Business Intelligence unit. “We’re seeing evidence that people have changed their behavior to protect themselves and others, and that will need to continue if we’re going to be able to free up space in our hospitals.”
Graven’s data show masking rates have ticked up to about 80% and that Oregonians have refrained from gathering in indoor markets, grocery stores, bars and in large groups. In addition, more people are getting vaccinated in response to the alarming surge in critically ill Oregonians.
Graven’s new update projects a peak of 1,208 people hospitalized statewide as of Monday, Sept. 6. That’s a slight increase from his previous forecast a week ago and a few more than the 1,178 people hospitalized statewide as of today in the latest figures provided by the Oregon Health Authority. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 is now more than double the previous peak in cases last winter, before vaccines were widely available.
By Tuesday, Graven’s model shows the number of hospitalizations beginning to drop off as the highly contagious delta variant finds fewer Oregonians who haven’t been vaccinated or already infected.
“It’s getting harder for the virus to find people susceptible right now, but unfortunately that’s because it’s infected so many already,” Graven said.
For those who have been naturally infected and survived, laboratory research published by OHSU scientists and physicians shows previously infected people stand to get a much greater benefit of protection if they’re vaccinated. Vaccination remains the surest way to end the pandemic.