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New projection shows continued severe strain on Oregon hospitals

COVID-19 hospitalizations will decline gradually over two or three months from peak of almost 1,200 on Sept. 1
nurse preparing medication in the medical intensive care unit.
More than half of intensive care units in Oregon are now filled with COVID-19 patients, including the medical intensive care unit shown here at OHSU Hospital. A new forecast from OHSU reveals that Oregon hospitals will remain under severe strain for the next two to three months, with a gradual decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations. (OHSU/Erin Hoover Barnett)

Oregon hospitals will remain under severe strain from the current surge in COVID-19 cases with a gradual decline in hospitalizations over the next two to three months, according to an updated forecast from Oregon Health & Science University.

Hospitalizations peaked at 1,178 COVID-19 cases on Sept. 1, and critical care resources remain under extreme strain with roughly half of all intensive care units in the state filled with COVID-19 patients who are largely unvaccinated. The highly contagious delta variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has driven a surge in cases this summer.

close-in head shot of Peter Graven, Ph.D., a smiling adult with pale skin.
Peter Graven, Ph.D.

“It looks like we are seeing the flattening of cases that we had hoped for,” said Peter Graven, Ph.D., lead data scientist in OHSU’s Business Intelligence unit. “However, we are still projecting it will be a very long time before hospitalization levels return to more manageable levels.”

Hospitalizations are very slowly trending down, with a total of 1,150 people hospitalized statewide as of today in the latest figures provided by the Oregon Health Authority.

The new forecast reveals continued room for the virus to spread, with roughly 27% of Oregon’s population susceptible to infection, meaning those people who don’t yet have immunity through vaccination or natural infection. Graven is also keeping a close eye on pediatric cases, especially as schools reopen across Oregon.

“It’s certainly still possible to generate a new surge in severe illness,” he said.

Graven’s data shows that Oregonians are improving their response to the alarming surge in cases by increasing their use of masks to 84% as of Sept. 7. His data also shows moderate declines in behaviors such as going to an indoor market or bar or attending an indoor event with 10 or more people.

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