Statewide hospitalizations won’t fall to below 400 until around Thanksgiving, as Oregonians tire of measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, according to the latest updated forecast from Oregon Health & Science University.
The latest forecast incorporates data revealing that people are returning more frequently to higher risk behaviors such as gathering in large groups indoors. Those types of higher-risk behaviors appear to be at or near levels that haven’t been seen since before the surge of infections from the highly contagious delta variant began sweeping through Oregon in the summer.
“Fatigue is setting in,” said Peter Graven, Ph.D., director of the OHSU Office of Advanced Analytics. “The overall masking rate is staying high, but other behaviors are back to pre-surge levels and that is going to generate more infections. We’re still on a downward path in terms of hospitalizations, but it’s not going to decline as fast.”
The new report also tracks higher-risk behavior by vaccination status, revealing that unvaccinated people are slightly more likely to visit a restaurant or attend large indoor events than those who have been vaccinated. With regard to masking, the data show that people who are unvaccinated are almost twice as likely to go without a mask – only 49% of unvaccinated people are wearing masks compared with 89% of vaccinated people.
Gov. Kate Brown imposed a statewide mask requirement on Aug. 13.
“Unvaccinated people are much more likely to report not wearing a mask at all, which may be their only defense against a highly contagious virus,” Graven said.
A total of 567 people statewide remained hospitalized for COVID-19 as of Thursday, Oct. 21, according to the latest figures provided by the Oregon Health Authority, down from the peak of 1,178 people hospitalized on Sept. 1. Pockets of hot spots remain around the state, including the region encompassing Bend and Klamath Falls, with slower declines in hospitalizations compared with the rest of the state on a per-capita basis.
Graven reduced the forecast’s presumed rate of vaccine efficacy from 95% to 90% based on published estimates, which leaves a total of 24% of Oregon’s population susceptible to infection.