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Feb. 17 forecast shows accelerated decline of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Oregon

Forecast shows importance of Oregonians sticking to public health measures
Several members of the Oregon National Guard line up to walk through the COVID-19 check-in at the entrance of OHSU hospital.
A group of Oregon National Guard members makes its way through the entrance of OHSU Hospital on Friday, Feb. 11, 2022. (OHSU/Christine Torres Hicks)

The number of people hospitalized in Oregon with COVID-19 is declining faster than expected, and should recede to the level last seen before the current omicron surge by March 20, according to the latest update from Oregon Health & Science University.

The number of people hospitalized has dropped from an omicron surge peak of 1,130 on Jan. 27 to 788 as of Thursday, Feb. 17, according to the latest figures from the Oregon Health Authority.

The new OHSU forecast shows that cases will fall to about 400 by March 20 — a week and a half ahead of last week’s forecast.

Peter Graven, Ph.D. (OHSU); a person with light hair, smiling.
Peter Graven, Ph.D. (OHSU)

“We have had a substantial drop in the number of hospitalized patients in Oregon over the past week or so,” said Peter Graven, Ph.D., director of the OHSU Office of Advanced Analytics. “This doesn’t mean that we’re out of the woods. The number of cases are still significantly higher than they have been for most of the pandemic, but the decline over the past week provides relief for hospitals operating under severe strain — and will benefit all Oregonians who need timely care in a hospital.”

Graven noted that Oregon masking rates have remained among the highest in the nation, with survey data showing roughly 80% of Oregonians continuing to wear masks indoors. Over the past month and a half, the same survey data showed that large numbers of Oregonians refrained from gathering indoors with people outside their own household, although those rates have begun to tick up.

Oregon is still experiencing large numbers of infections every day, and Graven noted that it will be important for people to stick with public health measures over the next few weeks.

He cited the example of Denmark, where omicron arrived a month before it was confirmed in Oregon.

“They gave up on public health measures at what they thought was the peak — and it turned out not to be the peak and they had even more people hospitalized,” Graven said. “It’s instructive to recognize that Oregonians are doing the right thing, and it’s paying off. It will be important to keep it up if we’re going to have to a more manageable impact on our health system.”

The highly contagious omicron variant was first confirmed in Oregon on Dec. 14.

The average peak level of hospitalizations across the rest of the U.S. was more than a third higher per-capita than Oregon. If Oregon had followed those national trends, Graven projects it would have amounted to a peak of around 1,540 in the hospital with COVID-19 — well above the omicron peak and also above the state’s overall pandemic peak of 1,178 on Sept. 1, 2021, during the wave of infections fueled by the delta variant.

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