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OHSU forecast: Respiratory illness peaking in Oregon

RSV, COVID hospitalizations down 25%, 15% statewide; flu hospitalizations to decline soon
OHSU Emergency Dept. OHSU's Peter Graven provides new COVID-19 flu RSV forecast
Oregon Health & Science University experts forecast a continued strain on Oregon hospitals due to RSV, COVID-19, and flu. (OHSU/Christine Torres Hicks)

While Oregon’s current surge of respiratory illness is expected to peak by the end of this week, hospitals will likely need to continue to be flexible in order to meet tremendous patient demand in the coming months.

Oregon Health & Science University’s latest statewide forecast reports Oregon’s total number of patients hospitalized for RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, has dropped 25% since its peak on Dec. 3, and hospitalizations for COVID-19 have dropped 15% since their peak on Nov. 29. In addition, flu hospitalizations are expected to peak by the end of this week, and then drop by 25% by the end of the month.

RSV Flu COVID - Oregon

The latest forecast does not include impacts of the new strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It’s possible COVID cases could increase again if those strains prove to have greater transmissibility, escape previous immunity or cause more severe illness.

Peter Graven, Ph.D. (OHSU)
Peter Graven, Ph.D. (OHSU)

“Thanksgiving gatherings led to a surge of more respiratory illnesses across the U.S. and Oregon,” said Peter Graven, Ph.D., director of the OHSU Office of Advanced Analytics. “While cases appear to have peaked, and we’re expecting cases to decline over the next two months, holiday gatherings continue to present a risk for increased transmission.”

Oregon hospitals remain under intense pressure during the current, multi-pronged surge of both pediatric and adult patients needing advanced care. After Gov. Kate Brown declared a public health emergency on Nov. 14 due to a large rise in pediatric respiratory illness, Portland Metro area hospitals implemented pediatric crisis standards of care on Nov. 22. This marked the first time Oregon hospitals had declared crisis standards during the nearly three years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Oregon hospitals remain under intense pressure during the current, multi-pronged surge of both pediatric and adult patients needing advanced care. After Gov. Kate Brown declared a public health emergency on Nov. 14 due to a large rise in pediatric respiratory illness, Portland metro area hospitals on Nov. 22 implemented pediatric crisis standards of care. The governor on Dec. 7 issued an executive order to help hospitals respond to the continued, unprecedented rise of respiratory illness in both children and adults. On Dec. 9, Portland metro area hospitals implemented adult crisis standards of care. Crisis standards have given hospitals maximum flexibility to most effectively use their limited resources, including adjusting unit staffing plans, to ensure everyone is able to get the best possible care.

The surge in hospitalizations — including unprecedented demand on emergency departments statewide — comes on top of health care staffing challenges that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health experts and hospital leaders ask the public to take proven precautions to prevent the spread of respiratory illness:

  • Wear masks in public places.
  • Avoid contact with those who are sick.
  • Wash hands frequently.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces.
  • Stay up to date on all routine vaccinations, including flu shots and COVID-19 boosters.
  • Limit the exposure of infants and the elderly to frequent visitors and crowds, especially if they are at risk for severe illness.
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