You ‘will be exposed’ to coronavirus, Oregon health officials say, though COVID-19 wave is relatively mild

Oregon’s chief disease specialist drew a fine line Wednesday between warning Oregonians to protect themselves amid a spike in coronavirus infections and not mandating or even recommending state measures to prevent infection.

The current surge in identified COVID-19 infections, with a daily average of more than 1,400 cases reported per day, may be peaking, Dr. Dean Sidelinger said in a now-monthly media update on COVID-19. on Wednesday. But the sustained growth in cases and hospitalizations means “the pandemic is not over yet.”

“If you’re in a gathering of people outside your home, sooner or later you’re going to be exposed to the virus,” Sidelinger said. “The risk of exposure and infection exists in every community in Oregon.”

In the more than two years since the pandemic began, Oregon has reported a daily average of cases above 1,400 for only about four months. And underscoring how widespread the disease is likely to be, the epidemiologist said “most” cases are now not being reported to the state, because some people get their results through an at-home test, which doesn’t have to be reported, or just don’t get tested at all.

Everyone in a county where the federally determined risk level is “medium” should consider wearing a mask, Sidelinger said. Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties are at that risk level, as are Deschutes, Columbia and Benton counties. He also encouraged people who are unvaccinated, older, immunocompromised, at risk of serious illness, or who live with someone in those categories., to wear a mask.

The key marker for the severity of the current pandemic, hospitalizations, remain well below the peaks reached on omicron or delta waves. That is expected to hold during the peak, projected to reach 321 occupied beds by June 10. Hospitalizations approached 1,200 at the height of the delta wave. As of Tuesday, 255 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, according to data from the Oregon Health Authority.

“OHA is optimistic that the total number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Oregon will not exceed the capacity of our hospital system to care for them,” Sidelinger said.

As for what will happen after this wave ends, Sidelinger said he hopes Oregon doesn’t see sustained growth in cases over the summer thanks to immunity from recent infections and vaccinations and because people will be spending time outdoors.

“But if new variants develop in Oregon, in other states or countries that come to Oregon, that could change as we move inland in the fall,” Sidelinger said.

—Fyodor Zarkhin

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