SALEM – Oregon is on “red alert” over the growing wave of the omicron variant of COVID-19 that pushed the daily number of new cases to 10,451 on Friday, eclipsing records set in the past four days.
“Once again, COVID-19 has regrouped and is crossing Oregon,” Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the state’s chief epidemiologist, said during a press call on Friday.
As the new wave is expected to peak on Jan. 27 with 1,650 people in hospital, the Oregon Health Authority has released a “crisis care” protocol to guide physicians in prioritizing life-and-death care.
Based on a model already used by Washington and other states, patients who would not survive if released have top priority. Patients already treated take precedence over newcomers of the same level. If a choice needs to be made between two patients in identical medical situations, the choice will be made at random using a system on the OHA website.
“It’s a very difficult subject to consider and work on,” said Dana Hargunani, chief medical officer of the Oregon Health Authority.
The OHA said the protocol was “tentative” because it is being implemented without the normal level of public scrutiny and comment. Changes could be made in the future.
The protocol requires hospitals to notify the OHA when they need to implement the system and also post that it is used in public view at hospital entrances.
Omicron is spreading twice as fast as the delta variant that flooded hospitals in Oregon, peaking in September.
Early studies show that omicron infects fully vaccinated people more easily compared to earlier versions of COVID-19. But people who received the two-shot Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and also received the newly added booster vaccine are unlikely to experience the worst outcomes.
In the so-called “breakthrough” cases, people who received the maximum number of vaccines represent about 4% of people requiring hospital care and 1% of deaths. The average age of death for this group is 81 years.
Sidelinger said omicron was a “red alert” to unvaccinated people, who make up the vast majority of severe cases requiring hospitalization, intensive care unit beds, ventilators and whose infections turn out to be fatal.
But the severity of omicron will be more than outweighed by the large number of people who will be infected.
“It doesn’t help with the kind of overall impact on hospital capacity that we’re going to see here and hopefully prevent,” said Peter Graven, chief medical forecaster at Oregon Health & Science University.
Unvaccinated people who become seriously ill will need high levels of care that will make it more difficult for already overwhelmed and exhausted medical staff to care for those suffering from heart attacks, strokes and injuries from car crashes. .
Governor Kate Brown also ordered the Oregon National Guard to deploy what Sidelinger called 500 “clinically untrained” personnel to help relieve state hospital staff whose staff are exhausted from infections in their careers. own ranks.
Hospitals that will receive National Guard assistance are under review and likely won’t be announced until Monday, according to Brown’s press secretary Liz Merah.
According to recent state guidelines following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, anyone vaccinated who tests positive for COVID-19 must self-isolate for five days, then wear a mask everywhere for an additional five days.
Oregon officials said they were monitoring states to the east, where the omicron peak arrived earlier. Omicron’s ability to infect those vaccinated has resulted in a shortage of personnel in emergency medical services, schools, law enforcement, public transportation, private businesses and government agencies.
Covid-19 will wreak havoc in schools, said Colt Gill, director of the Oregon Department of Education.
Keeping children in classrooms was the “north star” that the state followed as closely as possible.
But the virus is having an impact on schools which is expected to increase in the coming weeks.
“I’m not saying that students and staff won’t be exposed,” said Gill
Graven said the forecast would peak with hospitalizations 30% higher than the peak of the delta variant in early September.
Sidelinger said he understands people are tired of what are now six waves of the virus since the pandemic hit Oregon in February 2020 – enough for a return to certain pre-COVID-19 conditions.
“We are all tired of the virus, but the virus is not tired of us,” he said.