PORTLAND, OR -- Oregon Health Authority officials say they are monitoring a rise in COVID-19 cases, including the now prevalent BA.2 subvariant. Deputy State Health Officer Dr. Tom Jeanne says Oregon averaged 600 new cases a day over the past week, "It’s been a little bit more than four weeks since the lifting of mask use in most settings, and some of the jump we see in case counts is likely tied to less mask use and more Oregonians gathering indoors and returning to pre-pandemic social activities."
He says the OHA is aware there's a level of underreporting, "The proportion of cases reported to public health also has likely declined, with more home tests available." According to Dr. Jeanne, that underreporting could mean the case count is as much as five- to 10-times higher than what's reported.
OHA Senior Health Advisor Dr. Paul Cieslak urges continued caution, especially the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, because it's not possible to track home tests and those asymptomatic people who don’t get tested, "I think you can take it as a given that there’s a lot of COVID-19 out there. Dr. Peter Graven’s most recent estimate, which is almost two weeks ago now, was that 1% of Oregonians were walking around with COVID-19. So, if you’re in a crowded setting, you’re going to be exposed to the virus." He’s referring to Dr. Graven - a lead data scientist at OHSU who creates a regular COVID forecast for the state. Click HERE to read the latest forecast, completed April 8.
Dr. Jeanne says the rate of serious illness appears to be trending down, "We continue to see relatively low numbers of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 illness, averaging fewer than 100 patients a day during April - a significant drop from the more than 1100 hospitalized patients during the Delta and Omicron surges." And, he says the OHA has no plans to reinstate mask mandates should COVID numbers spike again because more than 80% of the population has some level of immunity and there are more effective medical treatments available. Dr. Cieslak believes the best protection continues to come from getting vaccinated and boosted.