Face masks. Photo: Chas Hundley

More than 1,000 Oregonians have died in Oregon after contracting the novel coronavirus, the Oregon Health Authority announced Friday, December 4. The total deaths attributed to COVID-19 number 1,003 as of Friday. Friday’s report said that 30 more Oregonian’s had died, the fourth day in a row of double-digit deaths attributed to the virus.

And with the addition of 2,176 new COVID-19 cases reported Friday morning, Oregonians who have contracted the virus have surpassed 80,000 individuals, according to the OHA. Oregon’s hospital system also continued to feel the strain of the virus, with hospital capacity strained due to an influx of COVID-19 patients and staffing issues. As of Thursday, 559 people were in the hospital with the virus. 109 COVID-19 patients were in Intensive Care Units. 

“Our hardest days still lie ahead,” Governor Brown said during a press conference held Friday morning. “Oregon hospitals are filling up, and many are reducing elective surgeries,” Brown said. 

By Christmas, Governor Brown said, the state will likely see double the current average daily case rate. With that increase in cases, a similar increase in deaths are likely to follow. 

“We are on the brink of a full-blown crisis,” Brown said, adding that the majority of Oregonians appear to be following public health recommendations to wear masks and follow other safety measures. 

And while the situation is dire, an end to the pandemic could be in sight, with the first doses of a two-dose vaccine from Pfizer  — pending federal regulatory approval by the FDA — expected to be shipped to Oregon on December 15. That first shipment should number 35,000, with a follow-up dose administered in January. Those are slated to be administered to front line workers in the healthcare industry and to those in long-term care facilities. 

A week after the first shipment in December, more first doses of the vaccine from the pharmaceutical company Moderna, should they be approved for use, are expected to number 71,000, also slated for long term care facilities and front line healthcare workers. 

But even with those doses, Oregon is likely months away from having enough doses to achieve widespread vaccination among the state's residents.

“We can finally see a light at the end of this tunnel, but we are certainly not there yet,” Brown said, adding that healthcare workers and long-term care residents should be able to be vaccinated this winter.

“We anticipate that all Oregonians in these settings will have the opportunity to be vaccinated by the end of January,” Brown said. 

The vaccine, Dr. Dean Sidelinger, Oregon’s state epidemiologist said, was already paid for by the federal government, and would not have a cost for individuals to be vaccinated. 

Full remarks from the press conference can be viewed here.