The surge of people hospitalized or infected with omicron is over, according to the latest forecast from Oregon Health & Science University.
The forecast, which influences the policy of the Oregon Health Authority, indicates that Oregon reached its peak, and the number of Oregonians infected or hospitalized has started to decline. The downward slide is expected to continue to mid-June when the state could reach pre-pandemic levels, provided another variant doesn’t emerge, the forecast shows.
In the meantime, Oregonians need to keep their masks on in public places at least until the state mandate is lifted, said Peter Graven, director of OHSU’s Office of Advanced Analytics, who prepared the forecast.
“It’s important for people to stick with masking through the next several weeks,” Graven said in a statement. “Even though our forecast projects light at the end of a very long tunnel, we can’t lose sight of the fact that hospitals in Oregon are still struggling to deliver timely care for everyone who needs it.”
The Oregon Health Authority said on Monday that it would lift the state indoor mask mandate by the end of March, or possibly before, depending on hospitalizations. It said it would retain the mask requirement in schools until then to give administrators and educators time to ensure that children can be kept safe.
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If the health authority were to lift its mask mandate now, hospitalizations would surge anew, Graven predicted. On Jan. 27, a peak of 1,130 people were hospitalized with omicron. That compares with 1,178 on Sept. 1, the most since the pandemic landed in March 2020.
On Thursday, 1,007 people were hospitalized with Covid statewide. Hospitalizations in Coos, Curry, Douglas and Lane counties continue to rise, while those in the Portland area to the coast are declining slowly. Hospitalizations remain flat elsewhere in the state.
Oregon’s hospitalization rate at the peak was more than one-third lower than the average for the U.S., Graven said.
“Oregonians’ commitment to protecting themselves, their neighbors and their community is paying off,” Graven said. “It will be important to maintain that vigilance in the weeks ahead.”
Another sign that the pandemic might be waning: The rate of positive tests is declining. Last week, 18% of tests were positive for the virus compared with 22% the week of Jan. 9.
Graven and other health care officials continue to urge people to get vaccinated and boosted to ensure they’re protected against the virus and other variants. A total of 83% of adults in Oregon have received two doses of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines and one dose of the Johnson & Johnson. Nearly 43% are boosted.
“We also know that the virus continues to mutate and spread, as we saw with delta and omicron,” Graven said. “That’s why it’s critical for people to get vaccinated and boosted so that we’re able to handle future mutations while maintaining timely access to medical care that all Oregonians expect and deserve.”
This story originally appeared in the Oregon Capital Chronicle and is republished here under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license. Read more stories at oregoncapitalchronicle.com.