Coronavirus in Oregon: Fall wave could start soon, but hospitalizations should stay well below past peaks

Oregon could be heading into the second-largest wave of coronavirus infections since the pandemic began, according to the most recent forecast of the pandemic’s course in the state.

But because most people have either already been infected or vaccinated, hospitalizations will likely only reach about half the number of beds occupied last fall, at the height of the pandemic’s worst wave, according to a forecast that Oregon Health & Science University published last week.

Oregon health officials reported a substantial drop in new case numbers last week, with about 3,300 new reported infections, though the 22% decline paralleled a similarly steep decline in testing. All case reports are considered significant undercounts because at-home tests don’t have to be reported and some people aren’t bothering getting tested at all.

According to the OHSU model, infections should start climbing this month and could peak in December with about 7% of the population infected at one time. That’s just shy of the 8% of the population that OHSU estimates was infected at the height of the omicron wave earlier this year. The infection rate will reach that level because of waning immunity from past infections or vaccinations, and because people tend to gather indoors more as colder weather sets in.

While overall immunity might be waning, immunity from severe infection isn’t, OHSU analyst Peter Graven explained. That’s why hospitalizations could peak around 600 occupied beds, just over half the number hospitalized at the peak of the first omicron wave. More than half the positive tests at hospitals are likely to be among patients seeking treatment for other conditions who happen to test positive for the virus.

“There (are) very few people who haven’t had exposure yet,” Graven said.

The 2022 fall and winter season could be notable for a resurgence of influenza, which hardly made an appearance during the past two winters, when measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus apparently worked to curb the spread of the flu, too. In fact, based on Graven’s modeling, it’s not yet clear which disease will send more Oregonians to the hospital — influenza or the coronavirus.

“It’s going to be a pretty close call,” Graven said.


Since it began: Oregon has reported 902,319 confirmed or presumed infections and 8,622 deaths.


Hospitalizations: 248 people with confirmed coronavirus infections are hospitalized, down 24 since Wednesday, Oct. 5. That includes 29 people in intensive care, up one since Oct. 5.

Vaccinations: As of Oct. 10, the state has reported fully vaccinating 2,971,427 people (69.6% of the population) and partially vaccinating 309,534 people (7.3%). 259,286 people have received a dose of the bivalent booster, which is designed to target the BA.4 and BA.5 coronavirus strains in particular.

New deaths: Since Oct. 5, the Oregon Health Authority has reported 32 additional deaths connected to COVID-19.

— Fedor Zarkhin

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