Local Hospitalization Rate Spikes


Hospitalization rates are rapidly climbing in Oregon and in the Gorge as COVID cases spike. Now is the time to get vaccinated if you haven’t — and get your booster dose if you haven’t.

On Jan. 3, there were just two people with COVID in the hospitals in The Dalles and Hood River. Just a week later, on Jan. 10, there were 13. Not all of them are hospitalized due to COVID, but most are. (Some incidentally have COVID and are hospitalized for other reasons.)

Today, all 10 ICU beds at Mid-Columbia Medical Center and Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital were full, and 46 of the 50 non-intensive care hospital beds were full.

“These numbers change daily, but this is an indication of the strain on our local and statewide hospital systems,” said Dr. Miriam McDonell, Health Officer for North Central Public Health District.

“COVID-19 vaccinations remain the best way to prevent contracting COVID-19, and also preventing hospitalizations and death from COVID-19 infections. Mask wearing, maintaining physical distance and staying in isolation or quarantine as directed are also incredibly important measures we all need to employ to ensure our health care system is not overwhelmed, and all those in need of hospitalization can get the care they need,” McDonell said.

The rapid spread of cases and symptoms can wreak havoc for businesses and healthcare facilities, and that has been the case for Canyon Rim Assisted Living in Maupin.

The facility had gone the whole pandemic without a single case. Then last week a man fell and was taken to the hospital, where he tested positive for COVID, though he was asymptomatic. That triggered mandated testing of all 26 residents and 17 staff.

Seven residents and four staff were positive, but all have mild cases, said Executive Director Virginia Sheer. At around the same time, 14 of the 17 staff became symptomatic, reporting body aches, sniffles and sore throat. All 14 have been out for a number of days.

“It spreads whether you’re vaccinated or not, whether you’re careful or not. It’s definitely had a huge impact on us, but we’re trucking through. It’s just what we do,” Sheer said. She said 25 of the 26 residents are fully vaccinated and boosted, and 14 of the 17 staff are fully vaccinated and boosted.

“Yesterday we all worked from sunup to sundown,” she said of the now skeleton crew of just four people working there. “I had staff who were symptomatic but I couldn’t send them home because there was no one else to work.”

Members of the skeleton crew also sleep there at night in case they are needed. Normally 10-11 people would work over a 24-hour period. “It’s tough out there. People need to be careful,” Sheer said.

Sheer is happy that tonight, two staff can leave quarantine and return to work, and hopefully more can come out soon, since most became symptomatic at the same time.

Studies have shown the effectiveness of vaccines can wane over time, and booster doses are now authorized for everyone 12 and up, five months after the second dose of either Pfizer or Moderna, or two months after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Boosters become quickly effective, with antibodies increasing in just 2-3 days. According to state data, just 24.9% of Wasco County residents have gotten a booster dose.

Booster doses are widely available at local pharmacies, and NCPHD has a vaccine clinic Jan. 20. Visit https://www.ncphd.org/book-vaccine to book your own appointment, or call us at 541-506-2600 and we can book it for you.

(For more information, please visit COVID-19 Vaccine in Oregon, contact North Central Public Health District at (541) 506-2600, visit us on the web at www.ncphd.org or find us on Facebook.)

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