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COVID-19 is rising in Oregon, sickening younger adults and forcing a return to restrictions

For several months, Susannah Sbragia waited her turn for a COVID-19 vaccination, while Oregon teachers, older adults and others with higher priority got theirs.

The 55-year-old finance director of the city was careful to wear a mask and wash his hands during the pandemic. She worked at home and kept fit with daily walks and YouTube dance classes with her husband.

But a week before her appointment for a shot from April 22, she felt exhausted and began to hurt everywhere. A test confirmed COVID-19. She gasped for breath during an ambulance ride to Samaritan Lebanon Community Hospital, a 25-bed medical center in a one-time logging and timber mill town 80 miles south of Portland.

Sbragia became one of hundreds of patients admitted to the hospital in a COVID-1

9 wave that has hit Oregon, alarming officials who have slammed state opening measures reversed. Doctors say patients they see are younger, sicker and often without underlying medical conditions, suggesting that potent variants may be due in part.

On Friday, Gov. Kate Brown placed 15 counties in an “extreme risk” category that banned indoor dining at restaurants and limited the number of patrons at gyms. She said returning to restrictions could save hundreds of lives and prevent as many as 450 admissions over the next three weeks.

“What I can not do is bring someone’s life back because of this virus,” Brown told a news conference Friday. “That is why we must act as hard as this. This is really a race between the variants and the vaccines. ”

She imposed the restrictions, after cases rose by 51% in two weeks, the fastest rise in the nation, and admissions rose by more than a third. As cases fell in much of the rest of the country, Oregon bowed in the opposite direction.

The situation is far from serious. The state’s average number of daily cases during the last week was 19 per. 100,000 people – half of what they were below the state peak at the end of last year and medium-sized national. In Michigan, where a record number of children have been hospitalized, the average number of daily cases is now 45 per child. 100,000.

But the concern is that the situation in Oregon could quickly spiral.

Officials were particularly concerned that more than 300 people remained hospitalized with COVID-19 in a condition with relatively few beds left over.

The reasons for the rise in Oregon – a state that had the third lowest cumulative rate in the country and the fourth lowest death rate – are somewhat of a mystery. Experts are trying to determine which factors are unique to the state.

The B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the UK, accounts for more than half of Oregon’s recent cases. When Chunhuei Chi, director of Oregon State University’s Center for Global Health, heard about the circumstances of Sbragia’s infection, she said in an interview that she may well have that variant because of its highly contagious nature.

But he noted that B.1.1.7 is prevalent as coronavirus sloshes around the globe. Instead, he said seeds may have been sown from Oregon’s rise months ago when the state got off to a slow start on vaccinations.

“I suspect it could have contributed,” he said. “We are looking at several factors contributing to this increase, including variants and people relaxing on duty due to pandemic fatigue and a sense of security or hope from vaccinations.”

In another anomaly that Chi said could be partly to blame, Brown moved school teachers in front of citizens 65 and older for vaccines in January. She said she switched to opening school openings, but critics saw it as proof of her loyalty to the teachers’ union.

Dr. Dean Sidelinger, Oregon’s epidemiologist, said Brown’s success with restrictions could help explain the wave. Keeping case numbers low left the state with a larger population that lacked natural immunities from entering into COVID-19, he said.

“The success we have had in preventing disease and serious illness means that we have to compensate for it by vaccination, and it takes some time,” he said.

But Chi and Dr. Katie Sharff, a specialist in infectious diseases at Kaiser Permanente in Portland, was skeptical. “I think that’s a small part of the reason why cases are increasing in Oregon,” Sharff said.

She pointed out that the Upper Midwest, including Michigan and Minnesota, has had past increases, and yet they are seeing another significant surge. Vermont, Maine and Hawaii have had low infection rates throughout the pandemic, and yet their rate rates continue to fall, she noted.

Sharff noted that frail, elderly people remain largely healthy during Oregon’s current rise, indicating that the vaccines have been effective. “Unfortunately, there is a fraction of the population who either did not have access to the vaccine or chose not to be vaccinated, and that is what we see in our hospitals,” she said.

She feels that the increase is partly due to authorities lifting some restrictions too quickly. Letting wrestling and other indoor youth contact sports resume was too early, she said.

But business owners have been pushing for reopening, and Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Assn. opposes Brown’s new restrictions. “It’s an incredible setback for thousands of companies in our industry,” said Jason Brandt, president and CEO of the association.

Lebanon, a city of 17,000 at the foot of the Cascade Range, was the site of some of Oregon’s first coronavirus infections in March last year, a week before Brown issued a state-of-the-art order. The disease killed eight residents of a veteran’s long-term care facility near the hospital.

The hospital, which serves a population with high levels of diabetes, lung disease, substance abuse and mental illness, admitted its first COVID-19 patient on 18 June. Initially, the employees felt that they had little to offer other than oxygen and supportive care, said Dr. Bill Barish, the hospital’s medical director.

“We’re used to doing things and helping people instead of just watching them circulate down the drain,” he said.

Tables are spread over a large area with people

Medical staff prepare for a recent mass vaccination event at Reser Stadium in Corvallis, Malm.

(Photo by Karl Maasdam)

But the staff was inventive, Barish said, describing a team of five who encrypted in the intensive care unit early in the pandemic to pump air into the lungs of a COVID-19 patient in the 60s they had intubated. “It was like trying to ventilate concrete,” said Barish, who saw the man’s oxygen levels drop shortly after telling his family he was recovering.

Schyler Sprague, a young respirator, ran to his office and returned with a “PEEP,” a valve that increases airway pressure to the lungs.

“She saved his life,” he said.

The hospital’s highest COVID-19 admissions came in the summer with five or six admissions at a time, a few months before the number of cases in the state peaked. Recordings have been comparable during the current rise.

Sbragia, who was released from the hospital on Friday, falls into the age group between 50 and 64 years, which has seen the largest increase in admissions anywhere in the country during the wave.

“You see a decline in how seniors are affected,” because many of them have been vaccinated, Sidelinger said. “But we have also seen an increase in the youngest adults in the 18 to 34 age group.”

In Portland, for example, a former healthy woman in her 30s was admitted to a hospital this week with severe COVID-19 disease after being infected by her child.

In central Oregon, Bend, St. Charles Medical Center exceeded 90% of its capacity in the wave. But Blue Mountain Hospital in Grant County, which had the third-highest rate in the country this week, has not been in a hurry as people manage to get home.

Oregon has a small margin for error, being the state with the fewest hospital beds per capita. Inhabitant. In good times, the ratio is considered a plus, indicating efficient resource utilization.

Now the race is running across the state to vaccinate as many people as possible in hopes of making the current wave the state’s last. But the drive is meeting resistance, especially in rural areas, and counties with the lowest vaccination rates have the least demand for vaccines.

At the hospital in Lebanon, doctors and administrators have been fighting for vaccines. But not all employees are interested. Two housekeepers cleaning and disinfecting rooms where COVID-19 patients are being treated said they had no plans to get shot.

“I see people getting sick after getting vaccinated,” said Barbara Strassman.

“I feel like we were born so healthy that there is no reason to put things in our body like that,” Heather Atterberry said.

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