PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon’s daily COVID-19 case totals dropped below 1,000 on multiple days this week, the latest encouraging sign amid an ongoing downward trend in cases over the past few months. Hospitalizations remain relatively high, however, and Gov. Kate Brown’s office has not announced any target metrics that would prompt a loosening of the state’s mask mandate.
The Oregon Health Authority reported 996 new confirmed and presumptive cases on Wednesday, 785 on Tuesday, and 1,935 over the three-day period from last Friday to Sunday. It’s the first time that any weekday has seen cases below 1,000 since July, according to OHA’s daily data reports. OHA reported 1,160 new cases on Thursday.
The 7-day moving average of cases was 785.3 on Tuesday. The rate has fluctuated day-to-day but has generally trended downward since September, when the current wave of cases reached its peak. The state’s total COVID-19 death toll was 4,886 as of the start of Thursday, OHA reported, and the statewide case total was 382,990.
Oregon’s COVID-19 vaccination rate also hit a notable milestone this week: More than 70% of people across all age groups have received at least one vaccine dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (OHA’s count is 67.7 percent; the agency said the discrepancy is because the federal data accounts for vaccines administered at federal facilities that may not report to Oregon).
“Having 70% of all those eligible and living in Oregon vaccinated is great news, especially as we head into the holiday season when families and friends will more likely be gathering together,” said Dr. Tom Jeanne, deputy state epidemiologist at OHA.
Vaccination rates got a boost this week following last week’s authorization of the Pfizer pediatric vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. Nearly 40,000 children ages 5 to 11 had received at least an initial dose as of Wednesday, the OHA reported, accounting for 11% of Oregon’s population in that age range.
OHA has also begun tracking the rate of extra doses following last month's announcement that Oregonians could receive booster shots to counter waning immunity. The booster dose vaccination rate was 15.5% as of Wednesday, according to the OHA dashboard.
There were 427 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 across Oregon as of Wednesday, with 100 patients in intensive care unit beds. There were 66 available adult ICU beds statewide out of 687 total, an availability rate of 10%, and 246 available non-ICU beds out of 4,101, a 6% availability rate.
Absent amid all the good news is any indication of when the decreasing case numbers might lead to a relaxation of masking rules in Oregon.
Oregon lifted most of its pandemic health and safety restrictions in June only to reimpose the mask mandates in August as the more-virulent delta variant of the novel coronavirus began circulating widely and sent case numbers rocketing back up in a new wave that threatened to overwhelm hospitals.
The OHA and Brown’s office have both refused to commit to any specific target number yet, citing the high transmissibility of the delta variant, the oncoming cold winter months and the fact that most school-age children are not yet vaccinated.
“The Oregon Health Authority and Oregon OSHA will continue to monitor Oregon’s COVID-19 metrics in assessing Oregon’s mask requirements in the coming weeks and months. Both agencies will conduct public engagement around those rules and the process will provide an opportunity to discuss appropriate factors for lifting such requirements, as is standard for agency rulemaking,” the governor’s office said in a statement last week. When asked again on Thursday, the office said the statement “remains current.”