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Oregon hospital running close to full capacity as COVID-19 cases spike, doctor says

Oregon Health & Science University is close to full capacity as health leaders express concerns over how the state's hospitals will keep up with surging cases.

PORTLAND, Ore. — For the third straight day, Oregon is reporting more than a 1,000 new COVID-19 cases. Emergency room (ER) workers on the front lines of the pandemic are seeing the spike first hand. 

Dr. Matt Hansen, an ER physician at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), said his hospital is seeing the surge with patients of all ages coming in, some with mild symptoms, others very sick. 

"We are running at very high capacity, close to 100%," said Hansen. "We are having trouble both with the number of beds, but even trying to expand our surge capacity. Sometimes, beds that we have may be open, but we don't have the staff to care for patients that may be in those beds, so it's definitely a problem." 

There's also a shortage of nurses in the region. That paired with rising case numbers is concerning for Hansen. 

"Someone could come in with a heart attack or a stroke or even COVID and not be able to access and intensive care unit quickly or receive the specialty care that they need." 

He said one of his biggest fears is the possibility of having to make difficult decisions about who gets the best quality care. He said OHSU is very close to making some of those difficult decisions. 

The risk now is social interactions and large group gatherings. 

On Friday, Gov. Kate Brown announced a two-week freeze for the entire state starting Nov. 18 to slow the spread of the virus. In Multnomah County, the freeze will last four weeks or longer. 

Dr. Hansen believes the freeze is the right move to keep the spread under control.

RELATED: Gov. Brown orders two-week 'freeze' for Oregon starting Nov. 18

"Me personally, I'm trying to stay at home as much as I can," said Hansen. 

He does feel Oregonians will do the right thing and follow the restrictions. 

"I think there's a great spirit of collaboration and care for one another in our state, and I think people will pull together and make it happen."

RELATED: Oregon reports more than 1,000 cases of COVID-19 for a third consecutive day