A lot can change in just a year…for better, or for worse.
From Nov. 18 through Dec. 2 in 2020, Governor Kate Brown declared a two-week freeze in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Restaurants were take-out only, gyms were closed, and indoor spaces like churches and grocery stores had limited capacity.
Fast forward one year, and masks are still required in most places, but there are no gathering restrictions in sight.
However, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are higher now than they were at that time.
“This delta variant is a whole new animal,” St. Charles Senior Data Scientist Michael Johnson said. “If you look at the hospitalizations recently, we’ve had more than 50 patients in the hospital on a given day, and we’ve had on average since August more than one death a day.”
Last year between Nov. 16 and Nov. 20, St. Charles Hospital cared for an average of 12 COVID-19 patients per day.
This year, between Nov. 15 and Nov. 19, they cared for an average of 51 COVID-19 patients every day.
“We have a mortality rate right now of about 10.8%, so just over 1 out of 10 patients,” Johnson said.
Despite the high numbers, the lack of restrictions means a shift in public perception.
“Last year we were beginning a fear cycle, going ‘I’d better behave myself because things are getting bad,'” Johnson said. “And this year, we’re on a fatigue cycle, meaning ‘I’ve been doing this for so long and we’re getting better, so I don’t need to be quite as vigilant.'”
Across Central Oregon, 561 people tested positive during Thanksgiving week last year.
Just last week, 742 positive cases were recorded.
Deschutes County alone saw a similar trend.
“Last year around Thanksgiving we had about 450 cases for that week, and this past week we’ve seen about 600 cases, so we’ve seen about a 35% increase from this time last year,” Deschutes County Public Health Public Information Officer Morgan Emerson said.
The COVID-19 vaccine means better protection from the virus this year, but it doesn’t mean the risks are gone.
“Just be aware of your surroundings,” Johnson said. “If you’re having a gathering, know who’s vaccinated and who’s not. Don’t be shy or afraid to either make a comment and request someone to wear a mask or to mask up yourself.”
“The biggest thing of course is to make sure that if anyone feels sick that they stay home and don’t meet with a group of people,” Emerson said. “So staying home if you’re sick, wearing a mask if you’re in a big group indoors, keeping groups a little bit smaller, and washing your hands, having good hygiene and of course having your COVID vaccine and having your flu vaccine as well.”
Johnson said if Thanksgiving does cause a bump in cases, it will show up 10 to 14 days after the holiday.
“It’s quite predictable. What I don’t know this year is how much of an effect our vaccine percentages are going to have to try and temper some of those bumps,” he said.
Emerson said Deschutes County Public Health is offering a number of vaccine clinics throughout the community, both before Thanksgiving and in upcoming weeks.
You can visit Deschutes.org/covid19vaccine for more information on walk-in clinics, vaccines.gov for information about pharmacies offering the vaccine, or check with your primary care physician for help.
You can also visit deschutes.org/covid19testing for information about COVID-19 testing before gathering with loved ones for the holidays.
“Many of us have become more relaxed in our precautions and as we’re around more people for the holiday and as people are traveling, it’s an important time to be extra vigilant and be careful,” Emerson said.