▶️ St. Charles officials worry as vaccinations lag in neighboring counties


As Oregon inches toward its 70% vaccination target, we’re getting closer to fully reopening.

The vaccination rates in neighboring rural counties, however, are still lagging and St. Charles is concerned about another influx of patients.

“The pandemic continues to evolve, and we continue to evolve with it, we can continue to prepare, we continue to work to make sure that we have proper capacity,” said Chief Physician Executive at St. Charles, Bend, Dr. Jeff Absalon. “Certainly, if people do change their behaviors as a result of the state opening up more and if that leads to increased transmission to the virus, then that is a concern.”

Gov. Kate Brown recently expressed concern that many rural counties weren’t keeping up with the rest of the state’s rising vaccination rates. 

According to the Oregon Health Authority, surrounding counties like Lake County have a roughly 34% vaccination rate and Harney County 40%.

“What we know is that many of these communities tend to be both medically and economically vulnerable and it will be very, very challenging for the health-care systems in these local communities,” Brown said.

Jefferson County has a vaccination rate of 51.5% and Crook County 47.5%.

Deschutes County is just below 70% – but St. Charles receives COVID transfer patients from around the state.

“We had Dr. D’Avignon from St. Charles Hospital talking about their hospital being filled to capacity with COVID patients,” Brown said. “That wasn’t because those folks were just from the Bend area, that was from the entire region.”

With the state getting closer to being fully reopened things could get worse.

“The hospitals and care facilities in those regions are our partners and we are here to help them care for patients when they need our level of service and so we will continue to prepare for that and no matter what happens we take care of patients to the extent of our ability based on our capacity,” Absalon said.

Absalon said capacity limits continue to be a challenge St. Charles daily.

As of Wednesday, St. Charles has 24 COVID-19 patients, five of whom are in the ICU; four are on ventilators.


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