▶️ St. Charles prepares for new COVID wave amid omicron variant, holidays

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On Tuesday, St. Charles Health System saw a pandemic milestone as they reported they were caring for 19 COVID-19 patients, which is the fewest they’ve seen since the end of July. 

Still, conditions are far from normal. 

“Our hospitalizations are still very high, we’re running over 100% capacity for our hospital system and that’s really a marker for all the delayed care that’s been happening throughout the pandemic,” said Dr. Cynthia Maree Medical Director of Infection Prevention.

On average, St. Charles had 10 fewer patients per day last week, Dec. 13-17, than they had between Dec. 14-18 in 2020. 

Across the state, there were 155 fewer patients in the hospital on average each day during those same time frames. 

“Even though we see this downward trend of COVID numbers, we still see a very full hospital system, and we’re not alone here in Central Oregon, the rest of the state is really seeing that too,” Maree said. 

The omicron variant inspired swift action from the government on Tuesday, with Gov. Kate Brown extending Oregon’s state of emergency until the end of June 2022. 

There were only four known omicron cases in the state as of Tuesday afternoon. 

President Biden announced an increase in COVID testing efforts on that same day and urged Americans to get their boosters.

“If you’re not fully vaccinated, you have good reason to be concerned,” the president said. 

The omicron variant, paired with the holiday season, means a new wave of cases. 

By now, St. Charles knows the drill by heart, and they have a head start. 

“We’ve been through this, we know how to step up our capacity when needed,” Maree said. “We’re able to watch what’s happening overseas and in New York and other places where they’re starting to see a lot more cases and adapt our response to that in a more thoughtful and meaningful way.” 

In the United States last week, 73% of new COVID cases were of the omicron variant. 

The Oregon Health Authority told Central Oregon Daily News on Monday that the state is still recovering from the recent delta variant surge. 

“Oregon is still experiencing the end of our largest surge to date, which has stressed our state’s health care systems statewide,” said Public Affairs Specialist Rudy Owens.

“After the arrival of the delta variant in mid-summer 2021,  we saw our highest count of COVID-19 positive patients at 1,178 on September 1, 2021.

“Compare this to the winter surge of 2020, where the highest number of hospitalized COVID-19 positive patients was 584 on Nov. 30, 2020.” 

On Tuesday, there were 338 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 across Oregon. 

Maree said she feels hopeful that the hospital will successfully overcome this next wave, with the help of new therapies and extended contracts for traveling nurses who have helped boost their staff. 

“They’ve been the critical front line for us at the Monoclonal antibody clinic, which has allowed us to serve so many people. I think we have now done close to 3,000 administrations there,” she said. 

She said she was also encouraged to hear that the omicron variant has resulted in fewer hospital stays than other variants. 

“Those indicators are really encouraging, in that we may be able to provide more at-home care services, to help people stay in their homes and not require hospitalization,” Maree said. 

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