PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — During Oregon’s ongoing COVID-19 surge, doctors say that they are seeing sicker and younger patients than at any other point throughout the pandemic.
So far this month, 280 people have died due to COVID-19 in Oregon — at least one-tenth of those who died were 50 years or younger. The youngest COVID-19 related death this month was a 19-year-old. Officials say the overwhelming amount of coronavirus-related deaths and hospitalizations are among unvaccinated people.
The delta variant is more contagious than previous variants, state Health Officer Dr. Dean Sidelinger said last week, and probably causing more severe disease in children.
“Please get vaccinated if you can and wear a mask to help stop COVID from spreading, especially to kids who can’t yet get the vaccine,” Sidelinger said.
During the week of Aug. 15, the most recent data published by the state health authority, there was a record number of weekly pediatric COVID-19 cases — 1,871. Officials say the increase is fueled by the highly contagious delta variant. In addition, children younger than 12 are not eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
“While an increase in COVID cases is difficult news to hear, it’s especially disheartening when there is a sharp rise in serious cases among the youngest people in our community,” Sidelinger said.
In June, Gov. Kate Brown lifted Oregon’s coronavirus-related restrictions. At that time she said that one of her top priorities was for kids to return to in-person learning. Schools in the state went remote in March 2020, and many did not reopen their doors until a year later.
However, since lifting restrictions COVID-19 cases have increased at a rapid rate. During August, Oregon shattered previous hospitalization and case numbers for the state.
Currently, 1,120 people in Oregon are hospitalized with COVID-19. Prior to this month, the record number of hospitalizations in the state was 622, which was set in November when vaccines were not yet available.
As of Monday, there are just 39 adult intensive care unit beds available in Oregon. More than 90% of the state’s ICU and hospital beds are full. Health officials say the overwhelming majority of people hospitalized are unvaccinated.
Over the past month, Brown, a Democrat, has reimplemented coronavirus-related health and safety measures in an attempt to drive down case numbers including mask requirements — regardless of vaccination status — in indoor public setting and in outdoor public areas where physical distancing is not possible.
In addition, staff and volunteers in K-12 schools, health care workers and state employees are required to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18.
Sara Cline is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.