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Flu, RSV and COVID-19 rates are dropping, but Oregon hospitals are still struggling

Kristian Foden-Vencil
During a zoom call Jan. 12, 2023, Oregon state epidemiologist Dean Sidelinger said the rates of various respiratory diseases appear to be dropping, but hospitals are still struggling.

Of the three respiratory diseases circulating this winter, RSV has improved the most with hospitalizations decreasing rapidly, the Oregon Health Authority says.

Rates of the flu, RSV and COVID-19 in Oregon appear to have either peaked or are dropping.

“As we begin 2023, I am hopeful for the situation we are facing,” Oregon state epidemiologist Dean Sidelinger said Thursday.

Of the three respiratory diseases circulating this winter, RSV has improved the most with hospitalizations decreasing rapidly.

The Oregon Health Authority said influenza activity remains high, but it has passed its peak for adults and numbers are expected to decline.

Courtesy of the Oregon Health Authority
The gold line shows a declining RSV positivity rate since November.

COVID-19 hospitalizations increased in November, and remain high, but have also dropped in the last week.

Despite the improving situation, Sidelinger said hospitals are still operating under staffing crisis standards.

“Wait times may be longer. You may get your care in a chair in the hallway rather than in an individual room,” Sidelinger said. “So have some patience and grace with each other.”

After three years dealing with COVID-19, Sidelinger said staff are exhausted and getting sick themselves.

The Oregon Health Authority continues to streamline hiring processes so retired nurses and staff from out of state can quickly get to work.

Nurses and health care professionals at Kaiser Permanente in Oregon and Southwest Washington have filed a notice of an intent to picket Sunnyside Medical Center on Friday. Members of the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals Local 5017 say staffing levels are critically low.

Oregon Health and Science University’s predictive COVID-19 model is showing a small increase in hospitalizations in the coming month because of the latest version of the omicron variant.

The forecast anticipates 367 Oregonians to be hospitalized with COVID-19 by Feb. 4. That is an increase from 342 hospitalizations on Jan. 4.

OHA is keeping an eye on the new variant, nicknamed kraken, as it spreads rapidly across the northeast of the country. But Sidelinger said Oregonians need not be unnecessarily concerned.

“While this variant does appear to be the most transmissible COVID-19 variant so far. At this time there’s no evidence that it is associated with more severe COVID-19 infection,” Sidelinger said.

OHA is recommending people with reduced immunity take steps against infection like wearing masks and avoiding crowds.

Copyright 2023 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Kristian Foden-Vencil is a reporter and producer for Oregon Public Broadcasting. He specializes in health care, business, politics, law and public safety.