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With COVID-19 surging, Oregon asks residents to avoid ERs if possible

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A doctor loads a dose of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe Dec. 2 at a mobile vaccination clinic in Worcester, Massachusetts.

With more than 18,500 new cases of COVID-19 detected statewide since Friday, Oregon Health Authority officials are asking people to avoid hospital emergency rooms, if possible.

The state is asking residents to consider alternatives for non-urgent health issues.

"Oregonians are being asked to ease the burden on health systems and emergency rooms," according to an OHA news release. "If you are looking for nonemergency COVID-19 treatment, please call your doctor or an urgent care clinic." 

Also included in the report Monday, Jan. 10, was the announcement that one mid-valley resident was among the 18 new COVID-19-related deaths logged in over the weekend. Weekend numbers may be under-reported as not every county supplies data to the state on the weekends.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday explained the scientific rationale for shortening its COVID-19 isolation and quarantine recommendations, and clarified that the guidance applies to kids as well as adults.The CDC also maintained that, for people who catch COVID-19, testing is not required to emerge from five days of isolation despite hints from other federal officials that the agency was reconsidering that.The agency announced the changes last week, halving the isolation time for Americans who catch the coronavirus and have no symptoms or only brief illnesses. Isolation should only end if a person has been fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications and if other symptoms are resolving, the CDC added.It similarly shortened the time that close contacts need to quarantine, from 10 days to five.CDC officials previously said the changes were in keeping with evidence that people with the coronavirus are most infectious in the two days before and three days after symptoms develop.Some experts have questioned how the new recommendations were crafted and why they were changed amid a spike in cases driven largely by the highly contagious Omicron variant. Some also expressed dismay that the guidelines allowed people to leave isolation without getting tested to see if they were still infectious.On Tuesday, the CDC posted documents designed to address those and other questions about the latest recommendations. The new guidance applies to school children as well as adults, the CDC said, responding to questions raised by school leaders around the country.In laying out the scientific basis for the revisions, the agency said more than 100 studies from 17 countries indicate that most transmission happens early in an infection. The CDC acknowledged the data come from research done when Delta and other pre-Omicron variants were causing the most infections. But the agency also pointed to limited, early data from the U.S. and South Korea that suggests the time between exposure and the appearance of symptoms may be shorter for Omicron than for earlier variants.The CDC also took up the question of why it didn't call for a negative test before people emerge from isolation.On Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci the White House's top medical adviser said the CDC was considering including the negative test as part of its guidance.The agency said lab tests can show positive results long after someone stops being contagious, and that a negative at-home test may not necessarily indicate there is no threat. That's why, the agency said, it was recommending that people wears masks everywhere for the five days after isolation ends.It did offer tips for those who have access to the tests and want to check themselves before leaving isolation.Dr. Eric Topol, the head of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, accused the agency of furthering confusion. He agreed that it is appropriate to shorten isolation time, but only with testing."We do need to come up with a strategy that limits isolation time, but we don't want it to be one that's adding to the spread of the virus and unwittingly leading to the virus circulating," he said.Yale University's Dr. Howard Forman said the updated recommendations were communicated poorly last week, but he also applauded the CDC for trying to be more nimble while dealing with limited science, a short supply of tests and an intensifying wave of infections.Under the previous isolation and quarantine recommendations, "it was obvious that ... society was literally going to be disrupted. If you expected people to comply with those (old) rules, you might as well have a lockdown," said Forman, a radiologist who teaches public health policy.The agency acknowledged people weren't following the longer recommendations: Research suggests only 25% to 30% of people were isolating for a full 10 days under the older guidance, the CDC said.The CDC also suggests that people exposed to the virus quarantine for five days, unless they have gotten booster shots or recently received their initial vaccine doses. The agency said anyone exposed regardless of vaccination status should get tested five days later, if possible.Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Of those new known cases, 600 of them were detected in Benton County compared to 448 in Linn County. Benton County has recorded 8,000 cases since the start of the pandemic while Linn County has recorded 16,936.

Oregon’s 5,765th COVID-related death is a 96-year-old man from Benton County who died on Oct. 22 at his residence. He had underlying conditions, though COVID-19 was listed as a significant condition contributing to his death, the OHA stated in its Monday report.

Linn County has logged 210 deaths related to the disease since the start of the pandemic. Benton County has recorded 44 deaths.

Oregon has recorded 459,700 total cases statewide, with 5,761 deaths.

Testing: The OHA said that the number of COVID-19 tests reported for Jan. 7 was the third-highest single day count for Oregon during the pandemic at 51,996 tests administered. The statewide test positivity rate currently sits at 22.1%.

Vaccinations: There were 9,110 new doses of coronavirus vaccine administered over the weekend, bringing the seven-day running average of vaccines to 11,247 per day. To date, just fewer than 2,789,000 people have completed a vaccination series in Oregon.

Hospitalizations: The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 currently sits at 692. There are 150 COVID-19 patients in hospital beds across the state. Out of 86 staffed adult ICU beds available in Region 2, which serves Linn and Benton counties, there are five beds available.  

Nationally: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 1,549,823 new cases over the weekend and 3,222 new deaths. The United States has recorded more than 60 million cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, with more than 835,000 deaths.


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