Coronavirus cases continue to spike in Oregon; 2,331 new cases, nine deaths – OregonLive

Due to delays in processing COVID-19 samples, the Oregon Health Authority does not yet have the hard data to back up assertions that the super-contagious omicron variant has become the dominant strain of the disease in the state, driving a new wave of infections and the recent uptick in hospitalizations.

Nonetheless, public health officials insist that a wave of omicron infections is about to sweep the state, as it already has on the East Coast and across Europe.

The OHA on Wednesday reported 2,331 new cases of coronavirus, a number that has shot up in the past two weeks and is quickly approaching the peak of the pandemic in late August, when new cases reached a high of about 2,600. The agency also reported nine new deaths.

The OHA also released a report for the week ending Dec. 26 showing that cases jumped 25% over the previous week, to 6,798, even as test results reported for the holiday week dropped by 7.1%. The percentage of positive tests increased to 7.4% from 4.8% the previous week. But the report also showed a decline in the number of new hospitalizations, from 286 to 185.

Omicron is generally thought to be a less lethal variant that causes milder infections. Public health officials say those who are fully vaccinated and boosted have strong protection against serious illness, yet are still susceptible to breakthrough cases. Yet they believe the coming tidal wave of omicron infections will cause severe cases, clog the already strained health care system and ultimately lead to more deaths.

Hospitalizations and deaths typically lag infections by a few weeks, and the most recent forecast from Peter Graven, lead data scientist at Oregon Health & Science University, predicts hospitalizations will spike in the weeks ahead, reaching 1,200 in early February – around the same peak Oregon saw last fall with the delta variant.

Counter to the alarming projections, the most recent data posted on OHA’s COVID-19 website show that by Dec. 25, researchers had only identified 24 cumulative cases of the omicron variant in its processing of virus specimens, compared to nearly 16,000 of the delta variant to date. Eleven of those cases were identified in Region 1, which includes Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties. Another nine were in Region 3, which comprises Lane, Douglas, Coos and Curry counties. And the remaining four cases were from unknown counties, according to the OHA.

In the most recent week’s data, three out of 11 Oregon samples processed, or 27 percent, were omicron. And officials think that may be an undercount.

Rudy Owens, an OHA spokesperson, said in an email that data from the most recent weeks are often incomplete, as the results are not yet available.

“To date, Omicron hasn’t surged like we saw during the Delta surge in Oregon—yet,” he said. “We are seeing that surge now on the East Coast. The wave is coming.”

By comparison, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control says omicron accounted for 59% of new U.S. cases last week. That itself was a significant downward revision from an earlier estimate, though it still represents a rapid rise of the new strain compared to earlier weeks. The agency estimates that omicron accounts for three quarters of all cases in the Pacific Northwest.

Where the new cases are by county: Baker (5), Benton (67), Clackamas (141), Clatsop (16), Columbia (10), Coos (36), Crook (24), Curry (3), Deschutes (326), Douglas (47), Gilliam (2), Grant (11), Harney (1), Hood River (15), Jackson (144), Jefferson (37), Josephine (45), Klamath (14), Lake (1), Lane (131), Lincoln (23), Linn (85), Malheur (20), Marion (168), Morrow (2), Multnomah (419), Polk (39), Tillamook (6), Umatilla (90), Union (1), Wallowa (2), Wasco (12), Washington (286) and Yamhill (102).

Deaths: Those who died ranged in age from to:

A 70-year-old Polk County man tested positive Dec. 9 and died Dec. 26 at Salem Hospital.

An 86-year-old Multnomah County man tested positive Dec. 23 and died Dec. 28 at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center.

An 85-year-old Multnomah County man tested positive Dec. 15 and died Dec. 24 at Legacy Mt. Hood Medical Center.

A 73-year-old Marion County woman tested positive Dec. 11 and died Dec. 22 at Salem Hospital.

A 74-year-old Josephine County woman tested positive Dec. 2 and died Dec. 27 at Providence Medford Medical Center.

A 91-year-old Josephine County woman tested positive Dec. 21 and died Dec. 27 at Asante Three Rivers Medical Center.

An 83-year-old Josephine County man tested positive Oct. 15 and died Nov. 26 at Asante Three Rivers Medical Center.

An 88-year-old Coos County man tested positive Nov. 29 and died Dec. 26 at Bay Area Hospital.

A 78-year-old Clackamas County man tested positive Dec. 15 and died Dec. 23 at Providence Willamette Falls Medical Center.

Each individual who died had underling conditions or the presence of underlying conditions is being confirmed.

Hospitalizations: 419 people with confirmed cases of COVID-19 are hospitalized, 21 more than Tuesday. That number includes 92 in intensive care units, five fewer than Tuesday.

Vaccines: The state reported 3,279 people receiving first shots since Tuesday.

Since it began: Oregon has reported 418,333 confirmed or presumed infections and 5,640 deaths, among the lowest per capita numbers in the nation. To date, the state has reported 6,710,482 vaccine doses administered, fully vaccinating 2,763,937 people and partially vaccinating 280,846 people.

To see more data and trends, visit

— Ted Sickinger;; 503-221-8505; @tedsickinger