Aug 21, 2023 - COVID

COVID hospitalizations rise in Oregon

Data: CDC; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: CDC; Chart: Axios Visuals

While COVID-19 hospitalization rates in Multnomah County saw a slight decrease in July, rates across the county and state have since ticked upward as a summer wave sweeps the country.

Why it matters: With the rise in at-home testing making official COVID-19 case numbers less reliable, hospitalization rates are an important metric for gauging viral spread.

By the numbers: The national COVID-19 hospitalization rate rose about 17% between June and July, per the latest available CDC data.

  • In Oregon, the increase between June and July was higher — about 28%. That made for a hospitalization rate of about 2.1 per 100,000 people in July, according to the CDC.

Zoom in: Over the course of two weeks, the number of COVID-positive patients in Oregon hospitals rose 36% — from 113 on Aug. 1 to 154 on Aug. 15, according to Oregon Health Authority data.

  • The CDC's latest data, which lags behind county numbers, shows a 79.4% increase in COVID hospitalizations in Multnomah County as of Aug. 5 compared to the week before.

What's happening: A new variant, EG.5, is now the dominant form in the U.S., according to CDC estimates — though it's unclear if it's directly responsible for the rising numbers.

Reality check: In both percentage change and raw terms, nationwide hospitalizations remain far below their pandemic-era peak.

  • In July, they were down 82% year-over-year, both nationally and in Oregon, according to the CDC data.

Of note: Wastewater analysis is detecting rising levels of SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — nationwide.

  • Such analyses are especially useful in a world with less individual testing, as wastewater can reveal broad trends across wide areas, absent mass nose-swabbing campaigns.

The bottom line: There's no sign we're headed for anything like the waves of the peak pandemic era. But it's a reminder that COVID-19 remains a public health concern.

Still, this uptick comes at a less-than-ideal time with regard to booster availability.

  • A newly updated booster is due out this fall. While it wasn't specifically designed with EG.5 in mind, it will likely offer at least some protection, experts told NBC News.
  • Those behind on their shots need to decide whether it makes sense to wait for the updated booster or to beef up their protection now in the face of this uptick.

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