Growth in cases brings back distant learning in schools
A nurse cares for a critically ill patient in the Intensive Care Unit at Oregon Health and Science University. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 increased to 692 statewide this week, but hospitalizations were still about 40% below their peak during a summer surge. (Photo courtesy OHSU)
A growing number of schools in Portland and Vancouver returned to distance learning this week because of COVID-related staffing issues impacting the number of teachers available for classroom instruction. Officials say more schools may temporarily move to online instruction as the surge tied to the Omicron variant of the coronavirus continues.
Officials said absences and the lack of substitutes continues to cause shortages of teachers, staff, administrators and bus drivers.
In the Portland Public School District, Roosevelt, McDaniel and Cleveland high schools, serving north, northeast and southeast Portland started the week in distance learning. Ockley Green Middle School in north Portland and Faubion PK-8 School in northeast Portland also closed on Tuesday to prepare for online instruction for at least the rest of the week.
The Parkrose School District said temporary distance learning would begin for all students on Wednesday. Parkrose High, Parkrose Middle, plus Prescott, Russell, Sacramento and Shaver elementary schools were impacted. Late Monday afternoon, the Vancouver School District also announced some of their schools would include remote learning four days a week for the next three weeks.
Oregon health authorities reported Monday that 18,538 new confirmed or presumptive COVID-19 cases were identified over the weekend.
The state has a positive test rate of just over 22% as the highly contagious omicron variant spreads. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 increased to 692, but hospitalizations were still about 40% below their peak during the summer surge of the delta variant.
Eighteen new deaths were announced Monday.
With breakthrough infections spreading, healthcare officials said vaccinated Oregonians can flatten the curve by masking and refraining from indoor gatherings.
“Anything Oregonians can do now to reduce the spread of the virus will help to preserve hospital capacity for those who need it most,” said Peter Graven, Ph.D., director of the OHSU Office of Advanced Analytics. “If we can spread the peak out over two months rather than just a few weeks, it will help ensure Oregonians get the timely hospital care they expect and deserve.”
Omicron appears to cause a lower overall rate of severe illness than the previously dominant delta variant, however its rapid spread combined with its ability to evade previous immunity is already driving an unprecedented number of daily infections in Oregon.
Oregon hospitals will also have new interim guidelines to help them determine which patients should get lifesaving care if the current COVID-19 surge forces them to choose between people because of a lack of beds, staff or critical medical equipment.
The guidelines will only come into play if a hospital has exhausted all other options to treat every patient, including transfers to other facilities, delaying non-urgent surgeries and care, stockpiling supplies and repurposing existing beds and spaces for critical care patients.