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Weekly COVID-19 update: Omicron, also outbreaks at mid-valley nursing homes

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Vaccinations at OSU 01

People lined up for two blocks on Thursday for shots at the OSU Alumni Center. The clinic was held by Benton County.

Cases of the omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus were confirmed in Oregon for the first time this week, leading the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland to update its predictive modeling for what the picture of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations will look like.

We hear it every day experts telling Americans to get vaccinated and get that booster shot as well, but that's not as easy as it once was. According to the Walgreens website, vaccine appointments are booked out weeks in advance.So when Englewood, Colorado, mother Brooke Clanton found appointments for her two children's second doses, she didn't hesitate to book them."Our goal is to keep them in school this year as much as possible, so it just makes that more doable," Clanton said.  But that excitement quickly turned to disappointment when she received an email hours before they were going to get their shots.Walgreens had canceled her kids' appointments with no explanation. "I went into the store, because they weren't answering their phone to ask, and they told me that they were stopping vaccinations as of noon that day and were shutting down. They weren't going to be administering them moving forward."Clanton said she was told it was because of staffing shortages. In a statement, a spokesperson for Walgreens says, "We have adjusted pharmacy hours in a limited number of stores to accommodate current staffing needs, while also working to ensure minimal disruption to our customers. Our team members work with patients to reschedule any impacted vaccination appointments at these stores as quickly as possible."Desperate to get her kids fully vaccinated, Clanton got them their shots at a mobile vaccine clinic in Englewood giving her kids an extra layer of protection, she said and giving her peace of mind.

OHSU projections are currently showing that an omicron surge could lead to higher caseloads and hospitalizations by mid-January. At its peak, an omicron spike could see hospitalizations around the state approach or exceed 2,000 patients.

To put that into perspective, data from the Oregon Health Authority shows that hospitalizations peaked in the past week at 408 while the highest number of ICU beds taken up by COVID-19 patients was 106, both reported on Monday’s report that also includes weekend data.

While experts say that early data shows omicron leads to fewer deaths than prior variants, the increased caseloads and hospitalizations could overwhelm an already crippled hospital network.

“We are still experiencing a delta surge,” OHSU Chief Medical Officer Dr. Renee Edwards said. “If we combined this with the delta projects … I think it would look, frankly, even more concerning.”

The specter of a potential new wave of cases has put an even sharper focus on protection for vulnerable Oregonians.

Nursing homes

This makes the outbreaks at mid-valley nursing and retirement homes particularly important to track. In Linn and Benton counties, there are six senior living communities with active outbreaks, the largest at Bonaventure of Albany Memory Care, which has logged 24 cases and no deaths since Nov. 9, according to OHA data.

A company representative said earlier this week that it currently has 12 residents who tested positive and is ramping up its partnerships with local pharmacies, like Walgreens, to offer booster vaccine clinics to residents and employees.

In an email from the company, Bonaventure says that its staff is fully compliant with Oregon’s vaccine mandate and the site in Albany will be screening all visitors and doing temperature and symptom screenings for all residents.

Other reported outbreaks include: Willamette Springs Memory Care in Corvallis (10 cases and two deaths since Oct. 26), Stoneybrook Assisted Living (five cases and no deaths since Nov. 9), Waverly Place Assisted Living in Albany (five cases and no deaths since Nov. 9), the Mennonite Home in Albany (five cases since Nov. 11), and the Oregon Veterans’ Home in Lebanon (19 cases and one death since Nov. 18).

The Oregon Veterans Home was also the site of an outbreak dated to Aug. 10, in which 56 cases were logged and one death.

Focus on boosters

During a press conference Friday afternoon, Gov. Kate Brown and officials from OHSU and the Oregon Health Authority said the focus over the next four weeks will be on getting elderly folks and others at greater risk from omicron transmission their booster shots.

“Our focus right now over next couple of weeks is to get most vulnerable Oregonians boosted,” Brown said during the video conference. “We are literally on a race against the clock.”

Everyone 16 or older is eligible for a booster shot in Oregon, so long as you are six months past completing your vaccine series. Recipients of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine can receive a booster dose after two months.

Outbreak report

Other reported outbreaks in the mid-valley include two workplaces and one child care setting, all in Linn County. There have been 50 cases reported at the Target Distribution Center in Albany since Oct. 21, and Oregon Freeze Dry has reported seven cases to OHA since Nov. 3.

The child care facility with active cases is at Little People’s Child Care in Albany, with eight cases since Nov. 4.

There are 42 mid-valley schools with active caseloads, meaning two or more cases within the past four weeks. There are 25 schools that meet this definition in Linn County, compared to 17 in Benton County.

The Linn County schools with active caseloads are: Timber Ridge School in Albany (five student cases since Dec. 11), Meadow Ridge Elementary School in Albany (two students since Dec. 9), Oak Elementary in Albany (one student since Dec. 9), Lebanon High School (four students since Dec. 8), Green Acres Elementary in Lebanon (two students and one staff since Dec. 7), East Linn Christian Academy in Lebanon (two students since Dec. 6), Central Linn Junior/Senior High in Halsey (two students since Dec. 6), Albany Christian School (one student since Dec. 5), Liberty Elementary School in Albany (one student since Dec. 4), Sunrise Elementary School in Albany (six students and one staff since Dec. 4), Mari-Linn School in Lyons (five students since Dec. 1), Harrisburg Middle School (one student since Nov. 30), Periwinkle Elementary in Albany (four students since Nov. 30), Memorial Middle School in Albany (two students and one staff since Nov. 30), South Shore Elementary in Albany (three students since Nov. 30), Lacomb School in Lebanon (two students since Nov. 30), Santiam Junior/Senior High School in Mill City (one student since Nov. 30), Central Linn Elementary School (one staff since Nov. 29), Riverview School in Lebanon (one student since Nov. 28), Cascades Elementary School in Lebanon (two students since Nov. 28), Pioneer School in Lebanon (one student since Nov. 25), Calapooia Middle School in Albany (one student since Nov. 25), Ashbrook Independent School in Corvallis (one staff since Nov. 24), Scio Middle School (one student since Nov. 24), Central Elementary School in Albany (two students since Nov. 22).

The Benton County schools with active caseloads are: Cheldelin Middle School in Corvallis (two student cases since Dec. 10), Alsea Charter School (four students since Dec. 5), Jaguar Elementary in Corvallis (four students since Dec. 5), Wildcat Elementary in Corvallis (one student since Dec. 3), Monroe Grade School (two students and one staff since Dec. 2), North Albany Middle School (two students since Dec. 2), West Albany High School (three students since Dec. 2), Sweet Home High School (two students since Dec. 2), Scio High School (one student since Dec. 2), Mountainview Elementary School in Corvallis (two students since Nov. 29), Lincoln Elementary School in Corvallis (one student since Nov. 28), Garfield Elementary School in Corvallis (two students since Nov. 27), Linus Pauling Middle School in Corvallis (two students since Nov. 27), South Albany High (one student since Nov. 26), Seven Oak Middle School in Lebanon (three students since Nov. 26), Harrisburg High School (one student since Nov. 26), Crescent Valley High School in Corvallis (one student since Nov. 18).

 

Staff writer Cody Mann contributed to this report.

Troy Shinn covers healthcare, natural resources and Linn County government. He can be reached at 541-812-6114 or troy.shinn@lee.net. He can be found on Twitter at @troydshinn. 

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