SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon health authorities reported Saturday that 14 more people in the state have died from COVID-19, matching the highest death toll reported in a single day as the state struggles to contain the coronavirus.
The latest deaths occurred from Sept. 26, when an 80-year-old died woman in her home, through Friday, when a 66-year-old woman died at a hospital in Bend.
With the state's total known virus death toll reaching 689, officials tried to get trick-or-treaters to wait until next year to celebrate Halloween.
“Dan and I look forward to greeting all our favorite trick-or-treaters next year,” Gov. Kate Brown tweeted, referring to her husband and posting a photo of a pumpkin with the words “Wear a mask” carved into it.
Authorities noted it is hard to keep 6 feet of distance when trick-or-treaters gather at doors, that handing out candy puts people in close contact, and frequently touched surfaces like candy bowls and door knobs could have the virus on them.
The Oregon Health Authority on Saturday also reported 555 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19, a day after announcing a record 600 additional cases. Fourteen deaths were also reported on July 28.
In another sign that the numbers are going the wrong way, last week marked the highest weekly tally of COVID-19 infections recorded in Oregon, with 2,642 new cases reported from Oct. 19, through Oct. 25.
The total confirmed coronavirus cases in Oregon, which has a population of 4.2 million, stood at 44,921 on Saturday.
Asked why in some cases there was a weeks' long delay in the health authority reporting deaths, spokeswoman Delia Hernandez said the OHA is working to improve the data collection process.
“Information is processed by several individuals, and somewhere along the chain, delays or errors happen,” Hernandez said.
Last week Oregon health officials delivered a concerning message: If the state remains on the path it is now with increasing daily COVID-19 cases hospitals in Oregon could reach capacity by mid-December.
Out of Oregon’s 721 listed intensive care unit beds, 24% were available, based on data on from the health authority’s website Thursday. Out of the non-ICU adult hospital beds in the state, 14% were available.
As of Thursday afternoon there were 156 confirmed COVID-19 patients in hospitals. However there have been days in months past, such as July and August, where the number has surpassed 165.
In the month of October, Oregon has surpassed its record of daily cases multiple times. On Friday officials reported a new daily record — 600 COVID-19 cases.
So if cases continue to rise and the number of patients in Oregon hospitals begin to spill over what happens?
“Hospitals have a spectrum of tools they can utilize to manage bed capacity such as in face of a surge of COVID patients,” said Tim Heider, a spokesperson for the Oregon Health Authority.
This could include postponing elective procedures, using hospitals beds or wings that are currently unused, or adding staffing capacity to their inpatient units.
In addition, Oregon hospitals have worked on a “regionalized approach.”
"Through this regional approach, hospitals across a region can assess capacity and respond to a surge together by distributing patients needing inpatient or emergency department level of care based on capacity and capability," Heider said.
“In face of a surge, hospitals can call on help from hospitals in neighboring communities to ensure patients get needed care, instead of working in isolation as individual facilities.”
This response could include hospitals out of state.
Heider said that even prior to COVID-19 hospitals have routinely transferred patients across state lines “in order to get patients to the appropriate level of care or specialty care.”
Earlier this month In addition, Kootenai Health, a hospital located in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, announced that people with COVID-19 in Northern Idaho may be sent to Seattle, Washington, or Portland, Oregon, because the region’s hospitals are nearing capacity.
The Oregon Health Authority said this week that they had spoken with colleagues in Idaho, and at this time are not aware of any plans for any Idaho hospitals to move patients to Oregon.
Oregon's total COVID-19 case count since the start of the pandemic surpassed 44,300 Friday. The death toll is 675.
For six weeks, Oregon’s COVID-19 cases were in a downward trend until mid-September. Since then, officials warned that numbers were again increasing at an alarming rate.
During October, Oregon has reached grim COVID-19 milestones including the state’s largest daily case count since the start of the pandemic, surpassed 600 deaths and reached 40,000 confirmed cases.