Dec. 22, 2021 — In a Dec. 17 press conference, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown provided an update on the current state of COVID-19 in Oregon. She was joined by Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen, State Epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger, Chief Medical Officer at the Oregon Health & Science University Dr. Renee Edwards, and Lead Data Scientist at OHSU’s Business Intelligence Unit Dr. Peter Graven.
"This week we identified the first cases of the Omicron variant in Oregon. While we are all still learning about this new variant, it is clear from the experiences of the United Kingdom and other countries that we have only weeks to prepare before Omicron hits our communities and health care systems in full force," said Brown. "Masks, vaccines, and the incredible efforts of our health care workers, public health partners, and National Guard members have seen us through the Delta surge. We will need to make the same statewide, collaborative efforts to see us through Omicron.”
OHSU’s modeling shows that Oregon has about a three-week window to prepare for this next surge.
“Boosters are our best protection against Omicron. The state will be taking important steps to make sure our most vulnerable Oregonians have access to booster shots and to make sure we are ready to support our hospital systems for another surge. A big part of that plan will depend on each and every one of you,” Brown said.
On Dec. 20, Lane County Public Health (LCPH) announced The first lab confirmed case of SARS-CoV-2, B.1.1.529, Omicron variant in a Lane County resident.
Following a contact investigation, it is believed this resident contracted Omicron while traveling and it was not the result of community spread in Lane County. The sample was sequenced and identified by the University of Oregon Genomics & Cell Characterization Core Facility (GC3F).
“The confirmation of Omicron in Lane County reminds of us several important truths,” said Dr. Patrick Luedtke, Senior Public Health Officer. “We don’t live in a bubble, travel increases our odds of variants circulating, and that we have the tools to prevent the impact of Omicron.”
The Omicron variant was first detected in specimens collected on Nov. 11 in Botswana and on Nov. 14 in South Africa.
While experts are still learning about the Omicron variant, initial observations indicate:
1) The variant could be more transmissible but potentially result in less severe illness. It is important to remembered, while less likely, transmission can still occur in vaccinated individuals.
2) Current vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to infection with the Omicron variant. However, breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated are likely to occur. With other variants, like Delta, vaccines have remained effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations and death.
Brown announced, " I am calling on one million Oregonians to step up and get their booster dose by the end of January. I’ve directed OHA to get the vaccine supply and distribution capacity in place to support this goal. However, we will only reach it if everyone does their part. Get your booster shot. Boosters work and are incredibly effective at continuing your protection against this virus and hospitalization. If you aren’t yet vaccinated, now is the time. This can be a matter of life or death."
For more information go to coronavirus.oregon.gov. To schedule your vaccination or booster locally, visit lanecounty.org/vaxclinics.