Omicron variant expected to ramp up, Governor encourages vaccines, boosters

MEDFORD, Ore. — State officials gave a sobering COVID-19 forecast, as spread of the Omicron variant is expected to pick up. There were no new restrictions announced by the Governor Friday in the fight against COVID-19.

Instead, the Governor, OHA and OHSU are all encouraging vaccinations and boosters. Oregon Health and Science University said the state has two to three weeks before the community begins to see a surge in Omicron cases.

With boosters taking about two weeks to take full effect, state officials agree this is the time to take action. The Omicron variant is predicted to be the reason for the biggest surge the state has seen. OHSU says at the peak of the Delta surge, there were 1,200 hospitalizations. Now it predicts at the peak of the Omicron variant, that number will more than double, at 3,000 hospitalizations.

Because no one else in the state is forecasting Omicron in Oregon and these models are only based off what health officials have seen happen in other states and countries, OHSU says the uncertainty in this forecast is higher than normal. “I would say the peak size is the one I am the most uncertain of, but the speed in which it gets here, I have more confidence in that,” said Dr. Peter Graven with OHSU.

The Governor is challenging one million Oregonians to get their boosters by the end of January. The Oregon Health Authority said it is planning on expanding monoclonal antibody treatments, adding new high capacity vaccination sites, and supporting hospital staff.

Finally, the OHA said it will be shifting its outreach to help people get connected to booster shots. Health director Pat Allen says even though the Omicron variant is more vaccine-resistant, getting fully vaccinated and boosted is the best way to limit your chance of severe infection.

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