COVID-19 is an all hands on deck situation, health officials say

The situation is only going to get worse before it gets better, according to Dr. Harry Scholtz with McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center.

Posted: Aug 18, 2021 1:11 PM
Updated: Aug 18, 2021 7:14 PM

LANE COUNTY, Ore. -- It's all hands on deck, Lane County Public Health said about the current state of the pandemic during a press conference Wednesday morning.

Dr. Harry Scholtz, a lead infectious disease doctor for the McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center, said the situation is only going to get worse before it gets better. 

"People are feeling the strain and all the tension gets transferred down every aspect of the health care system," Scholtz said. 

As of Aug. 18, there have been 18,088 cases in Lane County since the start of the pandemic, with 276 more cases since Tuesday. The county is averaging 204 cases daily. 

There is a new high in COVID-19 hospitalizations with a total of 96 patients, 56 of them from Lane County. Ten people are on ventilators. 

Officials said they are constantly reassessing to take care of patients. 

According to Dr. Jim McGovern, Chief Medical Officer for PeaceHealth Oregon, half of their intensive care unit beds are reserved for COVID-19 patients. They are currently holding admitted patients in the emergency department. This means there's longer wait times in the ER -- up to five to six hours. 

A third booster shot is available for specific individuals, like cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy, transplant recipients and more.

Officials said they expect more news about the general booster shot soon, but right now they are just looking at the third dose for these specific groups. 

Jason Davis, a spokesperson for Lane County Public Health, said they are "absolutely" seeing a trend in some of the younger individuals in the community. Right now, people between the ages of 20 and 29 represent the single highest case increase. They make up 23.4% of overall cases in Lane County. 

Davis said this is not surprising because this group is more likely to go out in social settings -- especially at night. 

"Try to maintain some distance if you can. I know that goes against the whole reason of going to a night club in the fist place," Davis said. "But we are trying to balance the best of both worlds right now. I think we are running into some confusion with that. It's not like, 'Don't go and do something that could potentially spread the virus,' but we aren't going to close down night clubs, large events or concert venues." 

Gov. Kate brown announced a deployment of National Guard members to help out during this surge. The initial deployment of 500 Guard members to hospitals throughout the state was announced Aug. 13. The deployments will begin Aug. 20. Their job is to support frontline health care workers. 

KEZI asked McGovern if the Guard would come to Lane County. He woudn't say one way or another, just that they're continuing to look at all options. He said they are appreciative of this generous offer of help from the National Guard. 

"I would say at this point, we don't really expect help in the short term, as much COVID-19 as we are dealing with. There are others that are harder hit, but we are looking at it and trying to figure out where it would help the best," McGovern said. 

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