FILE — Oregon vaccine rollout

A nurse draws a COVID-19 vaccine dose at a vaccination clinic set up at the Oregon State Fair and Exposition Center in Salem, Oregon, on its opening day of January 7, 2021. 

(The Center Square) – Oregon’s public health officials are pointing to signs of optimism in their fight against COVID-19. 

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) released weekly infection, hospitalization and death rates Wednesday, showing drops in all three categories.

“During Monday, Sept. 6, through Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, OHA recorded 12,997 new cases of COVID-19 infection – an 11% decrease from the previous week,” the department said in a news release.

The state recorded 281 new infections per 100,000 people during that week. Baker County, in eastern Oregon, experienced the highest rate of infections at 686 new infections per 100,000 people; the county population is little more than 16,000 people.

OHA noted 79% of statewide cases were classified as “sporadic,” meaning it could not trace them back easily to an event that’s likely to blame for the COVID-19 exposure. This contrasts with what OHA calls “clusters” or “outbreaks” that would be considered vectors for other infections. The high number of untraceable cases has been the norm throughout 2021 in Oregon, but the percentage has increased steadily since January.

The drop in cases precipitates a decrease in the hospitalization rate and deaths associated with COVID-19.

“New COVID-19 hospitalizations fell 42% this week – from 1,028 to 592 – the first drop after 9 consecutive weeks of increases,” OHA said. “COVID-19-associated deaths also fell – from 171 to 120 – the first drop in the death toll after 6 weeks of increases.”

The overall hospitalization rate remains low. Only 5.5% of reported COVID-19 infections end up in a hospital visit. 

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown instituted a new outdoor mask mandate three weeks ago. Additionally, Brown ordered all public workers to be vaccinated, something the governor is facing lawsuits over from firefighters and others. 

Brown implored Oregonians to be vigilant with students returning to classrooms, but OHA’s data shows infections among school-age children to be minimal.

Regional Editor

Cole Lauterbach is a regional editor for The Center Square covering Arizona, California, and Nevada. For more than a decade, Cole has produced award-winning content on both radio and television.