For some, COVID is not over

While authorities may have declared the pandemic over, many issues still linger for portions of the community, according to a September 2023 study released by the OHA. 

Overall, the retrospective study recorded 860,300 COVID-19 cases in Oregon, 34,376 hospitalizations (4% of all cases), 8,291 COVID-19 deaths and found that case rates peaked in January, 2022 with 1,332 cases recorded in a week. 

The issues COVID-19 poses stretch far beyond a medical one as, prior to 2020, Oregon’s public health system was critically underfunded and as the pandemic relief funding ends around the country, money again becomes the main worry. 

A healthcare worker interviewed for this study encapsulated their worry noting how “all this money was poured into the system, hospitals and public health, and they’re not funded anymore, and so the rug is coming out from under us, and there’s no more help, there’s no more resources, right?” 

A number of efforts to create more funding occurred from 2017 to 2020 but were found to be inadequate. 

Now, sustained state funding is crucial to rebuild the public health system and recover from the strains on the systems caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as noted by the OHA. 

The OHA estimates this will require a continual commitment from the Oregon State Legislature to fund the public health system with an additional $143,000,000 annually. 

In addition to the funding needed, the enforcement of health mandates across Oregon pose a challenge to overcoming the issues. 

The enforcement of public health mandates was found to be generally inconsistent in Oregon and politicization of the response effort took root resulting in a widespread misinformation campaign marred the compliance landscape, according to the OHA 2023 report. 

Because Oregon’s public health system is decentralized, concerns exist over the localized nature of decision-making. This in turn created pandemic responses in some areas that put personal beliefs and politics over public health. 

The next major finding in this report comes from the disarray over how equitable the pandemic responses were. 

The greatest equity challenges Oregon faced in its pandemic response dealt with the emergency management infrastructure. It did not include equity practitioners and ultimately hurt communities impacted by health inequities in decision-making. It also affected a limited equity capacity across the state, including significant delays and challenges in producing accessible and culturally-tailored public messaging, as per the OHA 2023 report. 

The effects of these issues from COVID-19 most affect the elderly, people of color and students in Oregon. 

The highest rate of COVID-19 deaths occurred in adults 80 and older with 3,502. 

Adults aged 65 and older had the highest rates of hospitalization (15,870) from COVID-19 or around half (48.7%) of all COVID hospitalizations. 

In the case of people of color, when looking at death rates per 100,000 of the population, Pacific Islander (196.43 per 100,000) and American Indian/Alaska Native (287.12 per 100,000) individuals had the highest death rates which have been attributed to systemic inequities that influence the social determinants of health, rather than personal choices related to virus protection. 

From these statistics the trend that COVID-19 exacerbated already existing health inequities in the state of Oregon becomes more apparent. 

In particular, Tribal Nations and communities of color were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately in comparison to white communities. 

The best way to beat COVID as well as other sicknesses this winter is to be prepared through reliable testing and up-to-date vaccinations. Both of these can be found at the following locations: 

• Walgreens on River Road offers flu and COVID vaccines available as well as home testing 

• Target CVS pharmacy at Keizer Station offers flu and COVID vaccines and home testing kits 

• Safeway pharmacy on River Road is offering flu and COVID vaccines as well as home testing kits 

• Rite Aid on River Road has flu and COVID vaccines available and home testing is available as well 

• Fred Meyer pharmacy on Broadway Street is offering flu and COVID vaccines as well as home testing kits 

If you have COVID or suspect you have COVID, the OHA has determined that you do not need to report your positive test. 

The recommendation they offer is to stay home until you have not had a fever for 24 hours without using fever reducing medication and other COVID-19 symptoms are improving. 

It is also important to avoid contact with immunocompromised people or other high-risk individuals for 10 days and to wear a mask around other people for up to 10 days after you become sick or test positive.