First 10 days of January count more COVID-19 cases than all 31 days of December

PMG PHOTO: PAT KRUIS - The number of COVID-19 cases has skyrocketed in Jefferson County. The public health department is swamped with people getting tested. Of those tests, 17% are positive. Anything above 5% indicates community spread.

The highly infectious Omicron variant of the coronavirus has hit Jefferson County with a vengeance.

"In the last 10 days, we've had 456 new reported COVID cases," said Michael Baker, Jefferson County Public Health Director.

To put this into perspective, Jefferson County set a record of 52 cases in one day back in November of 2020.

"That seemed like a lot because that came at a spike," said Baker.

That daily case record held until this January. "We're exceeding 50-plus cases every day," said Baker. "Every day this year we've had a record number of cases."

Most of those cases aren't as severe as previous variants.

"There are those who have no symptoms at all," said Baker, "and those who are really, really sick."

Doctors notice a common theme, people get sick for a few days, start feeling better, then relapse and get sicker than they originally were.

People, especially people with vaccine protection, are betting Omicron will be like a mild cold.

"For many of us that is true," said Baker. "However, with it being so contagious, more people are being infected and statistically more will have underlying health conditions, which will make it worse for them."

Fewer people infected with Omicron need hospitalization, but because this variant infects so many people, hospitals still feel the pressure.

St. Charles Bend handles the COVID hospitalization for Central Oregon. Monday, Jan. 10, the hospital had 48 COVID patients, five in the Intensive Care Unit, all five of those on ventilators. None of the ICU patients are vaccinated, 11 of the 48 COVID patients in the hospital are vaccinated.

Baker says of those tested in Jefferson County, 17% tests are positive. "Anything above 5% is concerning. It means the virus is actively spreading through the community. It's really burning hot right now in our community."

The public health clinic is busier than ever with people getting vaccination boosters, and with people getting tested for the virus.

"We in the department are doing everything we can, but going at 100 miles per hour, non-stop, all day long, that is hard to maintain," said Baker. "We're really starting to feel that drain."

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