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Officials say numbers are declining even though it is too soon to see the effects of vaccinations.

COURTESY PHOTO: KOIN 6 NEAWS - An outdoor COVID-19 vaccination clinic.In the week ending Feb. 21, the Oregon Health Authority said COVID-19 related hospitalizations dropped 42% and deaths decreased from 114 to just 17 — the lowest weekly death toll since the week of June 29, 2020.

OHSU officials said they've also seen a dramatic decrease in COVID-19 related hospitalizations. As of Tuesday, they had seven COVID patients, with one in the Hillsboro Medical Center and four at Portland Adventist.

The downward trend of hospitalizations follows the prediction model and time course expected after the holidays. Officials said it is still too early to see the impact from the vaccinations taking place.

The trend shows the collective interventions of physical distancing, mask wearing, hand washing and limited social gatherings are positively impacting COVID-19 infection rates, OHSU officials said.

The officials said everyone must maintain these collective interventions until there is adequate vaccination across the state — especially as new virus variants continue to emerge and spread in Oregon and Washington.

Otherwise it's likely there will be another surge of coronavirus activity.

In Marion County, Salem Health's infection prevention medical director said that they're seeing a decline in their covid hospitalizations as well.

Similarly to OHSU, Dr. Jasmin Chaudhary at Salem Health explained that the reasons for decline are not entirely clear — but thought to be multifaceted. Overall, Chaudhary pointed to vaccinating high-risk populations playing a role, along with people's behavior.

Most notably, she said we've passed the season of large gatherings — Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Eve — and she thinks more people are being compliant with mask wearing and social distancing.

Chaudhary does believe the waves we are seeing correlate with human behavior. In an email, she wrote:

"My hope is as more and more of the populace gets vaccinated, and if we can continue our behavior of mask-wearing and social distancing, we can continue to drive down admissions until herd immunity is achieved. This is just a hypothesis but it is also possible that subpopulations within the larger populations have achieved immunity, again through vaccination or natural infection, and this could be limiting the spread of the disease."

She also went on to write saying that we need more data to be definitive here.

Salem Health highly recommends people to get vaccinated when they become eligible and keep up the good work of physical distancing, limiting social gatherings and mask-wearing — until we achieve community immunity.

KOIN 6 News is a news partner of the Portland Tribune. Their story can be found here.

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