News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Many in Sisters caught in 'tripledemic'

Almost everybody in town has or had or knows someone who has or had “the crud.”

Workers are out — as are some masks. Stores are having a run on tissues and Tylenol. Home remedies and self-isolation may be keeping reported numbers low in spite of people hacking and coughing their way through life in Sisters Country.

St. Charles Health System spokesperson Alandra Johnson said, “We are starting to see an increase in COVID-19 statewide but that has not yet reached Central Oregon in terms of hospitalizations. We are keeping a close eye on COVID-19 as well as RSV and the flu. And a reminder to our community that the best protection against these respiratory viruses is to get vaccinated and to stay home if you are sick.”

It’s the season, and to be expected. The respiratory illness season typically begins in November and runs through March. It is spotlighted by increases in the spread of respiratory viruses and hospitalizations due to illnesses such as COVID-19, RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) and influenza — the triple in tripledemic.

For many afflicted in Sisters, illness has lingered for weeks.

While hospitalizations are lower compared to recent years, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports the numbers nationally remain higher than in the 2017 to 2018 season, before the spread of COVID-19.

According to CDC data, Oregon COVID-19 hospitalizations began increasing in mid-November and have continued to rise mildly since then. A peak occurred on December 2, with 226 new COVID-19 hospitalizations. More than half of those hospitalized were infected with the new COVID-19 strain, JN.1.

JN.1 accounted for about 44 percent of all cases nationwide as of December 23, according to the CDC. JN.1 appears to be more contagious than other recent strains but is not causing more serious illness.

CDC data shows RSV hospitalizations have increased in the past month but are not close to the record levels seen last year. RSV cases in November were relatively flat at around 11 percent positivity. But from December 16 through December 23, flu cases spiked, nearly doubling, in Oregon. COVID-19 test positivity jumped by more than 50 percent in that period.

For the week of December 23, the rate of RSV hospitalizations in Oregon was 1.2 per 100,000 people, which is lower than the national average of 1.8.

Lagging a bit behind most of the country, Oregon is now experiencing a spike in flu, RSV and COVID cases. And from last week to this week, adults in acute care hospital beds due to COVID jumped by 30 percent, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

Meanwhile, the past year saw a big drop in vaccinations in the state. Less than 14 percent of Oregonians got the latest COVID bivalent booster.

“COVID-19 is still the primary cause of new respiratory hospitalizations and deaths, with about 15,000 hospitalizations and about 1,000 deaths every single week,” Dr. Mandy Cohen, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.


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