Omicron Update

Dear Beloved of Christ,

It’s been two weeks since our letter recommending the closing of church buildings while we wait out the Omicron wave. Here is where we stand now:

  • On Friday OHA reported another record-breaking day: 10,947 new cases. (Remember this number is most likely an undercount as it does not include positive tests taken at home.)
  • There were 11% more new cases over the last week than the week prior, and three times as many as the week before that.
  • State epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger predicts that the Omicron surge in Oregon has not yet reached its peak.
  • As of Friday, 1000 people in Oregon were hospitalized with COVID. Some cases are incidental, but the patients still must be isolated, which increases the strain on hospitals.

Fortunately, things have improved modestly since we last wrote—most likely attributed to people changing their behavior because of the omicron surge, including churches!

  • OHSU has reduced their estimate for peak COVID hospitalizations from 1652 on January 27 to 1553 on February 1. (Assuming those that are practicing social distancing continue to.) Click here to see the January 20 report.

Our collective efforts are having the desired effects.  Peter Graven, director of the OHSU Office of Advanced Analytics, said “This update reflects the fact that Oregonians are flattening the sharp upward curve of hospitalizations by stepping up public health measures to reduce the spread of infection.” Dr. Sidelinger said Oregon’s comparatively higher rates of mask-wearing and vaccination are blunting the peak of the current surge. “I want to thank the vast majority of Oregonians who continue to take these steps. Your actions have helped keep the death rates from COVID amongst the lowest of the states.”

However, we are not out of the woods yet. 1553 is still a high number that will strain our healthcare system. (The peak during the fall Delta surge was ~1200.)

We need to stay the course for at least another two weeks.

This is HARD.  We have entered our third pandemic year.  We don’t know when surges will end and we will transition from the pandemic to the endemic stage of the virus. For the time being, we need to remain nimble, steadfast, and loving.

“And let us not grow weary of doing good,
for in due season we will reap,
if we do not give up.”

Galatians 6:9

We continue our prayers of gratitude for the highly effective vaccines, for new treatments, for reduced hospitalizations and deaths.

We remain grateful for our faithful communities, looking out for the collective good and doing their best to protect the most vulnerable. (The COVID death rate in Oregon is half the national average.)

We continue to pray for our global family.

For those who are sick
For those who are scared
For frontline medical workers
For those in public facing roles and essential services
For teachers
For parents of school-aged children
For those that cannot be vaccinated
For those with underlying conditions that increase their risk
For those who will need medical care for other emergencies during the coming weeks

May we all do what we can to care for each other.

With deep gratitude,

Bishop Laurie