Oregon will no longer publish daily COVID-19 updates, scaling back reporting of some data to once a week and other information to once a month.
The Oregon Health Authority said the new reporting schedule reflects a “new era” in the state’s pandemic response as cases and deaths decline, severity wanes and as recently approved boosters are expected to enhance immunity.
“These factors have prompted a scaling back of staff dedicated to the response, and as a result, fewer staff available to collect, analyze and publish the data,” spokesperson Jonathan Modie said in an emailed statement. “Shifting staffing at this stage of the pandemic allows us to dedicate resources to other public health responses.”
A variety of metrics show the virus is receding. Hospitalizations fell to 269 occupied beds Sept. 7, down from 464 in mid-July, and reported cases as of Tuesday fell to a weekly average of less than 500 per day.
Starting Sept. 14, the state’s public data dashboard will no longer include daily updates of new reported cases and deaths or the percent of tests that came back positive for COVID-19. It will now publish that information weekly, along with hospitalization numbers, on Wednesdays. Vaccination numbers, currently published once a week, will be published once a month.
The policy shift comes despite a new forecast from Oregon Health & Science University that predicts a fall surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. According to the latest model, published Sept. 2, hospitalizations could start climbing again in November, though 60% or more could be incidental, meaning that people were hospitalized for a different condition and happened to test positive for COVID-19.
The state would go back to daily reporting if hospitalizations rise to the point that the information would be useful, health authority director Patrick Allen said at a news conference Wednesday. But Allen said he doesn’t anticipate needing to go back to daily reporting.
“That’s a pretty modest surge compared to where we’ve been earlier in the pandemic,” he said.
The OHSU forecast does not include the impact of new bivalent vaccines that train the immune system to recognize both the original strain of COVID-19 and the dominant BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, preventing infection, transmission, serious illness and death.
The booster has been approved for use in Oregon and nearly 70,000 doses have already been delivered to the state, Dr. Dean Sidelinger, state epidemiologist, said during a news conference Wednesday. Another 75,500 doses are slated to arrive, and Sidelinger said the combined total should be enough to meet initial demand.
Moderna’s version is available for people 18 and older and Pfizer’s for those 12 and older. For both boosters, individuals are eligible if they completed their vaccine series at least two months ago or got their booster two months ago, regardless of the version they got previously. About 2.7 million Oregonians are eligible, Sidelinger said.
There is also also good news about the other infectious disease outbreak Oregon is currently facing: monkeypox. Nationally, cases have started to decline as people get vaccinated and change their behaviors to prevent spread of the disease, Sidelinger said, and he expects Oregon’s outbreak will follow a similar path.
“Hopefully, we’re nearing the worst of this and we’ll start to see a decline soon,” Sidelinger said.
— Fedor Zarkhin
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