There is some good news, and some not-good news about the Omicron surge that the county is in the midst of grappling with. The good news: The drop in hospitalizations is likely to happen quicker than during the Delta surge in fall 2021. The bad news: We haven’t peaked yet. Hospitalizations are still increasing but are anticipated to peak within the next week to week and a half. 

As such, the Oregon Health Authority this week filed permanent rules to keep requirements in place for masking indoors in K-12 schools, and requirements for school and school-based program staff to be vaccinated. The rule filing maintains masking protections during the current Omicron surge, and state officials are developing measures to determine when it may be safe to lift the school mask rule. 

The permanent rules replace temporary rules, which are only valid for 180 days. Those rules expired on Monday.

Also filed this week are permanent rules requiring health care workers to wear masks, and for health care workers in most health care settings to be fully vaccinated.

State health officials continue to review public comments on a proposed permanent rule that would continue the requirement that masks be worn in indoor public places. That temporary rule expires Feb. 8.

Dean Sidelinger, M.D., M.S.Ed., state health officer and state epidemiologist, said at a news conference this week that while the rules are permanent, OHA can loosen or rescind them as conditions change, particularly with hospitalizations.

As of Tuesday, countywide there are 88 residents hospitalized with Covid, 15 of which are in the intensive care unit, and four who are on ventilators. Of those 88 hospitalizations, 69.3% are unvaccinated. Residents in their 70s account for the highest rate of hospitalizations at 31%, followed by residents in their 80s, at 20%, according to data from Lane County Public Health.

“Those numbers are still increasing but are anticipated to peak soon – within the next week to week and a half,” he said.

In the past two weeks, there have been 2,521 cases in Springfield; 450 cases in Cottage Grove; 220 cases in Creswell; and 52 cases in Pleasant Hill. County trends show that people in their 20s are leading the pack with the highest case rates at 19.1%, followed by people in their 30s at 16.8%.

Countywide in the past week, there have been 4,138 cases reported. Of the estimated 382,971 residents in the county, 272,779 are fully vaccinated.