OAHHS Hospital Voice Fall/Winter 2021-22

30 » A magazine for and about Oregon Community Hospitals. A CONVERSATION WITH DR. DEAN SIDELINGER COVID conditions are improving, but it’s no time to relax; hospital capacity is still a big concern. Dr. Dean Sidelinger is the state health officer and epidemiologist, playing a key role in Oregon’s fight against COVID-19. He has often been the public face of the pandemic, spending hours answering questions from the media in news conferences. A pediatrician before entering the public health field, Dr. Sidelinger came to Oregon in 2019 from San Diego County to lead implementation of Oregon’s five-year public health improvement plan. Then COVID-19 hit. In a virtual meeting, Dr. Sidelinger answered a range of questions about the pandemic: where we’ve been, where we are, and where we may be headed. Heading into the winter, where are we right now with the virus? I think in Oregon we can feel good. Our cases and especially our hospitalizations have come down from our peak, we are more than halfway down from our peak with folks with COVID who are taking up a hospital bed right now. But we are very near where we were from our fall-winter peak (of last year), and because these cases are cut in half that doesn’t mean our health care system and our public health system is not operating beyond capacity. We are still augmenting staff in health care systems, struggling to make sure we have placement for folks getting discharged, so we’re not out of the woods yet. We can feel a lot better about where we are today but know that we still have some work to do before we can all take a breather. The current data trends, the forecast that comes out of OHSU and many of the national forecasts continue to show an overall decline through the rest of this calendar year into the winter. That doesn’t mean we won’t likely have some surges, but the good news is with vaccination rates where they are we hopefully won’t see a statewide increase in cases, it’ll be more geographically contained in smaller communities and hopefully not nearly as large as more people get vaccinated because that really is our best protection against future surges. Vaccination not just in Oregon but across the U.S. and internationally is important to help minimize the risk of emerging variants, which like Delta could be more serious and may also be able to elude our vaccines. But on the positive front, vaccines for children aged 5–11 are now available. On the horizon we may have effective, safe oral antivirals that can keep folks who get sick out of the hospital and that will really ease our hospital capacity. Those things, increasing vaccinations and effective treatments are two