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More kids are part of increasing COVID caseload in Rogue Valley, doctor says

A caregiver in personal protective gear checks a patient's charts.
Mike Zacchino/Asante
A caregiver in personal protective gear checks a patient's charts.

As Asante Three Rivers Medical Center in Grants Pass continues to strain under record numbers of COVID-19 cases, pediatrician Steven Marshak warned on Wednesday of increasing cases of the virus affecting children in the Rogue Valley.

Marshak said doctors are starting to see a rapid increase in the number of kids with COVID nationally, including hospitalizations of children without underlying conditions.

“We’re starting to see that increase,” he said, “and again my concern is as schools are just starting to go back and we’re about to get into the local District 7, the start of that school year, are we going to really start seeing this exponentially increase?”

Marshak was one of several doctors and hospital administrators from Three Rivers Medical Center who provided a sobering look at the number of patients hospitalized at their facility with COVID-19.

“We’re in an absolute, full-blown health care crisis,” said Three Rivers CEO Win Howard.

Fueled by the highly infectious delta variant, COVID patients are being doubled up in typically single patient ICU rooms.

“We have so many critically ill patients that, unfortunately, that was one of our only options,” said Vice President of Nursing Laura Magstadt. “Today we have 18 patients in our 12-bed ICU. 90% of those patients are unvaccinated.”

On Wednesday the hospital was operating at 117% occupancy, Magstadt said. Josephine and Jackson counties are being hit disproportionately hard by the current wave of COVID-19, compared to the rest of Oregon.

Pediatrician Marshak says the solution continues to be wearing masks and vaccinating people who are eligible in order to reduce the spread of the virus. That will help kids safely go back to school.

“We all want to move forward in our lives and we all want everyone to be safe. And this is what we have to do,” he said. “We have to come together as a community to maybe do things that we don’t want to do to improve everyone’s lives around us.”

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Erik Neumann is a radio producer and writer. A native of the Pacific Northwest, his work has appeared on public radio stations and in magazines along the West Coast. He received his Bachelor's Degree in geography from the University of Washington and a Master's in Journalism from UC Berkeley. Besides working at KUER, he enjoys being outside in just about every way possible.