What the Pacific Northwest COVID surge means for California

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- While California has the lowest COVID rate in the U.S., the neighboring states to the north - Oregon and Washington - are getting hit by a fourth surge.

"Cases are widespread, driven by new, more contagious variants," said Oregon Governor, Kate Brown, on Friday.

VACCINE TRACKER: How California is doing, when you can get a coronavirus vaccine

While California is reopening, Gov. Brown, tightened restrictions this week, rolling back activities in Oregon like indoor dining. "While fewer seniors are being hospitalized thanks to vaccinations, COVID-19 is now knocking more younger people off their feet," she said.

Brown said that in Oregon, hospitalized cases of people ages 18 to 34 have increased by almost 50%.

It's a similar story in Washington.

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"Young people who develop COVID and some of them have been admitted to the ICU, some of them have been on breathing machines, and it is just heartbreaking to watch," said Dr. Seth Cohen, director of infection prevention at University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle.

Dr. Cohen says everyone hospitalized right now at UW is unvaccinated. "We're still dealing with some of the Pacific Northwest weather which keeps people inside. But we're also dealing with a lot of variants that are circulating in this area and it's really been a race to get vaccines into people."

What does the surge in Oregon and Washington mean for California?

"There's no population on the border, it's not like it's going to trickle over, but it is a harbinger of things that could potentially come," said UCSF epidemiologist, Dr. George Rutherford.

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Dr. Rutherford, says that so far California is outrunning potential surges by vaccinating quickly. 40% of adults are fully vaccinated in California, whereas in Oregon that number is about 30%

"There's a real tipping point here, where if you can get enough people vaccinated or with naturally acquired immunity like what's going on in Los Angeles, you can get past these risky situations."

Dr. Rutherford says the Pacific Northwest surges are a reminder that the pandemic is not over yet and that young people need to get vaccinated.



VACCINE TRACKER: How California is doing, when you can get a coronavirus vaccine

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