Today, February 28, 2021, marks the anniversary of the first case of COVID-19 in Oregon, and the first issue of Oregon Coronavirus Update. In that time, we have aimed to keep you informed and empowered with information about this disease and its impacts.
This pandemic has touched every aspect of our lives in the past year, and while vaccines have given us hope, we want to acknowledge the difficulties as well.
In today’s special edition, we pause to remember the losses of this past year – in particular, the 2,208 Oregonians who have died with COVID. Several readers have entrusted us with their stories so we can share them. We’re also talking with experts on grief for their reflections and suggestions and spotlighting an artist in Portland who has marked each loss in our state.
Tomorrow, we will feature a message from Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen and look at pandemic milestones and how your actions have helped save lives.
Thank you for reading and helping us mark this sad milestone.
Loved ones lost: The imprint of a year of COVID-19
It’s impossible to fully represent the amazing and vibrant lives that have been lost too soon due to COVID-19, but here are a few of the stories readers shared with us. We’ll share more in future issues (you can submit stories here).
Brian Alexander shared:
I lost MaryKay at the beginning of the pandemic – March 14. I had already had it but wasn’t tested until after she passed.
She was born and raised in Hawai’i. She truly embodied the Aloha spirit – always helping others, taking care of the trash on our street, and volunteering at our spiritual center.
I miss her so much. Trying to pull my life together still. We were married for 22 years, no kids – just the two of us.”
Bija, who lives in Portland, writes:
My father died of Covid in New York City in April, alone, in isolation, in the hospital. Not being able to comfort him and say goodbye was one of the most wrenching experiences of my life. Not being able to mourn through normal rituals with family has been lonely and surreal. I miss him terribly and yet because it has all happened at such a distance, I still cannot believe he is gone.
I would not wish this pain on anyone. And I fervently hope everyone will redouble their efforts to keep themselves and others safe until we are all vaccinated.
Denise was a single mom who worked her whole life supporting her boys and being the best mom she could be. She was very skilled, respected and committed to her job. Her coworkers looked to her for humor, guidance and fun. She had a way of making people feel loved, listened to and cared about. She never held a grudge, and forgave easily. She was joyful.
Despite following guidelines and quarantining, she got the virus. After contracting COVID pneumonia, she had an army of people praying for and hoping for recovery. We cannot believe she’s gone. She fought so hard for so long, and she didn’t want to die. She was too young and had things she wanted to accomplish for others before she left this earth. We will miss her every day and will do our best to make connections with others like she always did. Rest In Peace, Denise.
Grief after one year in the pandemic
In the year since Oregon’s fight with COVID-19 began, we’ve had to learn to cope with circumstances that have brought immense grief, loss and loneliness.
Dr. Robert Neimeyer, director of the Portland Institute for Loss and Transition, says that it’s normal to struggle to wrap our hearts and minds around everything that’s happening.
“The statistics themselves are numbing,” says Dr. Neimeyer. “When we experience a profound loss, our world is changed. It’s made alien by that rupture between the way things were and the way they are now.”
Alysha Lacey, program director at Dougy Center, touches on how these losses — difficult at any time — have been complicated by the pandemic.
“The rituals surrounding what we might usually do at a funeral or celebration of life are disrupted,” says Lacey. “And we’re all just back in front of our computer screen, and it feels odd.”
Megan Devine, psychotherapist and founder of Refuge in Grief, points out that it’s more than just the COVID-19 related deaths in the nation and our state that have many reeling: It’s the everyday stuff, too.
“There’s lots and lots and lots of loss that we need to talk about and normalize and honor,” Devine says. “We’ve got daily loss. We’ve got the loss of routine, the loss of normalcy, the loss of a sense of structure and stability.”
Devine affirms: “This is as bad as you think it is.”
Despite the obstacles, Dr. Neimeyer thinks that starting a blog, transforming a loved one’s Facebook page into a memorial or writing letters to those who have passed are all good ways to speak to our loss in a healing way and honor a loved one’s memory.
“Any time we can reclaim a sense of personal agency, voice our pain and share our ongoing bond with our loved one, we find our footing a little more firmly in a changed world,” says Dr. Neimeyer.
Lacey calls on those who aren’t as directly impacted by loss to lend a hand.
“Learn to show up for others in your life and be that good support for someone,” says Lacey. “Be there to truly listen and be present for them.”
Devine urges everyone to understand that there’s nothing wrong with you for grieving.
“You don’t have to fix everything that is wrong,” says Devine. “We’re such a, ‘Fix it, make the problems go away’ culture, and we cannot do that here.”
Facebook Live Q&A to address grief
To help acknowledge the immense loss and grief that COVID-19 has brought to Oregonians, we will be hosting a Facebook Live Q&A. Join us at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 3, when Dr. Neimeyer and OHA experts will answer your questions about coping with grief.
A heart for every Oregonian we have lost
For Portland artist Jan Trullinger Dwyer of Stumptown Studio Arts, painting hearts began as a way to manage her own sadness and fear about the approaching pandemic. Last March, she read an article about coronavirus and exponential spread.
“I know how hard it is for people to appreciate how fast that is,” she said. She also knew “that every person who dies leaves a hole in other lives, like a pond rippling out. And I just started painting hearts.” Then she hung the hearts on her porch, one for every person in Oregon whose death was related to COVID-19.
But, “the further into the year we got, the more behind I was getting.” In December, as the number of losses reported each day increased further, she switched to painting one canvas per day, one heart representing each loss.
“It’s been a real loving journey for me,” she said. And a way to capture the historical moment: “My great grandfather died in the 1918 flu.”
And, she adds, “ I’m a white woman living a very comfortable existence – each heart is a note of the social responsibility that we all bear.” She’s referring to the fact that, because of the long history of racism and social inequity, people of color have borne the heaviest burden from COVID-19.
She ran out of space on her porch a while ago; the hearts have been filling up her studio. Starting this weekend, to mark the one-year anniversary of the pandemic in Oregon, the hearts are rippling out into the community to be displayed on friends’ porches and in neighborhood businesses.
Oregon reports 292 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 0 new deaths
There are 0 new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, and the state’s death toll remains at 2,208 the Oregon Health Authority reported at 12:01 a.m. today.
Oregon Health Authority reported 292 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of 12:01 a.m. today bringing the state total to 155,597.
Vaccinations in Oregon
Today, OHA reported that 29,330 new doses of COVID-19 vaccinations were added to the state immunization registry. Of this total, 19,513 doses were administered on Feb. 27 and 9,817 were administered on previous days but were entered into the vaccine registry on Feb. 27.
Cumulative daily totals can take several days to finalize because providers have 72 hours to report doses administered and technical challenges have caused many providers to lag in their reporting. OHA has been providing technical support to vaccination sites to improve the timeliness of their data entry into the state’s ALERT Immunization Information System (IIS).
Oregon has now administered a cumulative total of 973,022 first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines. To date, 1,194,495 doses of vaccine have been delivered to sites across Oregon.
These data are preliminary and subject to change. OHA’s dashboards provide regularly updated vaccination data, and Oregon’s dashboard has been updated today.
The number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 across Oregon is 134, which is 14 fewer than yesterday. There are 26 COVID-19 patients in intensive care unit (ICU) beds, which is five fewer than yesterday.
The total number of patients in hospital beds may fluctuate between report times. The numbers do not reflect admissions per day, nor the length of hospital stay. Staffing limitations are not captured in this data and may further limit bed capacity.
Cases and deaths
The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (1), Benton (7), Clackamas (26), Columbia (4), Coos (10), Curry (3), Deschutes (6), Douglas (11), Grant (1), Hood River (1), Jackson (21), Jefferson (3), Josephine (3), Klamath (2), Lake (1), Lane (36), Lincoln (1), Linn (4), Malheur (1), Marion (52), Morro