Go Back

Public statement from Cheryl Wolfe, President and CEO

17 Aug 2021

Message about surge in COVID cases and impact on health care system, Friday, Aug. 13, 2021

COVID-19 cases in our local community and around the nation continue to surge. Vaccinations have given us a roadmap out of this pandemic, and yet transmission rates are outpacing what we have seen over the past year.

Vaccine hesitancy and resistance are bringing health care systems in our state to the brink of their resources. Some hospitals have canceled elective procedures; others have petitioned the state for additional clinical staff and tents for overflow patients; every hospital in the Portland Metro has had to divert patients to other facilities at various points, sometimes looking out of state. 

At Salem Hospital, we have been managing extremely high inpatient numbers for 15 consecutive weeks, and now our COVID admissions climb daily. This morning, there are 81 COVID positive patients hospitalized; only a month ago, there were six. Staff are tired, physically and emotionally, from more than 18 months of COVID response and crisis management.

How will we respond, as a community, at another crossroads in the COVID pandemic? Last year, we watched hotspots across the world where people lost their lives because the weight of a COVID tsunami overwhelmed health systems. Do not think that such a tragedy couldn’t happen in Oregon – it can, and yet we have the tools to stop it.

Vaccination continues to be the best way out of the pandemic. A staggering 96% of COVID patients hospitalized at Salem Health since Jan. 1, 2021 have been unvaccinated. Hundreds of hospitalizations and dozens of deaths in Salem could have been avoided had some of those chosen vaccination.

The vaccine is readily available in our community. Salem Health is still providing easy access to the vaccine at our primary care and urgent care clinics, as well as at numerous mobile vaccine clinic sites across the community at schools, churches, grocery stores, and community events. If you want to support your local health care workers and your community, please get vaccinated, and encourage your friends and family to do the same. It’s easy, free, safe and effective.

See for details.

This pandemic has been long and everyone has paid a price. We are all tired of constant restrictions, changing guidance and the anxiety of the unknown. We have been tested many times, but I believe this moment of difficulty will not find us lacking, as long as we value the greater good more than personal comfort, and are willing to make small sacrifices for the sake of the vulnerable. Get a vaccine. Wear a mask. Socially distance.