On the heels of Gov. Kate Brown's Friday night press conference, announcing her "stay home, stay healthy" policy to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, Jefferson, Crook and Deschutes emergency managers Dave Pond, Michael Ryan and Nathan Garibay are urging residents to take person actions to slow the spread of COVID-19.
"The virus is spreading fast, there is no vaccine available, and our hospitals and emergency responders' supply of masks and critical protective equipment is in dangerously short supply," said Nathan Garibay, Deschutes County emergency manager. "We all need to do what we can, starting today. Social distancing is the best tool we now have — please stay home and slow the spread of this virus."
The emergency managers urge residents to stay home, unless for necessary medical care, food, supplies, outdoor exercise or essential work functions where sanitation and social distancing can be assured.
Additionally, they say, local hospitals are being inundated with people who are not sick arriving in emergency departments with requests to be tested for COVID-19, slowing the triage process for those in serious need of emergency or life-threatening care.
"As a reminder, only those who meet specific clinical criteria will be tested," said Lisa Goodman, St. Charles Health System spokesperson. "Most people who are mildly sick should plan to stay home and away from others for 14 days." People are encouraged to call their doctor or other primary care provider — or the Jefferson County Public Health Department if they don't have one — if they are ill and want direction about whether to stay home or be seen by a provider.
"If each of us starts doing our part now, we can reduce the spread of COVID-19, to protect our family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers, and could even save the lives of vulnerable people," said Dr. George Conway, Deschutes County's health services director. "Our not taking the best actions now could mean that our hospitals could be overwhelmed with many very ill people in the weeks and months to come."
"While we cannot stop the cases already underway, each one of us can slow the number of cases in the future and help to ensure that there will always be enough hospital beds, ventilators and other life-saving equipment available to give critical life supports to those who need it. "There is not enough capacity here, or anywhere, to take care of everyone at once, if and when this epidemic peaks, unless we take this seriously and act now to slow the spread of COVID-19," Conway said.
The virus is indiscriminate, Conway said, citing a recent Centers for Disease Control report that 40% of those hospitalized in the United States for COVID-19 are between ages 20 and 54, and many of the remaining people hospitalized are older and/or have chronic illnesses already, and may have a more serious course of illness.
Conway noted that Oregon has not yet issued mandatory shelter-in-place orders — but groups including the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, Oregon Academy of Family Physicians, which represents more than 1,700 physicians, family medicine residents and medical students, have urged the governor to do so.
"This is the best hope we have to keep our health care system from being overwhelmed," said Ruth Chang, president of the physicians' group.
Emergency managers say they have seen and had reports of large social gatherings continuing outside and in homes, even though the governor has issued a "stay home, stay healthy" order.
Law enforcement is asking residents to use a common-sense approach and cease such activities in the name of public safety, said a news release from the emergency managers, "which allows us to respond to incidents in our communities, uphold laws, provide patrol and investigate local crimes ... and may perhaps delay a statewide shelter-in-place order."
David Pond, Jefferson County emergency manager, thanked public health and hospital personnel for all of the work that they have been doing around the clock, away from their families for weeks — for local communities.
"Now it is our time, as community members, to sacrifice," he said.
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