Governor: Feds didn't send enough protective equipment
Updated: March 20: While Oregon Gov. Kate Brown did not call for any shelter-in-place orders Thursday, March 19, she has called for the delivery of more protective equipment and supplies for health care workers.
Responding to questions from media, Brown confirmed the state "received about 25% of the request," for personal protective equipment, or PPE. She indicated other providers like veterinarians and dentists offices have helped out by funneling protective equipment like masks, gowns and gloves to the state command center for use by health care workers who are likely treating patients with COVID-19. Others, including a Gresham charter school, have also donated what they could.
The governor said the protective equipment that has come in has fallen short of what was requested.
"As of Saturday a week ago, we hadn't received any of the PPE from the federal government except for one pallet which included 13,000 gowns," Brown told reporters on Thursday.
She said she notified Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley about the lack of shipment, and spoke with the trucking company responsible for delivering them.
Hospitals already have started postponing elective surgeries in an effort to preserve all protected equipment for critical cases, and doctor offices have re-scheduled or canceled non-urgent patient visits to free up facilities and staff, while adhering to social distancing guidelines.
The state also is awaiting an additional 5,000 coronavirus test kits, Brown's staff confirmed, when asked by a reporter about the status of test kit supplies.
Businesses, unemployed workers face uncertainty
Aside from shortages in resources the health care industry relies on, it's unclear whether the state has enough financial resources to cover the flood of unemployment claims coming in.
On Friday, Gov. Brown said roughly 53,000 requests for unemployment benefits had come in since Monday, and noted Oregon has "the second best funded" unemployment insurance fund in the U.S., with an estimated $5 billion in coffers, but clarified later that the state will likely be short on resources it needs for all aspects of responding to the pandemic, including financial resources.
Earlier this week, The Oregonian reported that 18,500 unemployment claims were filed in a single day, Tuesday: a figure that caused the filing rate in Oregon to jump by nearly 3,200%.
Brown stopped short of saying the state doesn't have enough money to cover the surge in people seeking unemployment benefits, but said federal aid would be key in helping cover the costs.
"We have many more needs than we have resources at this time," Brown said. "The assistance from the federal government is going to be critical. We're going to have to be extremely prudent at the fiscal level."
The governor said the state has worked to make filing unemployment claims faster and easier for Oregonians.
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