Oregon governor declares emergency to fight COVID-19
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Sunday declared a state of emergency as the number of presumed and confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state doubled to 14.
Brown authorized the state of emergency by verbal proclamation at 8:14 p.m. Saturday, March 7, and confirmed the executive order in writing Sunday morning. She made the public announcement at a March 8 press conference with state and county health professional in Portland. She said the declaration will allow the public health system to access additional resources to fight the illness spread by the novel coronavirus.
"The situation is evolving here in Oregon and across the globe," Brown said. "We will do everything in our power to keep Oregonians safe."
Newly available resources include licensed and trained medical volunteers who can assist in rural areas where the medical system is limited.
The Oregon Legislature's Emergency Board — the lawmakers who can act when the Legislature is out of session —is expected to approve $5 million in additional funding on Monday, March 9.
The seven new presumptive cases include one in Douglas County, one in Marion County and five in Washington County. The Oregon Health and Science University on Sunday said it is treating a patient with COVID-19.
Dr. Dana Hargunani of the Oregon Health Authority said three of the patients in Washington County already were hospitalized; four are recovering at home. None are related to international travel, she said, and they're related to contacts with other patients or "community acquired."
Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen described the state's response as an "unprecedented state and private effort."
"Today's news is both troubling and expected," Allen said. "We know we will see more cases, but we also know steps we can take."
The OHA is also: finalizing agreements with major hospital systems to expand locations where COVID-19 tests can be conducted safely; expanding telemedicine so patients can be screened, evaluated and treated by health care providers without coming into a clinic or hospital emergency department; and Convening providers who serve older adults and vulnerable populations to mobilize an aggressive outreach and prevention strategy to protect at-risk people.
Allen said most people with COVID-19 will have mild symptoms. He urged those people who are ill to stay home until they recover, and to call their health provider in advance before making a visit if their symptoms worsen.
On Saturday, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention declared those most at risk for COVID-19 include older adults, people with underlying health conditions, and the homeless and others will limited access to medical treatment.
Dr. Jennifer Vines, Multnomah County health officer, said her office has been working for several days with service providers for the homeless, under direction of County Chair Deborah Kafoury, to see what serves may be needed.
Dr. Paul Cieslak, medical director for communicable diseases and immunizations, Public Health Division, Oregon Health Authority, spoke at Sunday's press conference. "The big questions are: What is extend of outbreak? Who is most at risk?" he said. "We have data from what the Chinese have reported but we're interested in what's happening here in Oregon."
Cieslak also addressed the science behind the sprad of the virus. "COVID-19, we think, is mostly spread by the droplet route, which means you need to be in close contact … and coughed on," he said. "It's quite unlike measles in terms of transmissibility."
Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems Chief Executive Officer Becky Hultberg praised the governor's actions. She said the declaration would "support any additional actions to prepare and respond to this outbreak." The association represents Oregon's 62 acute care hospitals.
"Hospitals are on the front lines responding to the outbreak and are committed to providing critical inpatient and community health services to respond to this evolving situation," Hultberg said in a March 8 statement. "We are working with the state administration to address important issues such as inpatient capacity, additional supplies and equipment to keep our workers and patients safe, regulatory relief to ensure adequate staffing and clarity around changing requirements."
• Take care of your health overall. Staying current on your vaccinations, including flu vaccine, eating well and exercising all help your body stay resilient.
• Stay home if you're sick. The same for your children. Don't leave home for 24 hours after you feel better if possible.
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Clean and disinfect surfaces that are often touched.
• Consult the CDC's travel website for any travel advisories and steps to protect yourself if you plan to travel outside of the United States.
For the most current information about this outbreak in the United States, go to the CDC website at www.cdc.gov.
The Oregon Health Authority provides state-specific information at www.oregon.gov/OHA/PH/pages/index.aspx.
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