More than 400 Oregon doctors have signed an open letter to Gov. Kate Brown urging her to amp up the state's response to the spread of coronavirus. The letter urges decisive steps concerning testing, homeless shelters, nursing homes, paid leave, evictions and in other areas.
It comes as state officials have been criticized for the pace of their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. After many private entities and local jurisdictions began taking action on their own, Brown on Thursday morning announced a prohibition on mass gatherings of 250 people or more, and that night announced school closures from March 16 through the end of the month.
"There are those who will judge you as being embarrassingly over-prepared or tragically under-prepared," said the letter, which was written by Dr. Smitha Chadaga and Dr. Maxine Dexter.
"We know which side we want you to be on — in this pandemic we cannot be over-prepared. Our citizens will step up in the face of the crisis. We will see the best in people come out. Be the voice that calls our citizens to action — donating salaries to those who make less at the local employer level, sharing childcare, neighborhood watches on our elderly, etc."
Dexter, who is running to succeed Mitch Greenlick in House District 33, said she sent the letter to Brown yesterday, but called it a "living document" that may be modified.
Among the doctors signing: Bruce Goldberg, the former head of the Oregon Health Authority, and Lisa Reynolds, a candidate for House District 36.
The letter lists 19 "medical recommendations," including the following:
• Set up a team of public health and medical experts to direct a coordinated statewide response to coronavirus.
• A call center for front-line care providers to call to coordinate transfers of patients.
• A team to provide ethical recommendations to health care providers about how to ration and allocate care.
• An information line for front-line care providers with the latest updates.
• Expand the 211 call line to assist all Oregonians with the latest information.
• Fund support for families who will miss work and school, and urge people to volunteer to staff childcare centers in schools, while facilitating other ways to support low-income families. "Priority needs to be given in school-based care centers to children of essential workers including healthcare workers, environmental service workers, essential service providers and first-responders."
• Eliminate evictions and mortgage foreclosures until the emergency passes, and establish paid leave support for vulnerable families.
• Establish shelters that house people with and without COVID-19, taking over hotels if necessary.
• Recommend strong social isolation: "No one should leave their homes except for medical care, essential supplies, essential work services and compelling other reasons you designate. Virtual work options encouraged."
• Make sure hand sanitizer and masks are available at all entrances to businesses.
• Expand testing to all hospitals and establish an allocation plan to help identify infected individuals.
• Track people who are self-quarantined to ensure follow-up, and track ventilators to make sure they are used where most needed.
• Take steps to stockpile oxygen to ensure health care providers don't run out.
"We ask you to take action now," the letter concludes. "Only you have this power. Our country and state have overcome adversity before. We need the tools to do it again. "
Brown's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But she has said her administration is putting together a task force to look at business impacts from the coronavirus, and will undertake other measures as well.
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