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Major facilities in Clackamas, Mutnomah and Washington counties will form unified system.

PMG PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Monday announced that Portland-area hospitals will work together as one health system to accommodate a flood of patients from coronavirus.Major hospitals in Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties will form a unified system to manage scarce hospital beds to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

The news, announced by Gov. Kate Brown on Monday afternoon, echoed discussions that had begun among leaders of Kaiser Permanente, Legacy Health, Providence Health and Oregon Health & Science University.

The system will work to manage Oregon's tally of hospital beds. Oregon ranks as the lowest in the nation on a per-capita basis.

"We will be expanding capacity by adding beds in non-hospital settings," Brown said

Combined with new social-distancing measures announced by Brown — including an order shutting down in-restaurant dining and a ban on gatherings of 25 or more people — the measures "will save lives," said Oregon Health Authority Chief Medical Officer Dana Hargunani.

Among other things, the effort will work with the state to increase testing capability for COVID-19, to protect and increase the number of health care workers, and to remove regulatory barriers that hamper response.

The state will set up a new task force to work with hospitals around the state to reduce the number of fatalities.

Renee Edwards, chief medical officer for Oregon Health & Science University, said, "This is not just a Portland-based solution," she said. "We are all in this together."

She said early modeling shows the cases will double every 6.25 days, and while 80% can recover at home, the remainder will need care.

She said OHSU would have to double its number of intensive care beds in the next few weeks. The state will need 1,000 additional hospital beds and 400 intensive care beds by April 11 to accommodate the expected deluge.

Edwards stressed that social distancing will be needed to limit the impact on hospitals and to lower the mortality rate.

"We will need to work together as one health system to manage this crisis, but we need your help," Edwards said.

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