Witt: With COVID-19, it's time to work together for family, friends and community
Oregon is in the initial phase of what is expected to be an unprecedented health care crisis related to the impacts of COVID-19 caused by a novel coronavirus. To try to stem the rate of infection, Gov. Kate Brown has issued a "Stay Home, Save Lives" executive order, directing everyone in Oregon to stay home as much as possible. If you must leave your home for work, to get groceries, or seek medical care, please adhere to social distancing guidelines of maintaining a six-foot distance from other people.
This is a time to work together to help our family, friends, neighbors and communities. Things are happening quickly to provide aid to Oregonians impacted by COVID-19.
There is good news at the federal level with agreement on a $2 trillion economic package that include provisions to help Oregon families, businesses and heath care providers including:
n Checks of $1200 per adult and $500 per child for working and middle-class people
n $350 billion in fully forgivable loans to small businesses
n $150 billion to provide stability to state, local and tribal governments to maintain health, education and other services. Those include local schools and higher education, affordable housing, homelessness assistance, and childcare assistance for essential workers.
n $255 million per year to support nurses who are on the frontline fighting COVID-19.
Closer to home, new temporary rules have been adopted for unemployment insurance benefits applicable to the unique situations arising due to COVID-19 and the actions taken to slow its spread.
COVID-19 related situations include a person who is unable to work because they are:
n Ill with coronavirus
n Potentially exposed and subjected to mandatory quarantine
n Advised by health provider or health officials to self-quarantine
n Required to care for a person with coronavirus
n Required to stay home with child due to school or childcare facility closure
n Out of work because employer has curtailed or closed their operation based on Governor's orders.
Also, you can refuse to work in a situation that is in violation of a mandatory quarantine or governor's directive regarding limiting the spread of coronavirus.
More information on unemployment insurance is available at: https://www.oregon.gov/employ/Pages/COVID-19.aspx
We all need to work together, to Stay Home and Save Lives, and it all begins with each person taking responsibility for their health and the health of others. If you have flu-like symptoms, such as fever, coughing or shortness of breath, first stay away from other people and take precautions to avoid transmitting illness to others. The best person to decide if you should be tested for COVID-19 is your medical provider. They can order the test through commercial labs, and testing capacity in Oregon is almost 1,000 per day.
Even if you do have symptoms, your health provider may not order a test. They might instruct you to stay at home, recover, and take extra precautions to avoid spreading illness to others.
If your symptoms are serious, such as difficulty breathing, chest pains, bluish lips or face, seek treatment. If it is an emergency call 911. If it's not an emergency but you feel you need a medical appointment call your doctor's office. If you don't have a doctor, call 211 for a list of clinics near you, or if necessary, visit your local urgent care center. Call before you go. Let your health provider know if you suspect you might have COVID-19, so they can take certain steps to avid exposing anyone else.
More information about testing and COVID-19, can be found at www.healthoregon.org/coronavirus
One of the community resources we have come to depend on is the Oregon Food Bank, and they report that food is available to all who need it. Many of their 1,400+ partner pantries and food assistance sites are open, with increased cleaning and service updates to help facilitate social distancing. To access food assistance near you they have implemented the Oregon Food Bank's Food Finder.
The novel coronavirus is changing the way we live, but it is not changing the people that we are, and I know that we are decent, hard-working, supportive community members. And we will be working together over the coming days, weeks and months to support each other as we respond aggressively to this pandemic.
Due to the governor's orders, the Capitol Building remains closed to the public, but we monitor our email and phone daily, and we are working to assist constituents. If you need help in these trying times or have an issue or concern regarding a state agency, contact my office and we'll see what can be done.
Please take care of yourself and each other. Be safe.
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