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Money sought to trace contacts of those found infected, beef up health staffing and provide public quarantine sites

PMG FILE PHOTO - State agencies shared information about the novel Coronavirus at the Oregon Health Authority's Area Operations Center in Portland earlier this month.SALEM — Oregon state officials are seeking an additional $4 million to respond to the novel coronavirus according to state documents obtained Friday. The request came prior to Saturday morning's announcement by the Oregon Health Authority of four new presumptive positive cases in Jackson, Klamath and Washington counties, bringing Oregon's total to seven.

Specifically, state officials want $1.5 million to beef up staffing and trace contacts of those people found infected with the virus; as well as $2.5 million to help local health departments across Oregon prepare for the COVID-19 outbreak and reimburse school districts for the extra costs of sanitizing schools.

Those needs are part of a request made this week by Gov. Kate Brown in a letter to Vice President Mike Pence outlining Oregon's need for up to $10 million per month in federal help.

Brown also is asking the State Emergency Board for another $5 million to cover escalating costs at the Health Authority, the state agency leading Oregon's response to the coronavirus. The board is scheduled to meet in Salem on Monday.

The cost estimates for Oregon to deal with the health emergency could change.

"As there are still many variables that could impact costs in the coming weeks, that figure is an estimate of what could be needed if we need additional capacity to respond to the coronavirus," said Charles Boyle, a spokesperson for Brown. "At this point, as the Oregon Health Authority is still assessing this situation as it develops and getting feedback about needs at the local level, we do not yet have a more in-depth breakdown of how those funds would be spent."

The Health Authority reported Saturday that 82 people tested for the coronavirus were cleared. The agency is also monitoring just under 200 people who may have had contact that could lead to an infection.

The governor is asking for $1 million to bolster stocks of personal protective equipment including N-95 respirators, gowns, gloves and other masks for health workers. That would buy about 400,000 sets, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

Another $1 million is being sought to quarantine as needed vulnerable populations and others under monitoring in hotels and other housing. Another $1 million would reimburse other state agencies, including the state education and corrections departments.

In Washington, Congress has appropriated $8.3 billion for nationwide coronavirus response and containment. The package includes $3 billion for developing vaccines and testing; more than $2 billion to help government agencies at all levels respond to the crisis and $1 billion that includes buying critical pharmaceuticals and medical supplies.

"In the face of this public health crisis, we need good information, good science, and the right tools in the right hands to limit the virus's spread and keep people safe," Oregon's U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley said in a statement Thursday.

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