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Oregon COVID-19 cases double to 14; Gov. Brown declares state of emergency

Gov. Kate Brown COVID-19 3-8
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown speaks to reporters Sunday, March 8 about latest COVID-19 cases, state of emergency

(Update: Adding more from news conference, statements from Gov. Brown, OHA, Oregon hospitals)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The number of confirmed or presumptive COVID-19 cases in Oregon doubled to 14 and expanded to include people in six counties late Saturday, prompting Gov. Kate Brown on Sunday to declare a state of emergency to boost the staffing and equipment capacity to respond to the outbreak.

“We’re taking this situation very seriously,” Brown said at a livestreamed news conference with Oregon Health Authority and other state and county public health officials. “We will do everything in our power to keep Oregonians safe.”

Brown said the emergency declaration gives the OHA “all the resources at our state’s disposal to stem the spread of this disease,” which includes activating reserves of volunteer emergency health care personnel, especially important in rural areas.

The order is in effect for 60 days, but could be extended if necessary, the governor said.

OHA Director Patrick Allen noted that the latest cases involved a mix of community spread and those in contact with previously reported cases, but none involving international travel. Contact investigations have begun to reach anyone who might have been in contact with those people.

“Today’s news is both troubling and expected,” Allen said. “We know it will spread. We knew we will see more cases. But we also know there are steps we can take to minimize” the spread of COVID-19. “All of us have a role to play at work, at home and out in the community. By taking effective, evidence-based action, we can slow the spread of COVID-19 and avoid widespread disruption in our everyday lives.”

Five of the new presumptive cases arose in Washington County and one each in Douglas and Marion counties. That brings the total of confirmed or presumptive COVID-19 cases to eight in Washington County, two in Jackson County and one each in Douglas, Klamath, Marion and Umatilla counties, according to the OHA’s coronavirus web page.

The latest demographic breakdown released Sunday also showed that while half of the 14 confirmed or presumptive cases involve people aged 55-74, five have been people 35-54, one is in the 18-24 age range and one is 17 or younger.

Of the 14, five were hospitalized at the time of the presumptive positive test result and nine were not. Only three of the cases involve people who had traveled internationally.

Only one of the 14 so far has been confirmed by Centers for Disease Control testing, the rest are considered "presumptive" until then.

Officials did not use the term "presumptive" in describing the tally of cases on Sunday. An aide to the governor explained that CDC guidance is to treat presumptive positive cases as positive, until there's confirmation.

Allen said testing statewide for the novel coronavirus is being expanded, while making sure they are locations “where COVID-19 tests can be done safely without more exposure” to others in the community.

The state is also giving health care providers, community care organizations and insurers more authority to expand the use of telemedicine as an effective way to screen, evaluate and treat patients who may be “worried but well” or “mildly at risk, without exposing others, the OHA official said.

State officials also say lawmakers on Monday, meeting as the Legislative Emergency Board, will consider an emergency $5 million request to fight the virus. 

“I expect there to be resource stresses around local public health all across the state,” Allen said. “In many cases, it could certainly be worse in rural areas, but I think there will be challenges even in our most urban counties.”

Officials say the at-risk population appears to be older adults and those with pre-existing medical conditions, such as heart, lung or kidney disease.

Health officials said people if possible should avoid visiting people who fall into that vulnerable category, to reduce the risk of them acquiring the virus.

Officials said they are not recommending any extraordinary measures for healthy adults, other than the standard preventive behaviors of washing hands and covering mouths and noses with coughing or sneezing.

Paul Cieslak, medical director for communicable diseases and immunizations at the Oregon Health Authority, said the virus didn’t appear to spread by simply being in the air, but by droplets from coughs or sneezes.

“Which means you need to be within a few feet of somebody and be coughed on,” he said.


News release:

Governor Kate Brown Declares State of Emergency to Address Coronavirus

(Salem, OR) — Governor Kate Brown declared a state of emergency in Oregon to address the spread of the novel coronavirus after the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) identified seven new cases of COVID-19 in Oregon, bringing the total to 14. The Governor authorized the state of emergency by verbal proclamation last night at 8:14 pm, and confirmed the executive order in writing this morning.

"This news is concerning for all Oregonians, but my resolve and that of my administration to address this public health crisis is unchanged," said Governor Brown. "This emergency declaration gives the Oregon Health Authority and the Office of Emergency Management all the resources at the state's disposal to stem the spread of this disease. We will do everything it takes, within our power and in coordination with federal and local officials, to keep Oregonians safe."

Governor Brown's emergency declaration allows OHA to activate reserves of emergency volunteer health care professionals, bringing online auxiliary medical professionals to work with local health authorities to identify and contain new cases of COVID-19 in Oregon. The declaration additionally grants broad authority to the State Public Health Director, OHA, and the Office of Emergency Management, which will allow the agencies to take immediate action and devote all available state resources towards containing the coronavirus in Oregon.

The state of emergency will remain in effect for 60 days, but can be extended until the public health threat of the coronavirus is contained.


Latest OHA news release:

OHA adds 7 new presumptive positive cases to Oregon’s COVID-19 count

March 8, 2020

Health officials work to identify, isolate close contacts to prevent spread

PORTLAND, Ore.— Oregon Health Authority (OHA) confirmed seven new presumptive cases of novel coronavirus, COVID-19, today. OHA also announced actions it is taking to slow the spread of the virus and protect Oregonians, in response to Gov. Kate Brown’s emergency declaration.

“We are prepared to activate an unprecedented state and private effort to contain the spread of COVID-19 in Oregon by focusing specifically on at-risk populations,” said OHA Director Patrick Allen. “We want to protect Oregonians at greatest risk of the most severe outcomes of this disease, including older adults, people with underlying conditions, people who are homeless and those who are vulnerable in other ways.”

He said the emergency powers Gov. Brown authorized today give OHA more freedom and flexibility to take specific actions to contain the outbreak. These actions include:

  • Finalizing agreements with major hospital systems to expand locations where COVID-19 tests can be conducted safely.
  • Preparations to mobilize Oregon’s medical reserve corps to provide emergency support for vulnerable populations.
  • Expanding telemedicine so patients can be screened, evaluated and treated by health care providers without coming into a clinic or hospital emergency department.
  • Convening providers who serve older adults and vulnerable populations to mobilize an aggressive outreach and prevention strategy to protect at-risk people.
  • Seeking additional funding to support Oregon’s response efforts.

Oregon’s new COVID-19 cases bring the state’s total number of those who’ve tested positive for the virus to 14. Of the seven new cases, one is in Douglas County, one is in Marion County and five are in Washington County.

“The individuals whose test results we are announcing today are recovering at home or getting the care they need at a hospital,” Allen said. “Contact investigations have begun to identify and isolate anyone who may have been in close contact with these new cases.”

Four of the five new cases in Washington County were contacts of the county’s first three cases and had been under monitoring. The county’s fifth new case had no known contact with a confirmed case. The person also had not traveled from a country where the virus is circulating. Therefore, it is being investigated as a community-acquired case.

The Marion County case had no previous contact with a confirmed case and is suspected of being community spread. The Douglas County case is being investigated as a community-spread case.

The county case count is as follows:

  • Jackson: 2
  • Klamath: 1
  • Umatilla: 1
  • Washington: 8
  • Douglas: 1
  • Marion: 1

Oregon residents who would like more information on COVID-19 can call 211.

Dana Hargunani, M.D., chief medical officer at OHA, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified people most at-risk of severe illness from COVID-19: older adults; people who have severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. She said older people are older people are twice as likely to have serious COVID-19 illness.

Hargunani recommended older adults and people with underlying conditions take the following steps to stay safe and healthy:

  • Minimize contact with people who may be ill.
  • Avoid large public gatherings.
  • Order prescriptions by mail.
  • Take daily precautions: wash your hands frequently, don’t touch your anywhere on your face and clean surfaces.

Most people with COVID-19 have mild symptoms. If you are feeling sick with mild symptoms and do not need to seek medical care, stay home while you recover. If you are sick and plan to seek care, please call before going in for care so arrangements can be made to prevent exposing others. For urgent medical needs, call 911; be sure to inform them if you have been exposed to anyone with COVID-19.

For more information:


Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems 
March 8, 2020
Statement from Hospitals on Emergency Declaration 
Hospital needs include supplies, capacity, workforce 
PORTLAND, OR – Today, Becky Hultberg, President and CEO of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems (OAHHS), released the following statement regarding Governor Kate Brown’s declaration of a state of emergency due to the outbreak of COVID-19. OAHHS represents Oregon’s 62 acute care hospitals and works on behalf of the patients they serve to promote community health and to continue improving Oregon's innovative health care system. 
“By declaring a state of emergency, the Governor and the Oregon Health Authority Director are taking necessary steps to bring state government’s broad powers to respond to the outbreak of COVID-19 in Oregon.

"We support the Governor’s leadership in taking this step and support any additional actions to prepare and respond to this outbreak, particularly her focus on at-risk populations – older adults, those with underlying health conditions, and the unhoused.

"OAHHS and our member hospitals are in regular communication with the administration and local health departments to deliver accurate information and quality care to our patients and the public.

"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.

"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.

"We look forward to addressing these issues as we continue to fulfill our responsibilities around public health, infection prevention and disease management.” 

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