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Amid rise in COVID-19 patients, St. Charles welcomes state rule requiring staff vaccinations or testing

KTVZ file

37 COVID-19 patients at Bend hospital, highest in nearly 2 months

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- St. Charles Health System, again dealing with a rise in COVID-19 patients, said Wednesday it is beginning efforts to meet Gov. Kate Brown's new state health and safety rule that requires employees in health care settings to provide proof of vaccination or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.

The requirement — which applies broadly to health care workers who have direct or indirect contact with patients or infectious materials — will take full effect on Sept. 30, giving the hospital system and others time to prepare for implementation and giving caregivers time to become fully vaccinated if they are not already and choose to do so.

“This is welcomed news, as it allows us to further protect our workforce and our patients,” said Joe Sluka, St. Charles’ president and CEO. “We’re proud that 76% of our caregivers are already fully vaccinated, but we also know that means nearly a quarter are still vulnerable. The governor said today the more contagious delta variant ‘has changed everything.’ We think that’s right, too, as the numbers we’ve seen as of late are not at all encouraging.”

Oregon health officials have reported about 6,000 new cases of COVID-19 since July 26, which is nearly double the number of cases recorded the week prior and the highest weekly count since mid-January. In Deschutes County, the previous week case count reported on July 31 was 244 — a 79% increase over the week before.

Hospitalizations are on the rise, too. As of Wednesday, there are 37 patients with COVID-19 at St. Charles Bend — four of whom are in the ICU — the highest number the health system has seen since mid-June.

“We are deeply concerned by the abrupt rise in case numbers, which we believe is due to the delta variant,” Sluka said. “The most recent and best data available shows patients with the delta variant have 1,000 times more virus particles in their systems than the patients who had the original virus. Put another way: It’s very, very infectious.”

As the governor just made her announcement, St. Charles said it is only now initiating its work on what the implementation of this rule will look like. More information will be available in the coming weeks as details are finalized.

About St. Charles Health System

St. Charles Health System, Inc., headquartered in Bend, Ore., owns and operates St. Charles Bend, Madras, Prineville and Redmond. It also owns family care clinics in Bend, La Pine, Madras, Prineville, Redmond and Sisters. St. Charles is a private, not-for-profit Oregon corporation and is the largest employer in Central Oregon, with more than 4,500 caregivers. In addition, there are more than 350 active medical staff members and nearly 200 visiting medical staff members who partner with the health system to provide a wide range of care and service to our communities.

Article Topic Follows: Coronavirus

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