On March 18, Governor Kate Brown announced an executive order directing Oregon's higher education institutions to move their curriculum to online learning, prohibiting in-person classroom interactions through April 28 as a way to prevent transmission of COVID-19.
"I know students have worked hard this school year, and we're doing everything we can to help them safely finish their learning. But we're also learning more about this disease every day, and social distancing is key to keeping Oregonians safe," Gov. Brown said. "I understand there are seniors getting ready to graduate this spring, and I want to assure them that our universities and community colleges are working hard to make sure they can get their diplomas."
The executive order also limits on-campus operations to critical functions, such as dining services and dormitories — all of which are directed to employ social distancing — as a way to ensure students have a safe place to live and eat, since some may not otherwise have housing options.
"Governor Brown's clear guidance will help Oregon's colleges and universities statewide to move forward into spring term with the utmost priority placed on the health of our communities, while they continue their educational missions during this extraordinarily hard time," said Ben Cannon, director of Oregon's Higher Education Coordinating Commission. "The students, faculty, and staff who are impacted by these changes should know that the important roles they play in this transformation are all critical to help slow the growth of COVID-19."
Cannon said shifting almost entirely to remote delivery will help ensure that Oregon's colleges and universities can continue to prepare thousands of students with degrees and certificates they are working to achieve.
"In this difficult time, we deeply appreciate Governor Kate Brown's commitment to help support Oregon students' progress to a college degree as all of us collaborate to reduce the risk and spread of COVID-19," said Ed Ray, president, Oregon State University.
Preserving masks, gowns and gloves
Yesterday, Governor Brown also directed all Oregon hospitals, outpatient clinics and health care providers, including veterinarians and dentists, to cease all non-emergency procedures, in order to preserve personal protective equipment (PPE), such as surgical masks, gowns and gloves, for health care workers treating COVID-19 patients.
The forthcoming order also limits visitation in hospitals to protect health care workers and at-risk patients from the spread of COVID-19.
“It is critical that we preserve every piece of personal protective equipment we have in Oregon so that our health care workers can keep themselves safe while treating COVID-19 patients,” Gov. Brown said. “If we do not take immediate action, the surge in demand in our hospitals for masks, gowns, and gloves will quickly outstrip the limited supplies they have available. We cannot let that happen.
"I want to thank the health care providers––including dentists, veterinarians, and others––who have already preserved and donated their critical supplies.”
Updated Oregon Statistics
Yesterday, the Oregon Health Authority reported two more deaths in Oregon due to COVID-19, raising the state’s death toll from this virus to three.
The cases were a 60-year-old woman in Lane County, who died at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at Riverbend on March 14, and a 71-year-old man in Washington County, who died March 17 at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center.
The Lane County resident tested positive for the virus March 17, while the Washington County resident received a positive result on March 16. Both had underlying medical conditions.
They are among a total of 88 people in Oregon who have been confirmed to have COVID-19, the novel coronavirus. 13 new cases of COVID-19 were announced today, March 19. The COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Linn (2), Marion (5), Multnomah (4) and Washington (2). Oregon Health Authority reports new cases once a day on its website: www.healthoregon.org/coronavirus.
“We are saddened at the news of these additional lives lost in Oregon due to COVID-19,” said Patrick Allen, OHA director. “These deaths only strengthen our resolve to slow the spread of this disease in our communities. We are in this together.”
Washington County Health Officer Christina Baumann, M.D., M.P.H., issued a statement on the news.
"We are sad to learn of the first death in our county due to COVID-19," Baumann said. "Our hearts go out to his family during this time. We are committed to slowing down the spread of this disease and to protecting those most vulnerable among us.”
Patrick Luedtke, M.D., M.P.H., Lane County senior public health officer also spoke on the updated statistics.
“First and foremost, we are deeply saddened by the loss of our community member," Luedtke said. "We ask that our community members, and the greater Oregon community, show kindness and compassion for the family of the deceased at this time. We are absolutely committed to preventing future death through slowing the spread of COVID-19.”
Oregon veterans' home testing complete
Of the 75 confirmed cases in Oregon, 14 of them reside at the Oregon Veterans' Home in Lebanon.
The Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs announced yesterday that COVID-19 testing has been completed on all 151 residents at the home, yielding no new positive results, and none further pending.
“We are grateful for the good news from our partners at OHA that no new residents had tested presumptive positive for COVID-19,” said ODVA Director Kelly Fitzpatrick. “While completion of the resident testing is an important milestone, it is only one phase in this process. Our concerns remain with our 14 honored residents who are presumptive positive, and with our hard-working staff who are ensuring they receive the best possible care.
"Our efforts remain laser focused on following established infectious disease prevention protocols and public health guidelines to keep our residents and staff safe and prevent the spread of this virus within our community.”
As information changes ODVA is keeping residents and family members informed through email and other means.
Family members and the general public may also access current status at oregonveteranshomes.com or by calling the COVID-19 information line at 541-730-4344 for a recorded message that will be updated each day at noon.
State prepares Oregon Medical Station
The Oregon Health Authority, together with the Oregon Military Department, is assembling the Oregon Medical Station (OMS) beginning Friday, March 19, at the Salem Fairgrounds. The OMS is a temporary mobile facility dedicated for emergency use in situations like the COVID-19 pandemic. The mobile facility will provide an alternate site for 250 patients currently in nursing home care.
The OMS is one component of Oregon’s larger emergency preparedness plan. Here is a snapshot of the facility:
- It will include beds, pharmaceuticals, medical supplies and equipment to support 250 patients.
- It which will be staffed by members of the State Emergency Registry of Volunteers in Oregon (SERV-OR) and the Oregon Disaster Medical Team (ODMT).
- It will have staffing for 24/7 operations.
- It will be housed in the Jackson Long building at the Salem Fairgrounds in a state-owned building.
- It will use dedicated supplies that have been stored in Salem at the State and Federal Surplus Property.
Military members from the Oregon Military Department, SERV-OR and ODMT have previous joint training experience for disaster-type events. All three groups have participated in an annual exercise known as Pathfinder-Minuteman, which presents multiple scenarios where first responders have causalities in need of immediate medical treatment.