Health officials in the Portland metro-region have launched a free online risk-assessment tool that allows people to screen potential symptoms for COVID-19 from home.
C19Oregon.com lets people see what level of care they should seek based on their age, pre-existing conditions and symptoms.
Multnomah County Emergency Services director Dr. Jonathan Jui and Lt. Rich Chatman of Portland Fire & Rescue are on the Oregon team that helped develop the new Oregon-based site. They joined OPB’s “Morning Edition” to talk about how the tool uses data to get people the help they need.
“[It’s] something to provide a little bit of calm for people if they’re concerned that their symptoms are worse than they are,” Chatman said.
“[But] it actually may be what prompts people to go to the hospital if they’re not taking their symptoms seriously.”
Through providing an age, zip code, symptoms and a brief medical history, the online tool will provide a baseline assessment of being in a mild, moderate or critical condition based on what a user reports. The site won’t take a user’s name in order to maintain medical privacy.
The tool is designed to help alleviate the load on the 911 system and direct users to the appropriate place of care, preventing emergency departments from being overcrowded or potentially exposed. If there’s a surge of critical patients using the tool, the site can then provide warnings to emergency rooms in that area based on a user’s reported zip code.
Jui said the site grew out of the experiences of emergency workers during Hurricane Katrina. As responders helped triage people in 2005, the coronavirus checker acts in a similar way to assess people’s conditions.
“Our problem was to identify who needed our help, and who were less acute and could get medical assistance somewhere else. . .we had to triage people who needed immediate attention,” Jui said.
If a hospital is overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases and reaches capacity, the tool will direct users to the nearest hospital with open beds.
“We’re constantly monitoring those facilities as far as their ability to take patients right now. So it’s not [s]tatic, it is a dynamic option,” Jui said.
In a media briefing April 9, other health officials talked about the benefits of knowing where a potential surge could happen. Dr. Ritu Sahni is the medical director for Emergency Medical Services in Clackamas and Washington Counties.
“Our hope is that if we can see a spike in usage of this tool in certain regions or area[s], that would be sort of an earlier warning that a surge is upcoming,” Sahni said. “So rather than responding to a surge, we’re better at anticipating a surge. We’re hoping to have access to that data as quickly as we can.”
For those who are deemed to be in moderate condition, the resource will point people toward an urgent clinic if symptoms are concerning, but not critical. Chatman said that while Oregon hasn’t seen a huge surge in cases yet, the online resource is there as a public resource.
“A lot of our focus has been making sure we have this opportunity provided to communities normally underserved,” Chatman said.
“This is one of those few tools that allows for multiple language translations, and there’s actually some methods that we feel like are going to be useful for our houseless community,” Chatman said.
“Ultimately, we hope that this just provides some resources for people in a time that’s just really scary for everyone.”
While the tool is configured toward submitting data for providers in the Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington County area, anyone can use it to assess their own symptoms. Here’s how to screen yourself for coronavirus symptoms.
How to Check Yourself for COVID-19
Start: After selecting one of 15 languages, you'll click 'Get Started', and then be asked to accept terms and conditions. While the tool is meant to provide guidance on next steps in the treatment, the site is not intended to provide an official diagnosis. The tool's guidance is dependent on a user's accuracy in providing information.
Step 1: Once you accept the terms and conditions you'll be asked for your age. According to state and global health officials, people 60 and older are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, but younger people can still get sick.
Step 2: You'll be asked what country you live in and your zip code. If you report a zip code within the Portland tri-county region, a list of hospitals will be provided for you to seek care. Based on your zip code, officials can track where a potential surge of cases may come from if you are deemed a critical patient, and help send you to a hospital near you with available beds.
Step 3: The next step asks users to check off what symptoms they're feeling — fever, cough, shortness of breath and more. Based on the symptoms checked off, the next screen will determine your level of risk.
Results—no symptoms: If somebody reports symptoms that aren't linked to COVID-19, their results will be shown as a green, low-risk user.
Step 4: If you report some of the symptoms, the site will ask you to check off potential symptoms associated with COVID-19 patients — shortness of breath, chest pain, or symptoms that are getting worse at a rapid pace.
Step 5: The site will also screen you for pre-existing medical conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, if you are undergoing chemotherapy, or obesity.
Results—some symptoms: If you reported some of the symptoms, but aren't in a critical condition, you may be deemed a medium-risk user. The tool will advise you to self isolate by staying home, and to avoid contact with older adults.
Results—severe symptoms: If you reported severe symptoms, the site will direct you to a medical care facility as a high-risk user. If you believe you're having an emergency, you should call 911; otherwise, the tool will help direct you to the nearest healthcare provider with available beds.
The site will advise you to call your doctor or healthcare provider for further instruction. If they’re not available, you can call the Multnomah County hotline and the state hotline for Oregon at 211.