Emergency Action Allows Nearly 4,300 Doctors To Active Practice

By Donald Orr (OPB)
March 24, 2020 2:15 p.m.

UPDATE (March 24, 4:20 p.m. PT) – Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issued an executive order Monday, urging all Oregonians to stay in their homes in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. The executive order forbids all Oregonians from leaving their homes unless absolutely necessary, and requires certain businesses to close.


“To protect the health and lives of Oregonians, particularly those at highest risk, and to help avoid overwhelming local and regional healthcare capacity, I find that immediate implementation of additional measures is necessary,” Gov. Brown said in the order.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee issued a similar order late Monday that will last for at least two weeks.

Olympic suspension likely delays Eugene track events

The Tokyo Summer Olympic and Paralympic games have been postponed until "the summer of 2021" Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Tuesday. The games were originally set for late July of this year.

The news follows calls for the games to be delayed due to the growing number of COVID-19 cases worldwide.

In a joint statement with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and Tokyo organizers, Abe said the games "must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021" to ensure the health of athletes and community members.

TrackTown USA in Eugene announced that they are working to reschedule the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for track and field as of Tuesday morning, originally set for June 19–28 at Hayward Field.

If the Olympic trials are postponed to 2021, that could also push forward the World Athletics Championships, also set in Eugene in August 2021. Hayward Field at the University of Oregon had been undergoing a major renovation to accommodate the massive crowds expected in Oregon for that event.

World Athletics, which oversees international track and field events, issued a statement saying it would be willing to work with the IOC to find an alternative date.

Oregon and Washington cases climbing

The Oregon Health Authority announced 18 new cases Tuesday, bringing total number of COVID-19 cases in Oregon to 209. The actual number of cases is believed to be higher given the lack of tests available.

Three more people have died from the virus in Oregon: a 78-year-old Clackamas County man with underlying medical condition who died at Kaiser Sunnyside Medical Center on Sunday; a 63-year-old Multnomah County man who had underlying medical conditions and died at home Monday; and a 90-year-old Washington County woman with underlying medical conditions who died Monday at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center.

Washington health officials reported four new cases of the novel coronavirus in Southwest Washignton on Tuesday, continuing a steady rise in recent days.

In Clark County, health officials found three new cases. That brings the county total to 16, including 12 new cases since Friday. Four of those cases have died.

Health officials also announced a third confirmed case in Cowlitz County.

In Washington, as of Tuesday, 123 people had died of the virus. Tests have confirmed an outbreak at another Washington nursing home, as well.

Some medical supplies from federal stockpile reaching Oregon

Oregon is starting to receive shipments of medical supplies from the national strategic stockpile, the federal warehouse with emergency equipment. But, Gov. Kate Brown’s office is cautioning, it’s just a fraction of what’s been requested and will be needed as the COVID-19 disease continues to rapidly spread.

“We are being told that while the equipment is capable of being used for COVID-19 response, what we are receiving is well past expiration dates and wouldn’t be suitable for surgical settings, for example,” Charles Boyle, a spokesperson for Brown, wrote in an email.

The state’s supply of personal protective equipment, or PPE, is dangerously low. Last week, public health officials said they had just a two week supply left. Some healthcare workers have told OPB their individual clinics and hospitals are well below that threshold.

Nurses and doctors have taken to social media to request PPE donations from contractors, local governments, businesses and individuals. The concern is that without protective equipment, healthcare workers themselves could get sick, hurting efforts at combating the virus, or could spread the virus as they treat patients.

On March 3, Brown wrote Vice President Mike Pence, who is overseeing the federal government’s response to the novel coronavirus, requesting 600,000 surgical or procedural masks, 400,000 N-95 gloves, gowns, respirators, face shields or goggles, Tyvek suits, and 75-100 ventilators.

On March 14, the state received about 10% of that request. Boyle said another 15% arrived by truck late Monday.

“These are unprecedented times, and we appreciate the responsiveness to our phone calls from the CDC, HHS, and Vice President Pence,” Boyle wrote. “However, the amount of PPE we are expecting to receive from the national stockpile will still be insufficient to protect our health care workers and those who need it most in the event of a widespread outbreak.”

Last week, Brown also requested 1 million N95 masks, 300,000 medical swabs and 140 ventilators. Boyle said the Department of Health and Human Services is sending 4,000 testing swabs.


National parks in Oregon close

National parks and monuments around the country began to close Tuesday upon guidance from government and health officials.

In Oregon, those closures included Crater Lake and the John Day Fossil Beds. Both national recreation areas said they were temporarily closing in compliance with Oregon's executive order Monday restricting non-essential travel for Oregonians.

Changes could come to justice system

Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Martha Walters is asking lawmakers for more options to help reduce the number of people in courthouses across the states.

Walters has already restricted court operations to essential services, though at times there has still be more activity than attorneys say they’re comfortable with inside some courthouses across the state.

Oregon law requires some hearings to take place in-person.

“There are some in-person proceedings that we have not been able to postpone because of statutory imposed deadlines that courts currently do not have the authority to extend or suspend,” Walters wrote lawmakers in a letter Tuesday. “At this point, courts need more discretion to manage dockets in a way that recognizes people’s constitutional rights as well as measures required to protect public safety and public health.”

Walters' proposed measure would allow for more hearings to take place via phone and extend some deadlines in criminal cases “during a declared emergency for good cause.”

Walters is also seeking more flexibility from the Legislature in civil cases, some of which require in-person appearances and have strict time limits, including juvenile, civil commitment hearings, landlord/tenant cases and tax appeals.

“This legislation would allow the Chief Justice to pause certain proceedings while permitting others to proceed, in some instances telephonically or by other remote means,” Walters wrote.

Lawmakers are expected to take up the proposed criminal justice changes during a special session.

Rising number of suicide calls

A day after Gov. Kate Brown issued her state-wide stay-at-home order, some of Portland’s top officials gathered to recap the city-specific actions underway to slow the spread of COVID-19 and mitigate the economic fallout.

During the press conference, Police Chief Jami Resch noted that the number of 911 calls has dropped by 10% compared with the 10-day period prior to March 12, when Mayor Ted Wheeler declared a state of emergency. But the bureau has seen a concerning uptick over that same period: Calls related to suicide threats or attempts rose by 23%. That’s a 41% increase from the same period a year before.

"I ask everyone to reach out by phone, text or video chat to connect with your family, friends and neighbors if they are struggling," Resch said. "Make sure they know how to access help, which is available through the mental health crisis intervention line or Lines For Life."

Wheeler also said he planned to renew the city's state of emergency, which is currently set to expire on Wednesday. The mayor said he’ll continue to extend it until at least next month.

Wheeler said he’s heard from public health officials that the city will hit its peak caseload in the first two weeks of April and then there will be a period of time beyond the peak where the state of emergency will be continued.

Bringing more doctors back to active practice

The Oregon Medical Board is taking emergency action to allow more doctors and physician assistants to treat patients during the new coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Kate Brown told reporters at her Tuesday news briefing that the Oregon Medical Board’s temporary emergency rule lifts current administrative restrictions for physicians and physician assistants who want to do more to treat patients but need to reduce practice restrictions. The rule allows doctors who are currently working on temporary status to exceed the current maximum of 240 days a year.

It also allows doctors to reactivate their licenses if their status is administrative medicine, inactive, lapsed or retired. Candidates for license reactivation would have to have been in active practice within the previous three years and to have left in good standing with the board.

Brown says it could clear the way for about 4,300 doctors in the state to return to the practice of medicine.

“We obviously don’t expect all of these providers to return to active practice, but these changes should remove administration barriers in the future,” she said.

The emergency rule also allows out-of-state physicians and physician assistants to apply to practice in the state if they are actively licensed and in good standing in another state.

OMSI lays off workers

The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry announced Tuesday it would be laying off some workers and cutting the pay of others in order to financially endure the coronavirus pandemic. The nonprofit said it would also make cuts to non-staff operating expenses as well.

OMSI said it had to lay off more than half its staff temporarily.

“This is an unprecedented time for OMSI, our community and the rest of the world, and we have had to make some very tough decisions," said President Nancy Stueber. “We are committed to paying the employer portion of their healthcare insurance for a period of time, and our goal is to bring them back to work as soon as possible."