UPDATE (March 26, 5 p.m. PT) — Oregon has 317 known cases of the novel coronavirus as of Thursday afternoon, according to state and local health officials. Officials also announced one new death, bringing the state’s total of known deaths related to the virus to 11.
The actual number of cases is believed to be higher given the lack of tests available.
The Oregon Health Authority reported 14 cases in Marion County, 12 cases in Multnomah County, eight cases in Washington County, five cases in Deschutes County, three cases in Polk County, two cases each in Josephine and Lane Counties, and one case each in Clatsop, Linn, Tillamook and Wasco Counties.
Douglas County public health officials reported one new additional case Thursday afternoon.
Oregon’s 11th coronavirus-related death is a 69-year-old woman in Washington County. She had underlying medical conditions.
All 11 Oregonians to die from COVID-19 have had underlying medical conditions, according to state public health officials.
Clark County Public Health said Thursday that 28 more people have tested positive for the coronavirus and a fifth person has died.
The total number of confirmed cases in the county is now 48.
Washington has 3,207 diagnosed cases of COVID-19 and 147 related deaths as of Thursday morning, according to the Washington Department of Health.
Health authority gives new outlook for Oregon cases
Oregon Public Health officials offered new estimates Thursday for how strict social distancing measures might improve the state’s chances of not overwhelming its resource-strapped hospital system.
If Oregonians largely comply with Gov. Kate Brown’s recent stay-home order, health officials said the state can drastically decrease the number of residents who are infected by COVID-19 in coming weeks.
“The sacrifices Oregonians are making right now can help to save lives,” said state epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger. “At the same time, [the models] paint a picture of what can happen if we don’t all work together.”
The modeling, formulated by the Institute for Disease Modeling in Bellevue, Washington, is a loose approximation of what could happen, with large ranges in its predicted outcomes. It suggests:
- If Oregon were to lift all social distancing measures that have been put into place since March 11, the state would expect to see between 6,000 and 26,000 cumulative infections by May 8. More than 1,000 hospital beds statewide would be occupied by COVID-19 patients.
- If Oregon stayed with the incremental social distancing measures in place before the governor issued a stay at home order, the state would see between 2,000 and 12,000 cumulative infections by May 8, with 340 beds needed.
- If Oregonians obey the stay-home order Brown issued Monday, the state could see between 700 and 3,800 cumulative infections by May 8, with “minimal people needing care in the hospital,” according to Sidelinger.
Sidelinger stressed that officials won’t know for weeks whether Brown’s stay-home order is having the desired effect. The state is monitoring the results of ongoing testing, people presenting themselves to emergency rooms, and hospital admissions as it works to understand the true scope of the virus in Oregon.
Health care officials warn that, without strong preventative measures, the state’s health care system will be completely overrun by infected patients in the weeks and months to come.
Record number of unemployment claims for Oregon
During the week of March 15, the Oregon Employment Department said it received more than 76,500 initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits.
During the first few days of this week, the department said its claims have been tracking at record levels again.
There were fewer than 5,000 unemployment claims the week of March 8.
Portland urges daily cheer for health care workers
Following the lead of countries around the world, Portland has asked its residents to join a nightly cheer at 7 p.m., meant to boost the morale of frontline workers dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our nurses, doctors, and first responders continue to risk their health and well-being every single day to make sure the sickest among us get the care they need. Other community heroes like grocery store employees, delivery drivers, chefs, and others make sure we have food on the table,” city officials said in a press release. “Let’s boost the morale for all those who are struggling as well - a nightly reminder that no one is alone.”
Portland officials said everyday at 7 p.m., beginning Friday, Portlanders should step outside their homes to cheer.
“Use your pots and pans if you’d like,” the city statement said. “Include #PDXThanksYou to get the word out.”
Alaska Airlines reducing flights
Alaska Airlines, headquartered in Seattle, announced Thursday plans to reduce flights for April and May by about 70% due to a lack of travel during the coronavirus outbreak.
Flight schedules for June onward will be based on demand, the airline said. It has seen demand reductions of more than 80%.
“… [G]iven the lack of demand for air travel and profound impact on the financial management of our business, hard work and aggressive control of costs and cash are required, even with additional support,” Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden said in a statement.
The company announced a 100% pay reduction for its CEO and president as well as pay cuts for other positions.
The Port of Portland said even though Portland International Airport is open for essential travel, airport partners estimate the volume of passengers is down approximately 90% compared to the same time period last year.
In March 2019, PDX saw an average of 51,300 travelers daily. Forecasts this week predict between 3,000 to 5,000 daily passengers.
Oregon congressional delegation requests disaster declaration
Oregon’s congressional delegation in a letter Thursday to the White House wrote in support of Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s request for a disaster declaration for the state due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Oregon’s Democratic U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, Democratic Reps. Peter DeFazio, Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici, Kurt Schrader and Republican Rep. Greg Walden said in the letter that the spread of the coronavirus has generated “massive and unprecedented disruptions,” including closing schools and businesses.
The lawmakers also noted Brown’s actions — including her stay-home order and activation of the state’s Emergency Coordination Center.
Brown had requested various grants and assistance for the state including disaster unemployment assistance and a hazard mitigation grant program, all of which the delegation supports.
“These Individual Assistance programs will bring levels of great relief to our community members struggling with the pandemic’s physical and emotional toll,” the delegates wrote.
They continued: “Oregon is a resilient and forward-thinking state and Oregonians are working hard to secure shelter for people who are homeless and medical care for those who need it. But no state will be able to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic alone, which is why we urge you to approve Governor Brown’s full request for assistance.”
OHSU sets up hotline to answer COVID-19 questions
People concerned about a cough or fever can soon call an Oregon Health & Science University COVID-19 hotline that doctors hope will help people figure out what’s going on and reduce the burden on health care workers.
A $1.6 million donation will help launch the COVID-19 hotline, by covering the costs of dedicated phone lines and computers, as well as training for hotline staff, OHSU spokeswoman Amanda Gibbs told the Oregonian/OregonLive. The donation came from the Andrew and Corey Morris-Singer Foundation.
Gibbs said patients who call the hospital will have the option to be routed directly to the new hotline. The hotline will be staffed by medical professionals who will triage the concerns of callers who think they may be sick with the virus.
Gibbs said hospital administrators don’t yet know exactly when the service will start, but said it will eventually be made available to most of OHSU’s clinics for at least the next three months. She said OHSU is looking into extending the service to text and email.
“The hotline and telemedicine service will also help prevent OHSU’s primary care system from becoming overwhelmed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and will help prevent primary care clinics, urgent care and emergency departments from becoming overcrowded with patients who could more appropriately be treated with telemedicine services,” Gibbs said.
Hood River restricts lodging
Hood River announced Thursday that it has ordered all lodging stays for “discretionary travel” to stop immediately in order to reduce visitation to the area to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The tourism lodging restrictions will affect places including motels, hotels, short-term vacation rentals and RV parks and campgrounds through April 14, unless extended.
“In the past week, despite statewide restrictions on public gatherings, many visitors have flocked to the Columbia Gorge, gathered in large groups and failed to observe state-mandated six-foot social distancing requirements,” the city said in a statement.
The AP contributed to this story.