UPDATED (March 10, 7:45 p.m. PT) – The Oregon Health Authority announced Multnomah County’s first presumptive case of the novel coronavirus Tuesday.
The state now has 15 reported cases of the virus in seven Oregon counties.
The COVID-19 virus, a relative of other viruses like SARS, was first identified in Wuhan, China, late last year.
The new coronavirus is spreading across the Pacific Northwest. Here some basic things to know:
• Coronavirus is more severe and more contagious than the flu. Take it seriously but don’t panic.
• The elderly and immune-compromised are most at-risk, but everyone can get sick.
• If you are sick stay home, self-quarantine and call your doctor.
• Practice social distancing. Avoid large gatherings, or small gatherings in tight spaces. At-risk people and people with underlying conditions should stay at home.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Hand sanitizer is a backup option.
• Cough into a sleeve. Wash hands after coughing. Avoid touching your face.
• Sterilize things you touch often, like computers, phones, keys, and tablets.
• If you have prescriptions, call your doctor and ask for a 3-month supply in case of drug shortages.
The case is an older man between the age of 55 and 74 who lives in Multnomah County. The individual is receiving treatment at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Portland. The person had no known contact with a confirmed case and had not traveled to a country where the virus is circulating.
OHA and Multnomah County said they are working to identify and isolate any people who may have been in close contact with the person.
The one positive case was out of a batch of 52 pending tests. All of the other tests were negative. OHA intends to release the results of 67 more pending tests sometime this week.
OHA said it is beginning to receive test results from two commercial labs — Quest and LabCorp.
The health authority also said it received eight additional test kits from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, increasing its testing capacity to up to 4,800 per month.
The Oregon Department of Corrections said it tested one individual for the virus Monday. The test came back negative, the agency said Tuesday.
The agency said it does not currently have any positive cases of the coronavirus in any of its facilities.
“We have posters in common areas that instruct on proper hand washing techniques and other ways to stay healthy,” DOC said in statement. “Inside our institutions, employees and the [Adults In Custody] orderlies are disinfecting housing units, bathrooms, eating areas, doors, stairwells, countertops, etc. … Employees are also able to sanitize their equipment, like radios and keys.”
DHS, OHA direct long-term care facilities to limit exposure
In consultation with the Oregon Health Authority, the Oregon Department of Human Services issued a policy late Tuesday that limits and screens visitors at long-term care facilities in order to protect older adults from exposure to COVID-19. That follows Gov. Kate Brown’s emergency order in response to the coronavirus outbreak in Oregon.
“We are committed to working with long-term care providers on prevention and preparedness to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” said DHS director Fariborz Pakseresht in a statement.
All licensed nursing, residential and assisted living facilities, including those with memory care, will now require the screening of every individual before entering, and limit the number of “essential” visitors at any given time. Essential visitors include facility staff, friends or family during end-of-life stages or are essential for the individual’s emotional well-being and care.
People will be screened for signs or symptoms of a respiratory infection, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, or sore throat. They’ll also be screened for contact with confirmed COVID-19 cases and if they traveled to a country with community transmission.
“We’re asking people to do some really hard stuff. We’re telling people who are at risk that they really need to stay home as much as they possibly can,” OHA director Pat Allen said.
“We’re telling people that they need to really limit visits with their parents and grandparents — we need people who are in these at-risk populations and their families to take this incredibly seriously and take some hard steps to try and limit the impacts this will have.”
For people who provide at-home care for older adults, health officials urge that if a provider is sick, they should no longer participate in that care and should find someone else who can.
Officials will complete inspections at 670 facilities to review infection control practices within the week.
Tri-county health officer Dr. Jennifer Vines said Tuesday that as testing becomes more readily available for outpatient clinics, the criteria for testing will expand to more people.
“I envision us beginning to prioritize those tests to people living in long-term care for example, people in corrections, or people with connections otherwise high-risk,” Vines said.
Vines said people who are showing mild symptoms or not sick at all shouldn’t get tested as to not burden health care providers.
Officials with the Oregon Health Authority anticipate providing further guidance related to social distancing and large events later this week.
More than 20 people have died in the U.S. from the virus. Most of those deaths have been in the Seattle area.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said he believes there may be more than 1,000 novel coronavirus cases in Washington, according to KUOW.
As of Tuesday afternoon, there are 267 reported coronavirus cases in Washington, according to the Washington Department of Health.