Oregon Gov. Kate Brown Says More Coronavirus Help Coming From Congress

By Meerah Powell (OPB) and Donald Orr (OPB)
Portland, Ore. March 4, 2020 3:36 p.m.

UPDATE (March 4, 5:36 p.m. PT) — Oregon's count of novel coronavirus cases still stood at three as of Wednesday evening, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 has risen to 11 people, after public health officials reported fatalities in Washington state (most in the Seattle area) and California on Wednesday.


California announced its first death on Wednesday in Placer County.

The COVID-19 virus, a relative of other viruses like SARS, was first identified in Wuhan, China, late last year.

There are currently 13 pending COVID-19 tests in Oregon and 115 people who are being monitored for symptoms.

Seattle and King County Public Health have identified 39 confirmed cases of the illness.

Emergency in Washington County

The Washington County Commission approved an emergency declaration Wednesday in efforts to contain and prevent the spread of novel coronavirus, according to a release from the county.

“Our community is understandably concerned about this new virus and the impact it has been having here in the Pacific Northwest and around the world,” County Board Chair Kathryn Harrington said in a statement.

“This emergency declaration does not indicate that the public is at any greater risk. The declaration is meant to give our county public health staff the flexibility and support it needs to quickly purchase supplies, organize our response over the weeks ahead and seek potential state and federal resources as they become available.”

The declaration comes after two Washington County residents were identified as presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 last week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has since confirmed one of those cases.

Commissioners said the declaration would expire in two weeks, but could be renewed if necessary.

Clackamas County approved a similar emergency declaration on Monday.

Low on supplies


Meanwhile, the run on supplies caused by the West Coast coronavirus outbreak continues to affect stores and shoppers.

One major retailer is restricting the number of cold, flu and sanitizing products customers can buy online. A notice posted on Fred Meyer's website, and reported by the Portland Business Journal, limits customers to five of those items per pickup or delivery order.

Umatilla tribes sanitize casino building

In Umatilla County, Oregon, health officials identified the third presumptive case of COVID-19 on Monday as an adult living in the county who works at the Wildhorse Resort & Casino near Pendleton. The person has been hospitalized in Walla Walla, Washington.

The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation made the decision to immediately close the resort’s main building Monday, so it could clean the casino, hotel, theater and children’s center among other facilities.

The Wildhorse Resort and Casino is pictured Friday, Jan. 11, 2019, in Pendleton, Ore.

The Wildhorse Resort and Casino is pictured Friday, Jan. 11, 2019, in Pendleton, Ore.

Erica Morrison / OPB

Wildhorse reopened at noon Wednesday following a 48-hour voluntary closure for sanitizing.

Resort officials said they received certification from environmental health officials and regulatory inspectors before deciding to reopen. The person with the presumptive case of COVID-19 worked in a restricted area of the building in a role that does not involve contact with the public or kitchen facilities.

In accordance with CDC guidelines, Wildhorse guests have been categorized as having no identifiable risk.

“The well-being of the people who work in and visit our resort is our utmost priority,” CEO Gary George said in a statement.

Oregon seeks federal assistance

Gov. Kate Brown and Oregon public health officials held a Facebook Live question and answer session about the virus Wednesday afternoon. During that event, Brown said members of Congress had reached a bipartisan agreement on an $8.3 billion emergency funding package to help control the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The money will go toward vaccine development and other emergency measures.

Brown also said that the guidelines for testing criteria for the virus will become more flexible. Currently, people are only being tested if they have traveled to a country where the virus is present, if they’ve had contact with someone who has traveled or if they’ve been hospitalized with a serious respiratory illness with no other connection.

Brown sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence Tuesday requesting more resources to combat the spread of the virus, including more federal money, hundreds of thousands of respirators, gowns and gloves, plus more flexibility on testing guidelines.

“We currently estimate our financial need at between $7 million and $10 million per month to support the additional resource needs for state and local public health, in addition to reimbursing the costs already incurred,” Brown wrote.

OPB reporter Kate Davidson contributed to this story.