Temporary Hospital To Open In Salem; 75 Known Coronavirus Cases In Oregon

By Meerah Powell (OPB)
March 18, 2020 2:15 p.m.

UPDATE (March 18, 6:08 p.m. PT) — As of Wednesday, Oregon has a total of 75 known cases of the novel coronavirus, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

OHA announced 10 new confirmed cases Wednesday.


The health authority also reported an additional death from the virus, bringing the state’s total number of deaths to three.

The new death OHA reported Wednesday was a 71-year-old man in Washington County who died Tuesday at the Providence St. Vincent Medical Center.

The other two deaths were a 70-year-old Multnomah County man who was being treated at the Portland Veterans' Affairs Medical Center and a 60-year-old Lane County woman.

The Lane County woman was brought into PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend in Springfield experiencing cardiac arrest. After her death, a coronavirus test was submitted to the state public health lab. It came back positive Tuesday evening.

The novel coronavirus, a relative of other viruses like SARS, was first identified in Wuhan, China, late last year.

Third Clark County Patient Dies

A third Clark County, Washington, patient died from COVID-19 late Tuesday night.

Clark County health officials report the man was in his 70s and was the first confirmed patient in the county to contract the disease. He had been hospitalized at Oregon Health & Science University.

“It’s a tragedy that we’ve lost another member of our community to COVID-19,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County health officer and Public Health director. “We send our deepest condolences to his family.”

The death comes after an elderly couple, both in their 80s, died in Clark County on Monday. Washington's coronavirus death toll increased to 66 as of Wednesday afternoon.

Hospitals Must Cease Non-Emergency Work

Oregon hospitals, outpatient clinics, veterinarians and dentists must stop all non-emergency work to preserve surgical masks, gowns and gloves, according to an executive order issued by Gov. Kate Brown Wednesday.

Health care workers worry they do not have enough personal protective equipment for the anticipated rush of coronavirus patients.

Brown's rule requires preservation of safety equipment for health care workers treating COVID-19 patients. It also limits hospital visitations to help avoid further exposure to the virus.

Unemployment Claims Up Amid Layoffs

The Oregon Employment Department enacted temporary rules Wednesday that give more flexibility in providing unemployment insurance benefits to workers laid off due to COVID-19.

Benefits are available for workers’ whose employers temporarily close due to cleaning or government requirements.

Related: As Unemployment Surges, Oregon Considers Easing Benefit Standards

According to the OED, the number of unemployment claims rose to over 18,500 Tuesday, up from just 800 claims filed on Sunday. The number of unemployed people in Oregon and Southwest Washington is expected to rise dramatically.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown both limited restaurants and bars to take-out and delivery only Monday. Many establishments have closed, at least temporarily, rather than navigate the logistical challenges of protecting workers while staying open and abiding by the new restrictions.

“Although we know the COVID-19 coronavirus is causing a reduction in economic activity both nationally and in Oregon, it’s too early for unemployment rate or payroll jobs numbers to show the impact of these employment disruptions,” a statement from the Oregon Employment Department reads.

Workers can get unemployment benefits and don't need to seek new work if their job intends to continue operations. Affected workers must "still be able to work, stay in contact with their employer, and be available to work when called back," in order to qualify for benefits. People trying to file for unemployment related to COVID-19 can do that online.

Grand Ronde Declares Tribal State Of Emergency

The Tribal Council for the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde passed a resolution Wednesday declaring a state of emergency.

The declaration allows the Grand Ronde Tribe to engage in mutual aid agreements and also provides it access to federal assistance and resources, including personal protection equipment for health professionals.

“This declaration allows us to seek the help of our partners in a time where working together is key to stopping the spread of COVID-19,” Grand Ronde Chairwoman Cheryle A. Kennedy said in a statement.

This is the first time the tribe has declared a state of emergency since 1983, according to the tribe’s statement.

Along with the tribal state of emergency, the Grand Ronde Tribe said it has also placed the tribe on a “limited shutdown” by closing classes and educational programming and closing Spirit Mountain Casino.

Oregon Medical Station To Open

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced Wednesday the opening of the Oregon Medical Station, a temporary hospital that she said should be set up at the state fairgrounds in Salem by Friday.

“The Oregon Medical Station is a temporary hospital the state purchased a few years ago for use in a crisis like this,” Brown said.

She said it is a 250-bed emergency hospital.

Brown declined to immediately provide specifics such as who would staff the station or where resources would come from to support it, directing questions to the Oregon Office of Emergency Management.

Brown also said Wednesday that the state’s Emergency Coordination Center is working on identifying around 1,000 temporary hospital beds across the state to move recovering, non-COVID-19 patients in order to free up space in primary hospitals.

Oregon School Closures Extended


Brown announced late Tuesday the extension of Oregon school closures until April 28. That decision came less than a week after Brown closed schools a week early for spring break, with the expectation they would reopen April 1.

Brown said schools will continue to receive state funding as if they were still in session and schools will still be expected to “continue to regularly pay all employees of public schools.”

Related: Oregon Closes Schools, But Prioritizes Child Care In Coronavirus Changes

Districts will also be required to continue offering services such as “the provision of child care for first responders, emergency workers, health care professionals and other individuals.” They also must continue nutrition programs.

A student at Aloha High School in Beaverton is confirmed to have COVID-19.

According to a community-wide message shared Wednesday, the student was sick at school the week of March 9. The Washington County Public Health Department is working to identify and reach out to people who may have had contact with the student.

Oregon’s first case of coronavirus was a school employee in Lake Oswego. The case prompted a dayslong closure at Forest Hills Elementary School.

Late last week, Gov. Kate Brown ordered all schools to close starting Monday, March 16. Brown had been reluctant to close schools out of concern for student access to resources like food and health care.

The eventual order came after conversation with school staff and superintendents about the safety of staff at risk of coronavirus, and the ability to staff schools.

Washington Cases 

As of Wednesday, the Washington Department of Health has announced 66 COVID-19 related deaths. Fifty-six of those are in King County, six in Snohomish County, three in Clark County and one in Grant County.

There were more than 1,100 cases of the virus in Washington as of Wednesday morning, according to the Washington Department of Health. All Washington counties have at least one confirmed case.

Vancouver Closing Navigation Center

The city of Vancouver, in consultation with Clark County Public Health, announced that it will be closing its Navigation Center Wednesday at 5 p.m. until further notice.

The Navigation Center provides services to people experiencing homelessness.

Vancouver's Navigation Center is pictured Tuesday, March 10, 2020, in Vancouver, Wash.

Vancouver's Navigation Center is pictured Tuesday, March 10, 2020, in Vancouver, Wash.

Troy Brynelson / OPB

There are no known cases of the coronavirus at the center, the city said in a statement. The decision to close the facility was made after determining that continued operation would not be compatible with objectives to reduce the spread of the virus.

The city said it is working to identify and provide access to restroom facilities in public spaces.

Hospitals End Elective Surgeries

Hospitals in southwest Washington and Oregon are postponing non-emergency surgeries to prepare for a predicted surge in coronavirus cases.

PeaceHealth and Legacy Health systems both said they expect COVID-19 cases to rise and want to keep hospital beds, equipment and staff available.

“Surgeries take a lot of that,” said Debra Carnes, a spokesperson with PeaceHealth. “We need to redeploy resources. We’re really trying to ensure we are able to take care of the COVID-19 patients.”

The suspension of elective surgeries will affect all PeaceHealth and Legacy Health hospitals in southwest Washington and Oregon.

Elective surgeries are necessary, but not life-threatening, hospital officials said. They include procedures like hip replacements. Emergency surgeries will continue.

Grocery Stores Offering Shopping Hours For Vulnerable Groups

Although Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced a ban on gatherings of more than 25 people Monday in attempt to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, businesses like grocery stores and retail outlets are exempt from that rule.

Related: Some Grocery Stores Offering Shopping Hours For 'Vulnerable' Groups

Some stores in the region are taking it into their own hands to set aside shopping hours for community members who are at a greater risk for the COVID-19 illness.

New Seasons said it is asking its customers to observe a Senior Shopping Hour from 8 to 9 a.m. each weekday.

Safeway and Albertsons are also offering similar hours for elderly people, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems.

Providence Ready To Run Own COVID-19 Tests

Portland-based Providence Laboratory Services said it has received the supplies it needs to begin testing patients at its eight Oregon hospitals for COVID-19.

“We can process 500 to 600 patients tests a day. We expect to run the lab seven days a week to help meet demand,” the hospital system announced in a release.

Related: Oregon's COVID-19 Testing Capacity Starts Ramping Up

The lab has already received more than 300 samples to test. It says results should be available within 24 hours.

Providence said it is working with its primary vendor to maintain deliveries of testing materials.

Oregon’s capacity to test for COVID-19 has been extremely limited, with only 1,554 people tested since the outbreak first happened in Oregon. Providence’s testing marks a significant increase in the state’s testing capacity.

Testing is extremely important part of curbing the spread of coronavirus because it allows health practitioners to know who to isolate in order to prevent further spread.

The Providence lab does not provide testing directly to members of the public. Tests must be ordered through a physician or public health department.