UPDATE (March 19, 3:44 p.m. PT) — As of Thursday, Oregon has a total of 88 known cases of the novel coronavirus, according to the Oregon Health Authority.
OHA announced 13 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus Thursday.
The new cases are in the following counties: five cases in Marion County, four cases in Multnomah County, two cases in Linn County and two cases in Washington County.
The health authority has reported three deaths in Oregon from the virus.
OHA Wednesday reported the death of a 71-year-old man in Washington County who died Tuesday at the Providence St. Vincent Medical Center.
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.
Oregon Shelter In Place Not Being Considered
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said during a press call Thursday that she is not considering a shelter-in-place order at this time.
Brown said she is encouraging Oregonians to adhere to the social distancing guidelines she has created such as avoiding gatherings of more than 25 people.
“We are relying on public health experts and epidemiologists in terms of making this decision,” Brown said. “Based on my conversations with them, to date, their best information is that the aggressive actions I’ve taken will work if, this is a big if, Oregonians adhere to them.”
Brown said the state is taking preparatory measures for a shelter-in-place order if one does occur, including compiling a list of essential businesses that would remain open.
She said vulnerable populations including elderly people or people with compromised immune systems should already be sheltering in place if they are able.
The Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems released a statement late Thursday morning, stressing the need for stronger social distancing measures including a shelter-in-place order.
“Absent widespread testing and the ability to isolate patients, the public health tool we must use to avoid a rising patient surge is social distancing,” Becky Hultberg, president and CEO of the association said in a statement. “Yesterday, our board recommended that the Governor take the strongest possible action when it comes to social distancing measures now. We support action on the state or local level to further limit retail commerce, unnecessary travel and adopt ‘shelter-in-place’ strategies.”
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler's office is working on its own shelter in place order, though Wheeler isn't ready to roll it out yet.
Oregon Universities Go Online For Entire Spring Semester
All seven of Oregon’s public universities are switching the remote learning for the entire spring semester.
Late Wednesday, Gov. Kate Brown ordered state colleges and universities to switch to online learning through April 28, though she allowed them to keep dormitories and dining rooms open as long as social distancing practices are used.
Now the schools themselves plan to avoid face-to-face classroom instruction during the entire spring semester.
While many traditional lecture-style classes can be held through video conferencing, the model doesn’t always work for labs and practicums. That could place students expecting to graduate this spring in jeopardy of not being able to complete their course requirements. Oregon State University spokesperson Steve Clark told KLCC the school won’t charge additional tuition to students who need to make up those classes later.
Clark says the university is also working to figure out how many students will have trouble accessing classes.
Oregon Medical Station Being Assembled
The Oregon Health Authority, with the Oregon Military Department, announced Thursday it is beginning the assembly of the Oregon Medical Station at the Salem Fairgrounds.
The Oregon Medical Station is a temporary mobile emergency hospital. The facility, to be housed in the Jackson Long building at the fairgrounds, will provide an alternate site for 250 patients currently in nursing home care, OHA said.
The facility will be staffed by members of the state’s Emergency Registry of Volunteers in Oregon and the Oregon Disaster Medical Team. It will have staffing for 24-hour operations.
OHA said it will use “dedicated supplies that have been stored in Salem at the State and Federal Surplus Property.”
Oregon Courts Cancel Hearings, Change Procedures
Courts across Oregon started taking unprecedented steps this week to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Criminal defendants are being told to stay home rather than appear in court for pretrial hearings. Civil court appearances are being canceled. Some grand jury proceedings have been moved to a large auditorium to create distance between jurors. Prosecutors are waiting to file charges for some crimes until after the public health crisis has passed.
"More needs to be done immediately," Kevin Barton, Washington County district attorney, told Think Out Loud on Thursday. "We need to think out of the box to maintain our American judicial system in this time of unprecedented crisis."
Oregon Chief Justice Martha Walters has ordered courthouses statewide to postpone most trials and hearings, limit in-person appearances, and to keep participants at least 3 feet apart when possible – which is less than the 6-foot distance currently recommended by public health officials.
“There are some subtle differences between the counties and how they are adhering to the order,” said Carl Macpherson, executive director of Metropolitan Public Defender, which operates in Multnomah and Washington counties.
Macpherson said he agrees with Barton’s assessment that courts are off to a promising start, but need to do more to create physical distance, including allowing people to work and appear remotely.
He also noted that defendants face challenges not addressed directly by the changes to court procedures – as it has become more difficult for attorneys to reach clients currently held in jails.
“This is an unprecedented situation,” Macpherson said. “And it’s changing day by day.”
Oregon To Proceed With May Primary Election
Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno announced Thursday that Oregon's May 19 primary election would proceed as planned.
Ballots will be mailed out to voters no later than April 29, with military and oversees voter ballots being mailed no later than April 4.
The deadline to register to vote or update voter registration information is April 28.
Oregon Convention Center Becoming Homeless Shelter
Regional leaders have found one spot for the shelter beds they plan to add in response to coronavirus and the high risk of exposure among people experiencing homelessness: The Oregon Convention Center.
With travel and tourism spiraling and large gatherings banned, officials with the regional government Metro will use the now-unused center as a 130-bed shelter.
The Charles Jordan Community Center in North Portland will also be used as a shelter temporarily.
Hospitals, First Responders Request Protective Equipment Donations
Multnomah County Health and Portland Fire & Rescue are asking that people in the medical field who are no longer operating and people in construction work who have dust masks and respirators donate personal protective equipment (PPE).
The agencies are specifically asking for donations to first responders of items such as latex free gloves, procedural and surgical masks, N95 respirators and filters and hand sanitizer.
Donated equipment can be dropped off from noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at either Portland Fire & Rescue’s Fire Marshal office parking lot, at 1300 Southeast Gideon St., or Multnomah County Headquarters’ loading dock on 6th Street (501 Southeast Hawthorne Blvd.)
In Central Oregon, St. Charles Public Health has also asked for donations of masks, gowns, gloves, hand sanitzer and other basic equipment. This Bend Bulletin story has a full list and donation locations and times.
Health care providers and first responders say Oregon desperately needs more personal protective equipment.
Portland Rose Festival Postponed
Organizers of the Portland Rose Festival say they still plan to hold one of the city's signature event, but not until the coronavirus pandemic ends.
The festival was scheduled to run from May 22-June 7. Now organizers will shoot for late summer.
The Rose Festival dates back to 1908. It includes a carnival, multiple parades, dragon boat races and the selection of a Queen of Rosaria.
Gresham Bans Evictions, Urges State
The city of Gresham has banned landlords from evicting renters during its declared state of emergency over the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the order, landlords cannot evict people for any reason connected to the emergency or without cause. City officials say any landlord who violates the order could lose their rental license.
"We must protect the stability of our families, and their housing, as a first order of business,” Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis said in a statement.
Gresham's action also prohibits commercial property owners from terminating leases with businesses for causes related to the emergency.
In his statement, Bemis urged state and federal officials to take similar actions to protect residents and small businesses during the pandemic.
Possible Coronavirus Exposure On Eugene School Buses
Lane County Public Health announced Thursday in its investigation of two diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in Lane County residents that some Eugene school bus routes may have been exposure sites.
“During our investigation, we identified a small number of Eugene School District 4J bus routes with a possible exposure point from a person who was in direct contact with a case of COVID-19,” the county public health agency said in a statement. “This person has not, at this time, tested positive for COVID-19. (People are considered exposed to COVID-19 if they had close contact – meaning within 6 feet for an hour or more – with a known case.)”
Lane County Public Health said the school district is notifying the parents of any students who may have been on the identified bus routes.
None of those students are considered to have been exposed to the virus at this time, the agency said.
“LCPH does not consider the students at high risk for contracting COVID-19,” it said.
Oregon Governor Orders Colleges To Move Online
Brown issued a late-night executive order Wednesday for all public colleges and universities to move to online learning through April 28.
Brown has prohibited in-class interactions but allowed schools to keep “critical functions” open, including dining services and dormitories in order to allow students with nowhere else to go to stay at school.
She told schools to implement social distancing practices of campus facilities that remain open.
Testing Completed At Oregon Veterans’ Home
The Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs announced Wednesday night the completion of testing on all 151 residents at the Oregon Veterans’ Home in Lebanon.
There are no new positive results and no tests pending.
There were 14 residents who tested positive for presumptive cases of the novel coronavirus, the state agency said. One staff member has also tested positive.
As of Thursday morning 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 are 1,187 cases of the virus in Washington as of Thursday morning, according to the Washington Department of Health. All Washington counties have at least one confirmed case.
Oregon Camping Closures
The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, Department of Forestry and Department of Fish and Wildlife announced camping closures in attempts to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department said it will accommodate current overnight guests through April 2. After that, reservations for all state parks from April 3 through May 8 will be canceled, with site fees refunded. Before May 8, the agency will review park campground closures to see whether they should be extended.
The Oregon Department of Forestry maintains campgrounds in the Clatsop, Santiam and Tillamook state forests. The agency said most campgrounds are already closed for the season. They will not reopen for use.
Year-round campgrounds in those forests will close Monday. A reopening date has not been determined. All trails and forest roads on state forestlands will remain open.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said it is closing its wildlife areas to overnight camping effective Sunday. The closure affects dispersed camping and established campgrounds. While camping will be prohibited, the agency said wildlife areas for day-use activities, such as fishing, hunting and other outdoor recreation, will remain open.
The agencies encourage people to continue accessing daytime activities.
Meals On Wheels People Limits Hugs As Demand For Food Delivery Climbs
The nonprofit Meals on Wheels People is reducing delivery days and adding precautions to keep volunteers safe, even as it continues its mission of delivering food and maintaining social connections with older people across the Portland metro area.
More than a hundred new clients have reached out asking for food deliveries as they self-isolate in response to COVID-19 over the past few days, said Suzanne Washington, the nonprofit’s CEO, while appearing on Thursday’s "Think Out Loud."
Homeless shelters have sought food distribution help, as their own volunteers have become hesitant to sign up for shifts. And many longtime Meals on Wheels People volunteers are older than 70, therefore more vulnerable to infection, and are dropping their shifts for now.
But an unprecedented outpouring of support is helping the nonprofit face these challenges, Washington said.
“We put out a call to the public, and we had over 500 people in the past week sign up to volunteer,” she said.
The nonprofit is now focused on increasing food production to meet higher demand, and on lobbying local and state officials to make an exception for its delivery volunteers if shelter-in-place orders are mandated, Washington said. It’s also changing procedures to emphasize volunteer safety – the traditional hugs are banned and volunteers are asked to keep a 6-foot distance from meal recipients.