Brown blasts federal COVID-19 relief efforts, says lives at stake

Coronavirus

Federal officials reached a deal on the stimulus package late Tuesday night

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon Governor Kate Brown said the federal government is not doing enough to help Oregon in its fight against the spread of the coronavirus.

“It is absolutely unacceptable that health care workers currently lack the necessary resources to protect themselves and their patients,” Gov. Brown said during a phone call with Oregon media on Wednesday. “As you all know, we’ve been working to tap federal supplies. We’ve received about 25% of our request.”

Brown said she and several other governors across the country have been asked by the federal government to acquire supplies through the open market. By doing so, every state in the U.S. is essentially competing to secure the scarce products.

The governor said the demand for personal protective equipment is being ignored.

“Right now, what is available is being prioritized for hot spots like New York, California and Washington, leaving states like Oregon with no options” she said.

Brown further argued that Oregon has the ability to manufacture more PPE items locally, but the federal government has positioned itself as a barrier.

“[The feds] could easily provide guidance from he FDA, the CDC, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to fast-track the approval process we seek for the manufacturing of respiratory masks and surgical gowns,” she said. “It’s also extremely alarming to hear that doctors and nurses feel like they need to reuse their PPE and risk their own health and safety.”

Brown said that if the resources were available on the commercial market, she would have purchased them already. She added that because the federal government is not providing correct specs for companies, they do not have any liability for what they are making.

“This outrageous lack of action will result in lost lives.”

The governor also reported that Oregon has received 4,000 swabs from the Department of Health and Human Services. As a result, Kaiser and Legacy hospitals have begun conducting in-house tests as of Wednesday.

Addressing the need to improve the reports issued by the Oregon Health Authority, Gov. Brown said she has directed OHA to look closely at the requests made by local media and to share all COVID-19 information with the public that doesn’t compromise patient privacy. Beginning Wednesday, OHA will include the following details in its reporting:

  1. Age ranges by decade for all positive cases
  2. Hospitalization statuses of all positive cases
  3. Available hospital beds, ICU beds, and ventilators

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Oregon Governor Kate Brown is expected to hold her daily conference call with members of the media on Wednesday, the morning after federal officials reached a deal on a $2 trillion measure to aid workers, businesses and the healthcare system in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak.

Gov. Brown is expected to discuss how that measure will affect Oregonians. This stimulus package deal comes just days after she issued stricter social distancing guidelines due to the virus.

Brown issued Executive Order 20-12 on Monday. The order directs everyone in Oregon to stay at home to the maximum extent possible. It also adds a batch of new businesses that must temporarily close to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In a Tuesday conference call to media, Brown discussed the various measures she’s taking and answered questions concerning her stricter social distancing order.

“The reason we did our executive order the way we did is because I want to save lives and save peoples livelihoods,” said Brown. “I’m not interested in unnecessarily closing businesses if we don’t need to do that. My goal is to balance those competing demands.”

In terms of resources across the state — such as personal protective equipment and hospital beds — Brown says there is still not enough, but she is extremely grateful for those braving the crisis in healthcare.

Brown said at this point, about 25% of her initial request for more resources from the federal government will be fulfilled. But, she says she is committed to doing anything she can to make sure healthcare workers have what they need.

“The bottom line is we have far more needs than we have resources,” she said. “As you are aware, the economy is tumbling down. I am cautioning legislators to be extremely fiscally prudent. I am extremely concerned about our ability to administer basic services in the next 6 months to a year.”

Brown said next week’s special legislative sessions will focus on adequate resources for COVID-19. She said the state needs $250 million for an adequate response — and they need to address funding for the upcoming fire season.

She also addressed thoughts President Trump may want to lift social distancing restrictions after he said yesterday “we can not let the cure be worse than the problem.”

“I honestly don’t know what the president’s authority is to supersede my executive order, I will have our legal team do a little research,” said Brown. “When I was on the phone with him earlier this week he said these difficult decisions are in the hands of governors, so I would expect it would stay that way.”

She also addressed questions about people and businesses who aren’t complying with her stay at home order. Brown said she “can’t have police in every office in the state” enforcing the order. She is relying on people taking personal responsibility.

In a statement issued Monday, Brown said her decision to execute the order was fueled by the crowds that formed over the weekend.

“I started by asking Oregonians to stay home and practice social distancing,” Brown said in the release. “Then I urged the public to follow these recommendations. Instead, thousands crowded the beaches of our coastal communities, our trails, our parks, and our city streets, potentially spreading COVID-19 and endangering the lives of others across the state. Now, I’m ordering it. To save lives and protect our community.”

She spoke with members of the media on a closed call on Monday afternoon and repeated her calls for Oregonians to stay home. “This is an instance that each one of us can make a difference…and truly save lives,” she said.

Responding to questions about confusion over which businesses are closed, Governor Brown said she felt the order was very clear. Any business not ordered to close is allowed to remain open as long as it complies by the social distancing rules.

She said she wrote the order after speaking with governors around the country.

“We’re being more prescriptive than a lot of other states because we wanted people to have clarity,” she said. “The reality is that governors all over the nation are wrestling with how to do this. We were able to learn from other states and watch the confusion that happened.”

These are the new restrictions, including what penalties offenders face:

  • All non-essential social and recreational gatherings of individuals are prohibited immediately, regardless of size, if a distance of at least six feet between individuals cannot be maintained. Gatherings of members of the same residential household are permitted.
  • It closes and prohibits shopping at specific categories of retail businesses, for which close personal contact is difficult to avoid, such as arcades, barber shops, hair salons, gyms and fitness studios, skating rinks, theaters, and yoga studios.
  • It requires businesses not closed by the order to implement social distancing policies in order to remain open, and requires workplaces to implement teleworking and work-at-home options when possible.
  • It directs Oregonians to stay home whenever possible, while permitting activities outside the home when social distance is maintained.
  • It closes playgrounds, sports courts, and skate parks, among other types of outdoor recreation facilities. Those that remain open are required to strictly adhere to social distancing guidelines.
  • It outlines new guidelines for child care facilities, setting limits and rules on amounts of children allowed in care, and outlining that child care groups may not change participants.
  • Failure to comply with the order will be considered an immediate danger to public health and subject to a Class C misdemeanor.

Continuing Coverage: Coronavirus
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