PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Health officials in the Portland metro addressed the public’s concerns about the coronavirus and what steps were being taken to curb a possible outbreak of the virus in Oregon during a Thursday press conference.
The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 was 12 by Thursday afternoon: 11 in Washington and one in California. There was one confirmed case in Oregon, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The take-away from the discussion was to stay home if you’re feeling sick. Those who are at the greatest risk are older adults and those with compromised immune systems.
“Just one week ago, we were seeing no cases in Oregon. This situation has evolved even more quickly than we originally anticipated,” said Tri-County Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines. “We continue to emphasize close and prolonged contact as the highest risk of transmission.”
Vines said Clackamas County tested several people with links to the Lake Oswego School District who had mild symptoms and all of them tested negative for COVID-19.
“Almost all of the cases now in the Western states have been community-acquired. In other words, no links to travelers with COVID-19,” she said.
Vines said the Oregon State Public Health Lab can test samples from up to about 40 people per day. She said health officials are prioritizing testing for patients who are hospitalized with symptoms of a serious viral lung infection and have tested negative for the flu.
Currently, Oregon health officials are checking on those who have visited China, following up with confirmed cases and notifying those who were exposed to self-isolate themselves for two weeks and watch for symptoms.
“Because the cases so far in Oregon were not associated with travel, we are preparing for the possibility of increased community-wide transmission,” Vines said.
Health officials expect the coronavirus to impact the community and health systems similar to how a bad flu season would. Vines said they’re working on a plan to help those who are particularly at risk, including older adults and those living in detention centers, long-term care facilities and shelters, as well as the homeless.
For the rest of the population, Vines stressed that the best course of action is to prevent spreading the virus is to stay home if you’re sick.
“Please only seek healthcare if you otherwise would,” she said.
Mayor Ted Wheeler also addressed the public’s coronavirus concerns in a Thursday statement which reads, in part:
“The City, County and other regional partners are collaborating to best serve our community. The Portland Bureau of Emergency Management (PBEM) is leading the City’s efforts to prioritize actions we must take as the situation develops. PBEM is actively coordinating with Multnomah County Public Health Department and Oregon Health Authority (OHA), to track the situation and ensure all available resources are standing by. In our community, Multnomah County is the lead for public health agencies. We rely on safety guidance from Tri-County Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines.”
TriMet also released the following statement:
“In addition to our regular cleaning procedures, which vary in detail, TriMet has increased the cleaning of our buses and trains as an extra level of precaution. Our maintenance teams are now cleaning all touchpoint surfaces nightly, wiping them down with a disinfectant. This includes the poles, doors and other surfaces people will touch or hold on to as the vehicles move.
Despite the cleaning steps we are taking, it’s important to remember that a surface is only clean until someone touches it, sneezes on it or coughs on it. That’s why we at TriMet continue to urge riders to take precautions to keep themselves and others healthy.
Please follow these tips from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a sleeve, or a tissue. If you use a tissue, please discard of it in a trash can.
- Stay home when you are sick.
We understand that some riders are dependent on transit and may have no other way to get to the doctor or hospital if they are sick. Please call your doctor first before using transit as they may be able to help you without you traveling.
If you must ride, even if you have a cold or allergies and do not have a fever or trouble breathing, please consider using a mask. And, always cover coughs and sneezes and be aware of others.”