Oregon coronavirus: ‘Low risk but pay attention’

Coronavirus

76 people monitored in Oregon, but no confirmed cases

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Oregon Health Authority continues to monitor 76 people in the state for coronavirus, but there are still no confirmed cases of it in Oregon.

OHA said they will post data on their website beginning March 3. Those being “monitored” don’t have symptoms but may have been exposed to it somehow. People “under investigation” are people with symptoms who were exposed somehow.

Multnomah County Public Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines and OHA Senior Health Advisor Emilio De Bess both said they are prepared for whatever happens.

“Ever since we started working on coronavirus planning we’ve had a framework for different scenarios,” Vines said, including a handful of cases or widespread cases. “We’ve been thinking through this really since mid-January when it became clear there was person-to-person spread in China.”

If there is a widespread outbreak, Vines said they may recommend closing schools and urging teleworking policies for businesses.

Multnomah County Public Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines, February 26, 2020 (KOIN)

“But we also have to maintain basic infrastructure so people need health care we need to support our first responders and law enforcement,” she said.

DeBess said health officials will also ask people to help by staying home if they’re ill.

“We’re going to ask people like we do in terms of any pandemic or any situation that might happen,” he told KOIN 6 News. Have food and water at home in case “you were asked to quarantine, either because you’re sick or there’s a location where there’s a high amount of transmission.”

Vines said people should figure out what their employer’s sick policy is, what parents might do for child care and make sure your household is self-sufficient.

Quick health tips

Should you wear a mask? Vines said the CDC is not recommending people wear masks in public settings, which she attributes “to a lack of science on whether or not they actually work to protect people in those settings.”

But health care settings are completely different, she said. Masks should be offered and gloves are part of the recommendation for health care workers.

Other tips include staying away from sick people, washing your hands frequently — especially after being on public transit. Cover your coughs and sneezes and stay home if you’re sick.

OHA Senior Health Advisor Emilio De Bess, February 26, 2020 (KOIN)

DeBess said the US does not right now have a “sustained transmission” as other countries do. “We’re still at a low risk, but we still need to pay attention, and pay attention means take the precautions we’ve been talking to you about for a long time.”

“The idea that we don’t know what to do or we’re not prepared is false,” Vines told KOIN 6 News. “Many of us worked on H1N1. We have the skills and knowledge. We just have to figure out how we’re going to apply it in this setting with all the uncertainties around this virus and the uncertainties of if, when and how it may arrive in our community.”

KOIN: Complete coronavirus coverage

Trump names Pence to lead US response to coronavirus threat

President Donald Trump says the U.S. is “very, very ready” for whatever the new coronavirus threat brings. He has put Vice President Mike Pence in charge of overseeing the nation’s response, working with the government’s top health authorities.

Andre Kalil
Dr. Andre Kalil, of the University of Nebraska Medical Center, speaks in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. . (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Trump has been pushing back against criticism that his administration isn’t doing enough to meet the coronavirus threat.

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers are calling for much more money than the $2.5 billion the White House has requested, and Trump indicated at a news conference that he’d be open to more spending.

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer has asked for $8.5 billion.

Meanwhile, two new coronavirus cases have been reported in Americans who had traveled on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, health officials said Wednesday. The new cases bring the U.S. tally to 59.

On Tuesday, San Francisco Mayor London Breed declared a local emergency amid the global coronavirus outbreak.

There are still zero confirmed cases of the virus in San Francisco, but the mayor and Department of Public Health say this is the right step to take at this time.

Airline travel affected

The new virus is taking a broader toll on airline travel. Most airlines have already stopped flying to China, and now Delta Air Lines is sharply cutting back on flights between the U.S. and Seoul, South Korea, because of the outbreak.

Delta said Wednesday it will suspend flights between Minneapolis and Seoul beginning this weekend and lasting until at least April 30. The airline will also reduce the number of flights from Korea to Atlanta, Detroit and Seattle.

Delta, United and American have already suspended all flights to and from mainland China and Hong Kong for several more weeks.

Arrivals/Departures at PDX

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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