OHA director: Coronavirus preparations strong, hospitals ready


First 'presumptive case' in Oregon identified Friday

SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — As concerns about the coronavirus grow, the director of the Oregon Health Authority said the agency is ramping up preparedness for when the virus comes to the state.

And it looks like it came to Oregon. Late Friday afternoon, officials announced the “first presumptive case of [the] novel coronavirus.”

Pat Allen briefed the House Health Care Committee on the OHA’s monitoring of the coronavirus in Oregon Friday. At that time there were no confirmed cases in Oregon and the risk is currently low for residents. However, he said, the virus is likely to spread throughout the US.

A graphic from an Oregon Health Authority slideshow shows there are currently zero cases of the coronavirus in the state. February 28, 2020 (KOIN)

During the Friday meeting, the OHA told the committee that their response is similar to when they prepped for H1N1 and Ebola. Oregon hospitals and healthcare systems have scaled up their preparedness to address the coronavirus threat, he said. That includes implementing international travel and symptom screening as well as sharing infection control guidance with all licensed ambulance services and EMS medical directors.

“We want people to be prepared and be concerned, but to not panic because we have experienced managing these kinds of issues,” said Allen.

There are challenges, Allen said, including the potential for sustained shortages of medical supplies. Currently, all COVID-19 testing must be routed to the CDC.

Oregon Health Authority coronavirus updates and information

Gov. Kate Brown convened a coronavirus response team to coordinate state and local agencies and health authorities in preparation for response to the new virus that causes the disease called COVID-19.

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.

Quick health tips

Should you wear a mask? Dr. Jennifer 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.

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