Why social distancing? ‘Nobody immune to this virus’


Oregon bans gatherings of 250 or more people for 4 weeks

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Social distancing.

Right now, most of the best medical advice in dealing with the coronavirus includes washing your hands, cover your cough, stay home if you’re sick — and practice social distancing.

The low tech tool of closing schools and limiting crowds is perhaps the best tool to slowing the virus down.

At a Thursday morning press conference with Brown and other state leaders, Dr. Jennifer Vines said health officials are changing their strategy.

“I want to acknowledge this situation has moved at warp speed,” Dr. Jennifer Vines said at an early Thursday press conference with Governor Kate Brown and other leaders. “There is nobody immune to this virus. There is no vaccine for this. There is no treatment.”

Vines, the lead health officer for Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties, isn’t trying to cause panic. She’s telling people to prepare and be smart.

“The majority of us will suffer a mild illness. For those people we ask you to stay home and not seek healthcare, if you wouldn’t otherwise,” she said. “But some of us particularly our elderly, people with underlying medical conditions, are the people who are vulnerable to severe and potentially needing life-saving intervention at the hospital level.”

Dr. Jennifer Vines, the lead health officer for the tri-county region, makes remarks at a coronavirus press conference in Portland, March 12, 2020 (KOIN)

She and the other health officers are telling vulnerable people to stay home. To protect everyone, closing schools, postponing games and limiting crowd sizes — social distancing — is our best bet.

“I have no illusions what a bitter pill this is to swallow for our communities,” she said.

If we start to see flooded emergency rooms and crowded intensive care units, it’s too late for social distancing measures to have much impact.

“I can’t predict where we will be in the next few days,” Vines said.

A vaccine for this coronavirus is likely a year away.

Hospital associations back Brown’s efforts

After Governor Kate Brown announced a ban on gatherings of more than 250 people for the next 4 weeks, “maximum social distancing” is a phrase that has taken on new resonance.

The Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems announced their support of the governor’s steps to curb the spread of coronavirus.

“Two of the most important steps we can all take to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are to wash our hands frequently and practice social distancing. We support the Governor’s decision to limit large public gatherings to no more than 250 people and promote flexible work schedules to reduce interpersonal contact,” said Becky Hultberg, the OAHHS President and CEO.

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“These steps are recommended by public health experts and will help protect populations that are particularly at-risk – older adults, those with underlying health conditions, and the unhoused. If you have questions about COVID-19, we recommend seeking credible information through the Oregon Health Authority.”

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