Oregon Still Needs More PPE, Governor Says

Mar 25, 2020
Originally published on March 26, 2020 7:20 am

UPDATE (March 25, 7:18 p.m. PT) — Oregon has 268 known cases of the novel coronavirus as of Wednesday afternoon, according to state and local health officials.

The actual number of cases is believed to be higher given the lack of tests available.

The Oregon Health Authority announced 57 new diagnosed cases Wednesday and two additional deaths. Wednesday evening, public health officials in Lane County added two positive cases, bringing that county's total to seven.

Oregon now has 10 known deaths related to the virus.

Oregon’s ninth coronavirus-related death was an 80-year-old woman in Clackamas County, according to OHA. The state’s 10th death was a 73-year-old woman in Marion County. All 10 Oregonians to die from COVID-19 have had underlying medical conditions, according to state public health officials.

Washington death toll climbs

Clark County Public Health said Wednesday that four more people had tested positive for COVID-19. 

As of Wednesday night, Clark County had reported 16 positive cases of the virus. Four people have died in the county.

Washington has 2,580 diagnosed cases of the coronavirus and 132 related deaths as of Wednesday night, according to the Washington Department of Health

Oregon still in need of protective equipment

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said during a press call Wednesday that one of her biggest concerns remains access to personal protective equipment (PPE). 

Brown said her office put in a request to the federal government for hundreds of thousands of N-95 masks, ventilators and other equipment but had only received about 25% of the request as of Wednesday. 

Every state, and the federal government itself, is competing to buy PPE on the open market, Brown said, and for the most part, PPE is being prioritized for parts of the country that have the most cases, such as New York and Washington, “leaving a state like Oregon with few options,” she said.

Brown noted that local companies may have the resources to manufacture PPE but won’t be able to meaningfully do so without guidance from the federal government. 

“We have the ability to make more. ... What’s the barrier?” Brown said. “From our perspective, from what we’re seeing, it’s frankly the federal government. They could easily provide clear guidelines from the FDA, the CDC and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to fast track the approval processes for the manufacturing of respiratory masks and surgical gowns.”

State receives 4,000 testing swabs

Oregon has received a shipment of additional testing swabs from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the governor also told reporters on Wednesday. A swab shortage has been preventing Quest Diagnostics from fulfilling a contract to perform 20,000 additional COVID-19 tests in Oregon.

Now, the governor said she is expecting to see testing ramp up significantly with an additional 1,000 tests a day over the next few days.

The governor’s office has outlined a priority list for who will get tested first through the Quest contract. First in line will be workers in health care, emergency medical services, public safety and critical infrastructure who have symptoms. People who have symptoms in hospitals, long-term care and correction facilities or other high-risk congregate settings will also have priority, as will people with high risk who have been identified by public health authorities.

“We are going to see, obviously, more COVID-19 positive tests,” Brown said.

She said she’ll be watching Oregon’s hospital capacity and the number of cases that require hospitalization and intensive care for an indication of how fast the virus is spreading.

Oregon's tax deadline delayed

Less than a month before the state’s usual filing deadline, Gov. Kate Brown announced Wednesday she is pushing back the due date for personal income tax filings in the state. In step with a similar move from the federal government, those filings are now due July 15, months after the usual April 15 deadline.

“We have agreed to allow extensions for personal filings,” Brown told reporters Wednesday, noting that corporations and others required to make quarterly estimated tax filings must still pay by April 15.

The Oregon Department of Revenue is expected to reveal more details about the change soon.

Portland restaurants announce closures

Pok Pok Owner Andy Ricker announced the closure of all five of the Portand-based restaurants Wednesday for the duration of the coronavirus outbreak.

“I did not make this decision with heavy heart; I made it with determination and a sense of urgency and with regret I did not have the strength to do so more quickly,” Ricker said in an Instagram post.

The restaurants had been operating as delivery and to-go for the past week, Ricker said. 

He pointed to the COVID-19 related death of New York-based chef Floyd Cardoz as a reason for the closure.

“I simply cannot bear the thought of one of our team becoming ill for the sake of preparing some chicken wings,” he said.

Salt & Straw Ice Cream made a similar announcement on its Instagram Wednesday. 

“With a heavy heart we have decided that the best way to ensure the safety of our teams and those around us is to temporarily close our scoop shops and kitchens,” the company said in its statement.

Governors say stay home

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced a statewide stay-at-home order Monday, directing Oregonians to stay home unless they need to do essential tasks, such as getting groceries, gas or health care. 

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee also announced a similar order Monday. 

Brown ordered businesses to close “for which close personal contact is difficult or impossible to avoid” including gyms, malls, bowling alleys and theaters.

For businesses that remain open, Brown said staff must be allowed to work from home when possible and maintain social distancing measures. 

Workers can report their employers for unsafe work environments related to the coronavirus to the state’s Occupational Safety and Health division, according to Brown’s office.

Oregon attorney general demands end to price gouging

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum Wednesday joined a bipartisan group of more than 30 attorneys general in sending a letter to online marketplaces looking to crack down on price gouging. 

The letter was sent to Amazon, Craigslist, eBay, Facebook and Walmart, urging the companies to implement measures to cut down on price gouging on their platforms.

“In the last week, we have heard from dozens of Oregonians who are reporting unusually high prices for essential products being sold online, like sanitizing spray and toilet paper,” Rosenblum said in a statement. “We want to make sure all our large online vendors do a better job of watching the marketplace for price gouging behavior.”

The letter follows research published by the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group Foundation (OSPIRG) which showed Amazon was not preventing recent price hikes.

Rosenblum, and other attorneys general, are specifically asking the companies to take a number of measures including setting policies and enforcing restrictions on price gouging during emergencies and creating a “fair pricing” page or portal where consumers can report price gouging directly to companies.

Lawsuit to release at-risk inmates in Oregon

A class-action, civil rights lawsuit has been filed against the Columbia County Jail to release an inmate attorneys say is at risk for contracting the COVID-19 disease.

The lawsuit says inmate Michael Thompson sufferers from asthma, pre-diabetes and congestive heart failure, making him at higher risk for adverse effects from the coronavirus. The Oregon Justice Resource Center filed the lawsuit. Because the lawsuit is a class action, Thompson’s attorneys say it should apply to others in the jail who are in a similar situation to Thompson.

The nonprofit legal group said they’ve learned people incarcerated at the Columbia County Jail are not getting the supplies they need to stay safe.

“Recommended measure such as frequent hand washing, cleaning of living areas, adequate space to socially distance, and masks (for) people showing symptoms are not being followed,” OJRC said in a release.

The jail “has willfully and wantonly ignored the public health threats caused by this global pandemic,” attorney Juan Chavez wrote in the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court on Monday.

Washington state legal groups have also begun efforts to get at-risk inmates released during the crisis. 

People in jails and prisons are especially vulnerable to the virus because it’s difficult to keep people separate. Advocates and sheriffs worry that if the virus gets into a facility, it could quickly spread.

Throughout the region, jails and prisons systems have closed to social visits in an effort to protect incarcerated populations. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s detention facility in Tacoma is also closed to visitors.

Some sheriffs have started releasing inmates from their facilities to create more social distancing.

Portland mayor extends state of emergency

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has extended a citywide state of emergency for two more weeks, through April 9. 

A state of emergency gives the mayor expanded powers to use city resources, close streets, limit the size of gatherings, establish curfews and impose other policies to help protect Portlanders. 

Wheeler declared a state of emergency on March 12. It was set up expire Thursday morning. 

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