Concerns about the threat posed by novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, continued to spread somewhat more rapidly than the virus itself this past week.
On Sunday, Oregonians were rocked by the news that Governor Kate Brown had joined nine other states in declaring a state of emergency to address the spread of COVID-19, after announcing that the Oregon Health Authority had identified seven new cases, bringing Oregon’s total to 14.
That’s 14 cases, in a state of 4.2 million. Fourteen is probably fewer than the number of Oregonians who will claim to have been abducted by aliens this week. But sure, let’s all freak out over coronavirus, instead of the real threat we should be worried about: aliens.
Anyway. The emergency declaration gives the Oregon Health Authority and the Office of Emergency Management access to the state’s full resources to stem the spread of the disease.
Gov. Brown authorized the state of emergency “by verbal proclamation” Saturday night, which we really hope means she came into a room and yelled, “I DECLARE A STATE OF EMERGENCY!” à la Michael Scott in The Office.
She confirmed the executive order in writing Sunday morning.
“This news is concerning for all Oregonians, but my resolve and that of my administration to address this public health crisis is unchanged,” Gov. Brown said in a press release. “We will do everything it takes, within our power and in coordination with federal and local officials, to keep Oregonians safe.”
The emergency declaration also allows OHA to activate reserves of emergency volunteer health care professionals, bringing online auxiliary medical professionals to work with local health authorities to identify and contain new cases of COVID-19 in Oregon.
The declaration additionally grants broad authority to the State Public Health Director, OHA, and the Office of Emergency Management, which will allow the agencies to take immediate action and devote all available state resources towards containing the coronavirus in Oregon.
The state of emergency will remain in effect for 60 days, but can be extended until the public health threat of the coronavirus is contained.
Calling it a “precautionary” measure, the Board of Commissioners also declared a “state of emergency” last week in Clackamas County, where the state’s first case of coronavirus was confirmed.
Oregon’s 14 cases now includes a student at South Meadows Middle School in Hillsboro, who is showing only mild symptoms. Eight of the state’s 14 are in Washington County.
The number of worldwide cases crept over 100,000 this weekend, with a death toll of close to 4,000. Twenty-one deaths have been reported in the United States, 18 of them in neighboring Washington. Of those 18, all but two were residents of the same nursing home.
No deaths have been reported yet in Oregon.
Coronavirus is most dangerous for seniors and those with underlying medical conditions. The vast majority of cases are mild.
The virus is thought to be spread from person to person when in close contact, and officials recommend frequent hand washing with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer, and to maintain at least three feet of distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
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