Canby Fire, Area Hospitals See ‘Increased 911 Calls for Symptoms Consistent with COVID-19’

Canby Fire District is grappling with increased calls for medical service during the coronavirus pandemic — though they have yet to confirm a single positive case of COVID-19 in the area.

“Canby Fire and our surrounding partner agencies are now experiencing increased 911 calls for symptoms consistent with COVID-19,” Division Chief Matt Dale, who oversees the agency’s paramedics, said during a joint community briefing Wednesday night. “Our surrounding hospitals and urgent care clinics are experiencing the same increase.”

Dale said the novel coronavirus is now widespread nationwide, and the most effective way to slow it down is to stay home as much as possible.

“Every time you or someone you live with leaves home, you run the risk of exposing yourself to the COVID-19 virus,” Dale said. “Please continue to limit your trips outside your home, continue to maintain social distancing, continue spending time outside around your home and neighborhood while maintaining social distancing.”

Despite the warnings, Canby Fire and other local authorities have repeatedly refused to confirm the presence of positive cases in the community. When asked directly Wednesday morning if the fire district could confirm any medical calls with a positive case of COVID-19, Chief Jim Davis simply said, “No, I cannot.”

The state’s reporting agency, Oregon Health Authority, has established a practice of not releasing demographic information for confirmed cases that is more specific than county of residence.

Clackamas has seen 103 of the state’s 1,239 positive cases as of Wednesday morning, fourth-most among Oregon counties. It has also experienced three of Oregon’s 38 deaths.

The first confirmed case in the Canby area was an employee at Willamette Egg Farms, who has since recovered.

More recently, Fire Division Chief Matt English cited concerns from a local family dealing with a case of COVID-19 as one motivation for a strict burn ban they established earlier this week.

Canby Fire expects the increased calls to peak later this month, in line with the state’s projections, before beginning to trend downward, as long as residents “remain vigilant with our social distancing and hand-washing practices,” Division Chief Dale said.

“COVID-19 enters your body through your mouth, nose, and eyes,” he said. “Continue to wipe down surfaces with a disinfectant, continue to wash your hands, and continue to keep your hands away from your face.”

In line with the new guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Governor Kate Brown, Canby Fire recommends the use of a homemade cloth face mask, which should be cleaned and disinfected after use.

“Together, we can limit the spread of COVID-19, maintain hospital capacity, ambulance capacity, and save lives,” Division Chief Dale said. “Now is the time to reinforce our plan to stay home to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.”

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