Governor Deploys National Guard to Aid Hospitals in Covid-19 Response

Governor Kate Brown has announced her latest measure to fight a surge of new Covid-19 hospitalizations fueled by the highly contagious delta variant: a rapid deployment of up to 1,500 Oregon National Guard members to support front-line health care workers.

Beginning Aug. 20, an initial 500 Guard members will be deployed to hospitals around the state to provide logistical support as materials handlers and equipment runners, as well as assisting with Covid-19 testing and other necessary services to support hospital operations.

The Oregon National Guard is prepared to provide logistical support for more than 20 hospitals across the state.

More than 730 Oregonians were in hospitals with severe cases of Covid-19 Friday, including 185 in intensive care — the highest number since the pandemic hit Oregon last March.

“I cannot emphasize enough the seriousness of this crisis for all Oregonians, especially those needing emergency and intensive care,” Brown said in a video message. “When our hospitals are full with Covid-19 patients, there may not be room for someone needing care after a car crash, a heart attack, or other emergency situation.”

Oregon Health & Science University sounded alarm bells this week, releasing dire predictions of a shortage of as many as 500 hospital beds statewide by Labor Day if additional measures were not taken to curb the spread of the virus.

“We could have 1,000 hospitalized Covid-19 patients by then,” Clackamas County health officials said in a pandemic update Friday.

The current patient census has already surpassed the peak set during last winter’s case surge.

“I know this is not the summer many of us envisioned, with over 2.5 million Oregonians vaccinated against Covid-19,” said Brown. “The harsh and frustrating reality is that the delta variant has changed everything. Delta is highly contagious, and we must take action now.”

First identified in December 2020, the delta variant has spread like wildfire through Oregon and the greater United States this summer — quickly undoing the confidence and optimism many officials were showcasing as recently as last month.

Delta is no more virulent than the original strain — but can infect younger, healthier and even vaccinated people more easily and is significantly more transmissible.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describe it as one of the most contagious respiratory viruses that we know of — more transmissible than the common cold and influenza, smallpox, Ebola and even chickenpox.

“We will get through this the same way we have before: together,” Brown said. “So please, if you have been waiting to get vaccinated, go do it today. Vaccines are safe, effective, and widely available. And, when you go out in public today, wear a mask. Masks are a simple and effective way for all of us to help slow the spread of Covid-19.”

For more information about the vaccine and where you can find it, visit If you have questions about taking the vaccine, consult your health care provider.

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