Health Care Workers Prep for Worst as Covid-19 Cases Surge

Oregon has reported more new cases of the novel coronavirus this week than in the first 112 days of the pandemic, and the dizzying rise shows little sign of slowing down.

In a trend that is quickly becoming commonplace, the state set a new daily mark one day after shattering the previous record, posting 1,225 new cases Thursday and another 1,306 Friday.

The Oregon Health Authority also reported 24 new Covid-related deaths in those two days, raising the total toll to 812.

Covid-19 hospitalizations are also on a steady rise, with an estimated 412 Oregonians currently in the hospital for the coronvavirus. There were 91 COVID-19 patients in intensive care unit (ICU) beds as of Friday, OHA said.

“I have heard frequently from those who have refused to believe this pandemic is serious if we aren’t seeing hospitalizations and deaths,” OHA Director Patrick Allen said. “Those hospitalizations and deaths are here and are only likely to go up.”

Providence is erecting surge tents and has parked morgue trailers outside its two hospitals in Portland as health officials and front-line health care workers prepare for the worst.

However, Providence medical staff said in a press release they hope Oregonians will do their part to make sure those morgues are never used.

“We could really use everybody’s help, just make it a little easier on us,” said Jaclyn Center, an associate nurse manager at Providence Medical Center. “Wear your mask, stay away from people, if you can. And that will just give us a little bit of room to keep doing the work that we need to do.”

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Oregon Governor Kate Brown, whose new crack-down on social gatherings ahead of the Thanksgiving have drawn outrage from conservatives, called the spike “terrifying.”

“Wear your mask,” the governor said on Facebook. “Limit the number of people you come in close contact with. These small acts of kindness will save lives & hospital capacity. It’s not forever — just for now.”

Brown doubled down on her new restrictions and plans for enforcement during an interview with KGW’s Maggie Vespa Friday, suggesting that people should call the police if they believe their neighbors are violating the statewide cap of no more than six people at a private gathering.

“This is no different than what happens if there’s a party down the street and it’s keeping everyone awake,” Brown said. “What do neighbors do? They call law enforcement because it’s too noisy. This is just like that. It’s like a violation of a noise ordinance.”

In a sign of light at the end of the tunnel, OHA also reported this week on a request for emergency use authorization filed by Pfizer and BioNTech for their new Covid-19 vaccine, which laboratory suggest is at least 90% effective in preventing new infections.

OHA does not know how many doses of these vaccines will be immediately available in Oregon but expects a limited supply.

People who are most at risk will have first access to the vaccine. In Oregon, that will be front-line health care workers who are exposed to the virus in their work.

“The good news comes with a reality check,” the state health authority said. “Vaccination gives us hope that the pandemic will end, but in the meantime, we need to continue safety measures to keep the virus from spreading: Wear a mask, physically distance from others, wash your hands, avoid gatherings and stay home when you’re sick.”

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