Coronavirus Emerges in Oregon: Updates, Tips and Resources

  The Oregon Health Authority confirmed the state’s first presumptive case of Novel Coronavirus on Friday afternoon February 28. Earlier that morning Governor Kate Brown announced the formation a Coronavirus Response Team to coordinate responses to COVID-19.   

“Our first concern is for this individual, to make sure they’re being cared for and is able to recover,” said OHA Director Patrick Allen. “Our next priority is finding out who this individual had contact with and make sure they know about their risks, and to let them know how they can get care if they need it. We said this was a fast-moving situation, and that has proved to be true.”  

An adult who lives in Washington County started experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 on February 19. On the 28th, a test sample was collected and sent to the Oregon State Public Health Laboratory in Hillsboro. They used the new COVID-19 test kit recently received from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The patient tested positive and is currently receiving medical care.  

“We are awaiting confirmation of the test results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but at this time we are considering this a presumptive case,” said Dean Sidelinger, MD, MSed. He said the person is now receiving appropriate medical care and is isolated.   

PATIENT HAD NOT TRAVELED: According to the OHA, as far as they know, this individual did not travel to a country associated with COVID-19 and they had no known contact with the virus. The origin of the infection is unknown at this time but it is considered a community transmission and is likely the third in the USA.    

PATIENT WORKED AT AN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: The Oregonian reported that the individual is an employee at a Lake Oswego elementary school and the school will be closed until Wednesday for deep cleaning. OHA announced that public health officials will investigate whether others in the school may have been exposed. They will notify anyone they discover may have had close contact with the patient.  

GOVERNOR FORMS CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE TEAM:  Earlier on Friday, Governor Brown announced the formation of a response team made of representatives from the Oregon Health Authority and eleven other agencies. During a press conference, Brown stated that she was not aware of this case when she announced the formation of the Response Team.  

“The risk to Oregonians of contracting the coronavirus remains low,” said Governor Brown. “However, in an escalating global health crisis, we must make sure we are as ready and informed as we can be.”  

According to a news announcement from Brown’s office, the new Coronavirus Response Team plans to meet regularly to coordinate coronavirus response among hospitals, local health authorities, school districts, and community health partners. They will also keep the Governor updated and make recommendations on appropriate precautions to take.  

WHAT TO DO IF YOU THINK YOU’RE INFECTED: As of February 4, 2020, public health authorities started making contact with returning travelers to assess their risk. They ask people to stay home and watch for symptoms for 14 days after their trip.   

Symptoms to watch for include fever, cough, and shortness of breath, according to the CDC. The disease appears to be spread through close contact meaning within 6 feet through “respiratory droplets” when coughing or sneezing. Those experiencing symptoms should call their local health department and health care provider to discuss the next steps such as testing.  

TIPS TO AVOID INFECTION: The OHA issued the following recommendations to prevent the spread of infectious diseases including COVID-19 and flu: 

  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash. 
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. 
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. 
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. 
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that are often touched. 
  • Take care of your health overall. Staying current on your vaccinations, including flu vaccine, eating well and exercising all help your body stay resilient. 
  • Consult CDC’s travel website for any travel advisories and steps to protect yourself if you plan to travel outside of the US. 

 For more information:  

The Oregon Health Authority is currently monitoring possible cases and sharing general information. The CDC also published a resource guide providing information.

By Samantha Sied