COVID-19 Death Toll Delivered by a Clown

An Oregon Health Authority official gave an update on the progression of COVID-19 while dressed as a clown.   

In a  video released on Oct. 14, Dr. Claire Poché, health adviser at OHA and general pediatrician, removed her mask to display the smeared red smile and hyper-extended eyebrows of a clown as she delivered the daily the coronavirus death toll, among other harrowing statistics. 

The video went viral after Oregonian/OregonLive journalist Samantha Swindler criticized it on Twitter on Oct. 27, saying “I’m sorry but who at the Oregon Health Authority thought this was a good idea?” Her post has been retweeted over 2,000 times.  

The primary purpose of the video was to inform people of COVID-safe Halloween activities, which is why the staff sported costume attire. However, before getting to the main topic, they discussed the sobering numbers.  

“We thought we’d start by giving you a quick updated on where we are as a state with COVID-19,” Poché said. “As of today, there have been 38,160 cases of COVID-19 in Oregon, with 390 new cases being reported today. Sadly, we are also reporting three deaths today bringing the state-wide total for COVID-19-related deaths to 608.”  

While Poché was the first to speak on the livestream, she was not the only staff member in costume. Health adviser Dr. Shimi Sharief donned an animal onesie while discussing masks and trick or treating safety issues in leu of social distancing. Neither doctor made note of their costumes to their audience, choosing to maintain a calm and professional demeanor throughout,  

OHA communications director Robb Cowie responded to the criticism in a statement, which described the portions of the livestream as regrettable.   

“We regret that, earlier this month, three tragic COVID-19 deaths were announced during a Facebook Live event focused on preventing the spread of COVID-19 during Halloween celebrations,” the statement said.  

By Jessica Goddard