Federal funds will bolster Oregon's COVID-19 response
Oregon will soon get roughly $7.3 million in federal funds as part of an emergency package approved by Congress in early March to help the state in its COVID-19 outbreak response.
Gov. Kate Brown wrote March 2 to Vice President Mike Pence outlining the state's need for up to $10 million a month for measures such as contact tracing, staffing, bolstering testing capacity at the state's public health lab, building a stock of personal protective gear for hospital workers and reimbursing various state agencies like the education and corrections departments.
Brown's spokesman Charles Boyle said the governor was told during a telephone call this week with Pence and senior health officials that the funding Oregon has been awarded by the federal. Centers for Disease Control would be available within 30 days.
"For ongoing operations, the Oregon Health Authority is telling us they have the resources they need currently to continue responding to the coronavirus," Boyle said. "We are staying in touch with the federal government and Oregon's congressional delegation about what resources might be needed in the future."
The state Emergency Board on Monday, March 9, appropriated $5 million from state reserves for the state's COVID-19 response, although there's no breakdown of how the money will be spent.
The additional funding comes as a new presumptive positive case was identified in Oregon's most populous county, bringing the state's total to 15 positive cases in seven counties. As of Tuesday, March 10, there were 215 tests that came back negative, with 67 results pending. A total of 295 Oregonians remain under investigation for the disease. Another 302 Oregonians have completed monitoring without developing symptoms.
More test kits coming
Concerns surfaced March 9 that Oregon was running out of tests for COVID-19, but a shipment of enzymes critical to the testing process received March 10 from the CDC replenished Oregon's supply. More test kits arriving Wednesday, March 11, will give the state the capacity to test up to 4,800 for the time being, according to Jonathan Modie, spokesman for the health authority.
Health Authority Director Pat Allen told legislators Tuesday in a daily update phone conference that the state is no longer the "volume testing resource" with two major labs — LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics — coming online to allow health care providers to send in samples for testing.
"Clinicians at their discretion can start using those labs," Modie confirmed. "It's huge, and we're really excited about it."
Modie noted that while the basic instructions from public health officials to be vigilant about such steps as washing hands and covering seem simple, they're more important than ever with the virus passing the point of containment and moving into a full-fledged outbreak. Those simple steps are critical, he said, for Oregon's residents helping public health officials in stopping the spread of the disease. He also encouraged people feeling sick to avoid contact with vulnerable populations, especially senior citizens living in close quarters at residential facilities.
"We're in the mitigation phase," Modie said. "We need people to be very serious about what has been characterized as almost overly simple steps that they can take to reduce the risk."
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