Three cases of COVID-19 coronavirus were confirmed in Tillamook County in the past week. County officials expect the number to go up.
The Tillamook County Public Health Department reported Sunday, March 29, there was a third positive case of coronavirus in the county. The person who was diagnosed is a south-county resident over the age of 65-years-old who is reportedly hospitalized in the Portland area and is being monitored.
On Saturday, Public Health announced the second coronavirus case in the county, a north-county resident who was reportedly convalescing at home under quarantine. The second person with COVID-19 in Tillamook County was not reported to be a contact of the county's first positive case.
The county’s first case of coronavirus was reported Thursday. That person is a health care provider between 35 and 54 years old who works at Tillamook County Community Health Centers and is said to be convalescing at home under quarantine.
“Like all health care staff, this provider and other health center staff have been using recommended precautions and personal protective equipment to limit exposure and transmission," said Lisa Steffey, Community Health Centers. "Consequently, we expect to have limited the transmission to other staff or patients.”
The Community Health Centers clinic in Tillamook was closed immediately for a deep cleaning after the first case was confirmed and staff were sent home. The clinic was reopened Monday, March 30, following a Public Health investigation. Tillamook County Public Health is a department of the Tillamook County Community Health Centers.
Following the report of the first case, Public Health said its staff moved immediately to contact the person to gather information on others they had come in contact with, and in turn to contact those people about self-quarantine guidelines. Public Health staff reportedly check twice daily with positive-case contacts to ensure they are properly self-isolating.
Nehalem Bay Fire & Rescue has confirmed one of its members tested positive for COVID-19. The person reportedly has “very mild symptoms” and is expected to return to work soon. Fire Chief Chris Beswick told county commissioners Monday that social distancing measures were put in place early on, making the threat of viral spread minimal, but staff and volunteers are still being monitored closely.
A total of 12,883 coronavirus tests have been completed in Oregon, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with 12,277 returned negative as of Monday. The CDC reports 16 people have died from the virus in the state and at least 140 have been hospitalized, with 39 patients on ventilators.
Oregon Health Authority reported 58 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, bringing the state total to 606. No new deaths were reported. In Tillamook County, 66 negative test results have been received as of Monday.
County health officials and local hospital staff have declined to say how many test kits are available in the county. Marlene Putman, administrator at Tillamook County Community Health Centers, previously said the local turnaround time for COVID-19 tests is around 48 hours, but that timeline has been widely questioned by the public.
Testing delays are a growing concern nationwide. The Oregonian reports some people are waiting a week or more to obtain their coronavirus test results. Some private labs that have become inundated and unable to handle a deluge of tests amid a global pandemic.
As of this past week, nearly 4,600 Oregonians and 345,000 Americans had received coronavirus results. Countless others cannot yet be screened. The United States lacks enough tests to go around, suppressing the real tally and making it easier for the virus to spread from people with mild symptoms who do not know they’re infected.
Delays in confirming lab results leave people with the virus at risk of exposing family members if they don’t take precautions in shared households as they await diagnosis. At the same time, those delays leave people who aren’t actually infected facing unnecessarily long quarantines, unable to shop for groceries, see family or go outside.
Adventist Health Tillamook declined to comment on specifics regarding coronavirus pandemic preparation for Tillamook County residents. Cherie Plaisted, marketing and communication manager, said Adventist Health Tillamook is working with the health department on testing, has enough supplies on hand to care for COVID-19 patients, and is part of a hospital system with access to additional supplies, beds and expertise.
Plaisted would not say how many COVID-19 tests have been conducted at Adventist Health Tillamook or how many test kits are available. She also declined to answer regarding the number of intensive care beds that are available at the hospital and how many ventilators are in stock.
“We have highly trained infection prevention practitioners who closely follow the guidelines of the CDC and the local public health department. Our hospitals manage infectious diseases on a regular basis and maintain isolation rooms,” Plaisted said. “Ongoing training and drills are underway on the proper donning and doffing of personal protective equipment, as well as on the protocols for the identification, testing and treatment of a patient with COVID-19-like symptoms.”
Health industry experts at QuoteWizard recently analyzed Kaiser Family Foundation data on hospital beds in America. The study found Oregon has an average of 1.66 hospital beds and 2.88 certified physicians per 1,000 people, ranking eighth-worst hospital capacity in the nation.
Oregon was also found to be the number-one worst ranked for hospital beds. From 2014 to 2018, hospital beds in the state decreased by 5.88 percent, according to the study.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced Sunday that federal emergency aid has been made available for the state of Oregon to supplement the state, tribes and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by the coronavirus pandemic beginning on Jan. 20 and continuing.
Federal funding is available to state, tribal, and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance under public assistance, for all areas affected by COVID-19 at a federal cost share of 75 percent.
Gov. Kate Brown called the declaration an important first step, but far from everything Oregon needs from the federal government.
"We have a number of significant requests pending with the federal government, first and foremost Oregon’s request for more personal protective equipment from the national stockpile,” Brown said.
"A significant part of our disaster declaration request was for individual assistance for all Oregon counties and tribes—including child care assistance, crisis counseling, disaster case management, disaster legal services, and disaster unemployment assistance for Oregonians,” Brown said. “That request is still also pending, and would provide significant relief to Oregon families if approved.”
Organizations eligible for recovery efforts on a cost-sharing basis for emergency protective measures include, but are not limited to: management, control and reduction of immediate threats to public health and safety; emergency operation and coordination costs; disinfection of eligible public facilities; medical sheltering; and purchase and distribution of food, water, medicine and other consumable supplies, including personal protective equipment.
COVID-19 is a highly infectious illness. Local and state health officials continue to urge all Oregonians to take steps to protect those who are most vulnerable to complications from COVID-19.
Those considered “high risk” include adults 60 and older, or anyone with a serious health condition, including lung or heart problems, kidney disease, or diabetes, or anyone who has a suppressed immune system.
To help control the spread of the illness the public is urged to follow Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s March 23 executive order to stay home to the maximum extent possible.
Everyone should take these basic steps to protect those most at risk:
Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
Stay home if you feel ill