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How health officials are working to protect the most vulnerable people from coronavirus

Health officials say you should not visit family members in care facilities or nursing homes if you feel sick at all.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Much of Washington's coronavirus outbreak is hitting a nursing care facility. That has health officials here in Oregon making plans to take care of our most vulnerable.

More than 50 people associated with the nursing home in Kirkland are now being tested for coronavirus, or COVID-19. At least five people connected with that facility have already tested presumptively positive.

Kim Toevs, the Communicable Disease Services Director for the Multnomah County Health Department, said they are working to make sure something similar does not happen here in Oregon.

“If you have any members of your family that are older that are living in any kind of assisted living facility, it's so important, although it's really great to visit them, it's so important to not visit them right now if you're sick,” Toevs explained.

Do not go visit family members in care facilities or nursing homes if you feel sick at all, even if you just feel like you have a minor cold. Elderly and people who have chronic medical conditions are not at a higher risk for catching COVID-19, but if they do get it they have a higher risk of it becoming a serious illness that could be life threatening.

“We've given guidance to all those facilities to be really assertive about asking folks to leave if they do show signs of being sick,” Toevs said.

KGW spoke to the owner of Corner Stone Care Option, a privately run senior care facility in Portland. The facility put up notices around the building telling people not to enter if they feel sick. They also said they are following the same precautions they would for the flu. The facility is also keeping a close eye on their residents and would act quickly if anyone got sick.

Multnomah County is also working to come up with a plan for Portland's homeless population.

“We have concerns about shelters again because when people are close to each other then there could be more transmission and folks living outside, just because some of the burdens of accessing health care, often do have higher rates of chronic medical conditions that may not be well controlled,” Toevs said.

Several organizations are currently meeting to develop special protocols and screening measures. Health officials said they plan to announce the plan this week.

Multnomah County Health Officials said emergency rooms and urgent cares were overwhelmed with people this weekend who were worried about COVID-19, so here are a few things to keep in mind:

Health officials say you do not need to wear a mask.

“The general public doesn’t, there’s not any science showing it helps people,” Toevs explained. “Often times people when they wear masks, the masks aren’t fit to them well. Fiddling with a mask means that you’re touching your face and unfortunately, that puts you at a higher risk for getting an infection because the virus can live on surfaces.”

Officials also recommend businesses and organizations increase cleanings to prevent the virus from spreading. Normal cleaning products can be used.

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