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COVID-19 in Oregon: A look at PPE, social distancing and unemployment so far

Two months into a global pandemic, we examine what's working in Oregon so far.

PORTLAND, Ore. — It's been just over two months since the world changed so much, so let's revisit three important areas of this pandemic and examine how things are going in Oregon.

Social distancing

Like it or not, social distancing has worked. At one point, health leaders worried the virus was doubling every six days, but now forecasters say we’ve cut the rate of transmission by 70%.

Back on April 1, the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle expected 11 people would be dying from the coronavirus in Oregon each day by May 2.

But now, with transmission cut so much, the institute’s estimate is three coronavirus deaths per day and possibly no deaths by mid-June.

That means a lot of us are going to survive this pandemic and maybe avoid catching the virus at all.

Personal protective equipment for medical workers

This was a huge problem two months ago. But things are looking much better now.

As of May 6, the state government has 1.6 million surgical masks; 87,000 N-95 or KN-95 masks; More than 6,000 gowns; 104,000 face shields; and 33,000 pairs of gloves. Another 4.5 million masks are expected to arrive in Oregon sometime in the next week.

On top of that, the hospital systems have their own supplies, which is a big reason they were allowed to reopen to non-emergency care.

Becky Hultberg, president and CEO of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Care Systems, said the virus created a new normal and higher use of protective gear.

“In that new normal – we have adequate PPE supplies to begin resuming some critical elective procedures. Our supplies have improved, the situation has gotten better in the last few months,” she said.

But not everything is good here. Canceling elective surgeries cost hospitals big time, which means many are struggling to survive and asking for government help.

“We have asked the state of Oregon for $200 million in financial support. Some of that would go to rural hospitals, but our hospitals across the state in both rural and urban areas have had huge financial losses over the last few months,” Hultberg added.

Governor Kate Brown has said she wants to see what the federal government offers before committing state money to the hospitals.

Unemployment

Hundreds of thousands are out of work and dealing with an overwhelmed system in Oregon, which is using old computers and appears to have a future full of struggle.

The department is hiring hundreds, but the stats on their own website do not look good.

They show that on April 8 the department got 2,400 calls and answered just over 1,000.

And nearly a month later, on May 4, they got 2,300 calls and answered 866.

Call wait times in early April were 111 minutes and now they’re 117 minutes.

That means you will need to keep pushing if you have a problem with your benefits—just know that you are swimming upstream and stay strong.

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