Gov. Kate Brown on Sunday thanked Oregonians for stepping up to donate personal protective equipment but said the state is still falling short in arming healthcare workers with adequate safety gear to battle COVID-19.
“I want to sincerely thank every single individual and organization who contributed to this effort,” Brown said. “You truly reflect the Oregon way––coming together in difficult times for the good of Oregonians most in need.”
In Central Oregon, donations poured into local schools and drop-off locations once the call went out for donations.
But Brown said in a press release health care workers across the state are still reusing PPE and even making their own masks and face shields due to national PPE shortages.
Thousands of Central Oregonians also started crafting hand-sewn masks for hospitals before it was even clear if it was possible for them to be used.
Late last week St. Charles issued a how-to guide for the hand-sewn masks, although it’s unclear if those are being distributed across the hospital system.
The effort must continue in anticipation of the surge of COVID-19 patients that will need treatment in the coming weeks.
The Oregon Dental Association (ODA) was among the first organizations leading the way through a donation drive that resulted in more than 60,000 masks and about 600,000 gloves, gowns, and face shields from dentists across Oregon.
ODA completed the drive after the Brown’s March 19 call to conserve personal protective equipment, which is essential when diagnosing, treating, and caring for individuals with COVID-19.
“Health care workers cannot safely treat COVID-19 patients without personal protective equipment, and I have directed the state Emergency Coordination Center (ECC) to focus state resources on procuring as much PPE as possible,” she said.
In addition to the contributions of the ODA, the ECC has received over 104,000 masks and 273,000 gloves from private donations, Brown said.
However, a far greater amount of PPE will still be necessary to fill the need of health care workers to treat Oregon’s anticipated surge of COVID-19 patients––a need which only the federal government has the resources to meet, Brown said.
Also late Sunday, the union representing many of Oregon’s healthcare workers announced a Monday show of unity (via Zoom) with Brown, Sen. Jeff Merkley and others “demanding the Trump administration to immediately invest in the health and safety of every worker,” according to a release from Jay Parasco, a political strategist for SEIU Local 503.
“Frontline workers will share how a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) is endangering their ability to keep themselves, their consumers, and larger communities safe,” Parasco said.
The union and leaders will demand the “immediate distribution of the masks and equipment held in the Strategic National Stockpile” along with identifying reserves in other industries and redistributing them to frontline workers.
Additionally, the group will call for the administration to ensure “all frontline workers across all settings and emergency response workers can be tested easily to slow the spread of the virus.”
Bend Rep. Cheri Helt announced in a conference call last week the state had received 87,000 masks, 9,000 gowns and 14,000 pairs of gloves – roughly 25% of what the state had asked for from a federal stockpile.
It’s unclear how much of that equipment would make its way to Central Oregon
Governor Brown issued Executive Order 20-10 on March 19, in response to a risk of a severe shortage of personal protective equipment in the state. Without this equipment, health care providers on the front line of the coronavirus public health emergency are at risk of exposure and infection, she said.
“I know these are challenging times for all Oregonians, including the medical providers who have halted all non-urgent procedures in response to my recent executive order,” she said. “Doing so allows us to conserve and redirect these critical resources to our state’s COVID-19 response. The contributions Oregonians have made so far are a great start, but Oregon’s health care workers will need still more PPE as this public health crisis continues. We must continue to do everything possible to make sure they have the equipment they need.”