COEIN Update: Face covering usage, message from St. Charles CEO

Central Oregon Public Health Departments encourage residents to wear cloth face coverings in public settings when physical distancing measures are difficult to maintain, such as grocery stores and pharmacies.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cloth face coverings can help to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community. Cloth face coverings prevent the person wearing the mask from spreading respiratory droplets when talking, sneezing, or coughing. If everyone wears a cloth face covering when out in public, such as going to the grocery store, the risk of exposure to COVID-19 can be reduced for the community. Since someone can spread the virus before symptoms start, or even they never have symptoms, wearing a cloth face covering protects others. Face coverings worn by others can help protect you from getting the virus from people carrying the virus.

When wearing a cloth face covering:


*      Wear a covering when you can’t maintain 6 ft of distance from people outside your household (e.g., grocery store, pharmacy)

*      Fully cover your mouth and nose with the face covering

*      Limit gaps between face and covering

*      Wash or sanitize your hands before touching your face or covering

*      Remove covering without touching your eyes, mouth, or nose

*      Launder covering when not in use, or when soiled

*      Continue taking other precautions, like physical distancing and regular hand washing.


*      Use someone else’s face covering

*      Touch the inside of your face covering

*      Share your face covering

*      Go out in public if you’re experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, except for medical care.

Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance. For children 2-8, cloth face covering should only be worn under adult supervision to ensure that the child can breathe safely and avoid choking or suffocation.


While the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 in Central Oregon is now low, we don’t know if it will stay that way. We don’t yet understand if this virus will behave like the flu, allowing us to anticipate its resurgence, or if the social distancing measures we keep in place moving forward will be enough to prevent localized outbreaks. We can’t reliably predict when a vaccine will be available and—absent one—how long this virus will have to circulate before we have sufficient herd immunity.

With so many questions still unanswered, it’s critically important that we responsibly manage the phased reopening of our communities. St. Charles is committed to helping do that.

As part of this process, St. Charles experts have actively worked with officials in Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson counties to provide important data as they develop their reopening plans. A county’s eligibility to reopen is in part contingent upon the local health system’s capacity to handle another surge in patients. Thanks to your efforts to “flatten the curve,” which bought us time to expand our acute bed capacity, stockpile more personal protective gear and provide more testing, we can confidently say we’re prepared to take care of our community.

At the same time our counties are planning their recovery, so are we. Some of our services are beginning to resume, albeit not at the same levels as before. Starting today, we will be performing more elective surgeries at our hospitals, taking care of more patients whose care has been delayed. Our Home Health team is working in tandem to care for more patients as a result of the higher volume of surgeries.

Still other services keep evolving. St. Charles Medical Group clinics are encouraging patients to continue preventive care through video, phone and email visits—and the results are encouraging. In February, only 106 patients “saw” their provider via a phone visit (and none by video). By April, more than 6,200 patients had visited with their provider over the phone and another 3,500 via video.

As we ease back into public life, St. Charles and our local health departments will be working closely to monitor the prevalence of the virus, as well as those other benchmarks that indicate our ability to handle an outbreak. If the situation changes, so will our response.

At the same time, we are also committed to supporting our local economy. Just like Central Oregon was here for St. Charles when we needed the support most, we will be here for you as you begin to navigate the choppy waters of reopening. We’re still having conversations with our business leaders to understand what that may look like and how we can best help, but I assure you we are going to play a role in helping our local businesses safely reopen—and stay open.

We owe it to you.


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