Deschutes County and the City of Bend on Friday declared a state of emergency to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
“In the past 24 hours, it just got real interesting around the world, as a state declaration and world declaration, so this is kind of it for our citizens on the ground right now,” said County Commissioner Tony DeBone.
The declaration by Bend City Manager Eric King allows more flexibility and authorization to take actions to help protect the health and safety of the community, through a number of means from limiting access to public places, to buying items or services related to health and safety without normal procurement procedures that can take additional time.
“We need to move fast and be nimble in our responses right now, as this is a rapidly evolving situation,” said Mayor Sally Russell. “This declaration should not inspire concern, but rather, should assure the public that the city is taking every precaution possible to prevent the spread of this virus in our community.”
DeBone said the county declaration is an important step as it frees up money, staff and resources to deal with the management and containment of the virus.
“It’s an incident command system keeping track of if we’re going to change people’s schedule, having to ask somebody to work a lot more hours, ordering supplies that we wouldn’t normally order,” DeBone said. “So part of it is the business case of managing an incident but it’s also documenting the fact that this is a health situation that we’re all dealing with right now.”
As of Friday morning, Deschutes County has reported just one presumptive positive case of coronavirus. No other cases have been reported in Crook or Jefferson counties.
Six additional residents of Oregon Veterans’ Home in Lebanon, where two people were diagnosed Thursday with COVID-19, have tested positive for COVID-19 and are presumptive positive cases, Oregon Heath Authority has announced.
The new cases bring Linn County’s total number of presumptive positive cases to eight. There now are 30 cases of the virus statewide, as of 8:13 p.m. Thursday.
Medical professionals say the containment will be crucial as they discuss when, not if, the virus spreads in Deschutes County.
“We do anticipate that we will see more cases of COVID-19 in our community,” said County Preparedness Coordinator Morgan Emerson. “So we really appreciate our commissioners with the declaration of emergency because it really helps enable our public health system to have a more robust response.”
COVID-19 isn’t an abstract idea other people in the world are dealing with now. It’s here and affecting Central Oregonians in a big way.
“It’s time to refer to it as an incident, get some facts and figures out there about how we’re going to manage this incident,” DeBone said. “Also what do we need to do as individuals in our community.”
While this emergency is in place, the City of Bend will not send shut-off notices or shut off water for non-payment of unpaid water bills and will not allow any permitted special events of more than 250 people.
“My primary focus is to restrict the spread of COVID-19 and to maintain the health of our workforce so employees can continue to provide crucial City services,” King said. “I have and will continue to develop emergency policies regarding the use of sick leave, vacation leave, telecommuting, meeting protocols, and more, which will be in effect for the duration of the emergency.”