DHS expands COVID recovery units to aid hospitals; Brown provides virus updates

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The Department of Human Services will expand its network for COVID-19 recovery units to seven long-term care facilities, which will add more than 200 beds for COVID patients in Bend, Medford, Salem and other cities in Oregon. 

The move will help ease demand for hospital beds statewide, according to Dr. Dean Sidelinger, state epidemiologist for the Oregon Health Authority.

On Friday, Sidelinger and Gov. Kate Brown provided several updates regarding the COVID-19 vaccine and Oregon hospital capacity at a press conference.

Sidelinger said the OHA reported 1,611 more cases and 16 new deaths in Oregon Friday. He said — while cases in Oregon are spiking — it seems Gov. Brown’s recent shut-down mandates were helpful in slowing some of the virus’ spread.

“We’re not seeing the rapid rise in cases that we feared,” Sidelinger said.

Oregon is set to receive around 146,000 Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in December, but there are still many steps that need to be taken before community-wide immunity, according to Brown. Brown said the state needs to obtain more federal funding and to persuade more Oregonians of the vaccines’ safety. In a September survey, four in ten Oregonians said they would take a COVID vaccine.

“We can’t do it without federal resources to deliver the doses and support our distribution and outreach efforts,” Brown said. 

At the press conference, Brown invited Portland resident Darrah Isaacson to share her story as a COVID “long-hauler.” Isaacson caught COVID-19 ten months ago, around the time of her 40th birthday, and has been sick since. 

“There are thousands of us around the country that are dealing with debilitating long-term chronic possibly life-long symptoms due to COVID,” Isaacson said. 

When she got sick, Isaacson experienced a severe cough, unrelenting headache, fever and fatigue. Today, she still has a wide range of symptoms affecting her lungs, brain and body, she said. Before the virus, she was active and didn’t have any underlying health conditions.

“I can barely walk around the block now, ten months after my initial infection,” Isaacson said. 

She’s visited the ER three times since June, and there are many nights she wakes up gasping for air. She often doesn’t have the energy to work or play with her five-year-old daughter, which has taken a toll on their family, Isaacson said.

“A few months ago she said, ‘I wish you were like a real mommy,’” Isaacson said. “That was truly heartbreaking.” 

Isaacson spoke directly to young people who don’t believe the virus will affect them and people who believe the virus is similar to the flu. She asked Oregonians to make sacrifices to stop the virus from affecting more families like hers. 

“All of us have the opportunity to come together, to be part of the solution,” Isaacson said. 

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