Multnomah Co. veteran is Oregon’s first COVID-19 death

A 70-year-old man in Multnomah County is the first person in the state to die from COVID-19, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

The man was hospitalized at the Portland Veterans’ Affairs Medical Center and died Saturday.

The individual is not connected to the cases at the Oregon Veterans’ Home in Lebanon, according to the OHA.

“While we knew we would arrive at this day at some point, it doesn’t lessen the impact,” said OHA director Patrick Allen. “Our thoughts and deepest sympathy are with the family of this individual who honorably served his country.”

The man, who had underlying health conditions, tested positive for COVID-19 on March 10. The individual had no known contact to a confirmed case and had not traveled to a country where the virus is circulating.

“This is a sobering reminder that this virus is in our community and can be serious for older people and those with underlying conditions,” said Dr. Jennifer Vines Multnomah County Health Officer. “This loss has motivated us to continue our efforts to minimize the impact of this virus on our community.”

Gov. Kate Brown released a statement following the death, calling the man “an honored veteran who served his country to protect the freedoms we all hold dear.”

“The loss of one life to this disease is too many,” she said. “Already, thousands around the world have felt the pain that casts its shadow over one family here in Oregon.”

She said Oregonians can take action together by avoiding large events, following social distancing protocols and staying home when sick.

Earlier this week Brown ordered a ban of all events larger than 250 people and closed the state’s schools until April 1st.

The OHA on Saturday reported four new cases in Oregon: three in Washington County and one in Linn County. The Linn County case is at the Veterans’ Home in Lebanon. One of the Deschutes County cases traveled to a country where the virus is actively spreading. The remaining cases are believed to be community-acquired.

Deschutes County on Friday announced two new cases bringing the local total to three.

“I know it’s difficult to learn that we are seeing more active community spread of COVID-19, but this is something we’ve been expecting,” said Dean Sidelinger, M.D., M.S.Ed, health officer and state epidemiologist, OHA Public Health Division. “It’s a good reminder to take steps to protect yourself, and vulnerable friends and family members, by washing your hands, covering your coughs and sneezes, and staying home if you’re sick.”

Health officials continue to urge all Oregonians to take steps to protect those who are most vulnerable to complications from COVID-19. Those considered “high risk” include adults 60 and older, or anyone with a serious health condition, including lung or heart problems, kidney disease, or diabetes, or anyone who has a suppressed immune system.

People vulnerable to complications should follow federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations to stay home as much as possible and avoid gatherings.

Every resident should take these basic steps to protect those most at risk:

  • Never visit a hospital or long-term-care facility if you have a fever or cough illness.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Stay home if you feel ill.

The COVID-19 virus spreads like the flu, when someone who is sick coughs or sneezes close to another person (close means about 6 feet).

After someone contracts COVID-19, illness usually develops within 14 days. Symptoms mirror those of the flu, including fever, cough, runny nose, headache, sore throat and general feelings of illness. That has made it more difficult for health officials to identify sick individuals and stop the virus from spreading.


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