PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon’s largest hospital is preparing for a surge in coronavirus patients by reducing non-essential surgeries and halting all medical research except that dedicated to the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of COVID-19, Oregon Health & Science University said Monday.
The hospital said it expected a surge in patients “as early as this week, but most certainly next week,” and said those individuals would require hospitalization and intensive care. All non-critical staff were strongly urged to work from home if possible and visitors were being limited to two people over age 16, the hospital said.
Legacy Health, another major hospital network, closed its hospitals to the general public and limited visits to one healthy person over age 16 who was accompanying a patient. Pediatric patients, end-of-life patients, and patients in the birth center will be allowed two visitors.
“Most health care professionals have faced challenging times as well as joyful, fulfilling times in their careers. This is going to be one of the challenging times,” OHSU said in its statement.
Gov. Kate Brown was to give a news conference later Monday with hospital officials to provide more details.
Brown also on Monday held off, at least for now, on a shutdown of bars and restaurants around the state. In a brief media call, she made a plea for younger, healthier people to keep their distance from others, warning they could be asymptomatic carriers of the coronavirus and that “following the guidelines on social distancing is a matter of life and death for others.”
Brown stopped short of the restaurant ban, however, after talking with elected officials around the state who told her that restaurants provide a lot of meals to the elderly and vulnerable people, especially in rural communities.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Sunday said he would direct all restaurants and bars to close in Oregon’s northern neighbor, though restaurants could still offer takeout and delivery services. Many other governors around the country have issued similar bans, including Illinois, Ohio and Massachusetts.
Brown also told reporters in a conference call that a White House “testing czar” said private labs will have the capacity to do 1 million tests this week, 2 million next week and 5 million the week after for COVID-19.
“That’s good news,” said Brown.
Oregon officials said Sunday that the state lab had materials on hand to process only up to 1,000 tests.
There are currently 39 confirmed cases in Oregon. Test results for 182 other people are pending, the Oregon Health Authority’s web site said. State health officials suspect there are hundreds of undiagnosed cases and that if left unchecked, the number could blossom into the tens of thousands.
Oregon has reported one death: a Multnomah County man in his 70s with underlying health problems who was hospitalized at the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center and died on Saturday. A staff member and nine residents of an Oregon Veterans’ Home, in Lebanon, have also tested positive.
Selsky contributed to this report from Salem, Oregon.