By ANDREW SELSKY
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon ramped up efforts Friday to combat a possible outbreak of coronavirus and state health officials said potential challenges include closing schools, businesses and events, and sustained shortages of medical supplies.
Gov. Kate Brown convened a response team that is tasked with coordinating state and local agencies and health authorities in preparation for response to the new virus that causes the disease called COVID-19. So far, there have been no confirmed cases in Oregon.
“The purpose of the Coronavirus Response Team is to ensure we are taking every precaution necessary,” Brown said.
Oregon Health Authority Director Pat Allen was scheduled to appear before the House Health Care Committee Friday afternoon to update lawmakers — those who are not participating in the Republican boycott of the 2020 legislative session — about the authority’s monitoring of the virus in Oregon.
As of this week, 76 people in Oregon were being monitored. Another 178 have completed monitoring without developing symptoms, according to the OHA website. Another two people had developed symptoms of the virus, were monitored, and turned out not to have it.
Some states received federal approval Thursday to conduct tests for the virus at their own labs, which could confirm or rule out potential cases more rapidly than waiting on results from federal labs.
Oregon has not, according to the state health department, which listed having to send all coronavirus testing samples to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, as one of the challenges it could face.
“The CDC has been able to turn around tests in one to two days, which we’d consider a quick turnaround, but it presents a challenge in that we’re still needing to send samples for testing to CDC rather than our own state lab, and that as the volume of specimens needing testing increases, the time lag may as well,” state health department spokesman Jonathan Modie said in an email Friday.
The CDC on Friday reported 459 confirmed cases in the United States.
The governor’s office said that as with earthquakes and other natural disasters, families should have enough food, water, prescription medications, pet food, sanitation supplies and anything else they would need to shelter in place for an extended period of time if it becomes necessary.
The virus causes fever and coughing and, in serious cases, shortness of breath or pneumonia.
It has infected 83,000 people globally and caused more than 2,800 deaths, most of them in China.
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