By ANDREW SELSKY
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Hospital workers in Oregon are astounded at the community response to an effort to provide those on the front lines of the coronavirus fight with protective masks.
Oregon officials have been disappointed in the response by the federal government to its requests for protective gear. They requested 1 million N95 masks and received about 70,000. Of 1 million surgical masks requested, 287,000 have been received, according a state report. Much of it is past expiration dates.
Some masks have faulty elastic and consequently are not being distributed to Oregon health care workers, said Charles Boyle, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s spokesman.
Other expired equipment, some dating back to the H1N1 outbreak of 2009, is unsuitable for surgical settings, Boyle said.
On March 26, Salem Health, which runs two hospital and several clinics in and around Oregon’s capital city, announced it would hand out kits for people to make masks.
So many cars lined up to receive the kits that a traffic jam ensued. People had to be turned away because the response was so great. All the kits — with enough material to make around 10,000 masks — were handed out the first day.
The people returned home and began assembling the blue masks using cutting boards and sewing machines. Then they began dropping them off this week. By Friday, the last day for dropoff, 10,942 assembled masks had been delivered.
“It’s incredible to see the community come together and put in their time and effort to protect our health care workers during this time,” said Elijah Tanner, a Salem Health spokesman.
The Oregon Health Authority reported Friday that a 71-year-old man from Polk County who had underlying medical conditions has died, raising the state’s death toll to 22.
The health agency also reported 73 new cases of COVID-19. Around 900 people have tested positive in the state for the virus.
Many of those people were likely infected two or more weeks ago, authorities said.
Oregon’s health officer Dean Sidelinger told reporters Thursday that numbers are growing as greater testing capacity identifies more infected people. But he said modeling shows the state won’t see a major spike in cases, as long as stay-at-home orders are heeded, and health-care workers are supplied with enough protective gear.
Meanwhile a prisoner within the Oregon state prison system has tested positive for COVID-19, the Oregon Department of Corrections announced late Thursday. The patient is at Santiam Correctional Institution in Salem and will soon move to an institution with 24-hour nursing care.
“Even with all of our preventative measures, like restricting visiting, social distancing, and suspending any programs, we knew the first case was inevitable because our institutions are microcosm of our communities,” said corrections department director Colette Peters.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
Andrew Selsky is on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselsky