St. Charles CEO: COVID hasn’t gone away; calls for continued vigilance


The CEO of St. Charles Health System said Tuesday that while the news has rightfully shifted to the death of George Floyd and our nation’s racial unrest, the region needs to keep COVID-19 top of mind and remain vigilant in stopping the spread of the disease.

“While our attention has turned and our appetite for staying the course has waned, it is still very important to remember that nothing has actually changed with the virus,” he said in an e-mail update to subscribers. “On Sunday, the state of Oregon had its highest one-day number of positive COVID-19 cases reported since the pandemic began. We continue to see positive cases of COVID-19 in Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson counties.”

Sluka also said St. Charles currently has four patients hospitalized with COVID-19, the highest its had since mid-April.

“Of course, we expected to see hospitalizations increase as reopening began and know that navigating these ups and downs is part of what we at St. Charles are now calling our ‘next normal,'” he said. “We know that the more people interact, the more likely it is the virus will spread. But, we also know how important it is to remain cautious in our behavior.”

Sluka issued a “What Now” video, reminding everyone of what needs to be done as the region continues to open back up after months of quarantine.

You can continue to help your community by doing these four things:

  • Practice good hand hygiene – This means washing frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and if you can’t, please use hand sanitizer.
  • Physically distance from others – This one is really hard, but it does make a difference if you can continue to stay at least six feet away from those not in your immediate family.
  • Wear face coverings when in public – This is such an important way to protect yourself and others while also supporting our businesses in their effort to reopen and stay open.
  • Seek care in the right location 
    • If you’re sick with cold- or flu-like symptoms, stay home to avoid infecting others and contact your primary care provider for advice. However …
    • If you’re experiencing an emergency or need to seek services at one of our facilities, please know that St. Charles is a safe place for all your health care needs. Our Emergency Departments, Immediate Care clinics and Family Care clinics are all set up to ensure safe care. This includes screening at entrances, separate spaces for suspected COVID-19 patients and virtual visits, which allow you to be seen by your provider from the comfort of your home.

Sluka addressed the civil unrest locally and across the nation following the death of George Floyd.

“Let me say here and now that St. Charles stands in unity with our communities to support equity and inclusion for all,” he said. “We do not tolerate racism. We do not tolerate violence. We do not tolerate ignorance of these issues or the inequities in the nation’s health care system that have perpetuated systemic racism.

“Our St. Charles leadership team vows to investigate where our organization may be falling short, to engage in conversations with our diverse populations, to listen, learn and improve. We also commit to educating ourselves to better understand these issues and will continue to look for opportunities to better reflect our communities. ”

He also said COVID-19 and the uprisings across the country are not unrelated.

“I believe it is also critical that we understand the racial tensions we are seeing across the nation are not separate from the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “In many areas communities of color have been hit hardest by the virus and this disparity has added to the collective pain of this moment.”



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