Saying COVID has “never been more of a threat to Central Oregonians,” St. Charles Health Systems’ CEO on Tuesday joined a chorus of health care officials statewide in urging people not to gather in groups this Thanksgiving.
Joe Sluka said in a somber new YouTube video there’s good news ahead as plans to distribute a vaccine will be made public in the coming weeks.
But right now, Deschutes County cases are as high as they’ve ever been and recent numbers show there’s no slowing down.
“So now is the time to double down on our efforts to finish strong,” he said. “Hospitals across the nation are being overwhelmed. And you have the power to stop that from happening here.”
Local cases hit a weekly high of 245 last week. Since Sunday, Deschutes County has already reported 126 more cases.
Updated figures show there are 1,118 active cases in Deschutes County.
“That means you and your loved ones have a higher likelihood of catching COVID-19 than at any other time during the pandemic,” he said. “This not a hoax. This is not a scare tactic. This is the truth.”
In an email to subscribers, Sluka revealed that during a St. Charles COVID-19 Incident Command call last week, the Bend hospital was the only hospital in the state with any available ICU beds.
“Suddenly, the refrain I’ve been hearing from colleagues throughout the nation hit incredibly close to home,” he said. “Our health care workers can no longer be considered the front line of this fight. We are now your last resort. You are on the front line.”
St. Charles has a total of 30 ICU beds in Bend and Redmond.
At one point last week, only one ICU bed was available at the Bend hospital. (Not all ICU beds are taken by COVID patients.)
On Tuesday, the hospital reported it had 14 COVID patients and one was in ICU.
“You can make a difference by choosing not to gather for Thanksgiving this year,” Sluka wrote. “Follow the advice and ideas we have received from several of our community members and have a virtual meal – share recipes with your loved ones and cook together from a distance. Make a new tradition by taking a piece of leftover pumpkin pie on a hike and eating it at the end of your climb. Take time to remember how much we still have to be grateful for – even in a year that has been fraught with challenges.”