Hospitals call on Brown to issue shelter-in-place order

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The Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems has called on Gov. Kate Brown to issue a shelter-in-place order requiring most businesses to close and require Oregonians to hunker down in their homes during the coronavirus outbreak.

“Yesterday, our board recommended that the Governor take the strongest possible action when it comes to social distancing measures now,” said Becky Hultberg, CEO of the association, which represents 62 acute-care hospitals in Oregon. “We support action on the state or local level to further limit retail commerce, unnecessary travel, and adopt 'shelter in place' strategies.”

On Wednesday, The Portland Tribune reported that Dr. Renee Edwards, chief medical officer for Oregon Health & Sciences University, said the university would support a shelter-in-place order from Brown.

But during a Thursday press call, Brown said she’s holding off on issuing a shelter-in-place order.

Shortly after Brown made her remarks, the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems issued a statement calling on the governor to adopt a shelter-in-place order to prevent the spread of the contagion.

The governor has taken steps to prevent further cases of the coronavirus in Oregon including shutting down schools as well as restaurants and bars. Brown and public health officials have also urged people to adopt “social distancing” measures, such as telecommuting and not coming into close contact with others.

The actions of Brown have been aimed at preventing a surge of people seeking care at hospitals, which could overwhelm the health care system and a rise in deaths.

This week seven counties in California’s Bay Area, which has been badly hit by the outbreak, issued shelter-in-place orders that shut nearly all businesses and directed residents to stay at home for three weeks. Some exceptions are made for getting food and medicine or checking on relatives.

During the press call, Brown said her office is taking steps to be prepared for such an order in case one is needed. She said she is forming an interagency group to define “essential businesses” that will be exempt from the order.

“I want to emphasize that this is only preparatory,” she said. “We are not considering a shelter-in-place order at this time. But we do want to be prepared.”

Previously, Brown stated she wasn’t pursuing orders to close schools and shut down bars and restaurants only to reverse course shortly after.

On Thursday, Brown didn’t give precise criteria for when she would issue such an order but said she would rely on input from public health experts and epidemiologists.

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