LA GRANDE — Health authorities have not reported any cases of of the novel coronavirus in Union County, but local organizations are preparing for COVID-19.
The Center for Human Development in La Grande has been lending its guidance and assistance across the county, working with schools, health care providers and the public to keep people informed and aware of what is happening.
"We are an agency serving as the local public health department in Union County," said Carrie Brogoitti said, the public health administrator for the center. "We are helping with identifying the disease and preventing the spread, in addition to providing information to the community."
COVID-19 is one of many reportable diseases, which means if someone seeks medical attention from a health care provider, that person will contact the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The call lets the CHD help the provider determine if the illness is COVID-19 based on clinical presentation.
"If it was in fact the virus, we would then help guide treatment," Brogoitti said.
Grande Ronde Hospital, La Grande, in an announcement on its website stated while this is relatively new virus, the hospital has been preparing for public health issues, medical emergencies and disasters year-round.
"We take preparedness seriously 365 days a year," the hospital reported.
The hospital and its clinics "treat patients with a variety of infectious diseases on a daily basis," according to the statement. "These patients are isolated and treated in appropriate spaces by our trained staff using specialized equipment."
Grande Ronde also reported it is working with local agencies to ensure it is prepared for an possible influx of patients due to COVID-19.
The North Powder School District closed Wednesday for a "deep cleaning" of its facilities in response to the virus.
"This decision is out of an abundance of caution for the health of our students and staff," Superintendent Lance Dixon stated in an announcement. "There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Union County and no students or staff have tested positive for the virus."
The remaining school districts in Union and Wallowa counties reported they have no plans to close but have increased sanitation efforts.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown in a letter Tuesday to Vice President Mike Pence stated Oregon needs 400,000 respirator masks, gowns and gloves, disposable protective suits and up to 100 ventilators in case the coronavirus spreads more widely in the state.
Pence, who President Donald Trump appointed to lead the U.S. government’s response to the outbreak, spoke via videoconference Monday with the nation's governors. Following up on that, Brown wrote to Pence, describing what the state is doing to combat the spread amid three confirmed cases and what its needs are. She asked for increased flexibility on criteria for testing for the COVID-19 virus "to better assess the burden of the disease in Oregon resulting from community spread within the state."
She expressed worry that rural hospitals and health centers could be overwhelmed if the cases spread around the state. One of the three known cases emerged Monday in Umatilla County. Public health authorities have not determined how he caught the virus.
"We have heard significant concerns from our small rural hospital and health practices about potential workforce shortages and their ability to maintain appropriate staffing levels should this virus spread further," Brown advised Pence.
Oregon may now have 300-500 residents who are or were unknowingly carrying the coronavirus, Dean Sidelinger, a health officer and epidemiologist with the Oregon Health Authority, told reporters Monday.
Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Tina Kotek said the Oregon state Capitol in Salem would remain "as open and accessible as possible to the general public" and that its restrooms, door handles, railings and other high-touch areas were being thoroughly cleaned.
The Oregon Health Authority's website said test results for eight people are pending. Brown said 86 people are being monitored.
A total of 226 people completed being monitored without developing symptoms or were determined to have no risk, the health department website said.
The Center for Human Development has created a page on its website to provide the most recent information regarding the virus, including a space where any confirmed cases will be recorded and announced.
"We want to make sure people know where to go to get good fact-based information about the virus," Brogoitti said. "If a Union County Case is identified we will update the page with county specific information."
She said if a case of COVID-19 is confirmed, a communicable disease nurse will conduct an investigation into whether anyone has come into contact with the person who has the virus.
COVID-19 is thought by the Center for Disease Control is to be spread through person-to-person contact. The current risk assessment of the virus, according to CDC stated, for most of the American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus at this time, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low. Those who have an elevated risk of exposure include health care providers, close contacts with COVID-19 cases, such as family, and those who have traveled to international locations where widespread transmission has occurred. These countries include China, Iran, Italy and South Korea.
According to the CDC, there is no vaccine for COVID-19, and there is no medication specifically to treat it. The United States has 80 reported, with nine resulting in death.
— The Associated Press contributed to this article