Media Room

REMARKS AS PREPARED

Governor Kate Brown
Coronavirus Press Conference
March 18, 2020


Good morning everyone. Governor Kate Brown here.

I just finished a phone call with my colleagues, Governors across the states. Just to be really clear, we are all wrestling with these same difficult decisions. 

We are all making the best decisions we can with the information we have.

There is no single right protocol.

We are constantly getting new information, and constantly escalating decisions as infections rise.

For example: Gov. Cuomo needs 30,000 more ventilators than they have. That’s in New York alone.

All of us are struggling to expand testing capacity and have adequate PPE and ventilators.

Governors Hogan and Kelly have tasked their school districts with providing child care for health care workers and public safety workers.

That’s what I am doing.

In terms of Oregon updates, I want to start with the executive order I announced yesterday, extending a statewide school closure through April 28. A total of 6 weeks. 
 
Through this executive order, school districts are to provide learning support and supplemental services to students and families during the closure period. 

This includes meals and child care for essential health care professionals and first responders.

I have also directed the Oregon Department of Education, Oregon Health Authority, and Department of Human Services to support public schools in continuing mental health services during this time.

But this action is absolutely necessary right now as we look to flatten the curve and slow transmission of COVID-19.

Many ask: why close schools? Aren’t children the least at risk from COVID-19?

Yes. Data tells us children — thank goodness — are at the lowest risk of dying from COVID-19. But closing schools is just one piece of our fight against this virus. 

We all need to be social distancing as much as possible. For the time being, this is a part of that.

So why not shut down childcare facilities too, you may ask?

This is a decision I think about constantly. Right now, we need to make sure our health care providers and first responders can do their jobs. 

Providing child care is a critical way to support them. Every state understands that we have to do this to support our health care system.

I have a few other updates I want to share:​

  • The Emergency Coordination Center is working on identifying around 1,000 temporary hospital beds across the state, primarily to move non-COVID-19 patients in recovery to free up space in primary hospitals for COVID-19 patients.

  • The Oregon Medical Station is a temporary hospital the state purchased several years ago for use in the case of a crisis. It’s a 250-bed emergency hospital, and it’s being set up right now at the State Fairgrounds in Salem. It should be up by this Friday.

  • The Emergency Coordination Center is now operating a partial swing shift until 10pm every day. On Monday I announced they were running 8-5, and that has been expanded now.

  • Increasing Oregon’s testing capacity is one of my top priorities. It’s critical for us to increase our capacity so that we can fully assess the spread of COVID-19 in Oregon. 

  • Our testing capacity is expanding, but it will be gradual. But, every Oregonian won’t be able to be tested immediately. It is my priority to focus our testing capacity where it is most needed,  including our health care workers and folks in our congregate care facilities, and then expand the testing criteria to maximize available testing capacity. 

  • OHA has signed an initial contract for 20,000 tests with one of these private providers.

I also want to talk about other policies I’m considering right now. The areas we are working on are:

  • Further guidance for colleges and universities.

  • On PPE, personal protective equipment, we are evaluating how to locate and obtain all the PPE in the state. That means stock in dental offices, from veterinarians, even contractors. We have begun receiving calls about donations of PPE from some groups, and are working on how to facilitate this.

  • I’m also evaluating certain options around opening up more transport options by suspending enforcement of various driver, vehicle and trucking industry requirements. For example, recently expired vehicle registrations and drivers licenses.

Finally, other things that are occurring today include:

  • My staff updated the legislature’s Coronavirus committee at their first meeting today.

  • The Joint Task Force on Health Care System Response is meeting today, and every day this week, to work on the items we announced Monday regarding hospital capacity and emergency services.

  • Yesterday, after our morning discussion, I talked with the head of the Federal Reserve Branch of San Francisco, Mary Daly, about the state of Oregon’s economy.

  • Also yesterday, I held a meeting organized by Grantmakers of Oregon and SW Washington that is mobilizing over 100 foundations to support the community during this crisis.

That’s the end of my readout today and I’m happy to answer questions.