REMARKS AS PREPARED
Governor Kate Brown
Coronavirus Press Conference
March 25, 2020
Good morning everyone.
I want to start by saying thank you. My team and I were heartened to see many of you, and your news organizations, sharing the information from our Stay Home, Save Lives public awareness campaign.
We are incredibly grateful for your help spreading the word about how to stay safe from COVID-19, and the importance of staying home now. Thank you.
I had the opportunity to speak with my fellow governors from across the country. Every single state is dealing with PPE issues in some form or another, which is one of my biggest concerns.
It is unacceptable that health care workers currently lack the necessary resources to protect themselves and their patients. As you know, we have been working to tap federal supplies and we have received about 25% of our request.
I learned this morning that my fellow Governors are encountering the same levels of PPE of what they have asked for.
But every state in the U.S. is competing to secure these scarce products. There simply is not enough to go around in the timeframe that we all need. What is available is being prioritized for hotspots like New York, California, and Washington, leaving Oregon with few options.
But here’s the deal: we have the ability to make more. Right here in Oregon. Companies have the experience, facilities, and equipment to scale up manufacturing of PPE RIGHT NOW.
So what’s the barrier?
The federal government. They could easily provide clear guidance from the FDA, the CDC and NIOSH — that’s the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health — to fast-track the approval processes for the manufacturing of respiratory masks and surgical gowns.
It is extremely alarming to hear that doctors and nurses feel like they need to re-use their PPE and risk their own health and safety. Or resorting to makeshift PPE because it is otherwise not available.
I am grateful to the companies that have stepped up to help. But voluntary production will not fix this problem at this time.
I want to be clear: if these resources were available on the commercial market, I would have bought them.
What is unclear to me is why the federal Administration refuses to direct industries to manufacture critical PPE.
The federal government is not providing the correct specs, and in turn, these companies don’t have liability for what they’re making. Nor can we reliably use them for our health care workers.
I’m not exaggerating when I say this outrageous lack of action will result in lost lives. Including those of our health care workers.
I plan to call the Vice President today and today I sent a letter to him and Secretary Azar. I’ve spoken with all fellow governors today. They agree. We are in the same boat. No one knows why.
A few other updates:
We received the 4,000 swabs from HHS at our State Lab yesterday. I understand both Legacy and Kaiser are now processing tests in-house as of today.
Following up on one of yesterday’s questions: Oregonians who believe their workplace is not complying with social distancing standards, and as a result feel at risk, may file a report with Oregon BOLI. OSHA is also taking complaints of non-compliance from members of the public. Those complaints can be filed online, or by phone to a local field office.
The American Red Cross has a very short supply of blood and needs donations. To donate blood, please go to redcrossblood.org and make an appointment. There aren’t blood drives now but we still need blood, so please donate.
I’ve called on HHS Secretary Azar to open a special enrollment period for Oregonians to buy health insurance and apply for federal subsidies through healthcare.gov. The open enrollment deadline passed on December 15 and does not open again until November. It is critically important that Oregonians who are uninsured or underinsured have access to a special enrollment period.
Yesterday I received a detailed request from members of the media, including from the Oregon Society of Professional Journalists, to improve report-outs from the Oregon Health Authority. I directed OHA to look closely at the request and share all COVID-19 information with the public that does not compromise patient privacy. Today OHA has already changed their reporting to include the following:
○ Age ranges by decade for all positive cases. Previously there were larger ranges.
○ Hospitalization status of all positive cases if known.
○ Available hospital beds, including available ICU beds, and available ventilators. Today we have:
■ 2,028 available non-ICU beds
■ 394 available ICU beds; and
■ 608 available ventilators
And there will be more information coming soon.
We’re also hearing from our firefighters and first responders that it would be incredibly helpful if Oregonians tell 9-1-1- operators if they are at risk of transmitting COVID-19 when they call for help.
This will help make sure firefighters and paramedics have the appropriate protective equipment on when they respond, and will help them avoid the need for a quarantine, which puts more pressure on our medical system.
I also just want to express deep gratitude to all of the Oregonians who are still working to keep food on our shelves, to keep our electricity and utilities working, and many other professions. Thank you also to the truck drivers who are delivering groceries and medicine during this time. I know these are difficult jobs.
I also want to thank all the organizations and individuals who have donated PPE during this crisis.
Today, I was informed that the Oregon Dental Association’s PPE drive collected 60,000 masks and 600,000 gloves, gowns, and face shields—a total of 7 pallets of donated equipment. I’d like to offer heart-felt thanks to all Oregon dentists for donating this equipment, which our health care workers treating COVID-19 patients critically need.
As we face this unprecedented pandemic together, we must continue to remove any potential barriers that Oregon families may face right now to keep their families safe, and to protect their livelihoods.
With that, I’ll open it up to questions.