Multnomah County Commissioner Sharon Meieran, an emergency room doctor, called for state govenment to take more significant steps to get Oregonians to practice social distancing in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak.
"We need to enact shelter in place. Now," says Meieran. "And we need to ensure that day care centers and preschools are held to the same standards as other schools. The steps we need to take are clear. We should be learning from what has happened in other cities, states and countries. Instead, we have the information we need and are not taking action, and people will die as a result. I just don't get it."
Meieran's call for action follows the revelation that Mayor Ted Wheeler is considering such an order for the city of Portland.
It's a familiar pattern that's played out over the past week: Gov. Kate Brown has been reluctant to act in the face of the new coronavirus outbreak, and has done so only after others led or she faced the likelihood that local officials would act without her.
Meieran also offered another critique of the state's response for addressing the extreme risks to nursing homes from the outbreak.
"And one key thing: What are we doing about nursing homes?" she asks. "They will be at the center of the morbidity and mortality from this virus. We need to be addressing staffing issues, infection issues and ensuring that people who aren't infected stay that way and those who are infected get the treatment they need. We have task forces on any number of things, but I don't know of any dedicated to nursing homes."
The governor's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But the governor said earlier today that the option of ordering Oregonians to shelter in place was among the possibilities on the table.
Update, 6:40 pm:
The governor's office disputed Meieran's allegation of a lack of action on nursing homes, and said that epidemiologists are not telling them that a shelter in place order is necessary. Below is the full statement from Charles Boyle, a spokesman for the governor:
"From the outset of Oregon's efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus, protecting residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities has been a top priority for Governor Brown. The state of Oregon was among the first states to institute severe restrictions on visitation to congregate care facilities, including nursing homes. During this health crisis, Oregon has implemented one of the most restrictive long-term care policies in the country in order to protect residents in those facilities from COVID-19. The Department of Human Services has teams of reviewers working with long-term care facilities to strengthen their infection prevention measures. Existing COVID-19 testing capacity is geared toward congregate care facilities as well, with public health strike teams dedicated to responding to outbreaks in such facilities.
"When it comes to preventing the spread of COVID-19 in Oregon, the Governor has made it clear that all options are on the table as the situation and level of COVID-19 spread warrants. The Governor and her staff are consulting daily with epidemiologists and are following their guidance. Both state and local public health professionals, including those in the Metro area, agree on their current recommendation to enforce the already-aggressive measures and are not recommending a shelter-in-place order at this stage. We are focused on implementing the existing aggressive social distancing measures, and on expanding hospital capacity, including workforce and personal protective equipment resources, where the majority of the public health community says we should focus."