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Local News: Oregon Health Authority tells seniors to avoid large gatherings

Local News: Oregon Health Authority tells seniors to avoid large gatherings

by Joanne Rideout

The Oregon Health Authority held a news conference this [Monday]  afternoon, to update the public on the status of statewide COVID-19 response.Their big message: Older adults should avoid large gatherings. 

So far the state has 14 confirmed cases, 165 negative tests, 52 tests are pending and 226 people are under monitoring because of potential exposure through travel or proximity to diagnosed cases.

Cases have been confirmed in Douglas, Jackson, Klamath, Marion, Umatilla and Washington counties.

There are no cases currently detected in Clatsop and Tillamook counties.

One of the big takeaways from the conference was OHA advice for older adults who are considered most vulnerable to the virus. Here’s State health officer and epidemiologist Dr Dean Sidlinger:

Dean Sidlinger: “What the data are showing and we have the most data from China, but data from other countries is showing the same things, is that older individuals regardless of their health status, seem to be more at risk for complications.”

OHA’s current recommendations are that adults 60 years or older should avoid large gatherings.Other high risk populations include people of any age who have underlying health issues. 

Current research indicates that the virus is spread via person to person contact between people about six feet apart who are near someone who sneezes, or who touch an infected surface and then touch their faces. Tri-County Health officer Dr. Jennifer Vines, termed it household level contact or close social contact. Her big message: stay home if you’re sick and don’t need medical support, and wash your hands.

OHA does not know how widespread the virus is in Oregon. Family members and friends of older adults in assisted living and other facilities are advised to refrain from visiting them. The virus seems to not affect younger people as severely as older adults.

Sidlinger said, from what health officials know so far, the big issue for COVID-19 patients seems to be respiratory failure:

Dean Sidlinger: “So with COVID-19, similar to influenza viruses, it primarily affects the respiratory system. So people with mild illness and they have a cough and some trouble breathing, The complications that we’re seeing people develop typically start with problems with respiratory failure, and once patients have those symptoms they have have other organs that are also involved. So they may need support around renal function, cardiac function, but it typically starts with respiratory failure and trouble breathing.” 

Officials say Oregonians who show symptoms but are mildly ill, should stay home until they have been fever and symptom free for 24 hours. People can protect themselves from becoming ill by washing their hands frequently and avoiding touching their faces.