Local News News Archive

LOCAL NEWS: Oregon’s emergency manager weighs in

While Oregon is still grappling with shortages of equipment for health providers, Oregon Department of Energy (OEM) Manager Andrew Phelps says the state has had some help from within. Joanne Rideout has more.

Script follows, Scroll Down to Listen [2:24]

Phelps told reporters Tuesday that while the state is still seeking PPE, or personal protective equipment, some of that need has been met by private donors.

Phelps: “To date we’ve received 200,000 gloves, 100,000 surgical masks, and nearly 5,000 N95 masks, all from private donations.”

But they’ll need more than that to meet anticipated needs.

“This certainly isn’t an Oregon issue, it’s a national issue, in fact, a global issue. I think we can always look and say, ‘We need more PPE.’ We clearly did not have the stock to address a pandemic that was going to last for months. To address a pandemic that was going to affect the entire US, the entire globe.”

He said the whole concept of staying home and flattening the curve is not so much to prevent people from getting sick, but rather to slow the speed at which people fall ill. 

“So it’s almost not necessarily about limiting or minimizing the number of people who get sick. It’s about when they get sick. As long as we keep our supply chain moving, we keep bringing in additional PPE, the important thing is that we don’t go over what our surge capacity is. We want to make sure we maintain the number of hospital beds to treat people who are sick. So that’s what flattening the curve is doing.”

Phelps said OEM is aware of the psychological toll the crisis is having on residents.

“This is in many ways, a slow evolving emergency or disaster. But it’s incredibly impactful across the state. So we want to make sure that the anxiety that many Oregonians are feeling is being addressed. One of the things that we’ve requested through the Federal Emergency Management Agency that hasn’t yet been approved is mental health crisis counseling. So we want to make those services available.” 

Phelps said his message is consistent:

“So I’m going to keep saying it, unapologetically: We need to stay home to save lives. For those who need to leave the house, those first responders and front line workers in medical settings, and those working in essential service industries, like grocery stores and at gas stations, I can’t thank you enough for everything you are doing. It means a lot to us at the state, we know you are doing all you can to help us with this response.”

Paraphrasing what he said at yesterday’s press conference, where he spoke in terms of months not weeks before the pandemic could ease, Phelps said “we’re in the first few miles of a marathon. And we’re going to be at this for quite a long time.”

In Astoria, I’m Joanne Rideout