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Hood River resident Eric Foster uses hand sanitizer at Rosauers Thursday. Sanitizer is  a hot commodity for purchase, but local stores are keeping in-store dispensers stocked up, and doing regular sanitizing, and prohibiting used of reuseable containers of any kind.

This story is developing quickly and will be updated frequently. 

There are no presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in Hood River County, but the county is not unaffected by the global pandemic.

“Hood River County Health Department would like to stress the responsibility we all have to slow the spread of this illness to enable those that are most affected to receive the care that they will need,” said Mike Matthews, supervisor for the Hood River County Environmental Health Department. “For the vast majority of us, symptoms will be mild; however, it is very important that people stay home when they are ill. This will help to slow the spread and keep medical services available for those who are adversely affected by the disease and in need of services,” he said.

The most effective preventative methods for the general public are frequent handwashing, avoid touching your face, minimize contact with people who may be ill, avoid large gatherings, and sanitize frequently touched surfaces.

While everyone is advised to follow these precautions, “they are particularly important for older adults and people with underlying conditions,” Matthews said.

Events are being canceled or postponed county-wide out of concern for the virus and last week, Gov. Kate Brown announced new measures intended to slow the spread of the virus: 

•           All large gatherings over 250 people will be canceled statewide effective immediately for four weeks (a gathering is defined as any event in a space in which appropriate social distancing of a minimum of three feet cannot be maintained).

•           All non-essential school-associated gatherings and group activities should be canceled — such as group parent meetings, field trips, and competitions.

•           Workplaces are asked to implement distancing measures, including an increased physical space between employees in offices and worksites, limited in-person meetings, limited travel, and staggered work schedules where possible.

•           Nursing, assisted living and residential care facilities, including those providing memory care, are asked to limit visitation and screen all permitted visitors for respiratory symptoms.

“Nobody is immune to this virus, it can touch everyone," said Brown. “We can't let fear and anxiety stigmatize people. We are seeing cases across multiple counties and age groups, and in people exposed through different circumstances. It's time for us all to do what we can to slow its spread and take care of one another.”

School closures

Around 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, Gov. Kate Brown announced a statewide closure of Oregon K-12 schools from Monday, March 16 through Tuesday, March 31.

"This is a trying time for our community and I am reluctant to increase the burden on families who are already struggling to adapt to and stay healthy during this crisis,” said Brown, “However, we are left with little choice in light of school districts’ staff capacity and operational concerns. I want to thank all of the teachers and school employees who have worked hard to keep our schools open until now.”

Per the Governor’s directives and with the support of the Oregon Department of Education and the state’s Early Learning Division, during the closure:

•           School districts are directed to develop plans for returning to school that accommodate ongoing impacts of coronavirus. Staff should utilize the final two days of March to finalize plans for operating schools under updated measures, with students expected to return on Wednesday, April 1.

•           Districts are tasked with developing plans to continue nutrition services during the closure.

•           The Oregon Department of Education will examine the impact the closure will have on instructional time.

•           School districts will ensure adequate cleaning supplies for increased cleaning protocols following the closure.

•           The Early Learning Division will support child care programs and will work to identify resources to support child care needs for our most vulnerable families, as well as health care professionals and first responders.

A total of 30 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in eight Oregon counties as of 10 a.m. on March 13 (last OHA update): Ten in Washington County, eight in Linn County, two each in Umatilla, Marion and Jackson counties, and one each in Deschutes, Douglas, Klamath, Polk, Clackamas and Multnomah counties.

Locally, schools, healthcare facilities and other organizations are following these and other guidelines from public health authorities.

Hood River County School District has closed all district schools beginning March 16, with plans to resume classes on Wednesday, April 1. Preschools, Primetime programs and childcare providers that are located on school campuses will not be open during the school closure. Additionally, the district has canceled all sports and extracurricular activities through March 31. 

Distance learning will not be provided at this time, and the district has not yet decided whether these days will be made up at the end of the school year or by other schedule changes. 

"Given the seriousness of the current situation, we firmly believe that this decision is the best one we can make given all available information and keeping the best interests of our students, staff, and community at the center," said Superintendent Dr. Sara Hahn-Huston in an letter to parents after Brown's announcement.  "We will continue to monitor this very dynamic public health situation and will provide updates during this extended break. We all hope this closure will be successful in helping to combat the coronavirus, and we look forward to being able to return to our normal school routine, with our students and staff healthy and ready for learning."

The Hood River County School District is posting relevant information on its website, www.hoodriver.k12.or.us/hoodriver.

Horizon’s open house, planned for March 14, will be held at a later date.

“Horizon Christian School highly values the safety of our students physically, emotionally and spiritually,” said Horizon Superintendent Ken Block on Thursday. “God’s word tells us that God is love, and that perfect love casts out all fear. With that in mind, and considering the current concerns with COVID-19, we are making decisions not based on fear but in response to the advice of the Oregon Health Authority, Governor of Oregon, and CDC.”

Providence

Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital has changed its visitation policy to two designated visitors per patient, and each visitor must be free of symptoms of respiratory illness. “We encourage limits on visitation in an effort to keep the risk to others as low as possible,” said Public Relations and Foundation Director Susan Frost. This practice is consistent with other health systems in our region. A patient with confirmed COVID-19 may require special consideration, depending on the situation.

Providence Hood River has a task force working through all aspects of preparing for and responding to COVID-19, said Frost, and the hospital is stocked with personal protective equipment and other supplies that would be necessary if the hospital ends up caring for patients who may have the virus or has an influx of patients. The hospital has also trained staff on the use of personal protective equipment and has plans in place for working with employees should they be exposed to the virus.

Parkhurst Place

Parkhurst Place is closed to all non-employee visitors, with the exception of "essential visitors," such as medical personnel. "We really don't want anyone in the building that doesn't have to be there," said Louis Kievit, vice president of sales and community engagement for Enlivant, which runs Parkhurst. "We are in the business of providing a great living environment, and we don't like this," he said, "we just have to follow the guidelines." 

Kievit recommends that potential visitors contact Parkhurst before visiting to get a better sense of the restrictions. Parkhurst does have WiFi, and visitors are encouraged to conduct e-visits whenever possible. 

CAT

Columbia Area Transit (CAT) is regularly disinfecting their buses throughout the day and following “best practices related to customer interaction,” said CAT in an official press release. “As of today, none of the measures implemented will have a direct impact on CAT routes or schedules,” said the press release, “However, CAT encourages riders to regularly check rideCATbus.org for updates.”

For more info 

For more information, and to check for updated information about the pandemic, visit the websites for OHA, www.oregon.gov/oha or the World Health Organization, www.who.int/westernpacific/emergencies/covid-19. Links to the Center for Disease Control’s webpage and the John Hopkins University Coronavirus Tracker, as well as guides for business and restaurant response, are available via the Hood River County’s website, www.co.hood-river.or.us (for the County Health Department’s page, click “Health Department” under the County Departments tab).

The county advises anyone with minor symptoms or illness, or who has had direct contact with those who are ill, to stay home and follow the usual supportive care for minor illness: Rest, fluids, eat healthy, use over the counter medications, and limit contact with household members.

“On behalf of the Hood River County Health Department, I offer our support in these difficult times,” said Public Health Officer Christopher Van Tilburg in an official statement released Friday morning. “We are working diligently with the local medical community to provide as much support as possible… We are also helping to minimize the impact to the local health care community if we have a widespread outbreak.”

Hood River County has stated that, with the exception of high risk patients, testing is done at the discretion of your primary care provider. The county itself doesn't provide patient assessments or testing. 

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