There are still no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Hood River or Wasco counties, but local health and public safety organizations are continuing to take precautionary steps.
Providence, which runs Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital, has launched coronavirus testing at its regional lab in Portland, where the lab team can process 500-600 tests each day. Providers statewide can test their patients and send the specimens to be processed.
Beginning March 19, Providence implemented additional visitor restrictions based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), limiting visitations to one person per patient during a patient’s stay and screening visitors before entry. A multi-level surge plan is also being developed in anticipation of a severe strain on resources, according to a Providence press release. (More information can be found at providence.org.)
The Hood River County Public Health Medical Officer issued a public health order Thursday morning directing all nursing facilities to adopt a no-visitor policy (except for “unusual circumstances as approved by the facility medical director”) and laying out distancing measures to be adopted by long-term living homes and facilities that house more than 10 people, such as retirement homes, assisted living facilities and group homes.
“We acknowledge this is a hardship but necessary to protect our healthcare workers and group living facility employees,” said Public Health Officer Christopher Van Tilburg.
Hood River County declared a state of emergency on Thursday, back-dated to have taken effect on March 8, the date Gov. Kate Brown declared a state of emergency on the state level.
The City of Hood River declared a local state of emergency during a special meeting held Thursday, March 19 (see story, A1).
The Hood River County Sheriff’s Office announced several service reductions last week:
Fingerprinting services and processing Concealed Handgun Licenses (CHL’s) have been temporarily suspended (those with valid CHL’s that are due to expire during the suspension period should contact the Sheriff’s Business Office), access to the Parole and Probation Division and 911 Center have been modified, and the public is being asked to maximize use of online, email and telephone services in lieu of face-to-face services.
“We have committed staff members to support county government during this declared state of emergency, including supporting our partners in Public Health,” said Sheriff Matt English. “We have a duty to minimize exposures of first responders, so we remain a viable resource. We’re still open for business, our dispatchers, deputies and staff remain committed to responding to our community’s needs during these unprecedented times.”
Currently, the State of Oregon has temporarily banned gatherings of 25 people or more and has ordered all bars, restaurants, entertainment and recreation facilities to temporarily shut down (grocery stores, pharmacies, retail stores and workplaces are exempt, and takeout/delivery options are still permitted) for at least four weeks.
Many local organizations and businesses have already canceled events or closed their doors in order to proactively combat the spread of COVID-19 (see A6 for a complete list) — including the Port of Hood River, which has suspended all tolls on the Hood River-White Salmon Interstate Bridge until March 27 while port staff works to implement safety measures to enable continued operations at the toll booth.
The port stopped accepting cash payments in the toll booth at midnight March 17 as a temporary emergency measure to stop person-to-person contact at the toll booth, but continued to process BreezeBy transactions.
“We are hearing your feedback that suspension of cash tolls while keeping electronic tolling active is unfair,” said port Executive Director Michael McElwee in a statement sent out to bridge customers on March 16, when the decision to stop accepting cash payments was announced. “…The costs and expenses to maintain the nearly 100-year old bridge remain,” he continued, “and therefore it is important to continue normal operations and tolling as much as possible.” The port’s Board of Commissioners met for a special meeting on March 17, where they unanimously approved a seven-day toll suspension, beginning March 20. 
“We hope to return to full, normal operations as soon as possible,” said Commission President John Everitt.
“We are asking for everyone to be patient and understanding as we work to address this really unprecedented situation.”
As of 8 a.m. on March 19 (latest OHA update as of publication time), there were 88 confirmed cases of COVID-19 spread across 14 Oregon counties, including three deaths: A 60-year-old woman in Lane County, a 71-year-old man in Washington County, and a 70-year-old man in Multnomah County. All had underlying medical conditions.
“We are saddened at the news of these additional lives lost in Oregon due to COVID-19,” said Patrick Allen, OHA director, in a press release announcing the deaths in Lane and Washington counties. “These deaths only strengthen our resolve to slow the spread of this disease in our communities. We are in this together.”
 

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