You're saving lives by staying home
Since my last message went out a week ago, hundreds of you have shared your words of thanks, encouragement and support. It means more than I can say that you find our information helpful during this time when we all must come together to face the common threat of COVID-19.
Your words and actions continue to give me hope that we will come through this together and we’ll be stronger as a community when we reach the other side.
Our team has noticed some trends in the questions we receive – through our telephone hotline, email responses, social media posts and more. Here are some of the themes and the best answers we have as of today.
Access to widespread testing – for anyone who has symptoms or has been exposed to COVID-19 – would greatly help us identify and isolate potential patients in an effort to stop the spread. Unfortunately, from the beginning of this crisis we have faced a nationwide shortage of testing supplies and barriers in the turnaround time for test results.
Our team is working on this issue every day. Early on, our suppliers put us on an “allotment” of test swabs – meaning no matter how many we order, they will only provide us a certain, smaller number in an effort to share supply across the country. The allotment changes depending on the available supply.
Now that new testing options are being approved by the FDA, we’ve had regular contact with our state and federal legislators along with the manufacturers in an effort to secure these new types of tests for Central Oregon. So far, most of the testing supply is going to areas of the country that are hardest hit by the COVID-19 outbreak including New York, Washington, California and Louisiana.
To date, the St. Charles Laboratory has sent out only 907 tests for COVID-19 – far too few to know the true extent of the virus in our communities. Because we believe that testing more people is a critical component of this fight, we will continue to push this issue until it is resolved.
PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE)
Even before we had any cases of COVID-19 in Oregon, our Supply Chain team was actively monitoring the worldwide shortage of critical personal protective equipment (PPE) for our caregivers. More than 50% of the world’s surgical masks are produced in Chinese factories that were shut down for nearly two months at the beginning of the outbreak. We knew that even if COVID-19 never reached us, we would still face a PPE crisis.
Our teams moved quickly to address the problem early on. We purchased our entire allocation of supplies and encouraged our staff to reserve as much supply as possible while still staying safe. We monitor the rate at which we go through supplies based on our number of patients. We know exactly how many days of every type of PPE we have on hand.
Because of ongoing turmoil in the worldwide mask market, the valiant efforts made every day by our Supply Chain team to secure more PPE do not always yield results. This is a frustration shared by our fellow hospitals throughout the state.
In the meantime, we have embraced the innovative spirit of our Central Oregon family. Thousands of masks have been donated – cloth masks, plastic face shields, respirators and more. Your generosity continues to help us stay safe. Thank you.
SOCIAL DISTANCING – STAY THE COURSE
While we continue to identify new positive cases in Central Oregon – including the first positive in Crook County last week – it appears social distancing efforts are having an important impact. The more we continue to STAY HOME, the better off we will be in the end. In fact, our data scientists believe your efforts to stay home have likely already saved several Central Oregonians from death due to COVID-19.
What you are doing matters – but you have to keep it up!
This article from the New York Times shows how mobility has dropped throughout the United States in recent weeks. Quite simply – the further you travel, the farther the virus can spread. Every day that you avoid others, you are making a difference in our ability to care for the patients hit hardest by this disease.
Please also watch this video from Dr. Nathan Ansbaugh, an emergency room physician at St. Charles Bend, explaining why it is so important to stay the course with social distancing. We are starting to see improvement, but now is not the time to take a knee – it is the time to double down on our efforts. Thank you for staying strong.