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Earlier today, Deschutes County announced the first presumptive positive case of COVID-19 in Central Oregon.

I know many of you are concerned about the spread of this disease, but I want to let you know that St. Charles Health System has been expecting this moment for many weeks, and we have been preparing for just as long. We are ready.

Our excellent hospitals, clinics and teams care for patients with infectious illnesses every single day, and they know exactly what to do. I have no doubt that this patient – like all of our patients – is receiving the best possible care.

Now, I have a few messages I want to pass along to you:

Stay calm and resist misinformation
COVID-19 is a new illness, and new illnesses often lead to fear and concern for some. The glut of information online – some accurate, some inaccurate – can increase anxiety.

When you seek information about the virus, look to credible sources like Deschutes County Health Services and the Oregon Health Authority. I assure you the officials at both of those organizations are committed to keeping the public safe, healthy and informed. You can also find links to credible resources on our COVID-19 webpage.

And for those of you on social media, please resist the urge to speculate, share rumors or post misinformation. All of it makes it harder for the credible sources to cut through the clutter.

Unless you’re a patient seeking care, please avoid visiting St. Charles hospitals
One of the threats presented by COVID-19 is the possibility of overwhelming our health care infrastructure. It is vitally important that we keep our hospitals functioning and our caregivers safe so they can take care of not only COVID-19 patients, but all the other people in our community with health issues.

As a result, this message is very simple: Do not go to a St. Charles hospital if you are not a patient with a reason to be there. This includes vendors, delivery services, business partners and other non-essential visitors. Even family members of current patients should consider whether now is the best time to visit. And if you are sick, please stay home and call your primary care physician or your local public health department to discuss your symptoms and next steps.

Signs and symptoms of COVID-19
After my last message, many of you wrote me to ask about the symptoms of this virus. They are pretty basic: fever, cough and shortness of breath. For more information, visit the symptoms page of the CDC’s website.

Lastly, we recently asked one of our physicians, Dr. Bob Pfister, to answer some of your most common COVID-19 questions. You can watch him do that in this video:

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