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In the past week, my wife and I have received hundreds of incredibly kind messages from our community expressing condolences on the loss of my father-in-law due to COVID-19.

I can’t tell you how much it means to both of us. We have honestly been overwhelmed and humbled by the response and are so thankful to each of you for taking the time to write, for sending flowers and plants and for reaching out with your thoughts.

All of it has helped to make this difficult time a little easier to bear.

I feel similarly about knowing St. Charles has such a supportive community standing behind us as we work together to get through this pandemic.

Overwhelmed.

Humble.

Grateful.

While we have had some positive test results this past week, our number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients remains low. We know this is because of you. Your social distancing efforts and sacrifices continue to make a difference.

Expanding services safely

Our team has been working on a plan for several weeks to ensure we are ready to start providing expanded health services in a safe way when the time is right. On Thursday, Gov. Kate Brown announced that she is relaxing her executive order and will allow hospitals to provide some expanded non-urgent health services as of May 1.

This is good news for our patients who have been waiting for needed surgeries. We know the delay has caused anxiety, pain and distress and we are very much looking forward to being able to provide you needed care. St. Charles has a panel of experts reviewing surgery requests that will evaluate which procedures should move forward first. We appreciate your patience as we move through this important process.

It is also critical to note that if we start to see an uptick in COVID-19 cases in our community, or we start to run low on supplies, we will take a step back. Re-opening for services will be a cautious process over the coming months as we consistently evaluate the safety of our team, our patients and our community.

A word about testing

Finally, we continue to receive questions about testing and are pleased to share that we continue to expand our testing criteria to include more people. In addition to St. Charles clinics and hospitals, many of our partner clinics throughout our communities are also providing COVID-19 testing. Calling your primary care provider remains the best first step to determine if you are eligible for testing.

We have also received numerous questions about antibody testing. Our partners at Deschutes County Health Services are sharing this information on antibody testing with our communities:

Many individuals are seeking serological tests, more commonly called “antibody tests,” for COVID-19. According to the FDA, approved tests “detect the body’s immune response to the infection caused by the virus rather than detecting the virus itself.” They caution that antibody tests have limited effectiveness for diagnosing active infection and should not be used as the sole basis to diagnose COVID-19.

While many test developers are currently seeking FDA approval, there are few approved tests on the market. The FDA warns that “some firms are falsely claiming that their serological tests are FDA approved or authorized, or falsely claiming that they can diagnose COVID-19.” Currently, there are no FDA-approved antibody tests available in Central Oregon. If you are seeking an antibody test, whether locally or online, it is important to make sure it is FDA-approved.

In addition, the World Health Organization has indicated that it is too soon to know if recovered COVID-19 patients are immune to the virus, which makes it risky to rely on antibody information to relax social distancing measures. For these reasons, St. Charles is not offering or recommending antibody testing at this time. However, we will continue to closely monitor the situation and provide updates as more information becomes available.

The best we can do today is to continue practicing safe social distancing, good hand hygiene and wearing masks when we do need to go out in public. It is important that each of us continue to act as though we have COVID-19 ourselves and that every person we meet also potentially carries the virus – simply keeping this in mind and acting accordingly will reduce exposure and save lives.

Sincerely,

Joe

P.S. Here is a photo of just some of the lovely flower arrangements that have been delivered to our home in the past week. They have brightened our days. Again: Thank you so much for keeping my family in your thoughts.

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