Today, we have 17 patients at the St. Charles Bend hospital who are sick with COVID-19.
This isn’t the highest number of hospitalizations for the virus in Central Oregon, nor is it the lowest. But many of these patients have been quite sick, which is an important reminder for all of us about how important it is to continue avoiding catching or spreading COVID-19.
Case counts in all three Central Oregon counties are much lower now than they have been in recent months, but it is still absolutely critical that we continue to follow safe public health practices. Please be diligent about hand washing, masking and distancing – especially with new, more contagious variants of the virus spreading throughout the country. Vaccinations will also greatly help to reduce the incidence and severity of the virus, but access to vaccine supply remains a challenge.
To see how our St. Charles campuses throughout Central Oregon have pitched in to care for all patients throughout the pandemic, take a look at our latest video.
In the latest on the vaccine front, our tri-county effort continues at the Deschutes Fair & Expo Center, where we are actively providing second doses to thousands of Central Oregonians. This morning, we opened up scheduling for 1,000 first doses to be administered Sunday, and by this afternoon, those were already completely full.
The good news is that the state has issued a new vaccine allocation plan and we will be adding new appointments to the schedule each week. Going forward, we expect Deschutes County to announce information on appointment availability on Fridays, with scheduling opening on Saturdays. To ensure you receive those announcements, we suggest connecting with the county's communication channels. And to be clear, this is a tri-county effort, so this information applies to residents of Crook and Jefferson counties as well.
I want to emphasize this: As they did today, these vaccine appointments will fill up quickly. If you miss out one week, please don't fret. More will open up in the following weeks. You'll have more chances to get an appointment. And we will repeat this process until everyone who wants a vaccine gets one.
If you are eligible to receive a vaccine, you can also check our St. Charles website for appointments at any time. If you need help registering online, refer to this video tutorial. A hotline is available for support from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday. The number to call is 541-699-5109.
In addition, the federal retail pharmacy program is now underway. While St. Charles and our partners at the county public health departments are not responsible for this program, we do encourage Central Oregonians to regularly check the following websites for appointment availability:
Each pharmacy is only receiving about 100 doses per week at this time, so appointments are likely to fill fast.
Finally, many primary care providers are now approved by the state of Oregon as vaccine administration sites. This includes our St. Charles Family Care clinics. This week we are administering 50 first doses to eligible patients through our St. Charles Family Care clinic in Madras. The clinic staff is reaching out to eligible patients directly to set up appointments. Please do not call the clinic to request an appointment as we do not want the phone lines to be overwhelmed.
As you can see, there is a lot of effort going into making as many vaccines available as possible throughout our region. Thank you, again, for your patience, understanding and willingness to help our health system fight COVID-19.