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Governor Issues Executive Order to Help Health Care Workers, Hospitals Address Continued Rise in Respiratory Illness Cases, Hospitalizations

State News

Salem, Ore. — Governor Kate Brown today is exercising her executive authority under ORS Chapter 401 in response to a surge of adult and pediatric cases and hospitalizations of respiratory viruses––including Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), influenza, and COVID-19––across Oregon. The executive order will give Oregon hospitals additional flexibility to ensure there are enough health care workers to meet current needs, allow them to draw on a pool of medical volunteer nurses and doctors, and take other steps to provide care to patients. In addition to the Governor’s executive order, the Oregon Health Authority is pursuing supplemental nurse staffing contracts of up to $25 million to help address critical workforce shortages.

On November 14, Governor Brown granted hospitals flexibility to address the rise in pediatric hospitalizations related to respiratory viruses, including RSV. The Governor’s new executive order, issued today, will expand that flexibility to help healthcare workers and hospitals address the rise in adult and pediatric hospitalizations, and related critical strain on hospital capacity.

Since the Governor issued her first executive order in November, pediatric hospitalizations for RSV have continued to climb. Influenza hospitalizations have risen rapidly and are expected to continue to increase in the coming weeks, with a disproportionate impact on young children, elderly adults, pregnant people, and people of color and tribal communities. COVID-19 hospitalizations have risen steeply as well.

“Our healthcare workers––our nurses, doctors, and hospital staff––are being pushed to their limits by this year’s combination of flu, RSV, and COVID-19 hospitalizations,” said Governor Brown. “As they do everything they can to keep Oregonians healthy and safe, we must all do our part to help them. Our healthcare workers are working around the clock to protect the people most vulnerable to severe respiratory illnesses––including our young children and seniors.

“I am asking Oregonians to come together to help our healthcare heroes this holiday season. Stay home if you are sick, stay up to date on your vaccinations, and consider wearing a mask in crowded indoor situations––especially if you are at higher risk for severe illness from RSV, the flu, or COVID-19.”

State health experts at the Oregon Health Authority encourage all individuals, particularly those at increased risk of severe disease (and their caregivers), to take steps to prevent RSV and other respiratory infections this flu season.

  • Stay up to date on flu and COVID-19 vaccinations. (There is not currently a vaccine for RSV.)
  • Stay home and avoid holiday gatherings and events when sick, and keep your child home when your child is sick, if possible.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes, clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces, and regularly wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water or use hand sanitizer.
  • Consider wearing a mask indoors, especially during crowded indoor gatherings and events, particularly if you or a friend or family member are at risk for getting severely ill from RSV and other respiratory infections.

A copy of the Governor’s executive order, Executive Order 22-24, which rescinds and replaces Executive Order 22-23, is available here.

OHA media briefing tomorrow, December 8

The Oregon Health Authority will hold a Zoom media briefing to provide its monthly update on COVID-19, as well as RSV and influenza activity, tomorrow, Thursday, December 8, at noon with Dr. Dean Sidelinger and clinicians. Interested reporters can join via Zoom here. A livestream for the public also is available via YouTube here. OHA will send an advisory with more information later today.

Additional information on RSV for parents and guardians

RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms, such as runny nose, coughing, and sneezing. Most infections go away on their own in a week or two. If you have questions about your child’s care, call your healthcare provider or visit an urgent care center. At this time, hospital emergency departments are strained. Parents and guardians should only visit the hospital if their child shows signs of severe illness.

Parents and guardians should immediately seek health care if their child is experiencing more severe symptoms of RSV, such as trouble breathing, dehydration, gray or blue color to the tongue, lips, or skin, or significantly decreased activity and alertness.

More information on how to protect yourself and loved ones from RSV, the flu, and COVID-19 are available on OHA’s website.





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