5 Things Oregon: COVID-19, Sen. James Manning, Health impacts of climate change

From our coverage below, you’ll see Portland is about two weeks behind Seattle. And, as Seattle tracks Italy, by about 2 weeks, that means Oregon is about four weeks behind what could be a new epicenter in the disease spread.

I know closing restaurants and staying home can be agitating, but it’s sort of a math problem. And, as one governor put it, “This is our only weapon available to us right now. We have one effective means available to us right now and that is distancing ourselves from others.”

Be healthy and be safe.




With help from Emily Boerger


1. Coronavirus in Oregon ramping up

“What is happening right now in Seattle, 2 weeks earlier, looks exactly like what’s happening right now in Portland. And so, we’re planning that Portland in a couple weeks is going to look a lot like Seattle does right now with the dramatic number of cases.” The comment came during a webinar on lessons learned from the coronavirus response by Amy Compton-Phillips, MD, Executive Vice President & Chief Clinical Officer at Providence St. Joseph Health. She said their analytics show Portland following in Seattle’s footsteps.

As of Monday, a total of 39 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Oregon. Over the weekend, OHA announced the state’s first death from the virus. Gov. Brown has since announced the cancellation of gatherings over 250 people, the statewide closure of schools, and is considering broader measures as soon as this afternoon. Though Oregon’s confirmed cases trail far behind its neighbors — California currently has 335 confirmed and Washington has 769 — experts warn that Oregon could be headed in that direction.

Former Gov. John Kitzhaber says Oregon can control four elements of this outbreak, but it is underperforming on two of those at present.


2. Impacts of the Republican walkout on health

At the end of February, Republicans in the House and Senate walked out of the capitol over cap and trade legislation. By denying a quorum on that bill, they also stymied the chance for meaningful health legislation to pass this year.

Among the list of health-related bills that passed out of their house of origin, but died in the opposite chamber at the end of February is this bill that would cap the out-of-pocket cost of insulin at $75 for a 30-day supply, and this bill aimed at removing a barrier for immigrants seeking care. Also held up was this CCO transparency bill, this prior authorization bill, and this bill that would prohibit the remote sale of vaping devices.

3.  Retirements leave big shoes

We previously highlighted a range of impactful retirements from the legislature. Two key legislative retirements are set for this year. Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson is the chair of the Senate Health Care Committee, and a public health nurse by training. She’s worked on a range of topics, from pharmacy and PBM reform to housing and public health – not to mention being a major force in CCO oversight.

Rep. Mitch Greenlick celebrated his 85th birthday last week, and recently completed his 18th legislative session. During that time in office, and throughout a distinguished career outside of politics, Greenlick was a tremendous thought leader for Oregon public health and health care. For example, Greenlick tried to make tobacco a Schedule III controlled substance, worked to drive transparency among CCOs and to limit the role of interests outside of Oregon to have a hand in Oregon’s health care.

4. Video: Sen. James Manning

Senator James Manning represents Oregon’s Senate District 7, covering North Eugene, West Eugene, Santa Clara, and Junction City. Manning is a member of the Joint Task Force on Universal Health Care, which was established through 2019 legislation. He joins us in this edition of “What They’re Watching” to discuss improving access to health care services in rural areas of the state.

“We have thousands of people in our rural areas that don’t have health care. That’s wrong; and I am committed to fixing that. I am committed to fixing it in terms of making sure that we have more health care providers that are working in our rural areas, making sure that we have quality of care, and making sure that the coverage is available for every Oregon resident. I think that universal health care is long overdue.”


5. Climate change impacts on public health

Prior to the abrupt ending to the 2020 legislative session, the House Committee on Health Care held an informational meeting to discuss the impacts of climate change on public health. Increasingly, this topic is coming up as an issue of concern among hospital and public health professionals I speak with in Oregon, and other states.

During the meeting, experts referenced a November report highlighting climate change-related issues impacting Oregon including heat waves, extreme weather events, vector-borne diseases, and air pollution due to wild fires. In recent years, the Tri-County Region has experienced increases in heat-related ER visits, Lyme disease, and ED visits for asthma-like symptoms. The committee also heard from experts who highlighted the impacts of climate change in more rural areas, and the importance of environmental justice in developing solutions.