OAHHS supports adopting “shelter in place” strategies in Oregon

In a statement released Thursday, Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems (OAHHS) President and CEO Becky Hultberg announced the association’s support of adopting “shelter in place” strategies to combat the spread of COVID-19.

“The coronavirus is dangerous because although we can’t see it, the virus is in our community and it is lethal. Hospitals and health systems are preparing for a surge in COVID-19 patients and it is critical that we have the capacity to care for those patients and others who present at our facilities. Mortality is higher when the health system gets overwhelmed. We must act now to save lives,” says Hultberg.

“Absent widespread testing and the ability to isolate patients, the public health tool we must use to avoid a rising patient surge is social distancing. Yesterday, our board recommended that the Governor take the strongest possible action when it comes to social distancing measures now. We support action on the state or local level to further limit retail commerce, unnecessary travel, and adopt ‘shelter in place‘ strategies.”


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The statement comes after Oregon health officials were questioned about the possibility of implementing shelter in place mandates at a press briefing Wednesday evening.

According to reporting from the Portland Tribune, Dr. Dean Sidelinger, Oregon’s state health officer, said during the briefing that the state was not recommending that kind of order at this time.

However, Dr. Renee Edwards, Chief Medical Officer for Oregon Health & Sciences University Healthcare, said OHSU would be supportive of the measure if Gov. Kate Brown chose to implement shelter in place.

“We would be supportive of that measure if the governor chose to move in that direction, because facing the type of surge in need for hospital capacity, including ICU beds and ventilators. We want to make sure that we will be able to deliver upon the care that the citizens of Oregon need and facing this concern. We would absolutely be supportive if the governor’s office made this determination,” said Edwards.

The Portland Tribune also reported on Thursday that Gov. Brown says she is not considering a statewide shelter in place order, but that it is not completely off the table.

“Brown said she plans to create an interagency group to consider what essential businesses would be allowed to continue operating if a shelter in place order were issued. ‘That’s only preparatory,’ Brown insisted. ‘We do want to be prepared,’” reads the article.

Willamette Week reported on Wednesday that the City of Portland is considering a shelter in place policy similar to the one put in place by Bay Area counties this week. A 10-page draft policy developed by Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office was circulated to Multnomah County officials.

Wheeler’s office released a statement Thursday morning, stating,

“We are considering further social distancing measures, including a directive to community members to stay at home except for essential purposes.

In the event that a shelter in place order is required, we want to have a thoughtful approach ready to implement.

We can’t afford to get caught flat-footed. Days, or even hours, can make a difference.”

As of Thursday morning, there are 88 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Oregon.