Oregon promised millions from federal agency to help confront coronavirus

An image of the coronavirus from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Oregon will soon be receiving roughly $7.3 million in federal funds provided as part of an emergency package approved by Congress last week that will help the state in its response to the outbreak of COVID-19.

Last week, Gov. Kate Brown wrote to Vice President Mike Pence outlining the state’s need for up to $10 million a month for various measures such as contact tracing, staffing, bolstering testing capacity at the state’s public health lab, building a stock of personal protective gear for hospital workers and reimbursing various state agencies like the Education and Corrections departments.

According to Charles Boyle, spokesman for Brown, the governor was told on a call this week with Pence and senior health officials that the funding Oregon has been awarded by the federal. Centers for Disease Control would be available to the state within 30 days.

“For ongoing operations, the Oregon Health Authority is telling us they have the resources they need currently to continue responding to the coronavirus,” Boyle said. “We are staying in touch with the federal government and Oregon’s congressional delegation about what resources might be needed in the future.”

The state Emergency Board on Monday appropriated $5 million from state reserves for the state’s response to CVID-19, although there’s no breakdown of how the money will be spent.

The additional funding comes as a new presumptive positive case was identified in Oregon’s most populous county, bringing the state’s total to 15 positive cases in seven counties. As of Tuesday, 215 tests have come back negative with 67 pending results. A total of 295 Oregonians remain under investigation for the disease. Another 302 Oregonians have completed monitoring without developing symptoms.

Concerns surfaced Monday that Oregon was running out of tests for Covid-19, but a shipment of enzymes critical to the testing process received Tuesday from the CDC replenished Oregon’s supply. More test kits arriving Wednesday will give the state the capacity to test up to 4,800 for the time being, according to Jonathan Modie, spokesman for the Health Authority.

Health Authority Director Pat Allen told legislators Tuesday in a daily update phone conference that the state is no longer the “volume testing resource” with two major labs — LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics — coming online to allow healthcare providers to send in samples for testing.

“Clinicians at their discretion can start using those labs,” Modie confirmed. “It’s huge, and we’re really excited about it.”

Modie noted that while the basic instructions from public health officials to be vigilant about such steps as washing hands and covering seem simple, they’re more important than ever with the virus passing the point of containment and moving into a full-fledged outbreak. Those simple steps are critical, he said, for Oregon’s residents helping public health officials in stopping the spread of the disease. He also encouraged people feeling sick to avoid contact with vulnerable populations, especially senior citizens living in close quarters at residential facilities.

“We’re in the mitigation phase,” Modie said. “We need people to be very serious about what has been characterized as almost overly simple steps that they