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OHSU coronavirus (COVID-19) response

Last updated Tuesday, Oct. 20
Aerial OHSU Marquam Hill

As of Tuesday, Oct. 20

  • Since Feb. 28, OHSU has had 3,726 detected patient cases; 3 patients are currently in hospital; and, there have been 17 in-hospital deaths.

  • There have been 35 new detected patient cases since Oct. 19.

  • To date, OHSU has completed 11,703 COVID-19 tests for 4,969 staff and students. Of those,147 tests for 138 staff and students detected COVID-19; 11,379 tests resulted in not detected; and, 177 tests are pending. 

As the state's academic health center, Oregon Health & Science University is participating with state and local public health authorities and health systems across the metro area to coordinate a regional response. The goal remains to contain the spread of the virus, known as SARS-CoV-2.

In contrast to what we know about influenza, we do not yet know the severity of this new coronavirus nor do we have a vaccine or effective antiviral medications in hand. Therefore, OHSU activated an emergency operations center that has adapted response plans already in place from previous pandemic influenza outbreaks.

OHSU is prepared to treat an expected surge of patients with COVID-19, while working proactively to contain the spread of the virus and protect our workforce.

Mobile, drive-through testing sites

As Oregon’s academic health center, OHSU is committed to ensuring all Oregonians have access to COVID-19 testing and appropriate health care, particularly people of color and other individuals from communities hardest hit by COVID-19. 

To achieve this goal, OHSU has established two low-barrier drive-up testing facilities in the Portland region at the Oregon Convention Center and Hillsboro Stadium. These low-barrier facilities do not require an appointment or referral, are free to the patient (although insurance will be charged if the patient has insurance) and are available to OHSU and non-OHSU patients alike. Low-barrier testing sites are extremely effective at providing access to testing for anyone who needs it. They are also extremely resource intensive.

OHSU’s COVID-19 mobile testing sites are currently providing tests to asymptomatic and symptomatic individuals, without appointment or referral, who meet criteria outlined in the Oregon Health Authority’s Guidance for clinicians regarding COVID-19 testing. (OHSU’s testing criteria are expected to change in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and OHA guidelines, and the availability of testing supplies.)

OHSU’s Hillsboro and Northeast Portland mobile sites together test as many 600 individuals per day. Of those, between 10% and 20% are OHSU patients who require testing prior to receiving procedures or surgeries that are medically necessary. Advance testing helps ensure the health and safety of the care team and conserves scarce resources by ruling out the need for a higher level of personal protective equipment. The remaining 80% to 90% are individuals independently seeking testing, including those who have established care with other health systems.

Because OHSU offers few barriers to testing at our mobile testing sites, as reopening has occurred and cases have risen, we have seen a significant increase in individuals seeking testing. Unfortunately, the increased demand has occasionally resulted in longer than usual wait times – frequently up to two hours and beyond. 

To alleviate the bottleneck and increase access for high-risk groups, we are moving some of OHSU’s pre-surgical patient testing to at an outpatient clinic at the South Waterfront.  

We have also reached out to Multnomah County and the state to discuss the need to increase the establishment of additional low-barrier testing sites in the Portland region in order to meet the significantly increased demand.

OHSU mobile testing locations are:

  • Hillsboro Stadium – 4450 NE Century Blvd, Hillsboro, OR 97124
  • Oregon Convention Center – 777 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Portland, OR 97232 (enter on Lloyd Boulevard into parking garage A)
    • Hours for both locations:
      • Monday: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
      • Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
      • Friday: 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
      • Closed Saturday and Sunday.

Who can get tested?

Note: If you are a Kaiser, Legacy or Providence patient, you will be directed to those health care systems.

  • Those with symptoms: People over age 2 months can be tested if they have one or more of the following:
    • Cough
    • Shortness of breath
    • Trouble breathing
    • Or at least two of the following symptoms:
    • Fever
    • Chills
    • Repeated shaking with chills
    • Muscle pain
    • Headache
    • Sore throat
    • New loss of taste or smell
    • Nausea / vomiting
    • Diarrhea
  • Those without symptoms: People without symptoms can get tested if they meet any of the following:
    • They are giving birth, or they are having surgery or another qualifying procedure at OHSU.
    • They have a vulnerable immune system and are following steps to end isolation (tested positive at least 14 days ago AND have not had any symptoms for 14 days).
    • They have been in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • A public health department has required them to get tested for contact tracing.
    • One or more of the following:
      • The person is a migrant/seasonal agricultural worker.
      • The person is Black, African-American, Latinx, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Asian-American or Pacific Islander.
      • The person has a disability.
      • English is not the person's first language.
  • People without symptoms who have tested positive before: 
    • OHSU is no longer testing people who previously tested positive until 90 days after they were first diagnosed. 

OHSU’s testing criteria follow Oregon Health Authority and CDC recommendations. Guidelines may change at any time based on updated recommendations.

Patient care

  • Visitor restrictions: Support of friends and family is an important part of healing; however, to ensure patient, visitor and staff safety during the COVID-19 outbreak, OHSU is not allowing hospital visitors, with the following exceptions:
    • 1 healthy person age 18 or older at a time (no more than 2 per day), may visit:
      • A child or baby
      • A patient in labor or who just had a baby
      • A patient with limited comprehension, if their care team thinks it is needed for their treatment and safety
      • Any patient, temporarily, to learn discharge instructions for when they leave the hospital
    • 2 healthy people age 18 or older per day may visit a patient at the same time during end-of-life care
    • Friends and family are important. Connecting with loved ones often via phone or through electronic communication is encouraged.
  • OHSU has implemented a “mask on” policy for all patients, visitors and staff inside the hospital. For employees, this means anyone working in a patient-care area, in hallways, and in research labs. All employees who work in patient care areas will receive masks provided by OHSU. OHSU is asking all employees to conserve supplies as much as safely possible to preserve these precious resources for the entire institution and their colleagues.
  • OHSU’s research community came together to launch an in-house COVID-19 testing lab on March 24. The lab is an example of the many collaborations that have been happening at OHSU and in the health care community. In this case, members of the research community rallied to support the clinical community and testing in a drive to combat COVID-19.
  • OHSU’s Telemedicine Program offers an opportunity for patients to consult with licensed clinicians through a telephone or video connection from their home, limiting barriers to health care access. The service has expanded exponentially in response to COVID-19.
  • OHSU clinicians and scientists partnered with Oregon-based Nike to develop locally made personal protective equipment for health care workers treating patients with COVID-19. 
  • OHSU School of Medicine students jumped into the health care workforce three months early to immediately help address COVID-19 in Oregon.
  • OHSU’s emergency preparedness group has adapted response plans in place from previous disease outbreaks.
  • OHSU is closely coordinating with state and regional public health agencies, as well as area health systems, to ensure adequate supplies of personnel, hospital space and equipment.
  • An internal task force that began meeting weekly in January to discuss supplies, logistics, emergency management and necessary measures to ensure the health of patients, visitors, students and employees was elevated to an Emergency Operations Center that has been meeting for several hours daily since the first case was announced in Oregon on Feb. 28.
  • Patient access support specialists and health care unit coordinators are vigilantly conducting travel and symptom screening questions, and helping with appropriate triage and masking of symptomatic patients.
  • OHSU is ready to deploy two surge tents, when needed, as directed by our Emergency Operations Center team.
  • On Friday, May 1, OHSU Health (OHSU, Tuality and Adventist) will resume some nonurgent surgeries and procedures, as described in Gov. Kate Brown’s April 23 announcement. OHSU is giving priority to patients whose status may have changed since we stopped all non-elective surgeries and procedures March 18 in anticipation of a surge of patients who will require hospitalization and intensive care for COVID-19. This action helped to free up space in the hospital while also conserving supplies and personnel.

Workforce management

  • On Thursday, April 23, OHSU announced salary reductions and other measures to address mounting financial challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • On Friday, March 13, OHSU President Danny Jacobs, M.D., M.P.H., FACS, announced a series of measures, including a workforce guarantee and hardship fund, designed to strengthen the resilience of a workforce critical to the health and well-being of Oregonians.
  • OHSU suspended work-related travel beginning the week of March 9, with exceptions primarily related to clinicians providing patient care to sites around the Portland metro area and Oregon. The goal is to minimize quarantines of health care workers and help to slow the spread of the virus.
  • Because OHSU’s mission carries our scientists, students and clinicians around the world, we are also supporting employees who have traveled to locations with confirmed COVID-19 cases through measures including telework, paid administrative leave and guiding them through quarantine procedures when necessary.
  • OHSU has instituted a wellness program designed to support clinicians, employees and students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • OHSU is promoting physical distancing within the university, including by requiring non-critical function employees to work from home and minimizing the number of people gathered for in-person meetings through video and teleconferencing alternatives. To that end, the university's research mission has been curtailed, with the exception of research specifically related to the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of COVID-19.
    • Regarding the university's education mission, all face-to-face instruction was canceled March 16 for the last week of winter term. During Spring term, all academic programs are being offered remotely, using digital delivery methods. At this time, student rotations and similar experiences are suspended through April 26. We are continually monitoring the situation to determine whether we amend or further delay these student experiences.
    • Students remain an active and essential part of the OHSU team. After classes were canceled and during Spring Break, more than 300 students across OHSU’s schools, and the University of Portland, collaborated to volunteer their services – ranging from child care to grocery delivery - to frontline health care staff.

Research and development

  • OHSU data scientist Peter Graven, Ph.D., modeled the projected unchecked spread of the virus and began sharing those projections with state and local policymakers in mid-March. These projections helped inform Oregon’s “Stay Home, Save Lives” efforts to reduce the spread of the virus and ensure it hasn’t exceeded the capacity of health systems to treat a surge of patients who required hospitalization.
  • OHSU trauma surgeon Albert Chi, M.D., M.S.E., is leading an effort to generate low-cost ventilators using 3D printing technology. These ventilators could be useful in hot spots around the country and the world experiencing an overwhelming surge of critically ill patients.
  • OHSU has joined with other universities and academic medical centers across the country to ease licensing requirements to expedite promising new technologies to diagnose, treat and prevent COVID-19.
  • OHSU cardiologists have raised concern that an anti-malaria treatment being used to treat patients with COVID-19 can increase the risk of dangerous abnormal heart rhythms. The guidance for physicians was published March 29.  
  • OHSU researchers are actively engaged in exploring COVID-19, including a recent publication describing practical measures that can be implemented to keep health care personnel and non-infected patients safe. 

Community measures

  • OHSU established a Connected Care Center, available by phone to people throughout Oregon seeking insight about care of symptoms related to COVID-19. The phone number is 833-647-8222.
  • OHSU is hosting a weekly video meeting that is drawing hundreds of primary care physicians across Oregon seeking reliable information about how to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic in every corner of the state.
  • OHSU is reminding our own employees and the community at large that the best way for all of us to prevent the spread of the new virus is the same as we prevent the spread of influenza and other viruses: Practice good hand hygiene, observe respiratory etiquette (including by sneezing or coughing into your elbow rather than your hands), and stay home when ill.
  • With respect to patients and visitors, anyone with respiratory symptoms who thinks they may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 should first call their health care clinician before coming into a clinic, urgent care center or Emergency Department so that provisions can be made to minimize exposure of other patients.
  • OHSU students have stepped up voluntary efforts to help people experiencing homelessness by sewing masks and delivering them to organizations serving the vulnerable and underserved.
  • OHSU President Danny Jacobs, M.D., M.P.H., FACS, joined other national health care leaders in raising alarm about disparities in health outcomes along racial and socioeconomic lines among those stricken by COVID-19.
  • OHSU leaders have consistently called on employees, students and the broader community to practice physical distancing and refrain from spreading the virus elsewhere in Oregon, including in the days before spring break in March.
  • The Oregon Poison Center at OHSU has ramped up its capacity to field inquiries around COVID-19, including knocking down myths circulating in social media.

Ways to help

  • Donate to OHSU's COVID Emergency Response FundFinancial donations will be used flexibly to address OHSU’s highest-priority needs in the coming weeks.
  • Donate supplies: While OHSU currently has adequate supplies, we welcome generous community donations of specific items. If you would like to donate, please bring unopened and unused supplies to: Center for Health & Healing Building 1 Loading Dock, 3303 Bond Ave., Portland, OR 97239. Drop off donations between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Items needed are:
    • Masks (no cloth masks at this time)
    • Face shields

    • Exam gloves (non-latex)

    • Sanitizing wipes

    • Hand sanitizer

    • Lab testing supplies (viral swab and collection test kits)

Please consult these resources for the most current information on the COVID-19 response:

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