Governor's Order Helps Hospitals Respond To Respiratory Infection Crisis

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 health care 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 health care 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 health care 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 health care 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.

Oregon Nurses Association Critical

Nurses represented by the Oregon Nurses Association agree that our state is in crisis. In fact, nurses in Oregon know better than anyone the true extent of this crisis.

Today’s executive order, which expands the hospital capacity crisis beyond pediatric units to entire hospitals and health systems, is necessary. It is also embarrassingly late and lacking in strong solution-driven policy directives. It opens the state’s coffers to wealthy hospital systems which have billions of dollars in cash reserves and heaps more stress on frontline health care providers who are already buckling under the pressure of these recurring surges.

More problematic is that this emergency order will give hospitals new ways to willfully ignore Oregon’s nurse staffing law – a law that most hospitals in Oregon already flout without consequence.

Source: Oregon Governor's Office and ONA

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