Gov. Kate Brown is sending National Guard troops to hospitals around Oregon to help frontline healthcare workers who are treating patients battling COVID-19. To start, the governor will deploy 500 National Guard members starting Aug. 20, who will help with logistics like handling materials and running equipment, along with helping with COVID-19 testing and other services. More than 20 hospitals across the state could get support from this new deployment, Brown's office announced Aug. 13. The governor will eventually deploy up to 1,500 Guard members to battle the surge. St. Charles Health System's Bend hospital was scheduled to start receiving help from about 72 Guard members as soon as Aug. 20.
"This morning I received the grim news that there are 733 Oregonians hospitalized with severe cases of COVID-19, including 185 in intensive care units," said Brown in a release. "I cannot emphasize enough the seriousness of this crisis for all Oregonians, especially those needing emergency and intensive care. When our hospitals are full with COVID-19 patients, there may not be room for someone needing care after a car crash, a heart attack or other emergency situation."
"I know this is not the summer many of us envisioned, with over 2.5 million Oregonians vaccinated against COVID-19. The harsh, and frustrating reality is that the Delta variant has changed everything. Delta is highly contagious, and we must take action now.
"We will get through this the same way we have before: together. So please, if you have been waiting to get vaccinated, go do it today. Vaccines are safe, effective, and widely available. And, when you go out in public today, wear a mask. Masks are a simple and effective way for all of us to help slow the spread of COVID-19."
Brown issued a new mask mandate for indoor settings that went into effect Aug. 13, in an effort to help hospitals deal with the surges in COVID patients they're now experiencing.
"Our data shows that we are still weeks away from the peak of this current surge," St. Charles' CEO Joe Sluka announced in a press release Aug. 13. "That's the bad news. The good news is we already know the best way out of this pandemic, and that's by vaccinating more people, wearing masks in public places and practicing good hand hygiene.
"I have no political agenda here. I am not trying to curb your freedoms or control your life in any way. I am simply trying to keep people from getting very sick, from dying, and from needing care in our hospitals, which are already in crisis."
Oregon's hospitals hit a record number of COVID hospitalizations for the third day in a row on Aug. 13, with 733 people hospitalized with COVID-19. At St. Charles Bend, some patients are being "boarded" in the Emergency Department until a bed in a COVID unit can open up. The health system has also canceled elective surgeries through the end of the year to manage the ongoing crisis.
Editor's note: The print edition of this story stated that National Guard troops were expected at St. Charles as early as Aug. 17. They are expected by Aug. 20. We regret the error.