March 14, 2020 — Last week, the first case of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) was reported in Multnomah County, making it the seventh county in Oregon to record a presumptive case of the virus — and the 15th presumptive positive case in the state (“presumptive” meaning confirmed by state testing but not yet confirmed by the CDC.
As of this writing (March 13), there have been no confirmed cases of the virus in Lane County, presumptive or otherwise.
But as PeaceHealth Oregon Network Vice President of Medical Affairs Jim McGovern, MD, explained in today’s article (page A1), “We cannot say that COVID-19 is not present in the Florence community — in fact, it likely is.”
Over the course of the past week, the Siuslaw News has been posting daily updates on our Facebook page with information provided by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and Lane County Public Health (LCPH) as a way to keep our community members informed with official word from state and local health organizations.
Regardless of whether you believe that the media is blowing the severity of the virus out of proportion, as a community news source we have an obligation to keep our readers appraised of the facts so that each of us can make informed decisions rather than decisions based on speculation or rumor.
We have kept — and will continue to keep — our reporting specific to the communities we cover and Lane County. To help facilitate official information from county and state health organizations, as well as provide updates on closures and cancellations, we have created a special coronavirus webpage that we are updating throughout the day, every day.
It is accessible to everyone in the communities we serve, whether they are a subscriber or not. The link will take you to that main page, where there are additional pages for:
1) Facts and frequently asked questions with information from Lane County Public Health and the Oregon Health Authority
2) An ongoing and updated list of event, meeting and activity cancelations in our area
3) The latest press releases from local, county and state agencies.
Our objective is to provide the community with a platform to find the latest information from health agencies as well as from local government, groups and organizations.
If you would like information posted there, email [email protected]
A few folks on social media have accused us of fear mongering. I don’t agree with that accusation but can understand their point of view.
However, I believe that real fear is the result of a lack of information — not the presence of it.
Last Monday, members of the OHA explained during an afternoon press conference that their focus has begun to shift: Instead of trying to prevent the spread, they are focusing primarily on ways to protect those who are most vulnerable.
The truth is that healthy individuals between ages of 5 and 59 who become infected with COVID-19 generally suffer only mild symptoms similar to the common cold or flu; the virus seems to have a minimal effect on children and young adults, which is good news for those of us with children.
However, for reasons epidemiologists don’t yet understand yet, those age 60 and older are particularly susceptible to the virus, and especially anyone with underlying respiratory or other health issues — regardless of age.
That means, for the majority of people, this virus won’t have a major impact on their health as long as they practice self-care the same way they would with the flu.
As a community, the bigger responsibility we have is to those who are most at risk. They are the ones that health authorities are focusing their efforts on protecting — and so should the rest of us who aren’t in that high-risk category.
While it’s true that last year’s flu season claimed more lives than COVID-19 has so far, the difference is this is a new virus and therefore an unknown. No one is immune because it has not been encountered before.
And unlike the common strain of flu, there is no vaccine yet and testing for it has required creating new tests that aren’t yet widely available.
Between staying informed and exercising common sense for our own sake and the sake of others, together we can help reduce the impact of this new virus within our community and those who are most susceptible to it.