Oregon’s US lawmakers urge FEMA to help short-staffed hospitals

Oregon’s entire congressional delegation on Monday urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency, known as FEMA, to help the state cope with the latest surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, by providing medical personnel.

U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and U.S. Reps. Peter DeFazio, Earl Blumenauer, Kurt Schrader, Suzanne Bonamici and Cliff Bentz all signed a letter sent to FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell.

The lawmakers were following up on a request sent to FEMA by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown last Friday, when she also requested medical personnel. The lawmakers asked for “swift and full consideration” of their request.

They noted in the letter that, although more than 71% of adult Oregonians are vaccinated and the state has had relatively low levels of infection during the pandemic, communities with low vaccination rates are experiencing extremely high rates of COVID-19 infection and hospitalizations are spiking statewide.

“As a result, the state hospital and health care systems are facing an acute staffing need,” the lawmakers wrote FEMA. “State officials estimate that the current surge in cases is likely to exceed hospital capacity by 400-500 beds in a matter of weeks. The state has subsequently tightened mitigation measures, like indoor masking, and has asked the National Guard to provide support to hospital staff in heavily impacted areas. In addition to these efforts, Governor Brown is requesting FEMA provide additional personnel to ensure Oregonians get the care that they need during this critical time.”

Oregon COVID-19 diagnoses continue to rise, with 4,396 new cases counted during the three-day period between Friday and Sunday. Since the start of the pandemic, Oregon has seen 242,843 people infected with the virus.

The Oregon Health Authority also reported 14 new COVID-19 related deaths on Monday, raising the death toll to 2,949. The youngest was a 27-year-old Douglas County woman. It is unknown if she had underlying health conditions.

Across Oregon, 752 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Monday. There were 206 COVID-19 patients in intensive care unit beds, up 11 from a day earlier.

The Oregon Health Authority reported that 3,013 new doses of COVID-19 vaccinations were added to the state immunization registry. The seven-day running average is now 5,923 doses administered per day.

As of Monday, 2,553,384 people in Oregon have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 2,351,758 have completed a COVID-19 vaccine series.