Oregon Delegation Announces $500,000 in Initial CDC Funding for Oregon Coronavirus Response, Pushes for More Federal Help to Boost State’s Response

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, along with U.S. Representatives Peter DeFazio, Suzanne Bonamici, and Earl Blumenauer, today announced $500,000 in Centers for Disease Control (CDC) funding for the State of Oregon to help fight the coronavirus. 

Today’s CDC award is in addition to any funding that will come out of the emergency funding package that was announced today. That package passed the U.S. House of Representatives today and is expected to pass the Senate tomorrow. 

The members also pushed the White House to heed Governor Kate Brown’s request for additional federal support—specifically on protective equipment, testing, and additional funding—to help the state respond to the outbreak in Oregon.

“With now three cases across Oregon, it’s clear that this virus is spreading and that our state will need significant resources to respond effectively and keep Oregonians safe,” said Merkley, who has been pushing for and delivering emergency funding as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “We need an all-hands-on-deck approach to support our communities as they fight this virus, and it’s good news that the CDC is sending initial funding to Oregon today. I will keep pushing fiercely to support Oregon’s needs and make sure the federal government is doing everything it can to respond swiftly and effectively to this outbreak.” 

“Right now, our number one priority is ensuring the health and safety of all Oregonians, and that urgent business means making sure the state has all the resources it needs as soon as possible to effectively combat the threat posed by COVID-19,” Wyden said. “These initial funds are a welcome first step in that fight, and I’m going to keep pushing for more federal dollars and resources to keep our communities safe.” 

“A serious public health emergency such as the spread of COVID-19 requires a coordinated response between state, local, and federal agencies,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio. “The federal government must ensure states like Oregon have the tools and funding they need to treat and fight the spread of this disease. I will continue to push to ensure Oregon has everything it needs to keep our communities safe.” 

“Over the past several days I’ve spoken with Governor Brown, Pat Allen at the Oregon Health Authority, county public health officials, school superintendents, health care leaders, and workers across NW Oregon about the coronavirus,” said Rep. Suzanne Bonamici. “Every one emphasized the need for immediate and robust funding. Earlier today the CDC announced it will allocate $500,000 immediately to Oregon. Importantly, the House also just passed a robust funding package that will build on this initial installment of funding to help make sure our communities have what they need for the strongest possible response to this public health crisis.”

“It is essential that we dedicate our attention and resources to the experts working to fight this crisis,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer. “My community in Oregon was one of the first in the country exposed to the coronavirus. As more suspected cases arise, the funding package passed by the House today is imperative. Alongside Governor Brown, the rest of the Oregon delegation, and local health officials, we are working to address this crisis and prioritize the needs of Oregonians. I’m committed to keeping our community and people across the country healthy and safe.”

Oregon will receive $500,000 in funding out of an initial $25 million awarded by the CDC today. That funding is being awarded to the states that have had the heaviest load in response and preparedness activities so far in the outbreak. The funding can be used for monitoring travelers, data management, lab equipment, supplies, staffing, shipping, and infection control. 

The members are continuing to push the federal government to meet Oregon’s full need for emergency funding, which Governor Brown has estimated at $7 to $10 million per month.

In addition, in their letter to President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, the members asked for the federal government to support two key requests from Governor Brown:
• Releasing additional personal protective equipment from the federal government’s stockpile, including N95 masks, gowns, gloves, Tyvek suits, Biocell Ambulance Protection Systems, and 75 to 100 ventilators.
• Enabling flexibility on testing criteria for the COVID-19 coronavirus. Specifically, Oregon would like the federal government to provide states with the ability to develop and order the materials needed to build and perform their own tests, or to use CDC’s template to scale up capacity to conduct tests and produce results more quickly.

The full text of the members’ letter can be found attached, and follows below.


March 4, 2020

The Honorable Mike Pence
Vice President of the United States
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20501

Dear Mr. Vice President:

Thank you for the briefing you and members of your Coronavirus Taskforce provided to Congress on the administration’s efforts to respond to the ongoing threat coronavirus (COVID-19) presents to the American public and the world. It is critical that states, local governments, and tribes remain in close contact as the outbreak evolves. We specifically write to support the request of Oregon’s Governor Kate Brown for additional federal assistance and resources.

To date, Oregon has one confirmed case and two presumed positive cases of COVID-19 and over a hundred individuals who are under monitoring although they do not have symptoms but have been exposed through close contact with a confirmed case or from travel to mainland China. We have been tracking this situation closely and have been in constant communication with state health and education agencies, unions, hospitals and health systems, tribal leaders, superintendents, and other leaders. While the risk of contracting COVID-19 remains low, it is critical that Oregonians are advised on science-based precautions to protect themselves and their communities—this includes handwashing and hand hygiene, covering coughs and sneezes, staying home when ill, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, staying current on vaccinations, eating well, and exercising to help our bodies stay resilient.

Like other states with cases of COVID-19, we are concerned that Oregon does not have a sufficient supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) should COVID-19 spread more widely among the community, especially in Oregon’s rural and frontier communities. While actions by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to increase access to respirators, including N95 masks, for health care personnel may help in the short term, we strongly urge you to release additional PPE from the federal government’s strategic national stockpile, including 400,000 N-95 respirators, gowns, gloves, Tyvek suits, Biocell Ambulance Protection Systems (Biocell-APS), and 75 to100 ventilators.

We also request flexibility on testing criteria for COVID-19 as covered by FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to expedite the agency’s permitted use of the CDC diagnostic panel and provide states with the ability to develop and order the materials needed to build and perform their own tests, or use CDC’s template to scale up capacity to conduct tests and produce results more quickly to contain this outbreak.

Additionally, as a state with large, rural, and frontier regions we remain concerned about potential workforce shortages in small rural hospitals and other providers in areas that already struggle to maintain adequate staffing levels for provider and patient safety.

A significant amount of federal resources and funding will be needed to contain this outbreak, which will evolve as the outbreak evolves. Currently, Oregon estimates a financial need of $7 million to $10 million per month to support the additional resources needed for state, local, and tribal health—in addition to reimbursing the costs already incurred.

As you work to contain this outbreak, we request your continued partnership and urge you to work with state, local, and tribal governments to ensure our communities have the resources they need to protect public health.

Thank you for your attention to this matter, and we look forward to your response.