Chronicle file photo
BY THE NUMBERS:
Creswell: 73 cases in past two weeks; 496 all-time
Cottage Grove: 155 in past two weeks; 769 all-time
Pleasant Hill: 17 in past two weeks; 129 all-time
Springfield (all zip codes): 684 in past two weeks; 5,265 all-time
SPRINGFIELD – After falling into the single digits in early July, COVID-19 hospitalizations at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend have risen dramatically, reaching a record high of 67 on Tuesday, according to Dr. Jim McGovern, the chief medical officer for the PeaceHealth Oregon network and COVID-19 incident commander.
He said that hospitalizations are projected to rise until at least mid-September, and that resources are already strained.
“We are strained and have been working at or over-capacity for several weeks,” McGovern said of RiverBend. “We do not have a set number of beds for Covid patients. As the numbers grow, we adjust our normal operations and expand the number of beds for Covid patients.”
The hospital announced that it has delayed elective/scheduled surgeries Monday, effective at least through the end of the week to ensure the hospital will have adequate intensive care unit beds for non-COVID-19 patients.
“We needed to reserve space, nursing and anesthesia resources for those patients, and to continue to be able to perform urgent and emergent surgeries,” he said.
McGovern said that hospitals across Oregon are in a similar situation, in part due to the increase of rising Covid cases, and because of an increase in non-Covid patients who may have delayed getting regular medical services earlier on in the pandemic.
While children have been largely spared in the first four waves of the pandemic, the “frustrating reality” is that the virus has mutated, and schools’ strategies must be altered to protect children from this more susceptible variant.
Gov. Kate Brown on Aug. 12 instituted indoor mask requirements for public spaces and for all K-12 schools, and on Tuesday called for all superintendents and school board members to “set aside differences” and work toward a common goal of keeping children safe and back in the classrooms.
Scott Linenberger, superintendent of the Pleasant Hill School District, said in a letter to parents that he objects to “the loss of local control,” and that the district “remains committed to striking a balance between managing risks associated with the COVID-19 preventative measures and the quality and effectiveness of the educational experience.”
Just before the new mandates were instituted, Linenberger sent out a survey to gauge parents’ opinions of mask use in schools. Results indicate that over 76% (364 people) said that face coverings should be optional for all students and staff. Only 11% (54 people) said that they should be required.
Mike Johnson, Creswell School District superintendent, said in a letter to parents that he is “frustrated by these swift changes” and “will steadfastly continue to advocate for a return to local decision making.” He did not return Chronicle messages for further comment.
Springfield Public Schools superintendent Todd Hamilton said in another report that the district will follow the state guidance and will require masks.
“I have heard much about personal freedom when it comes to masks … I have not heard as much said about personal responsibility,” Brown said in her letter. “As leaders, we have a great responsibility to our students and their futures … It is up to us to make clear-eyed decisions based on science and fact. Flouting mask requirements will put everything we have worked towards in the last year at risk.”
Oregon schools that fail to enforce mask-wearing rules for employees and students could be fined up to $500 per day per incident, according to the Oregon Department of Education and the Oregon Health Authority.
The mask requirement will be reviewed monthly by the OHA. If plans change, “we will be ready to adjust accordingly,” Johnson said.