By Mary Lyon
An AARP-sponsored phone-in town hall on the coronavirus on April 7th, couldn’t have come at a better time – either for Oregonians listening in, or for special guest Governor Kate Brown.
Brown began the event with heartfelt thanks to everyone cooperating with Oregon’s “Stay Home, Save Lives” campaign as the COVID-19 crisis accelerates. Almost everyone who had questions for her led with a thank-you, as well. It had escaped no one’s notice that Brown had sent 140 ventilators to COVID-afflicted New York over the previous weekend.* She was the first governor to respond to Andrew Cuomo’s desperate pleas for supplies, explaining “I did it because we could.” She appreciated Cuomo’s promise to come to Oregon’s aid if things turn sour here, because “states have to support one another.” At this writing, New York is beginning to detect a hint of a light at the end of the tunnel. Cuomo hailed her move as “kind, generous and smart.” Caller after caller into the town hall agreed.
The coronavirus is Subject A for Brown. She’s launched a public safety campaign to underscore the “Stay Home, Save Lives” mitigation message across the state, promoting “the only tools that work: social distancing.” In short, it’s working, and public sacrificing is paying off. Brown cautioned that there may be a rise in cases in coming days and weeks. Our state’s peak is expected on April 23rd, although the projection varies slightly from day to day.** She vowed to keep pushing staying home as “a key part of our response” to slow the spread of the virus and to “flatten the curve” on a graph of the outbreak’s growth.
Brown says Oregon is ready for the worst if/when it comes and that our experience in fighting the recent wildfires “has informed our work here.” There is an adequate number of ICU beds and ventilators (800 of them), even after helping New York. She doesn’t expect our state to need them all. On the other hand, she says first responders’ needs remain a high priority, because PPEs (Personal Protection Equipment) are scarce.
Brown says her team is “being as creative and innovative as we can,” scrounging from dentists, veterinarians and ambulatory surgical centers for masks, gloves and gowns, as well as new tools to sterilize those items for reuse. She has enlisted apparel manufacturers from giants like Nike to smaller companies, like Prison Blues blue jeans, now making masks and gowns. Oregon distillers are now producing hand sanitizer. For good measure, the Governor adds, the National Guard “has been incredibly important.” The number of people tested has increased substantially – to several thousand per week, but Brown now has her chief-of-staff doubling as “testing czar,” on the phone every day with the White House, urging an increase of testing capacity.
Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum joined in on the line, characterizing Brown as a “mama bear looking out for her cubs.” Rosenblum then turned to a different but equally urgent part of the story: scams, fraud, and price-gouging. She noted that “fraud never takes a holiday,” and warned that “exploiting fear for profit will not be tolerated.”
Rosenblum was blunt about scams such as those insisting that there already is a coronavirus cure: “there is no known cure yet,” she emphasized. “Anyone trying to sell you one is LYING.” Further, she reminds that the government does not call you and ask you to pay for some service or program. Any legitimate government contacts will always arrive through the mail. If someone contacts you claiming to be from the government, or the IRS, or Social Security, it’s a scam. They’re only looking for personal info so they can dig into you more deeply. Likewise, if you receive a virus-related appeal that claims to be from a charity, or the CDC, or the WHO, or the Oregon Health Authority – in short, anyone contacting you with a request for money in this regard, it’s bogus.
The same thing goes for the internet. Do not click on links from any unfamiliar source or compelling ads you might see online. That can engage a different kind of virus. And be wary of anyone coming to your door selling test kits (because they know you’re home!). There is no such kit. Rosenblum says if you are approached, you can certainly ask for THEIR contact information, which you can then report to authorities. Rosenblum says, “You don’t have to be Nancy Drew. Call us if you think there was a scam. We want to monitor that, and you can help us!” But perhaps the simplest solution, she says, is to terminate the conversation, shut the door or hang up the phone.
Rosenblum offered several legitimate resources for any and all questions or concerns about attempted rip-offs:
Oregonconsumer.gov: https://www.doj.state.or.us/consumer-protection/ (503) 378 – 8442.
Oregon Health Authority: https://www.oregon.gov/oha/Pages/index.aspx
The CDC: (https://www.cdc.gov ), AARP.org/health: https://www.aarp.org/health/, or AARP-Oregon: https://states.aarp.org/oregon/?cmp=RDRCT-ICM-WELCOMEKIT-STATES-OR (specific to Oregon) can get you to resource ideas.
Both Brown and Rosenblum remained resolute – this is an all-Oregon team effort from Salem to the ocean and the state lines, and everyone’s a full partner and contributor. That’s what’s making the “Stay Home, Save Lives” campaign a success, keeping our statistics lower and our curve flatter. As the governor put it: “I will continue doing everything I can, and thank you for doing everything you can!”