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Oregon health officials: prepare for 'thousands of cases' of coronavirus

All gatherings of more than 250 people will be canceled.

Posted: Mar 12, 2020 8:28 AM
Updated: Mar 12, 2020 11:38 AM

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Oregon health officials warned Thursday cases of COVID-19 may actually be much higher than the 21 cases confirmed so far in the state.

Gov. Kate Brown held a press conference Thursday morning in Portland to give an update on what the state is doing to control the outbreak of COVID-19. 

Dr. Dean Sidelinger with Oregon Health Authority said if something doesn't change, cases could reach 75,000 by the middle of May. Sidelinger estimated the true number of cases in Oregon is between 150 to 250. 

"We find ourselves in an unprecedented public health crisis. A rapidly evolving global pandemic. Most of us have never experienced anything like this," Brown said.

Brown addressed mass gatherings, social distancing, workplace practices and other community-wide mitigation efforts to help slow the transmission of the coronavirus.

"Our strategy now in Oregon is shifting away from one of containing isolated cases of COVID-19. Now we are focused on preventing the worst impacts of a mass outbreak from coming to pass," Governor Brown said.


The press conference comes hours after Brown announced a decision to ban large gatherings of more than 250 people until April 8 due to concerns of coronavirus. Brown said the ban only applies to large events, not shopping centers or schools.

“It’s critically important for our children to remain in school to get the education they need," Brown said.

Brown said the goal now is to slow the transmission of the virus and free up hospital space for those who need it.

The governor was joined by Oregon Health Authority Director Pat Allen, tri-county health officials, and other state and local officials.

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