Joint statement on COVID-19

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. – In the wake of the Klamath County Board of Commissioners declaring a state of emergency, leading health agencies in the county came together to provide context and information for the community.

COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, is a public health crisis, which finds Klamath County Public Health taking the lead in meeting this challenge. However, Public Health has numerous partners in ensuring the health and safety of county residents. These include Sky Lakes Medical Center, Klamath Health Partnership – also known as Klamath Open Door – and Klamath County Emergency Management, just to name a few.

“Our clinic provides reproductive health and immunization services, along with communicable disease investigation and response,” said KCPH director Jennifer Little. “We are not prepared to administer COVID-19 testing. However, we receive the information necessary for clinicians, agencies and businesses to be well informed and prepared to resist this pandemic. We work within the emergency framework that allows for both emergency response and continuity of operations.”

Little continued that KCPH is routinely issuing health alert network messages as information changes, which it often does in efforts to defeat this new, or novel, virus. She said Public Health’s website is updated daily, as it is a recognized source of factual information. A KCPH Incident management team is available as dedicated staff resources for the COVID-19 response, allowing other staff to continue providing all regular public health services.

Klamath Health Partnership is the federally qualified health center in the community. That means, in addition to some other legal requirements, its clinics serve anyone in the community, with an emphasis on serving the underserved. It is a place where the everyone from the community is on an equal footing in receiving medical care.

“Not everyone in the community meets the requirements to be tested. It is important for people to know that the criteria that determines who will be tested is fair and consistent across the community,” said Signe Porter, CEO of Klamath Health Partnership. “Patients should not feel slighted if they are not tested for COVID-19.”

Porter explained that most people who contract COVID-19 will experience mild symptoms. Some will not have any symptoms, while another group will have flu-like symptoms. She said that following international trends, individuals who become severely ill are only about two percent of patients.

At this time there has only been one COVID-19 case confirmed in the community. That person has recovered and there was no community exposure.

Wendy Warren, MD, medical officer for KCPH explains, “A lot of people want to get tested for peace of mind. We all have to work together and reserve tests for those who are most sick. At this time the treatment is the same whether you get tested or not. People who are experiencing flu-like symptoms and do not need immediate medical attention should remain at home until three days after the symptoms stop.”

Little addressed the recent Klamath County emergency declaration: “The emergency declaration is an official designation that allows the county to access more federal and state resources. Klamath County is not in an emergency situation at this time. Working together, our community won’t get to that point.”

Amanda Blodgett, Klamath Health Partnership’s COO, said, “There is a lot of fear worldwide right now. We want the community to know that resources are in place to help those who fall ill. Although, some people will get sick, the majority of people will have slight or no symptoms. There is no need to panic.”