The pace at which life is changing for each and every one of us is astounding. For me, this entire experience feels like a tsunami. My imaginative brain can even hear its roar.
The message I'd like to share this week echoes the ones found on our Letters page, where we've made space for leaders in our medical and business communities. The message: Things are very tough right now. But the best thing you can do is to stay home, ride this out and do what you can, in your limited capacities, to be ready for the work that will come next in setting our economy to rights.
- Nicole Vulcan
- Signs, signs everywhere. Stay home, stay safe. That's what you can do right now.
I have no crystal ball. No one does. But I know that our work as a locally owned newspaper has never been more important. Turn to our editor and publisher's note this week for more on what lies ahead in the immediate future.
Also, in addition to our website, I invite you to turn to two of our crucial online resources that you can access right from home.
Sign up for our digital newspaper, the Cascades Reader, to have our latest news delivered to your inbox every morning—weekends included: bendsource.com/newsletters
And consider becoming a member of our Source Insider program, to support local journalism when it is most needed: bendsource.com/insider
I love this community and I know many of you do, too. We'll continue to be here, working to tell your stories.
GUEST OPINION: Getting Through This, Together
Bend and Central Oregon businesses know how to pull up their bootstraps when times get tough. We've learned that lesson before on how to bounce back from dire straits. We know that working together helps ease and spread the burden, and that collaboration will spark innovation and set us up for a robust and hopefully speedy comeback.
Help is coming from many directions already. Economic organizations, public agencies and many others are connecting with businesses to provide information on how to access emergency funds. A new regional website called CentralOregonSOS.com, launching within the week, will host a collection of resources and links to direct businesses and employees to where they can go for financial assistance, information, resources and connections. And grassroots organizations like the Pandemic Partners Bend Facebook group are growing quickly to connect people, identify needs, provide information and assist those who need supplies, information and help.
The Oregon state legislature and the U.S. Congress are also taking action. Federal legislation on coronavirus assistance was adopted last week to help get emergency funding to businesses, provide health coverage and COVID-19 testing for families in need and increase unemployment availability. More assistance is on its way as Congress works to match funding assistance and aid with the on-the-ground needs of business, their employees and families.
The Oregon legislature and the governor are working to respond to the impacts of the virus. As part of preparing our communities, health care and supply system, legislators are also considering how to best get assistance to businesses and employees who have lost business and their livelihood. They have increased accessibility to unemployment insurance benefits, opened up access to the Small Business Administration economic disaster program that provides access to low interest federally-backed loans and are considering a host of other options. Their work is continuing this week in the Joint Special Committee on Coronavirus Response and a special session is expected to be called by Gov. Brown within days to approve these recommendations.
The Bend Chamber of Commerce is advocating to protect the Unemployment Insurance Fund by replenishing it to cover more Oregonians out of work. Additionally, the state must help businesses with immediate cash flow challenges by temporarily easing new taxes such as the Corporate Activities Tax and allowing for flexibility on filing deadlines. Housing and food security are at a critical stage and require immediate action and distribution of funds to those who are vulnerable to foreclosure or eviction. Sole proprietors need financial assistance as well, having limited or no access to unemployment assistance. And as our healthcare providers battle the virus, they will need lodging to avoid exposure to family members and reliable, safe child care. The list goes on, but what is most evident is that help needs to be immediate.
For the next 90 days as we adjust our work and social habits to battle the coronavirus it will be critical to reach out to those in need. The better we work together, the more quickly we will recover.
-Katy Brooks, CEO, Bend Chamber
GUEST OPINION: It's time to act!
Over the past several weeks, St. Charles caregivers at all levels have been working tirelessly to prepare the health system for a widespread COVID-19 outbreak in Central Oregon.
I am so proud of the way our teams have come together and made critical decisions quickly that will protect them and help us serve our community throughout this ongoing pandemic.
But I worry that without your help, everything we do won't be enough.
While I am supporting our local caregivers, as Chairman of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, I have also been working closely with local, state and federal officials on our response to this growing public health issue.
Although the Governor has instituted an order to stay home unless you need food, medical supplies or emergency medical care – all weekend people ignored the information, went to the beach and flooded state parks and national forests. This is unacceptable.
We are in a fight right now!
This is a fight in which we have to do everything in our power to win. As the leader of your local health care system, I am begging you. Stay home now. You can't catch or spread this disease if you don't come in contact with it. Our caregivers and first responders are putting themselves on the frontline and don't have a choice. They will come to work so they can care for you and your loved ones. We need you to stay home so we will have the capacity – the hospital beds, ventilators and trained staff – to care for those who need it most.
Our actions over the next few weeks are crucial to slowing the spread of COVID-19. What we do in the coming days will directly impact our efforts to "flatten the curve" of the disease and slow the tide of patients that threatens to inundate our hospitals. You only need to look at New York, California and our neighbor to the north, Washington, to see what is heading our way.
We can see it coming, now is the time to act before it is too late.
Although we have created surge plans and set up tents at each of our facilities, this threat remains very real.
No matter what you've done in recent days, you must listen to me: The only way we are going to slow the spread of COVID-19 right now is by self-isolating at home and only leaving for essential needs like food or medicine. If you have kids at home – including teenagers – we need you to enforce this directive for them, too.
Yes, that means no trips to the popular dog park. No gathering for a picnic, even if you sit six feet apart. No spring break trips to the coast. It means stay home. These actions are necessary to save lives in our community and the lives of our health care workers.
I would also like to thank our health care workers, EMS agencies and all first responders who are putting their lives on the line to help us through this continuing crisis. They are making critical sacrifices. Please make changes in your own behavior to support them.
-Joe Sluka is the president and CEO of St. Charles Health System and chairman of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems