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Open Letter to Governor Brown about Covid19 testing

Oregon needs a concerted covid19 testing program in order to get people back to work sooner than later.
April 3, 2020
An open letter to Governor Brown
Salem, Oregon

Dear Governor Brown,

I am writing to you as a concerned citizen about Oregon's management of its Covid19 epidemic.

Most urgently, I want to amplify the call from Multnomah County Commissioner, Sharon Meieran, an emergency room physician, who has asked for you to appoint an expert in epidemiology to lead Oregon's fight against the corona virus.

I have read the report from Oregon Health Authority, Governor's Joint Task Force for Health Care Response to COVID19. The primary goal is to serve hospitals and staff with supplies so hospitals can meet needs of incoming patients. One task is to "secure Covid-19 specimen collection and testing kits as soon as possible." However, there is no specific task to conduct an epidemiological survey of state residents, especially those in potential cluster zones like nursing homes, day care facilities and schools. This may be too much to take on in the midst of the pandemic, but eventually it has to be done, one way or another.

Oregonians are largely complying with the "stay-at-home" order, and it appears Oregon is lucky among the states to have avoided so far, a major deluge of Covid19 patients to our hospitals. Oregonians are looking forward to the day when the order to stay at home is lifted, so people can return to work, and others can go out into the marketplace and spend money.

However, epidemiologists have pointed out that it would be irresponsible for governors to lift the stay at home order without having done some general testing of the public to know how extensively the virus has reached members of the population. Without testing, be it a serological antibody test, and / or a pathogen swab test, public health officials are flying blind. Covid19, to the extent possible, needs to be managed with more than a "stay at home order." Public health officials need to know where Covid19 is lurking, and whom it has infected, so more proactive measures can be taken.

Sadly, President Trump has abandoned any hopes we may have had for a national testing program; that possibility was shot down when the Center for Disease Control refused the offer from the World Health Organization to supply it with a German made kit designed to WHO specifications. If the CDC accepted the kits, much more testing could have been done early on; and the stay at home orders could have been made earlier and more lives saved. But this didn't happen, and now each state and locality are on its own, the president has declared.

The article in the Oregon Live news, points out that you are awaiting word from the Federal authorities on availability of funds to address economic and medical needs of the state prior to convening an emergency legislative session.

While waiting., I implore you to listen to Commissioner Meieran and appoint a public health / epidemiological expert to lead Oregon's fight against Covid19. This simple appointment will give Oregonians confidence that we have an expert leading the charge against Coronavirus.

I beseech Oregon Health Authority and the Coronavirus Response Team to design a "tracking and testing" program that emulates the methods Taiwan and the South Koreans have used to manage the pandemic there. In those countries, people are freely moving about and going to work. They all wear masks and practice social distancing and are able to keep the economy going. Their economies are not dropping into catastrophic depression as we are.

One of the Response Team's priorities must be a concerted testing program; apparently this will require a considerable number of workers to pull off, which is another reason to appoint an epidemiologist to lead the Covid19 fight. This medical emergency crisis requires a top-notch expert to be at the helm piloting our state around the rocky shoals of this corona virus emergency. Certainly, there is someone in our state sufficiently skilled to do this.

Finally, President Trump has been criticized for "invoking" the Defense Production Act but not using it across the board to procure all necessary supplies. Please use your office to request that the president more forcefully apply the Defense Act so all states may be able to access necessary testing, and secure other supplies with appropriate price controls in place.

I appreciate that you and your staff are hard at work contending with this crisis, but I would be remiss if I kept silent and said nothing about my concerns for a concerted testing program involving 'tracking and tracing'; I have heard epidemiologists all around the world emphasize this tactic. Without testing, health authorities will continue to fly blind, and people will remain very anxious about being in public, going to school, returning to work.

I will appeal to others to make a loud call, a shout out, for a concerted testing program. The epidemiologists know what to do; they say "test, test, test... "

I understand each state is competing for the same resources from a limited pool of manufacturers. So, it is of the utmost urgency for Oregon to be smart about how we manage our affairs and avoid 'reinventing the wheel.' I trust the experts our state has in place are doing their best; I would be disappointed though if we failed to get a solid testing program up and running as soon as possible.

Thank you for your attention to my concerns.

Chuck Fall
8300 SW Birchwood Rd.
Portland, OR 97225

Ps: Sharon Meieran