This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. Credit: Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM

HILLSBORO - In a bid to ensure that Washington County personnel can act quickly to contain the further spread of the novel coronavirus causing the disease known as COVID-19, the Washington County Board of Commissioners adopted an emergency declaration to address the apparent outbreak on Wednesday. 

County officials were quick to stress that the declaration does not mean that the public faces any more risk than it did, but rather that the declaration permits the county to access certain resources and cut through red tape. 

“Our community is understandably concerned about this new virus and the impact it has been having here in the Pacific Northwest and around the world,” said County Board Chair Kathryn Harrington. “This emergency declaration does not indicate that the public is at any greater risk. The declaration is meant to give our county public health staff the flexibility and support it needs to quickly purchase supplies, organize our response over the weeks ahead and seek potential state and federal resources as they become available. Our full Board of Commissioners has great confidence in the work our county public health staff are doing, in partnership with our neighboring counties, the State of Oregon and federal agencies, and we want to give them every advantage this declaration can provide.”

The full declaration can be found here.

Specifically, the county is is authorized to do the following under the emergency declaration:

The declaration specifically authorizes the county organization to:

-- Seek state and federal assistance and potential reimbursement for local funds spent on COVID-19 response

-- Use streamlined processes for purchasing goods and services as allowed under Oregon law during emergency situations

-- Follow emergency plans and procedures as may be needed to protect the public health within the scope of state law and the county’s Charter and code

After two weeks, the declaration would expire on March 18, unless renewed by the Washington County Board of Commissioners.

The county also announced that their emergency operations center (EOC) was partially activated on Tuesday to help the Washington County Public Health Division coordinate multiple agencies in response to the coronavirus, and to assist with public information and community outreach. 

According to the Oregon Health Authority, three people in Oregon - two of them Washington County residents - are presumed to have the virus, one of which was confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control. 

Additional information on the coronavirus from the Oregon Health Authority can be found here or by calling 211.

“This emergency declaration will help our Public Health Division with additional resources as we continue to pursue our local role of investigating potential cases, monitoring the spread of illness, coordinating with our partner agencies and medical providers and keeping the public informed,” said Tricia Mortell, division manager for Washington County Public Health. “Although concerning, the presence of COVID-19 in our community is not yet leading us to declare a ‘public health emergency’ with restrictions on public gatherings and other limitations. For now, the best ways for preventing the spread of this new virus are the same as those for stopping the spread of the flu and other more common communicable diseases.”  

According to the OHA, some precautions to take regarding the coronavirus are:

• wash hands often with soap and water. If not available, use hand sanitizer 

• avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands 

• avoid contact with people who are sick 

• stay home while you are sick and avoid close contact with others 

• cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing

Symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, coughing, difficulty breathing, and, very rarely, death. Some may have mild symptoms, and others may have severe symptoms requiring hospitalization. The OHA asks those worried they may be at risk to call their health care provider for instructions and advice.