CORONAVIRUS, Government, Oregon

Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen returns to work after weeks of recovery

Patrick Allen, the director of the Oregon Health Authority, returned to duty this week after a long absence.

The agency declined to respond to requests for more information. He was working at his home in Sherwood throughout much of the pandemic. It’s not clear whether he is continuing to work from home.

Allen had a “serious” fall on Jan. 23 and was hospitalized, according to a news release from the agency two days later. He was evaluated for heart issues, the release said, and returned to his home in Sherwood within three days. The health authority said he did not have Covid.

During his seven-week absence, his deputy, Kris Kautz, ran the agency, including during the short legislative session. Normally, Allen would be testifying before legislative committees.

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Allen is 59 and took over the $30 billion agency in September 2017 after the former director Lynne Saxton was pushed out. He oversees 4,770 employees and multiple programs, including Medicaid, which covers one in three Oregonians.

But Covid took up much of his time during the pandemic, with the health agency focused on getting Oregonians vaccinated. The demand has slowed to a point where the agency is worried about thousands of stockpiled vaccines expiring.

Allen comes back at a time where the country appears to be transitioning to an endemic stage of living with the virus, much like influenza. On Saturday, Oregon’s mask mandates for indoor public places and schools end, though health officials say anyone at high risk because of age or their health status should still stay masked in public.

A version of omicron is now circulating in the United States. It’s even more infectious than the original, experts say.

This story originally appeared in the Oregon Capital Chronicle and is republished here under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license. Read more stories at oregoncapitalchronicle.com.

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