Oregon is setting up a 250-bed emergency hospital at the state fairgrounds in Salem to help increase capacity for an anticipated surge in coronavirus cases, Gov. Kate Brown announced Wednesday.

The hospital should be operational by Friday and is part of an effort to increase by 1,000 the total number of hospital beds in the state, the governor said during a daily briefing call with reporters. Hospitals around the state are also putting up tents to provide additional space for triage.

The Oregon Medical Station is a facility the state purchased a few years ago for use in an emergency, the governor said. Oregon Health Authority director Pat Allen, testifying before a legislative committee on Wednesday, described it as “essentially a mobile hospital facility that OHA has.”

The governor directed questions about how the hospital will get the needed workers and equipment to Andrew Phelps, the head of the Oregon Office of Emergency Management.

She also directed other questions to other agency heads, making it clear her office can’t keep up with the latest information on every virus-related front her administration is working on.

Brown said she expects she or her state schools chief will make a decision about whether or how to extend the school year to add more instructional time after further consultation with teachers, parents and local school superintendents.

The other big news out of the governor’s briefing is the state’s new agreement with a private testing company for 20,000 coronavirus tests.


Brown also touched on other actions she is considering as part of the state’s response to health and economic impacts of coronavirus, including requisitioning much needed personal protective equipment for healthcare workers from dental offices and even veterinarians.

The governor is also considering issuing additional guidance on operations to universities and community colleges and temporarily suspending certain transportation-related regulations covering both individuals and the trucking industry, such as the requirement for up-to-date vehicle registrations and drivers licenses.

— Hillary Borrud; hborrud@oregonian.com; @hborrud

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This article was originally published by The Oregonian/OregonLive, one of more than a dozen news organizations throughout the state sharing their coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak to help inform Oregonians about this evolving heath issue.