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Samaritan Chief Medical Officer Letter to Local Employers

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First, we would like to thank each of you for all you are doing to help our community respond to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). While this virus is new, preparing for pandemic illness is not new for Samaritan Health Services. Our efforts have ramped up, and we are working in conjunction with the CDC, the Oregon Health Authority and local public health departments.

We have received many requests for COVID-19 testing in our urgent cares and primary care clinics, and employees are telling us they are required to have a normal test in order to be allowed back to work. Unfortunately, that is not often possible for several reasons, and further, a negative or normal test result doesn’t guarantee that they don’t have the illness. Testing supplies and capabilities are currently quite limited, and we are only able to test certain high-risk patients. Most healthy, working-age employees do not fit the guidelines for testing, so it puts them in a very difficult position. Meanwhile, if a test comes back normal, but they do in fact have the illness, they could infect others if they go back to work too soon.

Our Recommendations

If your employee has some combination of fever, cough or shortness of breath (one or all three), they should stay at home for at least 7 days, including a minimum of 3 days after their fever is gone and the cough and shortness of breath are improving. Have them call their medical provider’s office if they have questions. That way, the medical system will not be focused on minimally sick patients in this time of great need, and you can feel confident that they won’t get others sick at work. If an employee does need medical care, they should call their primary care provider or do a MyChart E-Visit to determine if testing is necessary. Samaritan patients can visit samhealth.org/MyChart, and those new to Samaritan may call 541-768-7080 to get set up with MyChart, where they choose the E-Visit type “Coronavirus Concerns” for a free assessment and to see if they qualify for testing.

Employers are encouraged to share basic precautions with staff to help avoid spreading illness:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Cover mouth and nose with tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose, mouth with unwashed hands.<
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home while sick and avoid close contact with others.
  • Stay home as much as possible (social distancing), except for essential trips and for work.

You and your staff can stay informed about coronavirus by getting information from trusted sources such as the Oregon Health Authority. For information specific to Samaritan, visit samhealth.org/Coronavirus.

Sincerely,

Robert Turngren, MD
Senior Vice President/Chief Medical Officer
Samaritan Health Services