Temporary hospital to be installed on state fairgrounds in Salem, governor says

Gov. Kate Brown details steps Oregon is taking to limit the spread of COVID-19 at a press conference in Portland on March 12, 2020. (Jake Thomas/Salem Reporter)

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A temporary hospital with 250 beds will be set up on the grounds of the Oregon State Fair and Exposition Center to siphon off patients from existing hospitals that are preparing for a surge of people needing treatment for the novel coronavirus.

Gov. Kate Brown announced the establishment of the Oregon Medical Station on Wednesday in a call with reporters.

This was part of the state’s effort to add 1,000 hospital beds to Oregon’s existing supply. The intent, said is “to move non-COVID patients in recovery to free up space in primary hospitals.”

State officials expect that 75,000 Oregonians could become infected with COVID-19 and that up to 20% will need intense medical treatment.

The hospital will be set up in the Jackman-Long Building, which during the state fair is a large commercial exhibition hall. With 250 beds, it would become one of the largest hospitals in Oregon.

The building is 48,000 square feet, which is equal to about 18 average-sized family homes.

The Oregon National Guard is expected to start establishing the hospital on Thursday, working with the Oregon Health Authority but details on how the hospital will be staffed and when it would be running.

Brown also said the state will continue to expand testing for the disease and has contracted for 20,000 tests but she warned that not every Oregonian who wanted would get the test.

She also said the state is establishing a system to round up personal protective equipment from those who aren’t providing medical services, such as contractors and veterinary clinics.

Brown acknowledged growing fear among Oregonians.

“A lot of Oregonians are afraid and anxious,” she said. “We are all feeling that level of fear and concern.”

She said that part of a funding request being developed for the Oregon Legislature is additional help for suicide prevention hotlines, noting that Oregon’s rate of teen suicides is among the highest in the country.