Lane County Board of Commissioners Examine COVID-19 Next Steps

Updates from the Lane County Department of Health and discussions about moving forward

On Tuesday, April 28, the Lane County Board of Commissioners discussed via Zoom the next steps of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Karen Gaffney, director of the Lane County Department of Health and Human Services, spoke about the state’s strategies moving forward with the eventual reopening.

According to Lane County’s senior public health officer Dr. Patrick Luedtke, there are seven conditions for reopening the state and Gaffney outlined these conditions in Tuesday’s meeting.

One of the requirements is having a decline in cases over 14 days. “We haven’t had a very high burden of disease,” Gaffney said. “We will be keeping track not only on our number of positive cases but also the percentage of all tests that are positive.”

The availability of local laboratory testing is another priority for the county. Gaffney said that there are now local labs at PeaceHealth and McKenzie Willamette hospitals in collaboration with the University of Oregon. The department’s goal is to have a minimum of 500 tests a day in Lane County. 

She said conducting contact tracing and having sufficient resources to do so is important also. This means health officials reaching out to everyone who has been in close contact with an infected person to assess if they need to be tested. If any of them have symptoms, they will then reach out to their contacts and so on. 

There needs to be a sufficient amount of personal protective equipment in circulation as well. 

“It was a significant concern in the beginning, and is less so in our community now I’m pleased to report,” Gaffney said. “We have significant amounts of PPE on hand that we then distribute to providers and other priority organizations in the community.”

The Health Department also wants the support of the Oregon Health Authority for any relaxation of the restrictions. “This really is a statewide concern,” Gaffney says. “And while we may be in a particularly good position, it doesn’t mean that the counties around us share that.”

One of the strategies to move forward, Gaffney said, is purchasing the clinic at 100 River Avenue. The county established a partnership with the Army Corps of Engineers, the Oregon Health Authority and FEMA to repurpose the building as an alternative care site for unhoused patients with COVID-19 symptoms, with construction currently underway. The county’s goal is to meet a May 15 deadline for having the facility open. 

According to Lane County, as of this writing, there have been at least 4,138 COVID-19 tests conducted for Lane County residents. Of those, 55 have resulted positive, and there have been two deaths. 

These meetings are open to the public every Tuesday morning and afternoon via the Lane County website. To participate in commenting, audience members need to register at

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