Democrats in control of the Oregon legislature want to spend $ 1 million hiring an outside consultant to study the state’s COVID-19 response.
The state Senate on Monday approved a bill with a vote of 17 to 9 party lines that allocated the money and instructed the Oregon Health Authority to find a third-party provider to carry out the report.
The study will look at several factors in the state’s fight with coronavirus, including what worked well and what needs improvement or further investment, how different levels of government were coordinated, how resources were used, what challenges healthcare professionals faced, the effectiveness of the public . health mandates and their enforcement, and whether health outcomes were fair across different socio-economic and racial demographic groups.
The study would require input from state and local agencies, hospitals and doctors, companies, schools and individuals. An initial report would be required by November 15, but the final report to lawmakers would be delivered by September 1, 2023.
Ultimately, this report will seek to answer whether the state’s response to the virus was effective or not. In Oregon, nearly 700,000 people contracted the disease, up to 27,000 were hospitalized and 6,582 died.
In a floor speech Monday, Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, D-Portland, characterized the investigation as a “post-action report” similar to those issued by the military after a particularly significant event.
“This is a term that has also been adopted in the private sector, and it makes sense because we have essentially been in a struggle, a long war, for the last two years,” she said.
Steiner Hayward said the management of infectious diseases is one of the core functions of public health, and if state leaders want to improve public health, they need to know where they succeeded and where they failed during the pandemic.
“This is a simple, data-driven exercise that will allow us to understand our strengths and our challenges,” she said.
Senate Republicans – who have often spoken out against public health mandates such as masking and vaccine demands – did not see it that way.
Late. Dennis Linthicum, R-Klamath Falls, opposed the bill, not because he does not believe an inquiry is warranted, he said, but because the bill put forward by Democrats does not ask the right questions.
Linthicum said the language of the bill puts too much data into data and not enough into the quality of the services provided to Oregonians by health care providers and the state.
He suggested that the state would be better served by looking at policies that “ruined lives”, such as mandates and shutdowns.
“(COVID-19) politics have impoverished tens of thousands of people in Oregon and millions around the world,” Linthicum said, “and we seem to be interested in how many face masks we handed out in relation to how many lives we ruined. … these social costs should be part of the equation. “
Late. Sara Gelser Blouin, D-Corvallis, responded by acknowledging that school children, businesses and families have suffered during the pandemic. But the 6,582 Oregonians lost to the virus and more than 27,000 others hospitalized require an in-depth analysis of how the state can do better, she said.
Gelser Blouin asked his colleagues to consider what might have happened if Oregon had not done something different after the arrival of COVID-19.
“What would those numbers have been? Who of us sitting on this floor would not be sitting on this floor today? For we would not be sitting anywhere. Which of us would have buried a child, a spouse, a sibling, a priest, a friend? It’s hard to know, “she said.” What I do know is that we have exhausted and dedicated public health officials who have spent the last two years being attacked in public, in the newspapers and sometimes even on this floor. “
Gelser Blouin recalled a horrific moment from March 2020. She said she received a panicked call from a county commissioner in her district who stood in line at a Home Depot and bought any face mask they could take to a veterans group home because there was no one. personal protective equipment easily accessible.
“This bill will help us make sure it doesn’t happen again,” she said. “Oregon deserves that we do the best we can.”
Steiner Hayward said she does not disagree with Linthicum that the state needs to better understand all the effects of policies made during the pandemic. But these issues – which she formulated as economic and educational issues – are not related to public health.
“This is a focused bill,” she said. “This is a bill to understand whether what we are doing as part of the public health modernization of the state worked or did not work to keep people alive.”
The bill is now going to the Folketing. If enacted, the Oregon Health Authority will be asked to begin cooperating with county health authorities to identify a consultant to oversee the study.