Coronavirus Update: Planning for the Next Phase

House Speaker Tina Kotek

Coronavirus Update: Planning for the Next Phase

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I hope you had a nice weekend and were able to stay safe. I stayed in and watched the One World: Together At Home global broadcast, the music event that raised millions to support front-line workers battling the coronavirus pandemic. Lady Gaga, The Rolling Stones, and Lizzo had some really memorable performances that I'd highly recommend. I'm so glad the event reportedly raised more than $127 million for our frontline workers and I'm so grateful for what workers around the state are doing.

Last Friday in my newsletter, I talked about some of the really great data we’re seeing that shows the work Oregonians are doing to stop the spread of the coronavirus is really working. Today, we have encouraging news to report based on our testing.

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) says the state, overall, is now conducting approximately 9,200 tests per week. Despite the growing number of tests being completed, the percentage of positive tests (people who have the virus) is holding steady at about 5%. So, while the modeling indicates that there are more active cases out there, this steady percentage shows that we are controlling the spread under Stay Home, Save Lives.

Testing will have to ramp up even more before some of the physical distancing restrictions can be lifted. The OHA will soon be releasing new rules on expanding who can get tested, such as grocery workers, and there is a plan in the works for pharmacy-based testing. Additionally, to prepare for reopening the state, they are preparing a 600-person workforce to handle contract tracing and quarantine restrictions.

With that said, I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that we still have a long way to go to get through this public health crisis. More than 40,000 Americans have died, including nearly 20,000 last week alone, and our frontline health care workers are still facing immense challenges even as we’ve done a great job of flattening the curve of the pandemic.

Below is a graphic that explains what we need to have in order to reopen our state as safely as possible:

Start to Reopen?

Increased testing capacity and the ability to do more contact tracing will allow public health officials to track individuals who have come into contact with others who have tested positive for the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more information on contact tracing here.

The more people who ignore physical distancing, the more likely there will be a rebound. If we ease up too soon, we will see a spike in cases. For places that haven’t seen a high volume of diagnosed cases, there is still the risk of a single case spreading through a community quickly and overwhelming local hospitals if we aren’t careful.

It’s clear that when we reopen some parts of the economy, we won’t be able to do some things the same way we did before the pandemic. This could include fewer tables at restaurants to ensure physical distancing, and workers and customers continuing to wear face coverings. Governor Brown is talking to different sectors about how to safely do this in phases, speaking with employers about what life will look like when they come back to work.

I’m also hopeful we’ll soon have an update about access to non-emergency medical procedures. So, stay tuned.

The Latest News

  • Governor Brown announced the Oregon National Guard will distribute nearly 400,000 pieces of personal protective equipment (masks, gloves, and face shields) to long-term care facilities throughout the state. The PPE will be distributed to all of the state’s nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Members of the Oregon National Guard began deliveries of this equipment Saturday.
  • Oregon will receive a $7.5 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency as reimbursement for personal protective equipment bought in response to COVID-19.
  • The Oregon Health Authority announced 47 more diagnosed cases of coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 1,956. Sadly, one more person died, meaning 75 individuals have died in Oregon from coronavirus.

OHA COVID-19 Update 4-20-2020

OHA Hospital Capacity 4-20-2020

Unemployment Update

Over the weekend, there was a recurrence of a computer glitch that told individuals who had already applied for unemployment that they would need to start over again. To anyone who was impacted by this error, I'm sorry you had to deal with this. The good news is the issue was resolved the same day it occurred and is now fixed. Please tell anyone you know who may have had this problem. They do not have to refile their application.

The number one priority for myself and most legislators these days is getting the unemployment system working more effectively. I know the process to get unemployment benefits has been immensely challenging for too many Oregonians. It’s beyond frustrating, and I will keep pushing for improvements and get you more information as it becomes available.

Help with Student Loans

Senator Jeff Merkley has compiled a helpful FAQ (frequently asked questions document) for individuals with student loans and how their loans interact with the federal CARES Act. Federal loan payments are suspended until September 30 and interest is waived. If you have a student loan held by the federal government, you do not need to take any action to suspend your payments. Your loan servicer might not inform you of this, though. You can read the full FAQ here and get further help at Please let us know if you’re having any problems!

To read past newsletters, you can go to this link. For up to date information, please check this link to the Oregon Health Authority where regular updates are posted:

Please email me at if you have specific concerns that have not been addressed by the OHA. Our office will do all we can to help and protect all Oregonians.

Thank you for reading! We will get through this together.



Tina Kotek

State Representative
House District 44
Speaker of the House

email: I phone: 503-986-1200
address: 900 Court St NE, H-269, Salem, OR 97301