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Oregon National Guard joins mass vaccination effort in Salem

The National Guard is helping with an event at the Oregon State Fairgrounds in an effort to speed up the vaccination process.

Posted: Jan 13, 2021 12:43 PM

SALEM, Ore. — Members of the Oregon National Guard are now deployed at the Oregon State Fairgrounds in Salem, aiding with an effort to speed up COVID-19 vaccinations that is likely to expand to other sites around the state over the next several months.

Guardsmen joined Salem Health staff at the fairgrounds on Tuesday, charged with assisting in vaccine distribution. The initial effort involves more that 40 medical personnel from the Guard.

Salem Health began the mass vaccination effort just over a week prior. Since January 7, the National Guard reports that just over 8,500 vaccinations were administered — jumping to more than 10,000 after Guardsmen arrived.

Salem Health Hospitals and Clinics led the push to establish a vaccine distribution site after realizing that they would not be able to vaccinate enough people under the former, internal system. The State Fairgrounds site is the first of its kind in the state.

“We are the only mass vaccination clinic set up,” said Cheryl Nester Wolfe, President and CEO of the medical provider. “We have somewhere around 50,000 people to vaccinate in Marion County alone.”

Wolfe and her team chose the Oregon State Fairgrounds due to current busing route access, the central location for Marion County residents, the large building and plentiful parking. It was also established as an alternative hospital location in March of 2020 when the state's COVID-19 response got underway.

Amie Wittenberg, Director of the Emergency Department, Trauma and Psychiatric Services at Salem Hospital and the Operations Section Chief for the vaccination response, brought her team to the site in order to set up safety and health protocols once the plan was in place.

“Once we heard the site location was confirmed, we came down to the building to see what tools we had,” said Wittenberg. “We started dreaming up our plan starting with the essentials: screening to ensure COVID safety measures were in place, a registration area, a vaccination prep station, a vaccination station, and finally, a process to identify post vaccination monitoring.”

Salem Health staff working on vaccinations at the Fairgrounds are still juggling their hospital jobs in addition, and the Guard's presence has helped to take on some of the workload. Governor Kate Brown announced the activation of Guard resources on January 8, and it came as a relief for Salem Health.

“We need Guardsmen to help with giving vaccinations, we need help with security and parking, we need everything,” said Wolfe. “When I heard the Governor announce the Guard was coming to help, it was just a blessing.”

Guardsmen arrived at the Fairgrounds on the morning of January 12. By noon, they were ready to begin preparing and giving vaccinations, processing individuals on the electronic medical record system, monitoring the post vaccination area, monitoring controlled entry and exit points, and assisting with vehicle and foot traffic control.

“When we heard there was a potential to partner with the Guard and to actually work together… it’s a once in a life time opportunity,” said Wittenberg. “Since February, we have worked and served at all different levels. It’s been a lot. To have the Guard’s partnership, you can’t put a price on it.”

The Oregon National Guard has been helping with PPE distribution in the state's pandemic response since March of 2020.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 352026

Reported Deaths: 4185
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah55306692
Washington38321316
Marion36352445
Clackamas29350304
Lane27309299
Jackson22783304
Deschutes19886124
Umatilla14286144
Linn12617120
Douglas11918241
Josephine9292195
Yamhill8584111
Klamath7765111
Polk719680
Malheur552774
Benton537630
Coos492593
Columbia375743
Jefferson366351
Union316247
Lincoln313338
Wasco282640
Crook277646
Clatsop240729
Baker199228
Tillamook194929
Hood River190137
Morrow183023
Curry178723
Harney110225
Grant98012
Lake89711
Wallowa67312
Gilliam1494
Sherman1463
Wheeler1031
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 4825708

Reported Deaths: 70829
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles147768626443
Riverside3704095008
San Diego3649124169
San Bernardino3574215597
Orange3234075528
Sacramento1584372283
Fresno1451192063
Santa Clara1450041895
Kern1449141615
Alameda1202831381
San Joaquin1022501721
Ventura1008011165
Contra Costa99612995
Stanislaus856421319
Tulare79513958
San Francisco54220644
San Mateo53970622
Monterey50772583
Solano45898340
Santa Barbara45005522
Merced42047579
Sonoma40822402
Placer39118420
Imperial35794764
Kings32587315
San Luis Obispo29797331
Madera23680281
Butte23649265
Shasta23544341
Santa Cruz20928218
Yolo20240248
Marin17644243
El Dorado17083149
Sutter13847172
Napa12855100
Yuba1000882
Tehama9406107
Humboldt9171108
Nevada909490
Mendocino757686
Lassen749946
San Benito741372
Tuolumne680893
Lake6565104
Amador540364
Siskiyou445842
Glenn433632
Calaveras385180
Del Norte357141
Colusa302818
Inyo203540
Mono16565
Plumas16046
Mariposa130815
Trinity86711
Modoc6758
Unassigned1820
Sierra1810
Alpine1030
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