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Health and Medicine

Klamath Hospital Reaches Capacity As Local Businesses Break Closure Restrictions

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Sky Lakes Medical Center In Klamath Falls, Ore.

Sky Lakes Medical Center in Klamath Falls reached capacity for the first time on Monday night because of the coronavirus pandemic. The strain on the local health care system is happening the same week that a group of local businesses are reopening in spite of public health guidelines.

The only hospital in a sizable portion of southwest Oregon, Sky Lakes is currently limited not by bed space but by the number of medical staff available, according to Tom Hottman, a hospital spokesman.

“It’s stretched staff pretty thin to the point where, at times, there aren’t enough staff to take care of more patients in the in-patient care areas,” Hottman says.

The hospital is still seeing patients for elective procedures and their capacity is being evaluated every four hours, so numbers can change quickly. But, Hottman says, the current staffing levels have been in this range for several weeks.

“It’s concerning because we’re the only hospital in a 10,000 square mile area,” he says.

Also on Monday, a group of around a dozen businesses including restaurants and gyms chose to reopen in Klamath County, according to the Klamath County Chamber of Commerce, which endorsed the move.

Representatives from the chamber say the businesses made their decision not out of defiance of state guidelines, but to prevent permanent closures. Chamber representatives say they’re following general health and sanitation guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, instead of restrictions from the Oregon Health Authority that would currently prohibit indoor gatherings.

“We have encouraged the businesses that are making this tough decision to be very diligent with the guidelines,” says Klamath County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Heather Tramp. “And make sure they’re following the protocols that the CDC has recommended and that they’re doing those things to keep their customers and our community safe.”

Klamath County is one of Oregon’s 26 counties at “extreme risk” for the spread of COVID-19.

A spokesperson for the Governor’s office responded to the chamber of commerce’s endorsement with a statement, writing: “Our focus is on voluntary compliance. If Oregonians and businesses don’t take these measures seriously, and we don’t see reduced case numbers, communities will end up staying in more restrictive risk levels for longer periods of time.”