For immediate releaseAugust 30, 2021


Oregon Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians

Emergency physician contact:

John Moorhead, MD:

Mike McCaskill, MD:

Alex Skog, MD:

An open letter to Oregonians from the Oregon Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians as we approach the Labor Day holiday weekend

Dear Fellow Oregonians,

Oregon is at a crisis point unlike any we’ve seen throughout the pandemic. Our emergency departments are overflowing. The tragic truth is that they are overflowing with patients whose suffering could have been avoided; Oregonians who did not get vaccinated when they could have done so.

Regional hospitals are sending ICU patients to San Francisco and Utah because 94% of our ICU staffed beds are full. Elective surgeries are on hold. Even people with seemingly unrelated emergencies like trauma, heart attacks, and strokes are at greater risk of dying since hospitals are nearly full and resources are stretched so thin. These stories are playing out all over the state as we experience an unprecedented spike in COVID-19 cases.

We are tired and heartbroken that 17 months into the pandemic we are facing what feels like a largely preventable surge in patients. We’ve seen time and time again how get-togethers among family and friends during holiday weekends have led to surges in infections with this virus.

As we head into this Labor Day, we are asking for your help. Please, make smart choices so you don’t end up needing a hospital bed when there might not be one for you. This Labor Day, please:

  • Stay small and outside: The delta variant is so contagious that it can affect everyone at a block party, a wedding, a funeral. Avoid large gatherings. We know family celebrations and events have been long deferred but urgent sacrifices are needed to protect our loved ones. If you do get together with others, do it in a small group outdoors. Your risk of getting infected is lower outside.
  • Stay safe by covering your face: Wear a mask or face covering at any gathering. It will protect you and the people around you.
  • Be smart: Have fun but avoid risky activities, excessive alcohol or substance use that increase your risk of trauma and the need to access already strained emergency services
  • Understand the situation: If you do have to access emergency services, expect that there may be long delays if your concern is not immediately life threatening. The staff at the Oregon hospitals have been stretched to a breaking point and are spending Labor Day weekend away from their loved ones to serve their community. They greatly appreciate your kindness and respect for their dedication to serve.
  • Get vaccinated: Vaccines are widely available, free to all and most importantly, they are safe and effective. They are the best tool we have to protect the public, including the healthcare workforce.

Emergency departments (or ERs) are places for emergencies. If you are experiencing symptoms you feel might require urgent medical attention such as chest pain, shortness of breath, stroke symptoms, etc., you should absolutely go to the ER. But for COVID complications, the best way to stay out of the ER is to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Health departments, hospitals and health care providers are working at a furious pace on the pandemic response but we desperately need your help. On behalf of all members of OR-ACEP, and our health care colleagues on the front lines, we have one unified plea to our fellow Oregonians:


OR-ACEP is a medical society that has represented physicians specializing in emergency medicine since 1971 and its 500 members share a commitment to improve emergency healthcare for all Oregonians. 

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