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Oregon gubernatorial candidate disagrees with state's hospital virus metrics
Dr. Bud Pierce, Republican candidate for Oregon governor, speaks with KATU News during an interview Thursday, April 29, 2021. (KATU)

Dr. Bud Pierce, the 2016 Republican nominee for Oregon governor, says the state's coronavirus restrictions are too strict right now. 

Pierce, who is running for governor again in 2022, is a practicing physician and says the state's hospital metrics are too severe and they're causing unnecessary restrictions. 

"I view it as a physician who has knowledge of our health care delivery system," said Pierce. "We have lots of hospital beds, about 6,000 actually. The governor has set 300 hospital beds with COVID patients as the cutoff in which our system is overwhelmed. I know we have the capability to take care of many more patients, which I hope we don't have to do." 

Right now, if the number of COVID patients in the hospital is 300 or more in Oregon,  it could cause some counties to slip into the "extreme risk" category. 

"The delivery system is not in crisis," said Pierce. "We're not overwhelmed. I work it every day in Salem and also on the coast on Fridays, and so I don't think it's necessary and I think it's harmful." 

KATU took Pierce's concerns to Gov. Kate Brown's office for her response. A spokesman told us the governor would be addressing the issue of hospital capacity in a Friday news conference. In addition, spokesman Charles Boyle sent the following statement:

Hospital capacity is a statewide metric because, when hospital beds or critical care units in one region are full, patients must be sent to hospitals elsewhere in the state. There is an urgent need to bring the spread of COVID-19 under control to save lives and preserve hospital capacity, and if we act now, we can stop this latest surge of COVID-19 from getting worse. That means immediately implementing the health and safety measures we know are effective. As counties, businesses, and Oregonians work to stop the spread of COVID-19 and vaccinations continue to increase, our COVID-19 metrics will improve at the state and county level. Modeling from OHA and OHSU shows that if we implement these measures now, and continue to vaccinate Oregonians, we can stop this fourth wave of COVID-19 and put it behind us.

KATU also asked health experts in the state whether they thought Pierce or Brown had the right idea when it came to hospital capacity and when more severe restrictions should be triggered. 

"The '300 beds cutoff' as a criterion of 'extreme risk' is appropriate if it is referring to ICU beds, but it is too strict if it is referring to all beds," said Chunhuei Chi, the director of Oregon State University's Center for Global Health. 

"None of the other diseases have gone away," said Carlos Crespo of the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health. "Myocardial infarction, cancer, strokes, injuries, multiple body trauma, falls, dementia, Parkinson's -- they all continue to happen regardless of COVID-19. All numbers are moving in the wrong direction." 

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