April 13, 2020

For the most up-to-date information about Multnomah County's COVID-19 response, please check our COVID-19 website, and the County’s Twitter and Facebook channels, often. You can also contact my office if you have any other questions.

Dear friends and neighbors,

Through the constant stream of information about COVID-19, have you been able to catch glimpses of good news? 

Staying home and staying safe to the furthest extent possible appears to be having the intended effect of flattening the curve. The Oregon Health Authority announced over the weekend that the state has avoided thousands of new COVID-19 cases and hundreds of hospitalizations thanks to physical distancing measures. This means our healthcare system capacity is, for now, on track to meet the need. By no means are we out of the woods, but we seem to be moving in a promising direction.

And when public health authorities officially recommended face coverings in public, community members quickly showcased their resourcefulness and generosity, making and distributing homemade masks to family, friends and co-workers.

Patrons are helping local restaurants weather these hard times by ordering takeout or delivery. Blood drive hosts and donors have rallied to help the Red Cross avoid a dangerous drop in donated blood supply. A steady stream of people have been dropped off donations of personal protective equipment and other useful items. Neighbors continue to check in with and take care of each other.

A County staff member sorts personal protective equipment donated by community members.
A County staff member sorts personal protective equipment donated by community members.
Crisis does not define us. But it does reveal who we are as a community. And based on all the ways this community has responded to COVID-19 so far, I could not be more thankful for being a resident of Multnomah County.

Crisis also reveals that there’s much we can't control. But recognizing and sharing gratitude is something we can control. So in that spirit, I’d like to call out some people I find myself grateful for today. 

I am thankful for the employees and volunteers across the region ensuring that our neighbors without housing have shelter during these especially volatile times. Greeting, feeding, supporting and connecting with shelter residents doesn’t happen over video conferences and emails. When Multnomah County opened temporary shelters, we put out a call for help staffing them. We received nearly 700 resumes from people willing to step up, showing us that our community is ready to spring into action. This vital work is often overlooked, but I see you, and I thank you.

County employees help out at the temporary physical distancing shelter at the Oregon Convention Center.
County employees help out at the temporary physical distancing shelter at the Oregon Convention Center.
I am thankful for the advocates and service providers who continue to protect and intervene on behalf of victims of domestic and sexual violence. Their work and presence is especially needed during this time when households face increased stress and isolation. Victims need people looking out for them now more than ever, and I’m grateful that programs like the County’s Domestic Violence Enhanced Response Team remain ready.

I am thankful for our Schools Uniting Neighborhoods (SUN) Community Schools network. Before County time and resources shifted to slow the spread of COVID-19, last week was supposed to have been a community-wide celebration of the SUN program’s 20th anniversary. Since 1999, hundreds of thousands of students and their families have benefited from SUN’s work to support educational and school success, healthy child and youth development, and family stability. And ever since local schools closed in response to the virus, SUN’s network of partners have made sure more than 1,500 households a week do not go hungry. I am so grateful for SUN’s enduring presence in the lives of so many children over the last two decades. 

I am thankful for all the essential workers, first responders and healthcare professionals in our community. This public health emergency has reminded many people that your work is vital to our daily lives and I’m grateful for everything you do to keep us functioning. I hope that you can hear the cheering, clapping and pans clanging in appreciation for you every evening.

I am thankful for all of my fellow Multnomah County employees, whether they are coming into work or working from home. Nearly every facet of the County’s work and operations have been impacted by COVID-19, yet our staff continue to meet the public’s needs with compassion. Thank you for your dedication to serving our community despite rapid changes in how, where or with whom you work.

This is in no way a comprehensive accounting of every group that deserves thanks. And I recognize that saying “thank you” doesn’t make the work any easier, the conditions any safer or bodies any less tired. 

But it's imperative that we express thanks when we can, and not just because the ways in which the people of Multnomah County have stepped up for each other reflect the best of our community. When the work ahead appears long and feels heavy, acknowledging gratitude reminds us who we persevere for, who we are in this together with, and the good we can both find and create in our community. 


Deborah Kafoury
Multnomah County Chair