National Guard

Paula Larson left, Columbia Memorial Hospital’s safety, security and emergency preparedness supervisor, takes Scott Bushbaum, center, Oregon National Guard Task Force Northwest commander, and his crew on a site visit at the Astoria hospital in September.

While the pandemic has taken a tragic toll on our region, it has also highlighted one of the things that make this place special: When times are tough, we pull together and take care of our friends and neighbors.

Throughout this crisis, we’ve seen many examples of innovation, selflessness and grit among health care providers, public health agencies, nonprofits, businesses and individuals. To all of you on the front line — and those who’ve supported you by providing free meals, giving employees time off to get vaccinated and more — I’d like to extend a special “thank you” on behalf of Columbia Pacific CCO.

We’re incredibly grateful to those who’ve led the charge to ramp up COVID-19 testing and vaccinations. Some of your efforts have been Herculean, such as the vaccination drives run by pharmacy directors from Columbia Memorial and Providence Seaside hospitals, Oregon Health & Science University’s Scappoose clinic, Tillamook County Community Health Centers and others.

Some of you have worked quietly to vaccinate vulnerable or hesitant groups. In Columbia County, for instance, we’ve partnered with Columbia Health Services to bring vaccines to construction sites as part of our outreach to the Latinx community. In Tillamook and Columbia counties, first responders have administered vaccines to people who are homebound. We’ve also partnered with Tillamook’s Community Action Resource Enterprises to vaccinate people who are houseless.

During the best of times, we’re humbled by our providers’ commitment to caring for our members with excellence and compassion. That commitment hasn’t wavered throughout this long pandemic, even as our small hospitals have scrambled to care for larger numbers of COVID-19 patients in recent months.

We also want to acknowledge other types of frontline workers — from the teachers who are welcoming students back to classrooms to the nonprofits and public health agencies that have delivered masks and meals and helped houseless people quarantine by providing temporary shelter and food.

We know that many of you are anxious and exhausted. We also know that we’ll get through this crisis because you rolled up your sleeves and got to work — and got vaccinated. Because you cared for your friends and neighbors during the pandemic and last fall’s wildfires.

All of us should do our part by encouraging those who haven’t been vaccinated to discuss their concerns with their primary care providers and by continuing to practice safety measures, including wearing masks in indoor public spaces and social distancing.

As we reflect on the countless acts of heroism during this crisis, we’re reminded of the words of novelist Anne Lamott: “Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come.”

Mimi Haley is the executive director of Columbia Pacific CCO, which serves Oregon Health Plan members living in Clatsop, Columbia and Tillamook counties.