PeaceHealth prepares for potential eclipse ‘surge’

Officials expect more than 1 million visitors to flood Oregon's "path of totality"

August 21, 2017

Vancouver, Wash. – The highly anticipated Aug. 21 total solar eclipse is right around the corner.

Astronomy experts and amateurs alike have been busy planning where they’ll go to get the best views, which solar viewers to purchase, and how they’ll document the historic event.

But with portions of northern Oregon sitting smack-dab within the prime viewing area known as the “path of totality,” and more than 1 million visitors predicted to flood the area between Aug. 16 and 23, officials at PeaceHealth and local agencies have other issues on their minds. Their focus has been on preparing for a potential influx of patients, disruptions in supply deliveries and cell phone service, and surges in prescription orders and clinic visits as citizens work to get ahead of predicted traffic congestion.

According to Jeane Conrad, PeaceHealth’s director of safety, security & emergency management, officials have been working since April, with discussions starting long before that, to make sure its facilities and employees are on alert, prepared and ready, no matter what happens.

“PeaceHealth has been working for many months to make sure all of our facilities and caregivers are fully prepared for any issues that might come up as a result of a surge in patients and increase in trauma situations that occur before, during and after the Aug. 21 eclipse,” Conrad said. “Coordinating with our regional hospital and government partners has also been critical to this process. Similar to how we dealt with the ‘Y2K’ computer bug, we’re hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.”

Preparations include making sure there are enough staff, supplies and other necessary resources if there is a patient capacity surge, and also communicating and collaborating with public health and safety agencies across the region.

Many of the prime total eclipse viewing areas are in rural towns, where access to high-level medical care is limited. This means that PeaceHealth medical centers in Oregon and Southwest Washington will be on alert to potentially receive patients from a variety of locations.

View the eclipse safely
Citizens need to take steps to make sure they are fully prepared as well. Watching the solar eclipse without proper eye protection can cause long-term vision damage.

David Valent, DO, an ophthalmologist specializing in medical retina at PeaceHealth Eye Care in Vancouver, points out that the eyes are not designed to withstand the intensity of viewing the sun directly, even for a brief period of time.

“There is no known safe duration for directly viewing the sun,” he said. “As Eye Physicians, we want you to enjoy the eclipse safely. Pay attention to the advice below. If you are concerned that you may have developed a problem after viewing the eclipse, you should be evaluated soon afterward by an ophthalmologist or an optometrist.”

American Academy of Ophthalmology and NASA recommendations for viewing the eclipse safely include:

  • Do not look directly at the sun without certified solar glasses or viewers, except during the brief total phase of a solar eclipse — when the moon entirely blocks the sun and it is completely dark.
  • Only look at an uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through certified solar glasses or viewers. Certified glasses will have the international safety standard mark: ISO 12312-2, and come from an approved seller. Traditional sunglasses (even very dark ones) and homemade filters are unsafe to use and offer no eye protection.
  • Never look at the uneclipsed or partially eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars or similar devices, even if you are wearing eclipse glasses or holding a solar viewer at the same time. The intense solar rays coming through these devices will damage the solar filter and your eyes.
  • Consider watching the eclipse indirectly. You can make your own pinhole viewer. For simple instructions, visit https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/edu/learn/project/how-to-make-a-pinhole-camera/. Or you can let NASA do the work for you and watch as they live stream the eclipse by visiting https://www.nasa.gov/eclipselive.

For more information about eye safety precautions, visit www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/solar-eclipse-eye-safety.

For more information about the Aug. 21 eclipse, visit https://eclipse.aas.org or https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov.

About PeaceHealth: PeaceHealth, based in Vancouver, Wash., is a not-for-profit Catholic health system offering care to communities in Washington, Oregon and Alaska. PeaceHealth has approximately 16,000 caregivers, a medical group practice with more than 900 providers and 10 medical centers serving both urban and rural communities throughout the Northwest. In 1890, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace founded what has become PeaceHealth. The Sisters shared expertise and transferred wisdom from one medical center to another, always finding the best way to serve the unmet need for healthcare in their communities. Today, PeaceHealth is the legacy of the founding Sisters and continues with a spirit of respect, stewardship, collaboration and social justice in fulfilling its Mission. 

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