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Oregon Health Official Announced Daily COVID Deaths While Dressed in Clown Costume

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An Oregon health official wasn’t clowning around when she announced recent coronavirus statistics for the state, including the death toll.

However, her wardrobe choice told a different story, with Dr. Claire Poche — a physician with the Oregon Health Authority — attired as a clown.

Poche shared the grim figures in her costume in an Oct. 14 Oregon Public Health Division broadcast, leaving some perplexed about the charade.

With a white and red smile painted onto her face, crimson-dotted cheeks and elevated black eyebrows, Poche, first wearing a surgical mask, removed it to air that day’s COVID report, which preceded a segment about safe ways to celebrate Halloween during the pandemic.

Having traded her white coat and stethoscope for a blue shirt with white polka dots, thin red tie, flowery pin and sunny yellow pants, Poche made the somber announcement with a subtle smile, partially her own and partially drawn on.

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After introducing her off-camera colleague, Dr. Shimi Sharief, Poche said, “We thought we’d start by giving you a quick update on where we are as a state with COVID-19.”

“As of today, there have been 38,160 cases of COVID-19 in Oregon, with 390 new cases being reported today,” Poche began on Oct. 14.

“Sadly, we are also reporting three deaths today, bringing the statewide total for COVID-19-related deaths to 608,” she added.

Was this doctor's costume inappropriate?

Before the scene flashed to Sharief, Poche quietly covered her clown-plastered face again with a surgical mask, then sat with her hands folded.

Sharief next broadcast to viewers “safe Halloween tips” while slouched in a chair opposite Poche in a snuggly onesie that she told Poche was from the Japanese animation “My Neighbor Totoro.”

Attired in her Totoro costume, Sharief prided herself on coordinating her cloth face mask with her Totoro outfit.



“The COVID-19 pandemic is reshaping how Oregonians celebrate  holidays, and that includes Halloween,” Sharief announced in a macabre twist before sharing “low-risk Halloween activities.”

She continued, “But it doesn’t mean Halloween still can’t be spooky and fun this year.” That was Sharief’s creepy follow to Poche’s clown-costumed death bulletin.

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After Sharief took her turn, Poche returned — still in her ensemble — with some killjoy news for Oregon’s kids.

She deemed trick-or-treating “high-risk,” recommending children steer away from all of it, including “trunk or treat” events.

Poche and Sharief also coached viewers to wear a safety mask or “cloth face covering” over their Halloween masks.

In place of trick-or-treating, Poche made a creepy confession about her own Halloween decor at home, suggesting it for viewers.

“My fellow clown that lives with me doesn’t always get excited about Halloween — he didn’t grow up with the holiday — but this year I brought home a skeleton,” Poche offered.

Poche said she has decorated the skeleton in different hats and masks, which she told viewers they could “change up” every day.

“I really kind of view decorating for Halloween this year as almost a public health investment, to help encourage people to enjoy going out  looking at decorations around the neighborhood, staying with their own household,” Poche added.

Although Poche and Sharief shared what they thought were helpful tips, they faced a backlash from the Twittersphere, with The Oregonian’s Samantha Swindler leading the charge.

“The live video was recorded on Oct. 14, but started going viral [this past] Tuesday after being shared by Samantha Swindler, a journalist at The Oregonian who called it ‘an absolute nightmare,'” the New York Post reported on Wednesday.

It was Swindler and her audience who had the last laughs.

“I’m sorry but who at the Oregon Health Authority thought this was a good idea?” Swindler asked, her tweet and reply to the OHA video gaining thousands of likes, replies and retweets.

“This is an absolute nightmare,” she said in a second tweet.

Swindler’s subsequent tweets remarked how the presentation did “not work,” suggesting the costumes were never addressed and Poche instead “dives right into the numbers.”

“Please wear a mask and physically distance so these poor doctors don’t have to make any more videos,” Swindler quipped.

“Let’s give gravitas to a serious health message by … dressing up as a clown,” another person replied to Swindler.

Several noticed that the OHA had turned off the video’s comments, with the “dislikes” on the video then three times greater than the “likes.”

Some concluded the clown costume wasn’t the scariest costume Oregonians could dream up this Halloween, giving that honor to Oregon’s governor.

“The scariest costume this year will be Kate Brown,” one user tweeted.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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