The latest news stories and stories of interest in the Willamette Valley and around the state of Oregon from the online digital home of the valley, WillametteValleyMagazine.com
Monday, April 20, 2020
Willamette Valley Weather
Patchy fog before 8am. Otherwise, increasing clouds, with a high near 66. Overnight, cloudy with a low of 43.
Partly sunny, with a high near 63. Calm wind becoming southwest 5 to 8 mph in the afternoon. Overnight, a 30% chance of rain, low around 47.
Rain before 2pm, then showers after 2pm. High near 60.
A slight chance of showers before 11am. Partly sunny, with a high near 64.
Partly sunny, with a high near 68.
Lane County was the only county in our area where new cases have been reported. Officials announced two new cases there, bringing the total to 48.
Across Oregon, 1,910 people have now tested positive for COVID-19. There were 66 new cases reported in the state on Sunday.
More than half of the 74 deaths in Oregon from coronavirus statewide are linked to senior care homes, according to new state data. The deaths are tied to span 13 nursing, assisted living and independent living homes in six counties and include a cluster at the Southeast Portland nursing home Healthcare at Foster Creek.
…A reminder of the following guidance for things you can do outdoors:
- If you’re able to maintain physical distancing, enjoy the outdoor areas of your residence.
- Have an outdoor picnic at your residence with the people you live with.
- Have a virtual picnic with friends.
- Get things done at home, such as gardening or washing your car.
- Open doors and windows to get fresh air while remaining inside.
- Enjoy solo physical activities or those with members of your immediate household such as walking, biking, running or rollerblading.
- Wave to your neighbors from a distance. Let them know you’re happy to see them.
Enjoy your home and yard and the great Oregon outdoors, but please don’t:
- Participate in group sports
- Hike on crowded trails
- Attend in-person social gatherings
- Go out in public if you are sick
Will Governor Kate Brown’s press conference last week shed only a little light on the future for Oregonians, outlining her framework to get things rolling sometime in the future. But when? That is the question and answer business owners to residents are asking and waiting for answers.
Brown vowed to begin ‘reopening Oregon’ and the decisions would be made in agreement with governors from Washington and Oregon.
Brown said a series of executive orders aimed at limiting the spread of new coronavirus, including a statewide stay-at-home order that has closed or restricted many businesses will adjust and slowly get the state moving again. Governor Brown identified three major elements needed in place before the state could begin reopening.
First, ensuring that the coronavirus’ spread has been effectively slowed, with those metrics to be informed by public health experts and the necessary data. Second, Brown said, the state needs to have an adequate supply of PPE on hand to respond to emerging cases. Finally, Brown said that Oregon needs to “establish a robust public health framework” — ramping up testing capacity throughout the state, developing a standardized system for contact tracing when someone tests positive, and coming up with an effective isolation program for those who do test positive.
That last step would include a plan for senior living facilities that are most at risk. In order to reach those goals, Governor Brown said that she would be looking for input from local leaders, as well as meeting with people from the industries most impacted by the current shutdowns. Oregon officials will be working to complete acceptable COVID-19 metrics for reopening, and making those plans for effective testing, tracing, and isolation. They will also by finalizing “discrete steps” and guidelines for a step-by-step reopening of the state.
Those final decision will be made in coordination with Washington and California, as outlined in the recently announced West Coast Pact. Brown and OHA health officer Dr. Drew Sidelinger indicated that the state is beginning to see an “adequate capacity” of PPE, but it still faces an enormous demand around the country, making a steady supply line difficult to establish. Regardless, Sidelinger said, it isn’t enough yet to take the next steps for reopening. Oregon is now seeing about 7,000 to 8,000 COVID-19 tests processed each week, Brown said.
Ramping up its enforcement activity, Oregon OSHA will begin systematically conducting spot checks to verify that employers are complying with requirements – including closures to the public – aimed at curbing the coronavirus pandemic.
The spot checks – which are in addition to more time-intensive, on-site inspections initiated by the division – are intended to confirm whether employers are actually doing what they are telling the division they are doing in response to complaints. Those complaints include allegations of failures to heed the requirements included in Gov. Kate Brown’s executive order, including certain businesses that must close to the public and others that are required to implement proper social-distancing practices.
As it moves forward, Oregon OSHA will also focus its enforcement activity on more recent complaints, and on those that provide specific allegations, as well as include contact information for the complainant. The division can protect a complainant’s confidentiality on request – a legal shield against an employer obtaining a complainant’s identity – while still being able to engage with the complainant.
Recent analysis suggests Oregon’s collective efforts to fight the spread of the coronavirus are working.
As reported by the Oregon Health Authority, new projections from health researchers estimate that Oregon’s aggressive social distancing measures have prevented as many as 18,000 cases of COVID-19 and 500 hospitalizations. However, these restrictions must be maintained into May to prevent new cases from rising above current daily levels of active coronavirus cases.
The responsibility for prevention includes certain employers staying closed to the public, and employers who remain open maintaining social-distancing and other safe practices. Tasked with enforcing the order with respect to employers and worker exposure, Oregon OSHA continues to screen complaints, initiate inspections, and consider additional inspection candidates.
From March 2 through April 12, the division received 2,887 complaints related to the coronavirus. More than 1,200 of those came during the week of March 23, when the governor’s executive order was issued. Since April 6, the number of complaints has noticeably tapered off. The division typically receives just over 2,000 complaints per year. In screening complaints, Oregon OSHA’s work has included clarifying employers’ responsibilities under the governor’s order and asking employers to specifically respond to the allegations outlined in complaints.
ODFW is closing recreational hunting, fishing, crabbing and clamming to non-residents due to concerns about travel to Oregon to participate in these outdoor activities.
Such travel could spread the virus and put more of a burden on Oregon’s rural communities. As of Friday 11:59 p.m., non-residents may no longer participate in these activities in Oregon.
The restriction extends until COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and it is deemed safe to travel into Oregon. This order does not apply to anyone living in Oregon for less than six months who has not yet established residency. Some states, including Washington, have closed hunting and fishing to limit the spread of the virus.
While seasons remain open in Oregon (except for Columbia River salmon/steelhead fishing), resident hunters and anglers should not be travelling to participate. ODFW is hearing concerns from rural communities about people visiting to hunt and fish and placing additional burdens on these communities’ limited resources.
Around the state of Oregon
On Monday, citizen-soldiers with the Oregon Army National Guard facilitated transportation and distribution of medical Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to all 36 counties, nine Tribal Nations, and two Tribal Health Agencies in order to enhance needed supply inventories as part of the ongoing response to COVID-19.
At the direction of Governor Kate Brown, the national guard assisted communities large and small with their inventories of masks, gloves and other critical equipment. The PPE was first delivered to a central storage warehouse in Wilsonville as part of a larger shipment from the federal government.
The Oregon Military Department and the Oregon National Guard have been assisting local communities throughout the state since Governor Kate Brown’s February 28th announcement to convene the Coronavirus Response Team. The team is tasked with coordinating state and local agencies and health authorities for overall response.
Approximately 200 members of the Oregon National Guard are on orders providing direct assistance throughout Oregon, which include logistical, communications and other operational COVID-19 requested support.
A coalition representing counties, business and labor has reached an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that will initiate a public regulatory rulemaking process for reevaluating critical habitat designated for the Northern Spotted Owl (NSO) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), according to a news release.
The agreement was filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and is subject to court approval. The agreement is related to a unanimous 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision finding the ESA does not authorize the government to designate lands as critical habitat unless it is in fact habitat for the species. The Supreme Court also ruled that courts can review government evaluations of the impact of designating critical habitat, which the lower courts had refused to allow for over 30 years.
The coalition brought legal action after the Fish and Wildlife Service designated 9.5 million acres of mostly federal lands as NSO critical habitat across Washington, Oregon and Northern California in 2012.
In Winston, a southern Oregon man was arrested after stabbing another man, holing up inside a trailer and threatening to blow up the trailer if deputies approached, authorities say.
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office said Sabre Eddings, 65, locked himself in his trailer before deputies showed up in response to the reported disturbance near the small city of Winston. He refused to come outside, according to the sheriff’s office, and threatened to blow up the trailer using propane if deputies approached. A crisis negotiation team responded and talked with Eddings, who exited his trailer after several hours and was taken into custody.
He was jailed in Douglas County on suspicion of second-degree assault, menacing and unlawful use of a weapon, according to the sheriff’s office. The agency said he stabbed another man in the forearm during an altercation.
In honor of National Safe Digging Month, Oregon’s Public Utility Commission and the Utility Notification Center remind Oregonians to call 811 at least two business days before digging to have underground utility lines marked.
According to Megan Decker, PUC Chair this year we recognize more people may be home doing projects in the yard due to the COVID-19 situation, so we want to remind homeowners and contractors to be sure to call 811 before you dig to reduce the risk of striking an underground utility line. This is essential to ensure utility services are not interrupted for community members during this pandemic.” The OUNC, who operates the free 811 one-call center, notifies the utility companies that serve the area of the planned project. Utility personnel then visit the project site to mark the approximate location of the underground lines, pipes and cables in the planned digging area.
Statistics show that a majority of line strikes occur during the warmer months when more yard work is being done. In 2017 an estimated 439,000 line strikes occurred nationwide, 25 percent of which were due to insufficient notice to the 811 service. To reduce the number of line strikes in Oregon, there are strong local partnerships between the OUNC, Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the PUC to enhance the communication link and improve safety efforts.
Call 811 or visit digsafelyoregon.com to submit a locate request or to learn more about safe digging practices.