The latest news stories and stories of interest in the Rogue Valley and around the state of Oregon from the online digital home of the valley, RogueValleyMagazine.com
Tuesday, April 14, 2020
Rogue Valley Weather
COVID-19 has claimed another life in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 53. The Oregon Health Authority also reported 57 new cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 1,584 as of Tuesday morning.
The new COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Clackamas (7), Columbia (2), Douglas (2), Jackson (1), Josephine (1), Lane (4), Marion (4), Multnomah (24), and Washington (12).
Oregon’s 53rd COVID-19 death is a 66-year-old Washington County resident, who tested positive on March 30 and died on April 12 at Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center. She had underlying medical conditions.
From Oregon Governor Brown’s Office
The west coast states of Oregon, Washington and California will decide together when and how to loosen restrictions implemented to slow the spread of COVID-19, Governor Kate Brown announced on Monday.
The announcement comes just hours after President Donald Trump said that it would be the “decision of the President” to open up states again, not the governors of individual states.
“COVID-19 has preyed upon our interconnectedness. In the coming weeks, the West Coast will flip the script on COVID-19 – with our states acting in close coordination and collaboration to ensure the virus can never spread wildly in our communities,” Governors Gavin Newsom, Kate Brown, and Jay Inslee said in a joint statement. “We are announcing that California, Oregon and Washington have agreed to work together on a shared approach for reopening our economies – one that identifies clear indicators for communities to restart public life and business.”
The West Coast governors said that all three states have agreed to a few basic principles, though each state would have its own specific plan. In short, the statement said that they would prioritize the health of their own citizens, base decisions on science and “not politics,” and would make an effort to work together effectively.
“As home to one in six Americans and gateway to the rest of the world, the West Coast has an outsized stake in controlling and ultimately defeating COVID-19,” the governors said. “Health outcomes and science — not politics — will guide these decisions.”
Each state would need to see a decline in COVID-19’s rate of spread before a large-scale reopening, the West Coast leaders said, and the metrics used to guide that decision are still being determined by those three states together.
“Through quick and decisive action, each of our states has made significant progress in flattening the curve and slowing the spread of COVID-19 among the broader public,” the governors said. “Now, our public health leaders will focus on four goals that will be critical for controlling the virus in the future.”
Moving forward, the three states’ emphasis will be on protecting vulnerable populations (such as nursing homes and other long-term care facilities), ensuring that they have adequate hospital surge capacity and PPE supplies, and developing a robust testing and tracking system for future cases.
“COVID-19 doesn’t follow state or national boundaries. It will take every level of government, working together, and a full picture of what’s happening on the ground,” the governors said. “In the coming days the governors, their staff and health officials will continue conversations about this regional pact to recovery.”
Oregon businesses that missed the opportunity to apply for the coronavirus worker safety fund will have a second chance today, after the fund reopened with an additional $15 million.
The fund, established by SAIF, was closed five business days after its launch on March 31 after more than 1,300 businesses applied and used the initial $10 million available.
The applications represented small and large businesses from a wide range of industries across the state. The fund is designed to support employee safety, reduce injuries, and decrease exposures by helping businesses impacted by the coronavirus. More than 53,000 SAIF policyholders across the state are eligible for funds. Some of the most common requests that SAIF is supporting include personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies.
In addition, resources to redesign or modify workspaces to encourage social distancing; mental health and wellness initiatives; and coronavirus and job reassignment safety training are eligible. Ineligible expenses include telecommuting and regular staffing expenses, including labor costs for employees reassigned to new positions. SAIF recommends policyholders submit applications as soon as possible, given how quickly the initial funding was exhausted. We don’t anticipate additional funding.
Policyholders who previously applied do not need to apply again; applications are still being processed from the first round of funding.
Oregon will put $8 million toward the Oregon Food Bank in an effort to address rapidly rising food insecurity. The state will be pay out weekly toward the Oregon Food Bank as needed over the next eight weeks, according to the Governor Brown’s office.
Oregon expects to receive a 75 percent reimbursement from FEMA due to the federal emergency declaration. The Oregon Food Bank includes a network of 21 regional food banks and more than 1,400 food assistance sites around the state. Since March, the system has seen a “dramatic increase” in demand, Brown’s office said.
Meanwhile, the usual donations from food producers and grocers have fallen due to the increased strain on supply chains. Those donations generally account for the majority of Oregon Food Bank’s in-kind intake.
Governor Brown’s office said that the SNAP program is still the state’s “first line of defense” against hunger, touting recent efforts to expand SNAP eligibility and benefits.
Self-service at gas stations in Oregon has been extended through April 25.
Self-service if a voluntary option at the pump. The fire marshal stated it allows customers to avoid face-to-face and hand-to-hand contact while applying physical distancing measures. It also allows gas stations to continue operating with less staff.
Attendants continue to sanitize equipment and fuel nozzles, while helping customers with their refueling as needed. Unattended self-service is permitted when a gas station owner exhausts all staffing options. Stations that do not have an attendant on duty are required to post safety signs for physical distancing and instructions showing customers how to operate a fuel pump correctly.
This extension of the self-service rules change does not affect areas of the state that are already authorized for self-service refueling under Oregon law.
A coronavirus case was confirmed in an Oregon state prison in Coos Bay last week. In Jackson and Josephine County the watch is on as well to decide what to do and when to do it.
“We’re considering all things, planning for the worst and hoping for the best,” said Sheriff Nathan Sickler, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.
Maintaining a jail is no easy matter, especially in light of the coronavirus pandemic and sheriffs, are now facing the difficult decision of how to keep inmates and deputies safe while also making sure people are held accountable for their actions.”
Jackson and Josephine County jails are trying to balance inmates and community safety. Sheriff Sickler and Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel have both said the number of people they can hold is down to allow for proper distancing.
“We’ve just reduced our population by almost a third since this began,” said Sickler.
While the jails can still take in people, both are looking at making sure inmates have enough space. Josephine County has issued releases for several at-risk and low-level inmates in partnership with the corrections facility.
“What level the offender is, are they going to be a danger to the public and certain criteria to help us measure who could and who is eligible to leave,” said Sheriff Daniel.
Jackson County says they haven’t reached that point but are considering it. Both sheriffs say their jails have so far have remained untouched by the coronavirus. Tests have been given to some inmates and deputies but all have turned back negative.
“Everybody is very mindful of this, it’s not something we’re taking lightly,” said Sheriff Sickler. “But at the same token we still have to do our job and we still have to do it safely and we still have to do it thoroughly.”
One group of inmates in Oregon’s state prisons filed a lawsuit against the state last week, for not taking necessary safety measures. Both Sheriff Sickler and Daniel assured they’re doing what they can with the resources available.
“All the jails in the state are, at the county level of course, are taking measures, taking steps to try to mitigate liability and also health concerns,” said Sheriff Daniel.
It’s a balancing act that both sheriff’s say they’re continuously updating. Both sheriff’s offices want to stress that high level or serious criminals are not being considered for release whatsoever.
The ones that do get released are low-level criminals and are being monitored by the corrections department.
The Oregon Department of Human Services announced that the Oregon Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program will provide an additional $30 million each for the months of April and May 2020 to eligible SNAP households.
SNAP households will automatically receive the additional allotment in the same way they receive their current benefits. For most customers this is an EBT card. No additional action is needed from Oregonians already enrolled in SNAP. Households that already receive the maximum benefit will not receive any additional benefits.
This allotment will not permanently change a household’s monthly benefit amount. It is a temporary supplement to help during the current health crisis. DHS will not be sending individual notices to households about the emergency allotments.
OREGONIANS START RECEIVING $600 PANDEMIC UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION PAYMENTS THIS WEEK
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020 was signed into law on March 27 and those checks should start hitting bank accounts this week.
Oregonians who are already eligible for regular Unemployment Insurance benefits and eligible for FPUC will receive two weekly payments; one for regular UI benefits, and an additional $600 payment.
Individuals will be receiving FPUC benefits using the same payment method as their regular UI benefits for the week. FPUC payments will be paid for each week someone is eligible from March 29, 2020 through the week ending July 25, 2020.
The $600 payments will be retroactive for those eligible for payments.
No additional action is needed to apply for or receive FPUC benefits. In order to receive the $600 benefit, an individual must have an existing Unemployment Insurance claim, continue claiming weekly benefits, and be eligible to receive benefits.
Individuals may receive FPUC if they are receiving unemployment benefits under one of the following programs:
- Regular Unemployment Insurance;
- Unemployment Insurance for Civilian Federal Employees (UCFE);
- Unemployment Compensation for Ex-Service Members (UCX);
- Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC);
- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA);
- Extended Benefits (EB);
- Work Share Benefits, or Oregon’s Short-Time Compensation (STC) Program;
- Trade Readjustment Allowances (TRA); or the
- Self-Employment Assistance (SEA) program.
The Employment Department continues receiving guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor to implement the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program into its systems.
The PUA benefits allow the self-employed, contract workers, and gig workers not already eligible to receive unemployment benefits for the first time. More information about the upcoming PUA program and all benefits associated with the CARES Act can be found on the Employment Department’s COVID-19 page.
To file an online claim for unemployment benefits, go to Oregon.gov/employ or call 1-877-FILE-4-UI.
For help finding jobs and training resources, contact your local WorkSource Oregon center or go to WorkSourceOregon.org.
Equal Opportunity program — auxiliary aids and services available upon request to individuals with disabilities.
Contact: (503) 947-1794. For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, call 711 Telecommunications Relay Services.
SALEM, OR—The State of Oregon received a shipment of personal protective equipment (PPE) from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) today, replenishing the state’s stockpiles of critically needed N95 masks and other PPE.
Masks, face shields, gloves and other PPE are vital tools in the state’s ability to combat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and help ensure frontline health care workers have the equipment they need to stay safe.
The shipment of 78 pallets includes N95 masks, scrubs, coveralls, and face shields.
The materials will need to go through the inventory process before the state can report exact totals, but the state expects approximately 150,000 N95 masks, 2,500 scrubs pants, 2,000 scrubs tops, 250 coveralls, and nearly 67,000 face shields. The PPE distribution center in Wilsonville will ship the equipment to Oregon counties in need.
The PPE was procured from USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance warehouse based in Dubai. The U.S. has not utilized materials from this stockpile for a domestic emergency since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Today is a good day to reach out
It’s natural to struggle during this time of increased isolation, and we want to encourage you to reach out today.
Whether that’s reaching out to check on someone by sending a text message, making a phone call, or writing a letter, we can all help make someone’s day better. You can also reach out to your favorite non-profit organization to see what kind of financial or volunteer support they need at this time.
Reaching out can also mean reaching out for help. There are many resources that are available to help support you during this crisis.
While we know physical distancing is an important strategy to slow the spread of COVID-19, we all need connection. Let’s support each other.
The Oregon Department of Human Services and Oregon Health Authority have launched a multi-agency support team to assess the needs of long-term care facilities experiencing increased COVID-19 cases and help them access resources to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 to residents and staff.
The new team is built on DHS and OHA’s ongoing efforts and provides for stronger coordination in providing both intervention and support. As part of this work, the state is beginning to contract with facilities to develop additional capacity to safely treat COVID-19 patients.
“COVID-19 already has had a significant impact on Oregonians in long-term care facilities,” said Fariborz Pakseresht, director of DHS. “We are saddened by the tragedies that have occurred, and our thoughts are with all the residents, staff and families who have been affected.” DHS and OHA entered a new data sharing arrangement that will allow them to better monitor incidences of the virus at long-term care facilities statewide and share status updates with the public. An initial report from this data shows nine long-term care facilities have five confirmed cases or more.