Rogue Valley News, Wednesday 3/24 – Governor Brown Announces 10 Point Economic Recovery Plan for Oregon, Officials Say About Half of Jackson County Seniors Have Received Vaccine

The latest news stories and stories of interest in the Rogue Valley from the digital home of Southern Oregon, from Wynne Broadcasting’s RogueValleyMagazine.com

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Rogue Valley Weather

Today- Increasing clouds, with a high near 57.

Thursday- A 40 percent chance of showers before 11am. Snow level 2800 feet rising to 3500 feet in the afternoon. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 53. West wind 5 to 7 mph.

Friday- Sunny, with a high near 68. Calm wind.

Saturday- Sunny, with a high near 75.

Sunday- Sunny, with a high near 72.

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Oregon reports 316 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 2 new deaths

There are two new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 2,367. The Oregon Health Authority reported 316 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 162,016.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (3), Benton (2), Clackamas (30), Columbia (2), Coos (4), Crook (2), Curry (4), Deschutes (24), Douglas (7), Grant (1), Hood River (3), Jackson (28), Jefferson (1), Josephine (17), Klamath (11), Lane (17), Lincoln (5), Linn (4), Malheur (1), Marion (21), Multnomah (44), Polk (6), Tillamook (3), Umatilla (10), Union (3), Wasco (1), Washington (56) and Yamhill (6).

Additional counties approved for expanding vaccinations

Today, OHA announced that 20 Oregon counties have now submitted attestation letters signaling their intention to immediately offer COVID-19 vaccinations to expanded eligibility groups. This marks an increase of seven counties from yesterday.

The counties are: Baker, Benton, Deschutes, Douglas, Grant, Harney, Jefferson, Josephine, Klamath, Lake, Lincoln, Linn, Malheur, Marion, Morrow, Polk, Sherman, Umatilla, Union and Yamhill.

By attesting, these counties can now begin vaccinating all individuals listed in Phase 1B, Group 6, ahead of the previously designated statewide start date of March 29.

Vaccinations in Oregon

Today, OHA reported that 18,241 new doses of COVID-19 vaccinations were added to the state immunization registry. Of this total, 10,845 doses were administered on March 22 and 7,396 were administered on previous days but were entered into the vaccine registry on March 22.

Oregon has now administered a total of 768,927 first and second doses of Pfizer, 746,354 first and second doses of Moderna and 32,803 single doses of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines.

Cumulative daily totals can take several days to finalize because providers have 72 hours to report doses administered and technical challenges have caused many providers to lag in their reporting. OHA has been providing technical support to vaccination sites to improve the timeliness of their data entry into the state’s ALERT Immunization Information System (IIS).

To date, 971,685 doses of Pfizer, 978,400 doses of Moderna and 60,100 doses of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines have been delivered to sites across Oregon.

These data are preliminary and subject to change. OHA’s dashboards provide regularly updated vaccination data, and Oregon’s dashboard has been updated today.

Oregon Health Authority Receives Authorization to Expand Number of COVID-19 Vaccinators

The Oregon Health Authority has expanded who can administer FDA authorized COVID-19 vaccines, as permitted under the federal Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act.

The federal PREP Act amended declaration, issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and effective March 11, increases the pool of vaccinators who may not be currently authorized to vaccinate under state law, subject to certain training and supervision requirements.  Under the PREP Act declaration and this most recent amendment, OHA can further expand the list of who may administer authorized COVID-19 vaccines, which it did, adding, for example, traditional health workers. 

OHA Director Patrick Allen signed the authorization on March 22, making it immediately effective.

“This is an all-hands-on-deck effort nationally and in Oregon to ensure we are safely vaccinating all eligible adults who wish to receive a vaccine,” said Allen. “The federal directive and my authorization greatly expand the number of professionals who can support this historic public health effort, as we continue to expand our efforts to schedule and vaccinate Oregonians throughout the state as quickly as we can with the supplies provided to us by the federal government and vaccine manufacturers.”

Individuals who are identified as vaccinators under the PREP Act declaration and its amendments, and Director Allen’s authorization, and who meet the requirements as listed, are provided immunity under the PREP Act, except for gross negligence. 

The newly eligible groups who can now administer COVID-19 vaccines include the following health professionals and health allied professionals who are currently licensed, certified or registered or had an active license, certification or registration within the last five years:

  • Certified nursing assistants (CNA)
  • Dentists
  • Direct entry midwives
  • Emergency medical services providers (EMT, AEMT, EMT Intermediate or Paramedic)
  • Naturopathic physicians (ND)
  • Nurses
  • Advanced practice registered nurses (APRN, includes nurse midwives)
  • Registered nurses (RN)
  • Licensed practical nurses (LPN)
  • Optometrists
  • Pharmacists, pharmacy interns and pharmacy technicians
  • Phlebotomists
  • Physicians (MDs and DOs)
  • Physician assistants
  • Podiatrists
  • Respiratory therapists
  • Traditional health workers
  • Veterinarians

Healthcare students (in these fields of study)

  • Dental
  • Emergency medical services providers (EMT, AEMT, EMT Intermediate or Paramedic)
  • Medical
  • Midwifery
  • Naturopathic medicine
  • Nursing (including CNA programs)
  • Optometry
  • Pharmacy and pharmacy intern
  • Physician assistant
  • Podiatry
  • Respiratory therapy
  • Veterinary

A list of the requirements for each of the new eligible categories is outlined in the authorization signed on March 22.

Outbreaks Continue in Some Oregon Senior Care Homes After Vaccination Clinics

More than a dozen Oregon senior care homes have reported coronavirus outbreaks even after staff and residents were offered vaccines, The Oregonian/OregonLive has found, pointing to the reality that vaccine access, while extraordinarily important, has not been a panacea for completely ending some outbreaks.

At one facility, a resident got sick and died with COVID-19 more than two weeks after getting both shots of the vaccine, a facility director said. In another, most of the 13 staff who tested positive had refused to get vaccinated.

In a third facility, seven people tested positive after they should have reached full immunity – triggering reports to the state and federal government in search of potential variants of the disease.

In all, at least 15 nursing, assisted living and memory care homes in Oregon have seen coronavirus outbreaks weeks after residents and staff were offered shots, three of them exceeding 30 cases. New cases continue to emerge.

To be sure, the research and federal data indicate the coronavirus vaccine has almost certainly helped reduce coronavirus cases and deaths in senior care homes since doses became available in December. In Oregon, new nursing home cases have dropped to their lowest point since the pandemic began, federal data show, mirroring a nationwide trend.

If vaccines are working, why are some nursing homes still seeing outbreaks?

The answer is that, to a degree, post-vaccination clinic outbreaks are to be expected – either because of low vaccine uptake among residents or staff, partial immunity because not enough time has elapsed or virus variants less susceptible to vaccines. Moreover, the vaccines were never billed as being 100% effective, and facilities test workers and staff frequently, making it easier to identify cases among people without symptoms.

The outbreaks highlighted by the newsroom do not indicate the vaccine is not working but instead raise questions about the underlying circumstances and details of the eruptions.

However, without the kind of individual-level data only public health officials and researchers could have access to, it’s impossible to know important details that would better help shape the public’s understanding of these outbreaks.

For example: How many people in Oregon’s senior care home outbreaks were fully vaccinated before they got sick and, if they were, how much time had elapsed after their most recent dose?

The Oregon Health Authority said it is collecting data on vaccination status among residents and staff who have tested positive for COVID-19. The agency did not say if it is performing any analyses on the data, though it is sending information about those who tested positive after reaching full immunity to federal health officials

The agency did not provide the number of outbreaks that occurred after vaccination clinics or the number of senior care home cases among people who reached full immunity.

Examining such cases can help identify problems during shipping, storing or administering the vaccine, a spokesman for the agency said.

The agency also pointed to the fact that the real-world effectiveness of vaccines might not be the same as what pharmaceutical companies found when doing their research. That could be particularly true when it comes to seniors.

Residents in long-term care “make up a special population of increased concern for vaccine failure, both because this population may not mount a robust immune response and is at higher risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19,” spokesman Timothy Heider said.

Coronavirus hits senior care home residents harder and earlier than others, making them potential predictors of the course of the pandemic.

“If that population is doing phenomenally better, then we would expect the rest of the population to be doing phenomenally better” and vice versa, Clark said. “That population will be the leading indicator of the change towards good or bad outcomes.”

In investigating post-vaccination cases, local, state and federal health officials have prioritized identifying mutations of the virus that can get through the defenses afforded by vaccines. But other, no less threatening, reasons can explain continued outbreaks, the newsroom found.

Variants, low vaccine uptake and partial immunity mean that ending pandemic will still take time, said Dr. Thomas Russo, an infectious disease expert at the University at Buffalo’s Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

“There’s always some risk,” Russo said, “in the age of COVID.”

A Harney County care home’s recent experience illustrates that vaccines are only effective if people take them.

While many Oregon care homes have had multiple outbreaks, The Aspens Living Center, in Hines, hadn’t identified a single case in one year of pandemic. By January, it seemed like the facility was in the final stretch, with pharmaceutical company employees setting up shop and offering everyone a shot of the coronavirus vaccine.

Then, something strange happened… Just three of the 25 employees and 20 of the 38 residents agreed to get a shot. Staff and residents were worried about vaccine side effects, said Ryan Dupuy, the facility director.

The facility had its first positive case five weeks later, setting off a cascade of infections that hospitalized two residents and forced just over half of the facility’s staff to stay home due to infections.

“I figured eventually there would be a case, but not necessarily this bad,” Dupuy said. Dupuy is sure that had more people gotten vaccinated, the outbreak would have been less severe, even if everyone wouldn’t have reached full immunity by the time the virus began spreading. “I would’ve loved if everyone had gotten the vaccine,” he said.

Indeed, low vaccine uptake among senior care home workers has been a problem nationwide, with one study reporting less than half of nursing home staff offered vaccines took them.

Officials and facility administrators have said young staff have been particularly hesitant, preferring to wait to see how their colleagues fare in the longer-term before deciding to get a shot.

The state doesn’t track how many of the long-term care staff and residents who are offered shots accept them, a spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services said.

In Douglas County facilities with outbreaks, only about half of the staff got shots, county Public Health Officer Dr. Robert Dannenhoffer said.

“If all the staff were vaccinated, an outbreak wouldn’t be impossible,” Dannenhoffer said. But it would be “much less likely.”

But even getting a shot far from guarantees outbreaks won’t happen.

Anecdotal examples relayed by facility managers show that some long-term care staff and residents did test positive – and in some cases die with COVID-19 – after getting one or more doses of the vaccine.

Indeed, at least six Oregon facilities with post-vaccination clinic outbreaks had cases among people with some or full immunity.

Two people who tested positive and died with COVID-19 symptoms in a recent outbreak at Life Care Center of McMinnville had at least one shot, said Kristy Runge, interim director of nursing. One of them tested positive 15 days after getting the second dose of the vaccine.

Separately, a resident and worker at the facility got sick more than 10 days after the second dose, prompting health officials to test for a variant, Runge said.

The samples were sent out Feb. 15, Runge said, and results have not yet returned.

While she would like to see the results, Runge said the vaccine has apparently made a difference. The two surviving cases after being fully vaccinated had mild symptoms and have completely recovered, she said. And, across the board, residents appear to feel safer now that most people have been vaccinated, she said.

“There definitely is, for the residents, a different level of comfort,” Runge said.

Post-vaccination immunity is on a spectrum, from zero immunity with no vaccine at all, to some immunity after one dose, to the highest level of immunity a few weeks after the second dose.

One recent real-world study in Israel found that one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 57% effective in preventing COVID-19, and two doses were 95% effective.

An American Health Care Association analysis of federal vaccination and outbreak data found a 48% reduction in cases among facilities with at least one clinic, compared to a 21% drop among those that did not. Most facilities saw a reduction because of a general downward trend.

Partially immune people provide a perfect breeding ground for new variants to appear, said Oregon Health & Science University researcher Dr. Ben Bimber.

A fully vaccinated person might be able to fight off all varieties of the virus right away, but those who have had only one dose might not have a strong enough response to eliminate more evasive variants of the virus.

“We need to be studying them very carefully,” Bimber, who helped identify Oregon’s first coronavirus variants, said. “They represent cases where the vaccine did not work.”

Others are less interested. Health officials for the Multnomah County health department, for example, say that the risk of disease before maximum immunization is known and therefore such cases are insignificant.

“There’s nothing really to look at” if it’s been less than two weeks after the second dose, said Lisa Ferguson, a county communicable disease manager with the county. “Because we know they do not have adequate immunity.”

Health officials are also trying to identify and study variants of the coronavirus that can infect even those who have received shots. At least 18 Oregon coronavirus cases have been discovered with variants from Brazil and the United Kingdom.

Vaccines were originally made based on the virus first identified in China, and scientists are concerned that those vaccines could be less effective against mutated versions of the virus. But evidence suggests existing vaccines reduce the severity of illness, and the vaccines can be tweaked as more is known about the variants.

While the Oregon Health Authority has said vaccines are likely to reduce the severity of variant infections, “it is too early to speculate” how effective the vaccines will ultimately be against them.

One known case of a variant infection after full vaccination occurred in an Oregon “health care setting,” according to researchers with Oregon Health & Science University who identified the variant, though they did not know if that was a long-term care facility.

Dannenhoffer, the Douglas County health official, is worried he could have a variant outbreak on his hands.

One facility had seven so-called “breakthrough” cases of people getting infected after being fully vaccinated, he said, and he is still waiting on the results of genetic analysis to find out if those people were, in fact, sick with a newer version of the virus. Dannenhoffer said he is expecting the results “any day now.”

Expanded Federal Pandemic Relief Aid Announced for Young People who Experienced Foster Care in Oregon

(Salem, OR)- Today, the Higher Education Coordinating Commission’s Office on Student Access and Completion (OSAC) and the Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) Child Welfare Division are pleased to announce expanded funds to support progress toward postsecondary education goals for young people who are experiencing or experienced foster care at age 14 or older and who are not yet 27. These funds were included in the bipartisan passage of the 2021 Federal Consolidated Appropriations Act, following foster youth advocacy at the national level. Oregon has flexibility in implementing the services under federal guidance on the fund expansion available through the U.S. Office of the Administration for Children and Families.
 
The pandemic relief aid temporarily expands funding for two programs: the Chafee Educational Training Vouchers (ETV), and the Youth Transitions Program in Child Welfare. The Chafee (ETV) Grants, administered through ODHS in partnership with OSAC, offer funding to support postsecondary education studies to eligible students who hold a high school diploma or GED® credential who are current or former foster children. Typically, the Chafee Grants are available for young people up until age 26 who experienced foster care at age 14 and older, and are available only during an approved registration period. With the new funding, eligible young people could receive a grant up to $12,000 up until age 27. The grant is available to newly eligible students and to students who may have paused their studies due to the pandemic.
 
Eligible students may receive a maximum of $5,000 through the OSAC and financial aid awarding process. Students who are eligible for the expanded Chafee grant of up to $5,000 have been identified and will be contacted by email by OSAC.

Additional funds of up to $7,000 per student, administered by the Youth Transitions Program through the Child Welfare Division, have also been expanded to help eligible young people access housing security, transportation costs, and technology needs through the pandemic. These funds will be distributed until exhausted. Students who wish to request the additional funds of up to $7,000 need to contact Youth Transition Programs at ILP.Central@dhsoha.state.or.us.
 
Rebecca Jones Gaston, Director of the ODHS Child Welfare Division, expressed her optimism about the expansion: “This is important recognition that young people in foster care who may have already aged out, or may be ready to, need extra support for the compounded effects that face this population, especially during COVID-19. We are proud of our staff, partners and community for helping create an Oregon-specific plan to quickly offer assistance.”
 
Below are the important eligibility changes with the new funding:The age of eligibility for Chafee services under the new law is until a young person turns age 27. Young people (up to their 27th birthday) with a high school diploma or GED® credential and pursuing postsecondary education who experienced foster care when they were age 14 or older and meet other grant eligibility criteria are eligible for Chafee ETV Grant funds.Chafee ETV Grant funds can pay up to $12,000 per student, including costs other than Cost of Attendance, to help students remain in school. Young adults may still be eligible for funds to support their college or training success even if they had to pause their educational plans due to COVID-19. Costs for basic needs like food, housing, transportation, as well as supplies (laptop, internet, etc.) can be covered under this grant.Students with questions may contact ILP.Central@dhsoha.state.or.us. Questions about the Chafee Grant funding may contact Shannon Donivan-Johns, Deputy Director of OSAC, at 541-517-1085 or shannon.donivan-johns@hecc.oregon.gov

About the ODHS Child Welfare Division: The Oregon Department of Human Services, Child Welfare Division is committed to transforming itself to better support the individual needs of families and to best serve Oregon’s children and young people. Read the Child Welfare Division Vision for Transformation to learn more. Oregon Department of Human Services

LOCAL HEADLINES:

Officials Say About Half of Jackson County Seniors Have Received Vaccine

With Oregon’s next eligibility date coming up on March 29, public health officials say that they are just over halfway through vaccinating Jackson County seniors.

As of March 1, all Oregon seniors 65 and older were eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine. On Monday, Jackson County Public Health said in an update that 52 percent of this group had been vaccinated.

Last week, Governor Kate Brown announced a newly-accelerated vaccination timeline, culminating in all Oregonians 16 and older becoming eligible on May 1. Part of the new timeline was an option for counties to begin vaccinating parts of the next eligible group on March 22.

Jackson County did not indicate that it would pursue the March 22 option, saying that March 29 will remain the date that Phase 1B, Group 6 will become eligible. This group includes adults 45 and older with underlying health conditions, migrant workers, food processing workers, the homeless, and people displaced by wildfires, among others.

The option to accelerate eligibility on March 22 was open to counties that have “attested to largely completing the vaccination of residents 65 and older.” According to the Oregon Health Authority, 13 counties have pursued this route — Baker, Benton, Deschutes, Grant, Jefferson, Lake, Lincoln, Malheur, Marion, Morrow, Polk, Umatilla and Union.

For Jackson County businesses, Monday’s update brought positive news. After two weeks on a “caution” period brought on by case rates above the level required to stay on High-Risk status, local public health officials reported that county cases dropped back below the required threshold. Between March 7 and March 20, the county had a case rate of 168.6 per 100,000 population. High-Risk status requires case rates below 200 per 100,000.

Meanwhile, increasingly more sites are offering appointments to groups eligible to receive the vaccine. As of Monday, Jackson County listed the following sites:

  • Community COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic: This is a high-throughput vaccination clinic supported by Asante, Providence, and Jackson County Public Health located in Medford. Anyone eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine per Oregon’s prioritization schedule can make an appointment at the Community COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic.
    • Schedule an appointment: call 541-789-2813 and press option 2 for English and press option 3 for Spanish.
  • La Clinica: If you are a patient of La Clinica, are uninsured, have no regular doctor, or speak primarily Spanish, you can call to schedule an appointment: 541-618-1300.
  • Bi-Mart Pharmacy: Schedule an appointment by visiting https://www.bimart.com/pharmacy/covid-19-vaccine
  • Fred Meyer Pharmacy: Schedule an appointment by filling out the COVID-19 Vaccine Appointment Scheduler or call 1-866-211-5320
  • Safeway/Albertsons: Find out about vaccine availability and schedule an appointment by using the online registration tool at Safeway/Albertsons Pharmacy COVID-19 Vaccine Page
  • Costco: Find out about vaccine availability and schedule an appointment by using the online registration tool at Costco COVID-19 Vaccine Page
  • Health Mart Pharmacies: Find out about vaccine availability and schedule an appointment by using the online registration tool at Health Mart COVID-19 Vaccine Page
  • Walmart: Find out about vaccine availability and schedule an appointment by using the online registration tool at https://www.walmart.com/cp/Immunizations-Flu-Shots/1228302
  • West Main Pharmacy: Schedule an appointment by visiting https://www.westmaincovidshots.com/

Mt. Ashland Announces Extra Spring Weekend and Excellent Snow Conditions

The Mt. Ashland Ski Area says that spring snow conditions are excellent, prompting an extra weekend beyond the scheduled season and daily skiing offered through the end of Spring Break.

The ski area has a snow base of more than five feet, with more than two feet of snowfall during the month of March. As a result, Mt. Ashland will be open on April 17 and 18, one week past the scheduled closing date. Meanwhile, the ski area will be open daily through March 29.

“We don’t want our community to miss out on the best skiing and riding of the season so far!” said General Manager Hiram Towle.

Through Spring Break, advance purchase mid-week lift tickets are discounted to $30. Mt. Ashland also has a number of theme days coming up, with prizes offered to the best-dressed guests:

  • Monday 3/22 – Beach Day
  • Tuesday 3/23 – Jerry Day
  • Wednesday 3/24 – Hallowednesday
  • Thursday 3/25 – Summer Sports Day
  • Friday 3/26 – Homecoming Day

The Dummy Downhill event is coming back on April 11 — allowing guests to create “dummies” on two skis or a snowboard to be launched off a ramp. Dummies are judged on appearance, the quality of the airtime, and “the inevitable crash.”

“Get started building that dummy now because the person with the winning dummy gets a free 2021-22 Mt. Ashland Season Pass,” said Towle.

Due to coronavirus precautions, tickets to Mt. Ashland must be purchased online in advance. According to Mt. Ashland, season passes are most affordable during the month of April.

AROUND the STATE of OREGON

Governor Brown Announces 10 Point Economic Recovery Plan for Oregon

Governor Kate Brown released a 10 Point Economic Recovery Plan for Oregon. The 10 Point Plan, which was developed with input from the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors and Racial Justice Council (RJC), builds on the work of local economic development districts across the state to help Oregon families and businesses. It provides a framework for economic recovery related to COVID-19 and wildfires, with a specific focus on strategically supporting Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities.

The Governor also outlined her principles for the use of federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) resources, to guide state agencies and local governments in making investments that will maximize immediate benefits for Oregonians in an equitable way.

“Thanks in part to the passage of the American Rescue Plan, Oregon’s outlook for a rapid economic recovery is strong, if we act quickly to get relief to Oregonians,” said Governor Brown. “We have the opportunity now to lift up Oregon families and businesses, by immediately investing state and federal resources to help them recover from the devastating economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“We must do so by creating a more just and equitable Oregon, helping the communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and wildfires. By rooting our recovery efforts in equity, we can support economic growth for Oregon’s Black, Indigenous, Latino, Latina, Latinx, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, and Tribal communities.

“My 10-Point Plan provides a roadmap for economic recovery, and will guide our state and local governments as we invest our shares of federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan. Aligning programs and activities funded through these dollars will help ensure we are coordinating, not duplicating efforts, and collaborating on what will make a difference in our economies.”

Between state and local governments, Oregon is slated to receive approximately $6.4 billion in federal funds from the ARP. The Governor also laid out her principles for making investment decisions with ARP dollars: investments should be made now in a way that maximizes economic recovery efforts for Oregonians this year, while also addressing the existing disparities that were exacerbated by the pandemic, particularly for women and BIPOC communities.

“Oregon businesses have worked throughout the pandemic to do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19. We are pleased with the direction Governor Brown is taking with this plan to immediately invest state and federal resources towards shared prosperity and a robust recovery,” said Joth Ricci, CEO and President of Dutch Bros and Chair of the Oregon Business Plan Steering Committee. “Oregon businesses need both short-term relief and long-term investments like those in the Governor’s plan to help get our state back on its feet and thriving.”

“Without prioritizing equity we can not have social and racial justice,” said Jan Mason, co-chair of the Community Chamber Coalition of Oregon. “I support the Governor Brown priority in grounding and leading with racial equity and justice. We simply cannot achieve economic justice and prosperity without these priorities.”

The Governor applies these principles for equitable and rapid economic recovery in her 10-Point Plan:

  • Action #1: Investing in Oregon’s hardest hit workers (those currently unemployed or underemployed)
  • Action #2: Reinvesting in innovative housing
  • Action #3: Supporting resilient rural communities
  • Action #4: Supporting Oregon’s workforce (those currently employed but struggling)
  • Action #5: Creating opportunities for Oregonians (workforce development)
  • Action #6: Getting small business back on its feet
  • Action #7: Investing in Oregon’s infrastructure
  • Action #8: Oregonians investing in Oregon
  • Action #9: Safely reopening Oregon’s economy
  • Action #10: Innovation in manufacturing

Additional details on Governor Brown’s 10-Point Plan are available here.

These principles and 10-Point Plan are a starting point for conversations with the legislature, community stakeholders, the RJC, and the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors to develop a process for funding decisions related to ARP dollars. More information will be provided as decisions are made.

Plan maximizes immediate impact for Oregonians, equitably invests resources to address disproportionate impact of COVID-19 pandemic on BIPOC communities action plan and investment principles to guide decisions related to American Rescue Plan funds – A breakdown of ARP allocations is available here.

Girl Scout Cookie Program Comes to an End March 28

Local Girl Scout Cookie lovers have just a few days left to stock up on their favorites before they’re gone.

Girl Scout Cookie Boxes

Girl Scout Cookie lovers in Oregon and SW Washington have just a few days left to stock up on Thin Mints®, Samoas® and other favorites before the 2021 Girl Scout Cookie Program comes to an end on Sunday, March 28. The cookie program—the largest girl-led entrepreneurial program in the world—funds life-changing programs, experiences, and learning for local girls and Girl Scout troops all year long.

In the final days of the program, Girl Scout Cookie customers can choose from a variety of purchasing options:

Online Ordering
Customers can order online from a local Girl Scout troop for direct shipment to their homes or donation to Meals on Wheels People. Girl Scouts of Oregon and Southwest Washington is offering $5 off shipping for orders of eight or more packages via Digital Cookie. Donated cookies do not incur a shipping fee.

Grubhub Ordering – Contactless Delivery or Customer Pickup
In Albany, Eugene and Portland, Oregon, customers can order via Grubhub for contactless delivery or customer pickup. Local Girl Scouts manage the Grubhub eCommerce platform and pack each order, learning valuable business skills in the process. A Grubhub promotion is offering a free box of Girl Scout Cookies with an order of three or more boxes, while promotion lasts.

In-Person Booths
Though pandemic conditions have prevented in-person cookie booths for much of the season, recent improvements and county re-openings mean booths—while rare—are possible in some areas. Customers can find available booths by typing their zip code into the Girl Scout Cookie Finder.

Despite challenges this year, thousands of local girls are building skills, learning and having fun through participation in the Girl Scout Cookie Program. 100% of the proceeds from the Girl Scout Cookie Program stay local, powering essential leadership development programming and meaningful community impact.

About the Girl Scout Cookie Program
A little more than a century ago, Girl Scouts began participating in what would evolve into the largest girl-led entrepreneurial program in the world: the Girl Scout Cookie Program. The program helps girls fund life-changing experiences and learning for themselves and their troops all year long, while gaining valuable life skills like goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills and business ethics. To learn more about the history of the Girl Scout Cookie Program, visit girlscouts.org.

About Girl Scouts of Oregon and Southwest Washington
In partnership with more than 6,500 adult members, Girl Scouts of Oregon and Southwest Washington prepares more than 11,500 girls in grades K-12 for a lifetime of leadership, adventure and success. GSOSW’s programs in civic engagement, financial literacy, the outdoors and STEM serve girls in 35 counties in Oregon, and Clark, Klickitat and Skamania counties in Southwest Washington. The Girl Scout mission is to build girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place. For more information, please visit girlscoutsosw.org. – Girl Scouts of Oregon and SW Washington

Gun Violence Bills Already Being Looked at by Oregon Legislature

Oregon shooting: eight ideas to help stop gun violence | Oregon college  shooting | The Guardian

Even before recent shootings in Colorado and Georgia, a handful of gun bills to address gun violence have been working their way through the Oregon Legislature this session.

The legislation includes a bill that would require a gun owner to lock their weapon in a lockbox or container, allow agencies to limit possession of a firearm in public buildings, and a fix for the so-called “Charleston Loophole.”

Rep. Lisa Reynolds, D-Portland, is sponsoring multiple bills related to weapons. She’s also a physician and former advocate for gun violence prevention.

“We should all be doing all we can to prevent death from gun violence. In Oregon, what we are looking at, particularly this session, is treating gun violence as a public health issue for the first time. That’s evidenced by one of the major bills this session in the House being heard by the House Health Care Committee,” said Reynolds.

“I don’t think the solutions to stopping criminals from committing heinous, horrible crimes is to remove the rights of law-abiding citizens,” said Shawn Kollie, a gun rights lawyer in Central Oregon.

House Bill 2510 would require a gun owner to secure it with a trigger or cable lock in a locked container or gun room. It is in the House Committee on Health Care.

Reynolds said she is concerned about children who get access to weapons which can lead to accidental deaths or suicide.

“We know that when someone is in crisis, they are more likely to do something to try and harm themselves. If they have access to the lethal means of a gun, they are more likely to truly kill themselves. If the gun is not there, that person usually survives that moment of crisis,” said Reynolds.

Opponents of gun storage bills like this say it defeats the purpose of leaving the weapon at home for self-defense.

“Having it stowed, locked, and removable from your access seems almost moot,” said Kollie, the Central Oregon gun rights lawyer. “Hold on, Mr. Burglar. Give me 30 seconds to get into my safe and punch in the code.”

House Bill 2543 would close what’s known as the “Charleston Loophole.”

State law requires a background check on people who want to purchase a gun. But state law also allows federal firearm dealers to complete a gun sale if the background check is not done within three business days. Hence, the loophole.

According to a report from the FBI in 2019, nearly 3,000 firearms were sold to people without a completed background check within three days, only for that check to come back showing that person could not legally own a firearm.

“What we’re saying in Oregon, which is what 20 other states have said, we want Oregon to have the time they need to complete that background check. Not to put this arbitrary three-day limit on allowing them to do their job,” said Reynolds.

Kollie said the state needs to speed up the check process. He said he has several clients who have been forced to wait months while their weapon sits with a dealer.

“If we want to close that and say, ‘You can’t transfer within three days.’ Personally, that’s fine. If there is some review of that to figure out, we need some tailing, two months, three months how long is too long?” said Kollie.

In the Senate, SB 554 would allow a local government or agency to limit possession of a firearm in public buildings by concealed handgun licensees. It also increases the fees for a concealed handgun license.

Reynolds said she would like the Capitol to be a gun-free zone.

“We also know that in December an armed crowd broke into the Capitol building. If it had not been closed to COVID, that armed crowd would have every right to be in the building. I don’t think that’s the right thing to do,” said Reynolds.

“To me that seems ludicrous,” said Kollie. “I don’t see any reason why it would behoove Oregon or our citizenry to limit concealed handgun license holders and what they can do.”

OSU President Resigns

F. King Alexander will no longer be president of Oregon State University after the university’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously Tuesday to accept his resignation.

The board also voted to place Alexander on administrative leave, effective immediately, until April 1, when his resignation will take effect.

F. King Alexander offered his resignation days after Oregon State’s board opted not to terminate him. Since then, the board chair at his former employer, Louisiana State University, disputed several of his claims about handling sexual misconduct there.

Alexander is one of three higher education officials to step down from his post following the release of a report by the law firm Husch Blackwell. The report detailed Louisiana State University’s mishandling of sexual misconduct allegations and Title IX procedures while Alexander was president there. Les Miles, LSU’s former head football coach, “mutually agreed” to part ways with the University of Kansas two weeks ago. Jeff Long, the University of Kansas athletic director who hired Miles to be head football coach there, has also stepped down.

Oregon State will pay Alexander $630,000, the same amount as his annual salary, in a lump sum within 30 days of his resignation, plus an additional $40,000 for relocation expenses. The university will also continue to pay for Alexander’s current health and dental benefits, per the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, or COBRA, through March 2022.

His exit package is small compared with the one for Miles, who will be paid nearly $2 million by the University of Kansas. Miles was at the center of many — but not all — of the high-profile allegations covered in recent reports LSU released publicly. Miles has denied allegations against him, which include that he attempted to kiss a female student in a car and suggested they go to a hotel together or visit his condo. He continued to coach at LSU for several years after LSU’s athletic director at the time recommended firing Miles in 2013 in a letter addressed to Alexander.

Oregon State’s board first met March 17 to discuss potential actions in response to the Husch Blackwell report. It voted to put Alexander on probation. Over the past week, many students and employees called on the board to remove Alexander, and the university’s Faculty Senate passed a vote of no confidence in Alexander and the board.

“After listening to and hearing important input from diverse members of our community and reflecting on our own values and experiences, we now know that rebuilding trust is no longer possible,” Rani Borkar, chair of the Oregon State board, wrote in a statement about Alexander’s resignation. “This broken trust was expressed not only by the vote of the Faculty Senate but by an outpouring of thoughtful statements from students, alumni and survivors of sexual assault.”

Robert Dampf, chair of the LSU Board of Supervisors, sent a letter Monday to the Oregon State board that blasted Alexander and contradicted statements Alexander made at last week’s Oregon State board meeting.

“Perhaps in the past, an administrator or coach could leave a university and feel comfortable in the knowledge that any mistakes at a prior university would remain there in secret,” Dampf wrote.

Alexander told Oregon State board members that the only input he had into the Husch Blackwell report was providing written answers to 13 questions. During last week’s board meeting, he talked about several actions he wished had been included in the report, including an increase in the number of Title IX investigations under his leadership, increased spending for LSU’s Title IX office and educational campaigns so that students knew where and how to report sexual misconduct.

In his letter, Dampf disputed this characterization of Husch Blackwell’s investigation.

“In actuality, Dr. Alexander was twice invited to be interviewed and instead communicated through Oregon State’s general counsel that he would only accept questions in writing,” Dampf wrote. “Husch Blackwell consented when it was the only way to get answers from Dr. Alexander, but stated their preference for a live interview.”

Alexander also defended his reputation on Title IX issues by saying he established a Title IX office at LSU and that Title IX concerns were the chief reason the Greek system at LSU was suspended for a year.

“We took Title IX so seriously that because of Title IX violations, sexual assault misconduct and hazing, we shut down the entire Greek system for an entire year,” Alexander said last week.

Dampf wrote that LSU had Title IX coordinators on each campus prior to Alexander’s arrival, and that the Greek system was shut down “in response to an unfortunate death, and not in response to Title IX concerns.”

Dampf also took issue with Alexander’s attempt to distance himself from the culture at LSU.

“I feel confident that I can speak not only on behalf of my university, but also for my state, in saying that I am beyond offended by Dr. Alexander’s arrogant and condescending comments about Louisiana’s culture, our state, and our university,” Dampf wrote. “When sharing his opinion that Louisiana State has a different moral standard than Oregon, he omits the fact that he enthusiastically counted himself as one of us for almost seven years.”

Alexander spoke briefly during Tuesday’s board meeting.

“I’m sorry to any of the survivors of sexual assault or misconduct that this has brought back any pain. I offer my resignation to Oregon State University to allow us to move on. Students have and always will be my top priority. Their social and economic well-being is why many of us have committed a lifetime to public higher education,” Alexander said. “I have been fortunate to serve 20 years as a public university president because of my values and commitment to the next generation of students and their ability to make society a much, much better place. And I pledge to continue to do so as I go forward as well as working with public higher education nationwide.”

Even before Alexander was hired, the closed search process used to select him had been controversial. Several Oregon State employees criticized the search process during last week’s board meeting. In her statement, the Oregon State board chair, Borkar, promised the board would be more transparent moving forward.

“First, the responsibility and accountability for selecting and evaluating the president rests with this board. I pledge to work with the Board to review past procedures and to learn and improve from this experience. We can do better, and we will do better for OSU,” Borkar wrote. “Second, looking ahead, I will ask the Board to consider what best represents an inclusive selection process for future presidents that is informed by what we have learned from this experience and reflects the culture and values of OSU.”

The board’s executive and audit committee will meet this morning to discuss next steps for assessing the university’s Title IX reporting and survivor services. It will also discuss responding to feedback and questions from the Faculty Senate, as well as a process for selecting an interim president. In the meantime, Edward Feser, university provost, will serve as acting president.

Hiker Rescued after Falling near Multnomah Falls 

Multnomah Falls Loop Hiking Trail, Bridal Veil, Oregon

A hiker identified by the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office as a 24-year-old man slipped while walking on the Larch Mountain Trail near Dutchman Falls.

He fell and couldn’t get back up, the agent said.

The man’s aunt sought help, and the firefighters and search and rescue team responded.

The firefighters were able to help the man climb the hills and back on the sidewalk without using ropes, the agent said.

It is unknown at this time if the man was injured in the fall.

Multnomah Falls, which includes three separate drops (the upper falls, the main falls, and the lower falls) for a total of 635 feet, is without doubt Oregon’s most recognizable waterfall and arguably its most awe-inspiring. It is also the tallest waterfall in Oregon. However, local boosters like to bill the waterfall as one of the highest waterfalls (second highest? fourth highest?) in the United States. Alas, according to the World Waterfall DatabaseMultnomah Falls is the 156th tallest waterfall in the United States (that statistic includes some seasonal waterfalls). Nonetheless, the falls are an impressive sight, especially when they are a thundering plunge deep into the wet season or a muted ice-encased column in the throes of a freezing spell. The paved trail to the top of the falls involves threading through crowds of visitors from around the world: come before 9:00 a.m. if you want to experience a relatively people-free passage. At viewpoints along the way, you can experience different perspectives on the waterfall, which plunges from a hanging valley left high above the river bottom after the Columbia River carved its way through layers of basalt as the Cascade mountains began their period of uplift during the Pleistocene.

The trail begins at Multnomah Falls Lodge, a historic building built to serve early automobile travelers in 1925. From a photographer’s viewpoint, get a head on vista of both the lower and main tiers of Multnomah Falls and the picturesque span of the Benson Bridge. From here, the trail is a gently sloped 2/10 mile paved path to the Benson Bridge, put in place in 1914 by Simon Benson, one of the builders of the old highway. This part of the trail has one switchback, although one small flight of a few stairs blocks the way to wheelchairs beyond the lower falls viewpoint. You’ll pass below a rock net and can look up to see the seasonal Shady Creek Falls, which splash down a cliff just west of Multnomah Falls.

Beyond the bridge, the asphalt trail switches up steeply for another mile to a ridgecrest (there are 11 switchbacks to be exact). At the first switchback, you’ll come to the Larch Mountain-Gorge Trail Junction. After the Eagle Creek Fire, logging crews cut many of the trees on this slope and the views are more open although some of the logged trees seem to point dangerously down the steep slope. At the third switchback, a once shaded viewpoint with a bench offers a view to Multnomah Falls. At the fourth switchback, a scree slope shelters a busy colony of pikas, which tend to disappear when the midday crowds show up. As you ascend higher on the slope, look for Columbia River views. Post fire, the trail seems more precipitous and the drop-offs more lethal as much of the buffering understory was incinerated during the blaze. At the crest, you’ll see a few trees that were killed by the 2017 fire. From the top, the trail drops slightly to a signed junction where you’ll go right for the Multnomah Falls Viewpoint. The asphalt follows a new side path that switchbacks down twice to the Multnomah Falls Upper Viewpoint, a balcony of sorts at the lip of the falls looking down on the lodge and the less motivated visitors below. A ten-foot uppermost tier of Multnomah Falls splashes down into a shady pool encased by columnar basalt here.

Consider hiking further on the Larch Mountain Trail up Multnomah Creek to view Wiesendanger Falls and Ecola Falls. Details are listed under the Larch Mountain Hike.

Here’s more information on Multnomah Falls: https://www.oregonhikers.org/field_guide/Multnomah_Falls_Hike

Animals at the Oregon Zoo to Receive COVID Vaccine

The Oregon Zoo says it’s in line to get COVID-19 vaccines for some of its animals.

The vaccine is not the COVID-19 vaccine meant for humans, but one specifically designed for animals.

It has already been used on bonobos and orangutans at the San Diego Zoo.

The first animals to receive the vaccine will be older chimps, orangutans, cheetahs, lions and tigers. As the vaccine for animals becomes more available, the zoo hopes to give it to the sea and river otters as well.

Research has shown that humans can transmit the virus to animals, and while zookeepers at the Oregon Zoo have safety precautions in place, the vaccine will better protect the animals from the virus.

For the first time in a year, since Covid-19 began spreading across the United States forcing Americans to stay home, retail alcohol sales have fallen.

For the first time in a year, since Covid-19 began spreading across the United States forcing Americans to stay home, retail alcohol sales have fallen. That’s according to newly released data from Nielsen, which reported that total sales declined 1.9% for the week ending March 13.

This time a year ago, consumers stockpiled alcohol as shelter-in-place orders were implemented across several US states and bars and restaurants were closed or reduced service. As a result, retail alcohol sales shot up as much as 55% in March 2020 with spirits, wine and beer among the top sellers.

Wine sales fell 8% for the week ending March 13, with spirits flat and beer sales slightly higher thanks to the continued popularity of spiked seltzers.

If Nielsen excluded seltzer sales from its beer measurement, that category would have fallen more than 2% for the week. Perhaps more notably, total alcohol sales for the week would have fallen 3% if not for hard seltzers.

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