Local News That Matters

More Covid vaccines coming to Marion County week of March 7

March 4, 2021 at 5:04pm

"High risk" counties will have more time to bring Covid cases down before seeing more restrictions

Omar Hernandez, restaurant manager at Adam's Rib Smoke House, packs up a pick-up order on Wednesday, Feb. 24, as the restaurant readies to re-open later this week. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Kate Brown says she’ll give counties more time to improve their rate of Covid transmissions before subjecting them to more stringent pandemic restrictions. 

On Thursday, Brown announced she was modifying the process for assigning counties risk levels based on Covid case rates. Last week, Brown moved Marion and Polk counties from the “extreme risk” category to the “high risk,” allowing restaurants to offer limited indoor dining and more people gyms.  

Beginning next week, counties that have moved out of the extreme risk category will have two weeks to slow the spread of the virus before being moved back into that classification, even if Covid cases have increased.

According to a press statement, Brown made the change to give businesses more certainty and counties more time to push case numbers down. 

Brown’s move came as the state’s Covid case numbers have been in decline. According to the most recent numbers from the Oregon Health Authority, 4.3% of Covid tests came back positive, roughly half the rate from the peak over the winter. The rate for Marion and Polk counties has declined to 5.8%. 

Marion and Polk counties were moved to the high risk category last week. According to the most recent Oregon Health Authority numbers, Marion County had 141 cases per 100,000 county residents over a two week period. For Polk County, that number was 184 cases per 100,000 residents.

The Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association welcomed the development as being particularly helpful to the state’s beleaguered eating and drinking establishments.

“We want to acknowledge the importance of this change and this response to our plea for changes to the 2-week rigmarole being experienced by too many Oregon restaurant workers and their families,” said Jason Brandt, president and CEO for the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association, in a statement.

-Jake Thomas

March 4, 2021 at 4:27pm

Salem could cut its emissions by half if Oregon, energy companies meet their goals

Salem's Climate Action Plan task force is held its first workshop Wednesday, Nov. 17.

Salem could reach its near-term climate reduction goal of cutting its emissions by 50% in the next 14 years, but a more ambitious goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050 will be a more arduous task and will rely on future technology. That’s according to a presentation to Salem’s Climate Action Task Force Wednesday by Verdis Group, a consulting firm leading the process of creating Salem's Climate Action Plan.

For Salem to reduce half of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2035, Oregon would need to meet all of its greenhouse gas reduction targets, Salem’s energy companies would need to meet their commitments to renewable energy and the city would need to implement strategies that would reduce the use of gas cars, increase bus usage and improve energy efficiency in buildings.

“From an optimistic standpoint, there’s a pathway and that’s 14 years down the road and that’s achievable. There is a way to get there. What’s more challenging is 100% by 2050,” said Brian Harmon, a consultant with Verdis Group, during the task force meeting Wednesday.

“You are stuck with a challenge which is more than 50% of your emissions come from transportation and getting rid of those emissions entirely today is not yet feasible. It may be by 2050 but it isn’t today,” he said.

The task force’s next workshop is on April 7.

-Saphara Harrell

March 4, 2021 at 3:34pm

Oregon gardeners can get free seeds, watch educational videos through gardening challenge

Janita Janes, of Salem, mulches a pathway at the Salem Community Sun Gardens on Monday, April 6. "The plots are big enough that it's easy to stay apart," Janes said. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Oregonians who want to get free seeds to start their gardens this year can sign up through the Grow This! Oregon Garden Challenge run through the Oregon State University extension office with donated seeds from Bi-Mart.

Supplies are limited and the challenge has closed to groups because so many schools, daycares and other groups have signed up, said Sally Bowman, extension family and Community Health Associate program leader.

But don’t despair. Even those who aren’t able to get the seeds can follow along through educational videos and Facebook live chats with master gardeners.

There are videos on what to grow in early spring, how to thin plants and succession planting, among other topics.

Bowman said there are 4,000 individuals and 400 groups signed up statewide so far.

People who get the seed envelopes will receive a warm weather vegetable, a cool weather vegetable, an herb or edible flower and flower seeds. There’s no contact when picking up the seeds.

“For me, it’s about how we can encourage people (to garden). There are lots of ways you can grow even if you don’t have access to land,” Bowman said. 

-Saphara Harrell

March 4, 2021 at 11:43am

Salem area should see more Covid vaccines week of March 7

Vaccination stations during a COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the Oregon State Fairgrounds on Thursday, Jan. 28. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Marion County will receive more than 10,000 first doses of Covid vaccine next week, speeding up the process of inoculating local seniors, according to data released Thursday from Oregon Health Authority.

That's an increase of more than 1,000 doses from the county's allocation for the week of Feb. 28. It includes 5,280 doses destined for Salem Health, most to be used at the vaccination clinic at the state fairgrounds in Salem.

Other providers, including the Marion County Health Department, Salud Medical Center and Lancaster Valley Health Center, will receive an additional 5,000 doses.

Polk County is scheduled to receive 1,000 first doses for West Valley Hospital's vaccination clinic.

The increase in available vaccines also comes during the first week since early February when no additional Oregonians will become eligible to receive a shot. That means the pool of people seeking scarce doses isn't expanding.

Vaccines are also destined for Hi-School pharmacies in Silverton, Mt. Angel and Independence, which will receive 100 doses each.

Walgreens, Safeway and Costco pharmacies will receive additional doses through a separate federal program to ship shots directly to retail pharmacies. According to OHA data, seven Salem and Keizer Walgreens pharmacies are slated to receive 180 doses each of Pfizer vaccine, while the Woodburn pharmacy will receive 360 doses. Appointment information is available on the Walgreens website.

The health department is planning vaccination events in the 97305 ZIP code, which includes parts of north Salem and Brooks, public health director Katrina Rothenberger told county commissioners this week. Along with Woodburn, that area has seen one of the highest rates of Covid cases in Marion County.

Marion County spokeswoman Jolene Kelley said the health department also expects to receive 600 doses of the newly approved Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which only requires one dose. That will be prioritized for county jail inmates, seniors in the Jefferson area and people who are homebound, Kelley said, because of the logistical barriers those people face for getting a second shot.

Currently, Oregonians 65 and older, long-term care residents, health care workers, first responders, correctional employees, inmates, K-12 educators and child care providers are eligible to be vaccinated. The pool will expand to agricultural and food processing workers and Oregonians 45 and older with underlying health conditions on March 29.

-Rachel Alexander