Local News That Matters

UPDATES: Oregon again speeds up vaccine timeline

29 days ago

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: Oregon House passes bill intended to protect distressed homeowners

Oregon State Capitol, Legislature (Salem Reporter/file)

One of the biggest challenges posed by the pandemic-induced downturn is keeping people in their homes. The Oregon House passed a bill on Tuesday aimed at doing that. 

THE ISSUE: While there are signs the economy is recovering, there are still thousands of households in Oregon who are behind on their mortgage payments. 

THE BILL: House Bill 2009

WHAT IT DOES: Reestablishes the moratorium on residential foreclosures though July 1, 2021. The bill gives the governor the ability to extend the moratorium for 90-day increments through the end of the year. 

WHY IT WAS PROPOSED: The previous moratorium expired in December. 

HOW THE MARION/POLK DELEGATION VOTED:

State Rep. Brian Clem, D-Salem: Excused

State Rep. Paul Evans, D-Monmouth: Yes 

State Rep. Raquel Moore-Green, R-Salem: No 

State Rep. Mike Nearman, R-Independence:  No

Sate Rep. Bill Post, R-Keizer: No

State Rep. Rep. Teresa Alonso León, D-Woodburn: Yes

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT: The bill moves to the Senate for consideration. 

-Jake Thomas

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post reported how the Marion and Polk counties delegation voted on an earlier floor motion on the bill instead of the final vote count. This post has been updated to reflect the final floor vote on the bill. State Reps. Paul Evans and Teresa Alonso León voted for the legislation. An earlier version incorrectly reported they voted against it. Salem Reporter apologizes for the error.

29 days ago

Polk County has two weeks to bring Covid cases down before businesses must reduce capacity

Polk County Courthouse (Courtesy of Jolene Guzman/Polk Itemizer-Observer)

Polk County is getting a caution flag from Gov. Kate Brown.

After seeing new Covid cases drop over most of February and early March, the county has again seen an uptick in people testing positive for the virus. But Brown is giving Polk County two weeks to reverse the trend before restaurants, gyms and indoor venues would have to cut capacity.

Over the past two weeks, Polk County recorded 116 new Covid cases, nearly double the 60 recorded in the two weeks prior.

"There is no specific source to our increase in cases that I can see at this point. We still need our community members to continue to follow the guidance, especially when it comes to small group gatherings," said county public health administrator Jacqui Umstead in an email.

The earlier drop allowed the county to move into Oregon's "moderate risk" category for Covid spread, meaning restaurants, gyms and many other indoor establishments can operate at half capacity.

Most recently, the county recorded 140 new Covid cases per 100,000 residents, higher than the "high risk" cutoff of 100 cases per 100,000 residents over two weeks.

Brown said Tuesday that Polk and several other counties would instead enter a two-week "caution period" before seeing increased restrictions. The goal is to encourage counties "to re-focus efforts to drive back down creeping case numbers and give local businesses additional certainty on their plans for operating," according to a news release.

Brown also said Oregon would have a higher threshold for returning counties to the "extreme risk" category, where all indoor dining is banned. Starting this week, no Oregon county will be labeled extreme risk unless statewide hospitalizations of people with Covid climb above 300 and the state records a 15% increase from the previous week.

Brown said as more Oregonians are vaccinated against Covid, case counts alone are no longer sufficient to determine the public health risk posed by the virus.

Marion County remains in the high risk category but didn't see an increase in new Covid cases over the previous two weeks even as cases are climbing again around Oregon.

The county most recently recorded 397 new Covid cases over the past two weeks, giving it a rate of 114 cases per 100,000 residents.

-Rachel Alexander

30 days ago

PBS NewsHour features segment on Enchanted Forest

Taped arrows direct traffic at Enchanted Forest on Tuesday, October 27, 2020. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Regular readers of Salem Reporter already know about how Enchanted Forest, an amusement park south of Salem, nearly went bust but will reopen for another season after an outpouring of donations.  

Now, the rest of the country does as well. At least those, watching the PBS NewsHour Monday evening. The national news program featured a segment on the Enchanted Forest, including interviews with members of the Tofte family who've owned the storied park since 1971. 

The segment covered the park’s founding by Roger Tofte as well as the heartaches of 2020. Last year, the park nearly went out of business because of the pandemic, and the Tofte's saw the tragic loss of family members during the historic wildfires. While the park plans to reopen after raising over $400,000 from nearly 8,000 donors, the news segment also looked at the challenges it still faces. 

-Jake Thomas

30 days ago

All Oregonians 16 or older will be eligible for Covid vaccine April 19

Moderna vaccine doses at a drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Centennial Park in Woodburn, Ore. on Thursday, April 1, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

All Oregonians 16 and older will be able to get a Covid vaccine starting April 19, Gov. Kate Brown announced Tuesday, speeding up the state's previous timeline by about two weeks.

Brown announced the change on Twitter, saying Oregon faces a race between the pace of vaccinations and the spread of more contagious variants of the virus. Daily Covid cases in Oregon fell sharply in the first months of 2021 before resuming an increase in recent weeks.

The state had originally planned to make vaccines available to the general public May 1. Frontline workers and younger adults with underlying health conditions became eligible for shots statewide on Monday.

Despite the state's professed commitment to equity in the vaccine rollout, vaccines remain unevenly distributed by race, with Oregon Latinos particularly underrepresented. Latinos make up 13% of the state's population and 34% of Covid cases where ethnicity was reported, but just 6% of Oregonians who have received a vaccine so far, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

"Over the next two weeks, we will dedicate all available resources to ensure Oregon’s frontline workers and people with underlying conditions have access to vaccines—two groups in which Oregonians from communities of color are predominantly represented," Brown said in a statement.

See Salem Reporter's guide here to getting a vaccine in the Salem area.

-Rachel Alexander

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