Local News That Matters

UPDATES: Fewer child care providers open in Salem

3 months ago

Salem, Keizer will test school zone flashing lights

The city of Salem announced on Friday it would begin preparing for the upcoming school year by testing lights in school zones.

The city will begin testing flashing beacons in school speed zones in Salem and Keizer on August 10.

Flashing beacons indicate that the 20 mph speed limit is in effect.

In North Salem, East Salem and Keizer, testing will take place between 9 a.m. and noon on August 10.

Also on Tuesday, South Salem will see beacon testing from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and on Wednesday, August 11, lights will be tested in West Salem from 9 a.m. to noon.

-Caitlyn May

3 months ago

Most new cases in Salem Health’s Covid outbreak are employee relatives, hospital says

Salem Hospital (Caleb Wolf/Special to Salem Reporter)

Sixty-four people have contracted Covid in an outbreak at Salem Hospital in the past week, the Oregon Health Authority said Wednesday. 

But the hospital disputed the health authority’s characterization, saying Friday that those numbers reflect employees who contracted Covid in the community along with their family members, rather than transmission occurring at the hospital.

The health authority reports weekly outbreaks of Covid at workplaces with more than 30 employees where more than five people have contracted Covid. The number of people counted in an outbreak includes both employees and their close contacts who fall ill, such as roommates or family members.

Salem Hospital has had an active Covid outbreak since May 2020, according to those reports, usually adding a handful of cases each week. The hospital has previously said those cases are typically not among employees working together and pointed out they employ over 5,000 people.

But the Aug. 4 report showed 283 total Covid cases since the outbreak began, an increase of 64 over last week’s report of 219 total cases.

Salem Health spokeswoman Lisa Wood said of the 64 newly-added, only 16 are employees, seven of whom had been fully vaccinated against Covid. The rest are family members or other contacts of employees.

Fourteen of those employees got Covid in the community, rather than at work, she said.

“Any employee who tests positive for COVID-19, has had an exposure of any kind or is showing any COVID-like symptoms is required to quarantine until they are symptom free and are no longer a risk to others. If there is a suspicion that the transmission could have occurred at work, thorough contract tracing occurs,” Wood said in an email.

The hospital said in the last week of July that any employees who declined to be vaccinated against Covid would be tested for the virus regularly. Wood said that policy was “in response to low community vaccination rates and increasing cases in the community, as an added protection for our patients and staff.”

-Rachel Alexander

3 months ago

Salem again sees decline in number of child care providers

Children play outside at the Oregon Child Development Coalition's North Lancaster preschool on March 20, 2020 (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

The number of child care providers in the Salem area continues to decline in 2021, more than a year after the Covid pandemic forced many providers to shut their doors.

That means fewer spots available for parents seeking childcare, which was often difficult to come by even before the pandemic.

As of July 22, Marion County had 304 active child care or early learning providers, according to the state’s Early Learning Division, and Polk County had 69.

That’s down from 322 Marion County and 78 Polk County providers in April 2021, and far below pre-pandemic numbers.

The numbers line up with a July 20 report from the state’s Early Learning Division and Portland State University about the challenges of child care during the Covid pandemic. The report, which surveyed child care providers and operators in March 2021, which found about 12% of early learning programs were closed statewide, mostly because of pandemic-related challenges.

About one-quarter of those directors said they don’t intend to reopen. Lack of financial stability were the most commonly cited reason for closures.

The report found programs that received some type of government financial support during the pandemic were far more likely to still be open in 2021. Those supports included the federal paycheck protection program, which provided forgivable loans to employers to cover operating costs and pay employees, as well as state grants to child care providers.

About 92% of programs that got financial help were still open in the spring of 2021, versus just 82% of those that didn’t get help.

“It’s troubling to continue seeing a decline in the number of licensed child care providers as a result of the pandemic,” said Melanie Mesaros, spokeswoman for the Early Learning Division, in an email. “We know many providers are struggling, and we will continue to offer support.”

-Rachel Alexander