Local News That Matters

UPDATES: Gov. Brown tells Oregon school leaders not to defy masking rules

August 17, 2021 at 4:32pm

Data digest: Covid by the numbers for Aug. 17, 2021

Oregon Health Authority's graph showing people hospitalized with Covid in Marion, Polk, Yamhill, Linn, Benton and Lincoln counties as of Aug. 17, 2021.

Marion County on Tuesday set a record for reported new Covid infections, with 363 people testing positive for Covid. The previous record was 359 new cases on Dec. 27, 2020.

With Covid cases and hospitalizations climbing in Oregon, Salem Reporter is keeping you informed of the latest numbers. Here’s our report for Tuesday, Aug. 17.

New Covid cases reported in Marion County: 363

New Covid cases reported in Polk County: 43

Total Salem Hospital patients with Covid: 78 as of Tuesday morning, an increase of five from Monday. Of those, 18 are in the intensive care unit, and 13 are on ventilators. Sixty-six of those in the hospital are not vaccinated against Covid.

Total Salem Hospital bed occupancy: 456 of 494 licensed beds in use

Total people hospitalized with Covid in Region 2 (Marion, Polk, Yamhill, Linn, Benton, Lincoln counties): 126, an increase of 10 from Monday. Of those, 29 are in the intensive care unit and 15 are on ventilators.

Total Region 2 hospital bed occupancy: 88 of 93 staffed ICU beds and 666 of 703 non-ICU beds in use

New Covid deaths reported: 15 in Oregon. The Oregon Health Authority had not yet published information about counties of residence as of 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.

New Covid vaccines in Oregon: 3,364 new Covid vaccine doses administered on Aug. 16, including at least 2,144 first doses.

Source: Oregon Health Authority, Salem Health

-Saphara Harrell and Rachel Alexander

August 17, 2021 at 10:30am

AGENDA: Marion County commissioners meet to consider justice grants

The Marion County Board of Commissioners meets Wednesday to consider federal grants to reduce recidivism, setting up a mass casualty trailer and an agreement with Union Gospel Mission to provide housing for people leaving prison.


Commissioners will consider approving the county’s $4.1 million in Justice Reinvestment grants for 2021 to 2023. The goal of the grants is to reduce recidivism and stop sending as many people to prison. 

They will consider approving a $700,866 purchase for Garland/DBS, Inc. to coordinate the project and manage the site of the Marion County Jail G-POD Roof Replacement project through June 30, 2022. 

Commissioners will consider approving an agreement with the Oregon Military Department and state Office of Emergency Management for a mass casualty trailer that will provide two shelter units and 20 beds to use as overflow urban care or set up as remote aid.

They will also consider approving an amendment to an agreement with the Oregon State Hospital to add $1.7 million to a contract to provide transport for people guilty except for insanity through June 30, 2023.

Commissioners will consider approving a $140,000 agreement with Union Gospel Mission to provide housing for people leaving prison.

Meeting details: The commissioners meet at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the Senator Hearing Room at 555 Court Street N.E. The meeting is streamed live on YouTube

-Saphara Harrell

August 17, 2021 at 9:53am

Gov. Brown tells school leaders not to "jeopardize" in-person classes by ignoring mask rule

Gov. Kate Brown visits a kindergarten class taught by Janeen Weigel on the first day back of in-person learning at Lincoln Elementary School in Woodburn, Ore. on Thursday, April 1, 2020. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Salem schools intend to follow Gov. Kate Brown's directive requiring masks at school in the fall - but not every district has been eager to fall in line.

Brown on Tuesday sent an open letter to superintendents and school board leaders across Oregon saying those who seek to ignore or "undermine" mask requirements are jeopardizing the safe return of in-person schooling.

"Unfortunately, I am also aware that some leaders in the education community––including school board members in public meetings and administrators in written communications to parents––have expressed a willingness to defy, ignore, and undermine school mask requirements. Some school boards have passed or are considering formal resolutions to that effect," Brown wrote.

The Marion County Board of Commissioners are among the local elected officials who have pushed for local control on masking rules. The board on Aug. 11 passed a resolution urging the governor to leave school masking decisions to local school boards, and saying the county won't spend resources enforcing the masking mandate. The resolution was put forward by commissioner Danielle Bethell, who is also a member of the Salem-Keizer School Board.

Also on Aug. 11, Alsea School District Superintendent Marc Thielman issued a letter to parents saying those who did not want their children wearing a mask at school could request accommodations under Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. Thielman wrote, "I see the Section 504 option as a lawful and compliant means for accommodating parents, and students who have deeply held concerns about the potential negative impacts of mask wearing at school."

Brown appeared to reference that statement in her letter Tuesday.

"I am aware of one district leader who has sent a letter to parents urging them to request an accommodation for their child under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to avoid mask requirements," she wrote. "I find it deeply appalling that any education leader––who is supposed to be setting an example for our students––would send a communication so callous and offensive to Oregon parents and children with disabilities. ADA accommodations are in place for students who truly need them. Instructing students to lie about their disability status puts them and their peers at risk––especially those students with disabilities who are unable to wear masks themselves."

-Rachel Alexander