Local News That Matters

UPDATES: Oregon Capitol offering virtual tours for students

January 28, 2021 at 3:59pm

West Salem singers join voices in haunting ode to the power of song

Choir of the Titans members sing "Flight Song" in a video released Jan. 23 (YouTube screenshot)

West Salem High School's Choir of the Titans has a new song out, joining 45 student voices recorded remotely.

The ensemble released its rendition of "Flight Song" by composer Kim Arnesen on Jan. 23 on director Kimberly McConnell's YouTube channel.

Student music ensembles have been challenged to rehearse during remote school in part because of Salem-Keizer's scheduling system, which restricts students to taking classes with peers in the same grade.

That change was intended to smooth a return to in-person classes.

Choir of the Titans has sophomores, juniors and seniors and had to meet outside class time to rehearse and record the song.

You can watch the video below.

-Rachel Alexander

January 28, 2021 at 2:57pm

Department of Human Services reports historic drop in foster care placements

The state Department of Human Services (Courtesy/State of Oregon)

Oregon had the lowest number of children in foster care in 15 years, the state Department of Human Services said on Thursday. 

According to the department, there were 6,118 children in foster care as of Jan. 1, 2021, a decrease of 11% compared to 2019. The department further reported that it has returned all children sent to out-of-state residential treatment facilities, a practice that’s drawn criticism for its lack of oversight and potential to put kids in abusive situations.  

The department is also relying less on hotels to temporarily house children in its care. According to the department, it has decreased the use of hotels by 66% in the last 12 months (a drop that could be attributable to teachers and coaches being unable to report abuse because of pandemic-related school closures). 

Additionally, the wait times at the Oregon Child Abuse Hotline decreased in 2020 by 46% from eight minutes in 2019 to about four and a half minutes. 

In recent years, the department’s child welfare division has come under scrutiny following reports of high turnover, allowing abuse and neglect to go unmonitored.

In 2020, the department’s child welfare division launched an effort to prevent maltreatment of children and support families. It described its plan in a document titled "Vision for Transformation." 

-Jake Thomas

January 28, 2021 at 1:04pm

Oregon Health Authority will stop publishing information on individual Covid deaths

(Kezia Setyawan/Malheur Enterprise)

The Oregon Health Authority will no longer list details of individual Covid-related deaths in its daily updates on the pandemic in Oregon, saying the process of verifying information has become too time-consuming as the state's death toll rises.

Previously, the health authority had listed the age, county of residence, date of positive Covid test, date of death, presence of underlying health conditions and location of death for each Oregonian in daily email updates.

"Oregon’s 1,893rd COVID-19 death is a 58-year-old man in Marion County who tested positive on Dec. 31 and died on Jan. 21 at Salem Hospital. He had underlying conditions," read one such report from OHA's Jan. 26 update.

"As the death toll from the virus has climbed, validating and reporting each death has had an impact on our daily reporting," OHA director Pat Allen said in a statement.

Some of that information will be available on a new data dashboard on the health authority website, which lists the number of Covid deaths by week, along with a breakdown by age and whether the deceased person lived in a congregate setting or had underlying conditions. The dashboard will be updated daily, OHA said.

But the change will make it more difficult to get a picture of individual Covid deaths. The reported death of a 32-year-old man in Marion County earlier in January - the youngest Covid-related death to date in the Salem area - would now be added to the dashboard as one death in the 30-39 age group. There would be no way to tell whether a younger Oregonian who died with Covid had underlying health conditions, or the exact ages of elderly Oregonians who still face a weeks-long wait for the vaccine in most of the state.

"This dashboard offers the public a clearer picture of the collective toll the virus has taken. But it will never detract from the importance of each Oregonian who is no longer with us," Allen said in a statement.

The agency announced the change in its daily report Wednesday.

-Rachel Alexander

January 28, 2021 at 10:17am

Kids can get a civics lesson with a new virtual tour of the Capitol

Passage through the Capitol rotunda is restricted to one-way to maintain social distancing requirements during the 2021 session of the Oregon State Legislature.( Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)

The Capitol is offering 360-degree virtual tours for school-aged kids to help them learn while going to school online. It's designed for fourth graders who typically begin learning civics in school that year.

To access the K-12 version of the virtual tour, visit https://bit.ly/2KShi3w.

The Capitol also created lesson plans for fourth graders that can be found on the Oregon Legislature website.

The building is currently closed to the public because of Covid. During normal school years, fourth grade classes often visit the Capitol on field trips.

Virtual tours for adults are also available in English, Spanish and Mandarin.

To access the tour in English, visit https://bit.ly/39dCXwy

To access the tour in Spanish, visit https://bit.ly/2MsQF5W

To access the tour in Mandarin, visit https://bit.ly/3ofRg8c

The Oregon State Capitol Foundation paid for the development of the tours.