Local News That Matters

UPDATES: Indoor dining can resume in Salem

February 23, 2021 at 2:53pm

Indoor dining will return to Salem as region sees fewer Covid cases

Signs in the window of Brown's Towne Restaurant and Lounge on Wednesday, September 30. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Beginning Friday, Feb. 26, Salem residents will be allowed to dine indoors, visit relatives in long-term care facilities and gyms can allow more people inside.

Gov. Kate Brown on Tuesday afternoon announced that pandemic restrictions would be relaxed in Marion and Polk counties after a steady decline in new Covid cases.

“While these county movements are welcome news, we must continue to take seriously health and safety measures, especially as more businesses reopen and we start to get out more,” said Brown in a statement. “As we see infection rates going down and vaccinations ramping up, now is not the time to let down our guard.” 

According to the numbers from the Oregon Health Authority, the percentage of Covid tests that are positive for Marion and Polk counties has been declining since the last week of December. Last week, 5.6% of tests came back positive and 4.6% the week before. 

In November, Brown enacted a statewide “freeze” that brought renewed restrictions to gyms, restaurants, retailers and other businesses in response to rising Covid cases. A month later, each county was placed in a risk category, which determined the level of restrictions they’d remain under until the virus’ spread slowed. 

Since then, Marion and Polk counties have remained in the “extreme risk” category, which includes much of the state. On Friday, the counties will move to the “high risk” category. That designation means both counties have recorded fewer than 200 new Covid cases per 100,000 residents over the past two weeks.

While restrictions will be relaxed for the counties, the masking and social distancing requirements that have come to mark daily life will remain in effect. 

Bars and restaurants can resume indoor dining but they can’t exceed 25% capacity or 50 customers. Tables are still limited to six people per party from no more than two households. 

Houses of worship and funeral homes can have an indoor capacity of 25% or 150, whichever is smaller. Previously, the restriction was 25% or 100 people. 

Theaters, museums and other indoor entertainment establishments can have a maximum 25% occupancy or 50 people, whichever is smaller. Previously, establishments 500 square-feet or larger had a maximum of six people, not including employees. 

Gyms will have the same capacity as other indoor venues. Indoor full-contact sports are prohibited. 

Capacity for malls and shopping centers remains at 50% and in-door social gatherings are limited to six people. For outdoors, that number is eight. 

-Jake Thomas

February 23, 2021 at 2:11pm

AGENDA: Marion County commissioners to consider contracts for medical providers, Covid services and HIV

The view from Marion County Commissioner Colm Willis' office in downtown Salem on May 5, 2020. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

The Marion County Board of Commissioners meets Wednesday morning to consider adding funding to a contract for temporary medical providers and amendments to intergovernmental agreements with the Oregon Health Authority.


Commissioners will consider adding $300,000 to a contract with LocumTenens.com to provide temporary medical staff in county behavioral health programs and alcohol and drug treatment programs until Sept. 30. If approved, the contract total would be $705,000.

Commissioners will consider amending an intergovernmental agreement with OHA, increasing a contract by $1.9 million for epidemiology and laboratory capacity for emerging infectious diseases, and Covid client services through June 30. If approved, the contract would total $11.4 million.

They will also consider adding $175,000 to a contract for HIV Early Intervention and Outreach services through Dec. 31, 2022.  If approved, the OHA contract would total more than $950,000.

The meeting starts at 9 a.m. in the Senator Hearing Room at 555 Court Street N.E. People can view the meeting on YouTube. Anyone wishing to testify over the phone for the public hearing must pre-register online before 4 p.m. Tuesday. 

-Saphara Harrell

February 23, 2021 at 12:16pm

Two local attorneys appointed as state judges in Marion County

Gov. Kate Brown on Tuesday appointed two local attorneys to become state judges in Marion County, replacing two retiring judges.

Jim Edmonds, a Marion County native and managing partner in the Salem law firm Fetherston Edmonds, was appointed to immediately replace Circuit Judge Mary James.

Jodie Bureta, a former prosecutor who has been serving as a pro tem judge, was appointed to replace Circuit Judge Claudia Burton on March 11.

The governor said the two will take the bench in Marion County Circuit Court as the courts face a backlog of cases because of the pandemic.

According to Brown’s press release, Edmonds was born in Marion County and has spent his entire legal career in the area. He graduated from the University of Oregon in 1982 and George Washington University Law School in 1986.

He was a civil litigator at the firm of Clark, Marsh, Lindauer and McClinton, eventually serving as managing partner. In 2008, he moved to the Fetherston Edmonds firm. There, he practices in business and commercial litigation.

Edmonds teaches alternative dispute resolution at the Willamette University College of Law and has volunteered with the Salem Multicultural Institution and with United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley, where he served on the board.

Bureta attended Gonzaga University and graduated from Willamette’s College of Law in 2003. She worked as a prosecutor in the Marion County District Attorney’s Office for 10 years, handling murder and sexual assault cases and rising to a trial team leader. In 2014, she moved to the state Justice Department, where she prosecuted elder abuse and Medicaid fraud cases.

In March 2020, she became a full-time pro tem judge and hearings referee in Marion County Circuit Court.

She has served on the Oregon Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force and was an instructor at the Sexual Assault Training Institute.

She volunteered with the Baden-Powell Association, an national independent scouting program for youth and adults of all genders. She also has volunteered with Northwest Children’s Outreach.

-Les Zaitz

February 23, 2021 at 10:43am

AGENDA: Salem-Keizer School Board to be briefed on school reopening, academic progress

Salem-Keizer school board members will get an update Tuesday evening about the district's plans to resume in-person classes and how students have fared academically after nearly a year of school online.


Kindergarten and first grade students are scheduled to begin regular in-person classes Tuesday, March 2, two days per week.

District administrators will report on students' academic performance to date this year, including progress on reading for elementary school students, absenteeism and the share of high school students on track to graduate.

The board will read and discuss, but not yet vote on, a charter contract renewal for Valley Inquiry Charter School.

To participate: The meeting starts at 6 p.m. Tuesday and is streamed live on YouTube in English and Spanish. It will also be broadcast on Capitol Community Media, channel 21. Because the meeting is a work session and no decisions will be made, the board is not taking public comment at this meeting.

-Rachel Alexander