Local News That Matters

UPDATES: Indoor dining could shut down in Salem as Covid hospitalizations rise

April 23, 2021 at 4:15pm

McNary's Erik Jespersen named Oregon Principal of the Year

McNary principal Erik Jespersen, left, student body president-elect Griffen Hubbard and sophomore class president-elect Mariah Benitez shovel dirt at the McNary groundbreaking ceremony on May 17, 2019. (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

Erik Jespersen, principal of McNary High School in Keizer, is the Oregon 2021 High School Principal of the Year.

Jespersen's peers in the Oregon Association of Secondary School Administrators selected him for the award, which was announced Friday.

Jespersen has been principal at McNary for seven years and was selected for his work to boost the school's graduation rate and keep students engaged over the past year of mostly online classes. During his time leading the school, McNary's graduation rate has increased from 82% in 2014 to 92% in 2020. The graduation rate for special education students has grown from 54% to 83%, and for Latino students from 66% to 93%, the release said.

“I am so proud of Erik for his deserved recognition as Oregon’s high school principal of the year,” said Salem-Keizer Superintendent Christy Perry in a statement. “He sets the vision for his staff and students to actively participate in being part of a world class high school. Especially through the pandemic, he has taken our equity learning and put it into practice by bringing his whole team together to ensure that each student gets the level of support they need to be successful.”

Jespersen will be honored at a June conference for the Coalition of Oregon School Administrators.

-Rachel Alexander

April 23, 2021 at 1:24pm

Capitol hosts virtual event honoring Asian Pacific Americans

The Oregon State Capitol is hosting a virtual event April 24 to honor the history of Asian Pacific Americans. Photo taken pre-Covid. (Courtesy/Oregon State Capitol)

The Oregon State Capitol is hosting a virtual Asian and Pacific Islander Day Saturday to honor the culture, traditions and history of Asian Pacific Americans.

May is National Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

Local cultural organizations, dance troupes and musical groups have created video submissions that will be posted on a Facebook event page and on the Capitol’s event page starting at 10 a.m. April 24. 

-Saphara Harrell

April 23, 2021 at 12:42pm

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: Bill taking aim at anti-competitive pharmaceutical pricing passes Oregon Senate

Oregon Senate (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter) Aug. 10, 2020

The Oregon Senate passed a bill on Thursday intended to stop an anti-competitive practice used by pharmaceutical companies.

THE ISSUE: Prescription drugs are increasingly unaffordable. 

THE BILL: Senate Bill 764

WHAT IT DOES: Allows the Oregon attorney general to take action against pharmaceutical companies that use agreements to stifle competition. 

WHY IT WAS PROPOSED: According to state Sen. Deb Patterson, D-Salem, pharmaceutical companies take legal action against competitors who may be developing a generic version of a drug. As part of the settlement agreement, the pharmaceutical company pays its competitor not to develop the generic version of the drug.


Sen. Brian Boquist, I-Dallas: No

Sen. Peter Courtney, D-Salem: Yes

Sen. Fred Girod, R-Lyons: No

Sen. Deb Patterson, D-Salem: Yes 

Sen. Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer: No

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT: It heads to the House for consideration. 

-Jake Thomas

April 23, 2021 at 11:39am

Indoor dining could shut down by end of April in Salem as Covid hospitalizations rise

Oregon's Covid hospitalizations have climbed in April after falling from a late fall peak. (Screenshot from Oregon Health Authority website on April 23, 2021)

Gov. Kate Brown said Oregon counties with higher rates of Covid spread could see new restrictions on April 30 as the number of Oregonians hospitalized with the virus continues to grow.

Both Marion and Polk counties this week had enough new cases of Covid to qualify for the state's "extreme risk" category as transmission of the virus has climbed in recent weeks. But Brown earlier this month said she wouldn't impose new restrictions on "extreme risk" counties until more Oregonians were hospitalized with Covid.

Under the new criteria, there must be at least 300 Covid-positive patients occupying hospital beds across the state. There must also be a 15% increase in the seven-day hospitalization average over the last week. 

Brown on Friday said Oregon is poised to hit those targets early next week. That would mean indoor dining would again shut down in Marion and Polk counties, and indoor capacity for gyms and entertainment facilities would be cut to a maximum of six people in larger facilities, or one customer and one employee in smaller ones. A full list of restrictions is here.

Currently, 283 Oregonians are hospitalized with Covid, including 54 in the mid-Willamette Valley, according to Oregon Health Authority data. That's up from 102 Covid-positive patients hospitalized on March 24, though still lower than the statewide peak of 584 people hospitalized on Nov. 30 during the fall and winter surge.

Health officials cautioned Friday that the presence of more contagious variants of the virus is resulting in younger, healthier people falling seriously ill.

"Over the past few weeks, we are caring for more patients with COVID in our ICU, those who are sicker, younger, and without underlying medical conditions," said Dr. Renee Edwards, chief medical officer at Oregon Health and Science University.

-Rachel Alexander