Local News That Matters

UPDATES: Firefighters put out large blaze at airport storage facility

May 4, 2021 at 7:05pm

Gov. Brown moves Marion, Polk counties back to "high risk," clearing indoor dining to resume

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

New Covid cases haven't fallen in the Salem area over the past week, but restaurants will be able to offer indoor dining again starting Friday in both Marion and Polk counties.

Gov. Kate Brown announced late Tuesday she was moving all counties that had been labeled "extreme risk" for Covid spread back to "high risk" after the rate of new Covid hospitalizations fell statewide. The number of people hospitalized with Covid increased 14.9% statewide over the past week, just shy of the 15% threshold Brown had set for keeping restrictions in place.

That means restaurants can resume indoor service, gyms can increase capacity and other indoor events will be allowed to have more people.

“Let me be clear: across the state, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are still high, and Oregon is not out of the woods yet," Brown said in a statement. "However, we have met the hospitalization metric established by our health experts for counties to return to High Risk. From the beginning, I have said that returning counties to the Extreme Risk level was about preserving hospital capacity and saving lives. With our statewide hospitalization rate stabilizing, our hospitals should have the capacity to continue treating patients with severe cases of COVID-19 and other serious medical conditions in the coming weeks."

Brown continued, “Based on today’s numbers, I am keeping my commitment to Oregonians. Beginning Friday, all counties in Extreme Risk will return to High Risk. With Oregonians continuing to get vaccinated each week, my expectation is that we will not return to Extreme Risk again for the duration of this pandemic."

-Rachel Alexander

May 4, 2021 at 5:09pm

State Rep. Mike Nearman says he has Covid, will fight charges linked to Oregon Capitol riot

State Rep. Mike Nearman, R-Independence. (Courtesy/Freedom Foundation)

State Rep. Mike Nearman, R-Independence, has Covid.

Nearman made the disclosure Monday during an appearance on The Lars Larson Show to discuss the charges he faces for allowing a group of demonstrators into the Capitol last year where they violently clashed with police.

“I have a really bad case of Covid and I’m kind of on the mend a little bit,” Nearman told the conservative talk show host in a phone interview.

Nearman faces charges of official misconduct and criminal trespass (both misdemeanors) for holding a door open for demonstrators during a special session in December. The incident was declared a riot by Salem police and multiple people were arrested and charged with crimes. Larson (who said he's friends with the embattled lawmaker) characterized the incident as Nearman just letting members of the public into a public building.

While Nearman was tight-lipped about his motives for opening the door, he did reveal that he plans to fight the charges and will request a jury trial. Despite coming down with Covid, Nearman criticized Gov. Kate Brown’s most recent round of pandemic restrictions.

“Let’s set up some options where people have freedom to do what they want,” he said. “If you want to be masked and you want to be quarantined, go be quarantined. If you want to be out in public and that’s an acceptable risk to you then you can do that.”

-Jake Thomas

May 4, 2021 at 11:53am

Oregon Tech faculty end strike after tentative agreement reached

Members of the Oregon Tech faculty union are joined by students during a strike for better wages and benefits in front of their facility on Chemeketa Community College's campus on Monday, April 26, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Faculty with the Oregon Institute of Technology, including five in Salem, will end their strike Wednesday at midnight after reaching a tentative contract agreement, the faculty union announced Tuesday.

Members of the Oregon Tech chapter of the American Association of University Professors have been on strike since April 26 after the union said efforts to negotiate their first contract with the university had stalled after more than a year of bargaining.

The strike included Salem faculty in the Oregon Tech dental hygiene program which is housed on the Chemeketa Community College campus.

In an email to members Tuesday, the union said the tentative agreement included guaranteed wage increases, secure benefits and progress toward crediting faculty for work advising large numbers of students and other non-instructional duties.

-Rachel Alexander

May 4, 2021 at 11:10am

Large fire damages Airport Self Storage facility in Salem

Smoke billows from the Airport Self Storage facility in Salem on May 3, 2021 (Courtesy/Marion Polk Traffic, Crime and Severe Weather Alerts)

A large fire Monday evening burned multiple units at the Airport Self Storage facility on Turner Road Southeast.

The Salem Fire Department responded around 6 p.m. to 2142 Turner Road Southeast for the fourth alarm fire.

Witnesses described smoke billowing from multiple units. Greg Walsh, Salem's emergency manager, said there are roughly 100 units in the building.

"All were impacted by at least smoke, more impacts will be assessed by the investigation team," Walsh said in an email.

Reached by phone Tuesday morning, an employee at the facility said he couldn't comment on the extent of the damage and that the fire investigation was ongoing.

This story is developing and will be updated.