Local News That Matters

UPDATES: Marion County Fire District asks people to only call 911 for life-threatening emergencies

about 2 months ago

Data digest: Covid by the numbers for Aug. 24, 2021

A health care worker wheels out a gurney in the emergency room at Salem Hospital on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

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. 24.

New Covid cases reported in Marion County: 464, the highest one-day total since the pandemic began. The previous peaks were 361 cases, reported Aug. 17, and 359 cases, reported Dec. 27, 2020

New Covid cases reported in Polk County: 45

Total Salem Hospital patients with Covid: 94 as of Tuesday morning, an increase of six from Monday.  Of those, 24 are in the intensive care unit, and 16 are on ventilators. Eighty-one of those in the hospital are not vaccinated against Covid.

Total Salem Hospital bed occupancy: 425 of 494 licensed beds in use

Total people hospitalized with Covid in Region 2 (Marion, Polk, Yamhill, Linn, Benton, Lincoln counties): 153, an increase of 10 from Monday. Of those, 41 are in the intensive care unit and 20 are on ventilators.

Total Region 2 hospital bed occupancy: 88 of 97 staffed ICU beds and 656 of 702 non-ICU beds in use

New Covid deaths reported: 30 in Oregon, including four Marion County residents and no Polk County residents. The Marion County residents who died are:

-A 83-year-old man who tested positive on Aug. 15 and died on Aug. 21 at Salem Hospital. He had underlying conditions.

-A 61-year-old woman who tested positive on Aug. 12 and died on Aug. 21 at Salem Hospital. She had underlying conditions.

-An 87-year-old man who tested positive on Aug. 9 and died on Aug. 22 at Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center. He had underlying conditions.

-A 53-year-old man who tested positive on July 30 and died on Aug. 18 at his residence. He had underlying conditions.

New Covid vaccines in Oregon: 3,450 new Covid vaccine doses administered on Aug. 23, including at least 2,230 first doses 

Source: Oregon Health Authority, Salem Health

about 2 months ago

Marion County sheriff said office will educate about, but not enforce, mask mandates

Marion County Sheriff Joe Kast (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

The Marion County Sheriff's Office will continue to try and educate people who refuse to wear a mask, rather than enforce recent mask mandates.

On Friday, Marion County Sheriff Joe Kast released a statement on Facebook advocating for local control of the county’s Covid response.

He wrote that Marion County has diverse communities that have their own unique needs, values and beliefs.

“My office is committed to encouraging our community members to make educated decisions to protect the health and safety of our residents and visitors in Marion County. This is something we can accomplish, not through mandates, but with communication, compassion, and while respecting the different beliefs of our diverse community,” Kast wrote.

A year ago, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office and Polk County Sheriff’s Office said they wouldn’t cite residents for not wearing a mask.

Sgt. Jeremy Landers, sheriff’s office spokesman, said their approach has remained the same throughout the pandemic.  

He said people aren’t going to be cited for refusing to wear a masks and deputies will try to resolve situations by talking “to people and point them toward positive solutions instead of letting things continue to spiral.”

Landers said if someone is asked to leave a business for refusing to wear a mask, deputies will help maintain the peace at the lowest level possible.

“We help educate people if we run into those encounters,” he said. 

-Saphara Harrell

about 2 months ago

Days ahead of state fair, Gov. Brown says masks required in outdoor public spaces

Flowers, masks and health warnings were just part of the scene April 4, 2020 at Salem's Saturday Market. (Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)

Masks are coming to the state fair, and to other outdoor events across Oregon.

Gov. Kate Brown said masks will again be required statewide in outdoor public spaces starting Friday, Aug. 27 - whether or not people have been vaccinated against Covid. The rule applies to outdoor public spaces where physical distance between people from different households can't be consistently maintained.

"The rule does not apply to fleeting encounters, such as two individuals walking by one another on a trail or in a park. While the rule does not apply to outdoor gatherings at private residences, masks are strongly recommended in those settings when individuals from different households do not consistently maintain physical distance," the announcement from the governor's office said.

The announcement comes ahead of several large Oregon events, including Oregon State Fair, which is scheduled to begin Aug. 27 at the state fairgrounds in Salem. Fair CEO Kim Grewe-Powell said the fair would take an education-first approach to enforcing the new mandate.

"We have signage and information addressing the mandate set by Governor Brown. We will also ask anyone who is not wearing a mask to kindly, put one on. Bottom line, we are committed to making this a fun and safe fair -- for everyone," Grewe-Powell said in an email.

The rule won't apply to children under five, people eating or drinking, those playing competitive sports and people performing, such as outdoor theater or music events.

It also won't apply to day-to-day operations at K-12 schools, which operate under a different statewide mask rule. That means kids won't have to mask up at recess unless their school or district requires it.

Public health workers linked a large Covid outbreak in eastern Oregon to the Pendleton Whiskey Music Fest held July 10. It was the first large outbreak public health officials reported at an outdoor event, but health authorities say the risk at such events is now higher because of the more contagious Delta variant of the virus.

“It is much easier for people with the Delta variant, compared to people who were sick last year, to infect others around them,” said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, state epidemiologist, in a statement. “This is because they have one thousand times more virus in their nose – which means that those around them are much more likely to get sick because this variant behaves so differently. We are starting to see instances where cases are clustering around events, like outdoor music festivals, that happen outdoors. Wearing masks in crowded settings – even outdoors – will help slow the spread of COVID-19.”

-Rachel Alexander and Saphara Harrell

about 2 months ago

AGENDA: Marion County commissioners meet to consider contracts for vaccine administration

Colm Willis, Marion County commissioner, sits in on a homeless alliance executive meeting video conference on May 5, 2020. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

The Marion County commissioners meet Wednesday to consider several contracts for Covid vaccine outreach and federal reimbursement for the February ice storm.


Commissioners will consider approving an amendment to a contract with Woodburn Ambulance Service to provide Covid outreach, including door-to-door vaccine administration and transportation to vaccine sites for vulnerable people through Dec. 31 for a $300,000 contract total.

They will consider approving an amendment to a contract Falck Northwest Corporation to provide Covid outreach, including door-to-door vaccine administration and transportation to vaccine sites for vulnerable people through Dec. 31 for a $275,000 total.  

Commissioners will consider approving an amendment to a contract with Interface Network, Inc. to provide Covid vaccine outreach through Dec. 31 for a $425,200 contract total.

They will consider approving a $200,000 contract with Mano a Mano Family Center to provide Covid vaccine outreach to vulnerable people through Dec. 31.

They will consider approving a $325,750 contract with IZO Public Relations and Marketing to expand Covid communication by informing, educating, and encouraging the Latino community to obtain vaccinations through Dec. 31. 

They will consider approving funds with the Oregon Military Department and Office Emergency Management for reimbursement related to the February winter storm until June 2027.

They will also consider a $27 million agreement with the state Department of Human Services to act as the administrator for the Community Developmental Disabilities Program through June 2023. 

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

about 2 months ago

Facing surge in Covid calls, Marion County fire officials ask people to reserve 911 for life-threatening emergencies

(Courtesy/Marion County Fire District 1)

Marion County Fire District No. 1 is asking people not to call 911 to seek testing for Covid or because they have mild symptoms of illness.

The agency, which serves about 50,000 people north and east of Salem and Keizer, posted a statement Monday from its emergency medical services Chief Mark Bjorklund. Bjorklund said about half the fire district's patient transports over the past two weeks have been Covid-related and said people should only call 911 for life-threatening emergencies including chest pain, shortness of breath or "any symptom or sign you feel can lead to loss of life or limb."

He said because of the high volume of patients at Salem Hospital and other local hospitals, the agency would only transport people to an emergency room when necessary.

"I have instructed our personnel to evaluate patients and transport only when necessary. You may be asked to stay home, isolate and call your physician for further direction. If you present with any life-threatening emergencies our staff will transport you immediately and we will never deny transport if another viable agreed-upon solution cannot be found," Bjorklund wrote.

Salem Hospital has seen a consistently high number of patients in its emergency room since March, Amie Wittenberg, the hospital's director of emergency services, told Salem Reporter Friday. But in recent weeks, she said more of those showing up have Covid-like symptoms.

The number of patients in the hospital at times means the emergency room has to treat people in the hallway while waiting for beds to open or people to be admitted to other units which are full.

"Unfortunately, we're just kind of running out of rooms as places fill up, beds upstairs," said Dr. Peter Hakim, a Salem Hospital emergency room doctor, on Friday. He said that was the result of many factors, including nursing home staffing shortages preventing patients from being discharged, as well as the Covid surge.

But Hakim said the hospital has space for people who need care and people shouldn't hesitate to come in if they're having a medical emergency.

"We try as often as we can to have people in rooms but we also don't want to delay care. So we'll see people in the hallway as need be," he said.

-Rachel Alexander

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