Local News That Matters

UPDATES: AGENDA: Salem City Council meets to consider union contract

3 months ago

Data digest: Covid by the numbers for Sept. 13, 2021

Flowers, masks and health alerts were all part of the scene at Salem's Saturday Market on April 4. (Ron Cooper/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 Monday, Sept. 13. 

Monday case and death totals also include numbers reported Saturday and Sunday and are typically higher than other weekdays.

New Covid cases reported in Marion County: 457

New Covid cases reported in Polk County: 58

Total Salem Hospital patients with Covid: 97 as of Monday morning, a decrease of two from Sunday. Of those, 26 are in the intensive care unit, and 14 are on ventilators. 

Eighty-three of those in the hospital are not vaccinated against Covid.

Total Salem Hospital bed occupancy: 441 of 494 licensed beds in use

Total people hospitalized with Covid in Region 2 (Marion, Polk, Yamhill, Linn, Benton, Lincoln counties): 166, a decrease of 30 from Friday. Of those, 40 are in the intensive care unit and 19 are on ventilators.

Total Region 2 hospital bed occupancy: 92 of 98 staffed ICU beds and 680 of 703 non-ICU beds in use. 

New Covid deaths reported: 32

OHA had not published demographic information on the weekend’s reported deaths 4:45 p.m. 

New Covid vaccines in Oregon: 1,822 new Covid vaccine doses administered on Sept. 12, including at least 1,170 first doses. 

Source: Oregon Health Authority, Salem Health

-Saphara Harrell

3 months ago

UPDATED: Grass fire triggers evacuations along Vitae Springs Road south of Salem

A grass fire burning near the 4100 block of Vitae Springs Road South near Salem on Monday, Sept. 13. (Courtesy/Marion Polk Crime, Traffic and Severe Weather Alerts)

Update, 5:30 p.m.: Firefighters contained the fire around 4 p.m. Monday. Evacuations and road closure orders remain in effect. An updated version of this story is here.

A grass fire south of Salem has prompted evacuations along Vitae Springs Road South as fire crews battle flames that spread from a vehicle fire southwest of Salem.

People in the 4000 – 4300 block of Vitae Springs Road should leave their homes immediately, the Marion County Sheriff's Office said at 3 p.m.

Emergency services may not be able to assist those who do not heed the evacuation warning, the Sheriff's Office said.

About 25 emergency vehicles have responded to the fire, which was reported at 12:45 p.m., said Greg Walsh, city of Salem emergency manager. He said the state Fire Marshal's Office has authorized aerial water drops to get the flames under control.

Walsh said the fire was still burning as of 3:15 p.m. and firefighters did not have an estimate of the acreage involved.

Orville Road South east of River Road South, Vitae Springs Road South are closed, Walsh said, as is a portion of Skyline Road South near the fire.

Firefighters from Marion and Polk county agencies have responded, Walsh said.

(Reader submitted video)

An aerial view of a grass fire burning near the 4100 block of Vitae Springs Road South near Salem on Monday, Sept. 13. (Courtesy/Reader photo)

An aerial view of a grass fire burning near the 4100 block of Vitae Springs Road South near Salem on Monday, Sept. 13. (Courtesy/Reader photo)

An aerial view of a grass fire burning near the 4100 block of Vitae Springs Road South near Salem on Monday, Sept. 13. (Courtesy/Reader photo)

This story is developing and will be updated.

3 months ago

Oregonians largely trust health experts for Covid information, split on sending kids to school, study finds

A nurse cares for a Covid patient in the intensive care unit at Salem Hospital on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Most Oregonians trust scientists and doctors above all sources of information about Covid, while parents are split on having their children attend only in-person school this fall, a statewide survey by the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center found. 

The organization surveyed 1,154 Oregon residents 18 and older for their perceptions of Covid from Aug. 9-17 - prior to the Pfizer Covid vaccine’s FDA approval and many mask and vaccine mandates set last month, according to a Monday news release.

The survey found 80% of Oregonians consider scientists and doctors to be the most trusted sources of information for topics like Covid, though only 60% said they rely the most on science agencies. Media outlets were a “mid-tier source in terms of trust,” the news release said.

Half of parents in Oregon reported that their children will only attend school in person this fall. About one in ten said it will be a hybrid model, while 13% said they will homeschool their children.

Just 6% of Oregonians believed Covid was fiction, and another 16% considered it a concept or belief. About one in three high school graduates - and about one in ten college graduates - reported thinking of Covid as a fiction, concept or belief. 

Five out of six Oregonians said they had experienced physical or emotional impacts from Covid, with 44% of residents saying they were significantly or dramatically impacted.

One in six reported initially being hesitant to get vaccinated but have done it since or planned to do so. Among parents, 56% said they would vaccinate their young child with an FDA-approved shot if available. Oregonians’ willingness to get young children vaccinated for Covid ranged based on education - 39% of high school graduates, 55% of residents with some college experience and 75% of people with degrees.

Seventy percent of Oregonians said they thought nursing homes and other medical facilities should be allowed to require Covid vaccination among employees. The survey concluded two days before Gov. Kate Brown announced the state would require health care workers to get vaccinated and would no longer allow regular testing as an alternative. 

More than half reported they believed businesses should be allowed to mandate vaccination among employees or customers - 66% for employees and 55% for customers.

Half of Oregon residents said humans “have a good chance” of controlling the spread of communicable diseases such as Covid “or that we will certainly beat these diseases,” the news release said. Optimism was higher among seniors. Fewer than half of people under 30 said people have at least a good chance of succeeding, while two-thirds of seniors 75 and older said “we have a fighting chance.”

Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.

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3 months ago

AGENDA: In virtual meeting, Salem-Keizer board will consider welcoming schools resolution

The Salem-Keizer School Board meets Tuesday to consider a safe and welcoming schools resolution and to nominate board members for the Oregon School Boards Association's board and legislative policy committees.

Board members will consider their annual resolution affirming that district schools are safe and welcoming to all. The resolution reiterates the district's policy that it will not collect information about student or family immigration status, or allow federal immigration officials into schools without a valid warrant.

The board will consider nominating members for open seats on the Oregon School Boards Association's board of directors and legislative policy committee.

Board members will do a first reading of a resolution affirming the board's commitment to equity and antiracism. The board expects to vote on the resolution at its October meeting.

The resolution says the board "commits to support the district’s efforts to build a restorative model for discipline, to monitor discipline data and our key performance indicators disaggregated by race and ethnicity, and to develop a system for monitoring the diversification of our workforce."

The board will also do a first reading of an agreement to accept a donation of the Career Technical Education Center and the land it sits on from the Community Resource Trust and Suntek, LLC. The center, which houses 10 career programs for high school students, was developed as a public-private partnership between the district and Mountain West Investment Co., with the understanding the property and building would eventually be donated. The site is valued at $20 million.

(Disclosure: Larry Tokarski, Mountain West president, is also a co-founder of Salem Reporter.)

To participate: The meeting will be held online only starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 14. People may sign up in advance to give public comment during the meeting. Sign-ups close at 4 p.m. Monday.

The meeting will be livestreamed on YouTube at the links below, and on Capital Community Media, channel 21.

English: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulrjO7zbQu0

Spanish: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2CoeSC2zMQ

3 months ago

AGENDA: Salem City Council meets Monday to consider union contract, winter storm money

Salem city council chambers on Sept. 30, 2020. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

The Salem City Council meets Monday to consider spending additional money to recover from the February ice storm, an agreement with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and wage increases for union employees.


Councilors will consider adopting a resolution that will add $480,000 to the parks operations budget to repair facilities and clear fallen trees, limbs and debris from the winter ice storm after the city was reimbursed through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

They will consider an intergovernmental agreement with the DEA for a narcotics task force that investigates major drug trafficking organizations operating in the Salem area.

The Salem Police Department will have one officer and two sergeants assigned to the task force, which has operated in Salem for more than 20 years. The DEA reimburses the police department for overtime up to $19,372 per officer, but the department is required to pay their salaries.

They will consider approving a three-year collective bargaining agreement with AFSCME, the union representing city workers, which includes 3% wage increases each year. The increases will cost the city an additional $12 million over the life of the contract.

Councilors will hear a presentation from Portland General Electric on its response to the pandemic, wildfires, ice storm, and cybersecurity.

How to participate: Salem City Council meetings have returned to an all virtual format. Watch on CC:Media Channel 21 or on YouTube at 6 p.m.

Submit comments on agenda items by 5 p.m., or earlier, on the day of the meeting at [email protected] Public comment and testimony may also be provided during the meeting via Zoom. Please pre-register between 8:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. on the day of the meeting at the following link: https://www.cityofsalem.net/Pages/Public-Comment-at-Salem-City-CouncilMeeting.aspx.