Local News That Matters

UPDATES: Oregon OSHA proposed wildfire, heat safety rules

February 4, 2022 at 3:01pm

Data digest: Covid by the numbers for Feb. 4, 2022

The Oregon Health Authority's Covid hospitalization dashboard for the mid-Willamette region on Feb. 4, 2022.

As Covid hospitalizations remain high due to the omicron variant, Salem Reporter is again publishing case and hospitalization information daily. Here’s our report for Friday, Feb. 4.

Total Salem Hospital patients with Covid: 112 as of Friday morning, unchanged from Thursday. 

Of those, 11 are in the intensive care unit, and three are on ventilators.

Sixty-six of those in the hospital are not vaccinated against Covid, and 46 are vaccinated.

Salem Health does not consistently report the number of patients who have received a booster vaccine dose because of the difficulty tracking whether patients are eligible for a booster in real time, spokeswoman Lisa Wood said. The vaccinated patient count includes any patient who has received at least two doses of a Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Total Salem Hospital bed occupancy: 536 patients; the hospital is licensed for 494 beds.

Total people hospitalized with Covid in Region 2 (Marion, Polk, Yamhill, Linn, Benton, Lincoln counties): 201. Of those, 25 are in the intensive care unit and seven are on ventilators.

Total Region 2 hospital bed occupancy: 81 of 85 staffed ICU beds and 529 of 533 non-ICU beds in use. 

New Covid cases reported in Marion County: 563

New Covid cases reported in Polk County: 169

New Covid deaths reported: 33 in Oregon

-Saphara Harrell

February 4, 2022 at 2:00pm

Sheriff's office looking for witnesses to Wednesday night shooting in Salem

Marion County Sheriff's Office investigators are looking for witnesses to a shooting Wednesday night in southeast Salem.

Just before 9 p.m. Wednesday, a 911 caller reported hearing gunshots in the area of southeast Lancaster Drive and LaBranch Street in an unincorporated area of east Salem, according to a news release.

None of the people involved were still at the scene when deputies arrived. They contacted a 30-year-old woman who was a victim in the shooting at a local hospital. She suffered non-life-threatening injuries, the news release said.

Witnesses said the suspect in the shooting was a white man in his 30s, around 5'5", wearing blue jeans and a dark-colored sweatshirt. He was last seen running from the area after the shooting.

The sheriff's office said investigators believe there may be additional witnesses to the shooting who they haven't found yet.

They asked anyone who may have witnessed the shooting, or may have information about the people involved or video of the shooting, to contact Det. M.J. Sphoon at 503-588-6808. People can also submit tips by texting TIPMCSO and your tip to 847411.

-Ardeshir Tabrizian

February 4, 2022 at 9:58am

Salem man found guilty of raping child, sentenced to more than eight years in prison

A Polk County judge Thursday sentenced a Salem man to more than eight years in prison after he was found guilty of raping a child under 12.

A jury in Polk County found Dillon Robert Matthew Johnston, 24, guilty of first-degree rape and first-degree sexual abuse.

Polk County Circuit Court Judge Rafael A. Caso sentenced Johnston to eight years and four months in prison, with 11 years and eight months of post-prison supervision. He was also ordered to register as a sex offender, court documents showed.

Johnston abused the child between 2016 and 2017 in Dallas, according to a news release from the Polk County District Attorney's Office.

He also pleaded guilty in September to second-degree criminal mischief after breaking a window at the Polk County Jail and was ordered to pay $609 for damages.

-Ardeshir Tabrizian

February 4, 2022 at 9:23am

Proposed Oregon rules would protect outdoor workers from extreme heat, wildfire smoke

A sprinkler waters a field amidst wildfire smoke in Aumsville on Sept. 8, 2020. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Oregon workers would get more breaks in high temperatures and respirators to protect them from wildfire smoke under new rules the state’s workplace safety agency proposed this week.

The proposed rules cover exposure to heat and wildfire smoke. They come after Oregon’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued temporary rules last July after a Marion County farmworker died while working at a St. Paul nursery in triple-digit temperatures during a heat wave.

The state’s proposed rules don’t require employers to stop outdoor work above a certain temperature, something the agency lacks the legal authority to do, spokesman Aaron Corvin said.

But they require employers to develop a rest break schedule based on the heat index, which takes into account temperature and humidity, as well as providing shade and cool water to employees. Employees must be able to drink at least 32 ounces of cool water per hour at no cost to them when the heat index exceeds 80 degrees, the rules say.

The rules offer several possible rest break schedules that must be implemented when the heat index reaches 90 degrees. At minimum, workers would receive at least 15 minutes rest every hour when the heat index is above 100 degrees.

“Ours is a comprehensive approach – not just work-rest schedules – but also the other important steps: water, shade, acclimatization, and so on. These are interrelated, not isolated, safety procedures and controls,” Corvin said in an email.

The wildfire rules require employers to provide respirators to employees if they’re exposed to high levels of particulate matter in the air - generally the main pollutant in wildfire smoke. Employers are also required to notify employees when the air quality is below certain thresholds.

OSHA expected to adopt the rules in April 2022, and will hold public hearings in late February and early March on both sets of rules. Details on the hearings and how to comment are available on the OSHA website for both heat and wildfire smoke rules.

-Rachel Alexander