Local News That Matters

UPDATES: Police investigate fatal crash, Owens Street reopened

February 7, 2022 at 4:15pm

Data digest: Covid by the numbers for Feb. 7, 2022

Sgt. Shane Brubaker, of the Oregon National Guard, remakes a bed in a patient room in the emergency department at Salem Hospital on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

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 Monday, Feb. 7. 

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

Total Salem Hospital patients with Covid: 105 as of Monday morning, four more than Sunday.

Of those, 13 are in the intensive care unit, and four are on ventilators.

Sixty-five of those in the hospital are not vaccinated against Covid, and 40 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: 518 patients; the hospital is licensed for 494 beds.

Total people hospitalized with Covid in Region 2 (Marion, Polk, Yamhill, Linn, Benton, Lincoln counties): 188. Of those, 25 are in the intensive care unit and nine are on ventilators.

Total Region 2 hospital bed occupancy: 80 of 87 staffed ICU beds and 527 of 537 non-ICU beds in use. 

New Covid cases reported in Marion County: 774

New Covid cases reported in Polk County: 213

New Covid deaths reported: 30 in Oregon

-Saphara Harrell

February 7, 2022 at 3:23pm

California man arrested in Marion County after police find nearly 10 pounds of meth in car

(Courtesy/Oregon State Police)

A California man was arrested in Marion County Sunday on federal drug and weapons charges after a state trooper found nearly 10 pounds of methamphetamine in his car during a traffic stop, according to a Monday news release from Oregon State Police.

An Oregon State Police trooper from the Salem Area Command stopped a 2017 Nissan Rogue on Interstate 5 northbound near milepost 255 for a traffic violation around 12:40 p.m. Sunday, the news release said.

The trooper noticed “signs of criminal activity and items related to drug use.” Troopers asked the driver to search the car, and the driver consented, the release said.

Troopers seized about 9.9 pounds of suspected meth, 19 suspected fentanyl pills, a digital scale, packaging materials and drug paraphernalia. They also seized a loaded Beretta 9mm handgun with armor-piercing ammunition under the driver’s seat. 

Agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration-Salem Resident Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office District of Oregon-Portland Office helped OSP with the investigation.     

The driver, 19-year-old Enrique Santos Gamboa-Martinez of Tehachapi, California, was arrested and lodged on federal drug and weapon charges. The news release did not clarify where he was lodged or what he was charged with.

-Ardeshir Tabrizian

February 7, 2022 at 2:31pm

Oregon will lift mask requirements in schools, indoor public places by March 31

Students in a kindergarten and first grade class at Richmond Elementary on Tuesday, March 2, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Oregon students won't be required to wear masks in schools starting in April, the Oregon Health Authority announced Monday.

The state will drop its indoor mask requirement no later than March 31, according to a Monday afternoon announcement. By then, state health officials say Covid-related hospitalizations in Oregon will have fallen below 400 people.

“The evidence from Oregon and around the country is clear: masks save lives by slowing the spread of Covid-19,” said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, state epidemiologist, in a statement. “We should see Covid-19 hospitalizations drop by the end of March because so many Oregonians are wearing masks and taking other steps to protect themselves and each other, such as getting a booster shot or vaccinating their children. At that point, it will be safer to lift mask requirements.”

The health authority recently adopted new rules to make the mask mandate permanent because a temporary rule requiring masks in public places was set to expire. But the agency said that rule isn't intended to keep mask mandates in place forever.

"The filing was the only way health officials could extend the current temporary mask rule past its expiration date and until mask rules would no longer be needed to reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – to save lives and prevent the Omicron crisis from further overwhelming Oregon’s health care system," the release said.

The change does not prevent a private workplace or business from requiring employees or customers to wear masks.

The health authority may drop the public mask mandate sooner if Covid hospitalizations continue to fall, the release said, though the school mandate will be in place until March 31 to give schools time to prepare.

Local public health authorities, school boards and local school leadership could still choose to require masks for their school, district or county, said Marc Siegel, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Education.

Regardless of mandates, the health authority said people at high risk for Covid should continue to wear masks. Those include people who are not vaccinated against Covid, people who are immunocompromised, people with underlying health conditions, those over 65, and people living with those at high risk.

-Rachel Alexander

February 7, 2022 at 12:26pm

AGENDA: School board considers apartment tax exemptions

The Salem-Keizer School Board will consider exempting two planned downtown Salem apartment developments from property taxes at a meeting Tuesday night.

The board will also meet in executive session ahead of the meeting to evaluate the performance of Superintendent Christy Perry. Executive sessions are not open to the public.

The board will vote on an exemption for City Center Apartments, a 157-unit planned building at the site of the former Nordstrom store at 420 Center St. N.E. Developer DD Salem Center Two, LLC applied for the exemption, which the city council approved in November 2021.

Board members will also vote on an exemption request from SAMAX, LLC, which is developing two downtown rental units and rehabilitating commercial space in the 200 block of Commercial St. S.E. The council approved that exemption in December 2021.

If approved, the resolutions would exempt the developments from property taxes for up to 10 years. The properties are located in a Salem urban renewal district, a special taxing district which collects property taxes over a set valuation and uses them for urban renewal projects. Because of that, the school district won't lose any tax revenue if they approve the exemptions.

The school board has generally approved property tax exemptions on request from the city. In December, the board for the first time voted against a tax exemption requested by the city for a housing development at 990 Broadway St N.E., with a majority of board members saying they didn't believe the exemption would support more affordable housing in Salem.

The board will consider a proclamation for Black History Month. District administrators will provide updates on student mental health, middle school academic achievement, plans for federal Covid relief spending to help students catch up academically and the budget committee appointment schedule.

To participate: The meeting begins at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 8 and is held virtually. Members of the public may submit written public comment or sign up to speak live during the meeting until 4 p.m. Monday using this link.

The meeting will be livestreamed on YouTube using the links below, and on CC:Media, channel 21.

English: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hpJJuN64mU

Spanish: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NYGpaa-LAY 

-Rachel Alexander

February 7, 2022 at 8:45am

UPDATE: Owens Street reopened after seven-car crash

(Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

UPDATE: All roads on Owens Street are reopened as Salem police continue investigating a seven-car crash Monday morning that left a Salem man dead.

The crash happened around 7:20 a.m. on south Owens Street, just west of Commercial Street, according to an updated news release.

Salem Police Department officers investigated the crash and determined a Ford F-150 truck was driving east on south Owens Street, approaching a red light at southeast Commercial Street. The Ford truck didn't stop and rear-ended a Lexus Sedan that was waiting with other cars at the red light. The crash caused a chain reaction involving six other cars, the news release said.

The only occupant of the Lexus, 54-year-old Jose Rogelio Lopez Jr. of Salem, was pronounced dead at the scene.

The vehicles involved include a Honda SUV, Volkswagen Jetta, Volvo sedan, Nissan SUV and Dodge Ram truck. 

"It is suspected speed and a medical issue may have contributed to the crash," the news release said.

Owens street was closed for around four hours for the investigation.

Original story below:

Owens Street will be temporarily closed from Commercial Street Southeast to Saginaw Street South as Salem police investigate a fatal crash.

The Salem Police Department said in a news release Monday morning that the crash involved multiple vehicles and occurred near south Owens Street and southeast Commercial Street.

It is unclear when the crash occurred.

The road is expected to be closed for several hours. Police asked motorists to use other routes in the area.

-Ardeshir Tabrizian