Local News That Matters

UPDATES: Willamette Humane seeks foster pet families

February 9, 2022 at 4:28pm

Data digest: Covid by the numbers for Feb. 9, 2022

Empty beds in the hallway of the emergency room at Salem Hospital on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021. (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 Wednesday, Feb. 9. 

Total Salem Hospital patients with Covid: 111 as of Wednesday morning, five more than Tuesday.

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

Sixty-five 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: 524 patients; the hospital is licensed for 494 beds.

Total people hospitalized with Covid in Region 2 (Marion, Polk, Yamhill, Linn, Benton, Lincoln counties): 198. Of those, 20 are in the intensive care unit and 10 are on ventilators.

Total Region 2 hospital bed occupancy: 89 of 96 staffed ICU beds and 640 of 664 non-ICU beds in use. 

New Covid cases reported in Marion County: 316

New Covid cases reported in Polk County: 91

New Covid deaths reported: 57 in Oregon

-Saphara Harrell

February 9, 2022 at 3:06pm

Health insurance coverage in Oregon increases slightly during pandemic

(Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

About 4 million people in Oregon are covered by health insurance, marking an increase of nearly 60,000 people in two years.

That’s according to the state Department of Consumer and Business Services, which regulates the insurance industry. It said the percentage of Oregonians with health insurance increased from 94% in 2019 to 95.4% last year. 

The increase was mainly due to more people getting Medicaid coverage from the federal government. Nearly 30% of those surveyed last year reported being on the Oregon Health Plan, Oregon’s Medicaid system, compared with one in four Oregonians in 2019. The Oregon Health Plan is administered by the Oregon Health Authority.

“The number of people entering Medicaid per month who have never been on Medicaid before has stayed stable before and during the pandemic at about 9,000 people per month,” the Department of Consumer and Business Services said in a news release.

The biggest increase in coverage was among Black Oregonians, the agency said, with its insured rate increasing from nearly 92% to 95%. There were fewer gains among Hispanics and among Alaska Native and American Native populations while coverage among Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders fell, the insurance agency said.

Medicaid coverage also increased in rural regions of the state, from 93.8% to 94.6%, and in frontier areas from 91% to 92.3%. In some rural and frontier counties, such as Jefferson, Josephine, Malheur and Klamath counties, two in five residents are on Medicaid.

People who earn up to 138% of the federal poverty level, about $17,000 a year in Oregon for an individual, qualify for free Medicaid coverage. It includes health and dental care, mental health treatment, prescriptions and vision and hearing coverage. Currently, about 1.3 million Oregonians are on Medicaid.

“We know that keeping people enrolled in health insurance – whether it is a public program or their job-based coverage – is key to lowering our rate of uninsurance so people can access critical health care services,” said Jeremy Vandehey, director of health policy and analytics at the Oregon Health Authority. “Specifically, this two-year period shows that people cycling on and off insurance means they eventually lose coverage. Therefore, it’s deeply important to break those cycles and keep people continuously enrolled.”

The end of the enhanced Medicaid coverage is expected to come this year, putting more people back on the open market to find coverage. The state is preparing for a transition which will include pointing people to the health insurance marketplace. About 147,000 individuals signed up for coverage on the marketplace this year.

“For those who are no longer eligible for OHP, we will be working to make sure they access a marketplace plan or connect to other programs,” Vandehey said. “This handoff is critical, as the data show, because we cannot lose people as they exit Medicaid. If we do, much of this hard-won coverage gain will be lost.”

-Lynne Terry, Oregon Capital Chronicle

February 9, 2022 at 11:39am

Foster families needed for Salem cats and dogs

Vickie Clark-Ellis of Salem cuddles Neptune and Saturn, two kittens she fostered for the Willamette Valley Humane Society. (Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)

Love animals? Willamette Valley Humane Society is seeking foster families to care for local dogs, puppies, cats and kittens.

The animal rescue is now accepting applications for volunteers who can provide a temporary home for animals awaiting adoption.

Foster families typically provide a home for two to eight weeks and are most needed during "kitten season" in the spring, when many cats have litters, though foster families for adult pets are needed year-round.

“Foster volunteers serve as our second shelter,” said Humane Society Executive Director BJ Andersen in a statement. “They take in animals that are too young, too fragile, or too overwhelmed to stay in the main shelter. With a foster, these dogs and cats can rest, heal, and grow in a loving home environment until they’re ready to move on to the next phase of their lives.”

Willamette Humane Society provides medical care, food and other supplies for foster animals, so there's no out-of-pocket cost for volunteers.

Foster applicants must be 18 or older and receive training before an animal is placed with them.

“Many people think they need to be experts in animal care in order to be a successful foster volunteer,” said Jaime Oakeson, the Humane Society's volunteer engagement coordinator, in a statement. “That’s just not true. Some dogs and cats need little more than a bit of patience to thrive. If you’re not comfortable providing intensive, around-the-clock medical care for a tiny kitten, we can still use your help. We appreciate those dedicated medical fosters too, of course. But anyone’s help is both needed and wanted.” 

-Rachel Alexander