Local News That Matters

UPDATES: Sunday rally against war in Ukraine

March 4, 2022 at 3:45pm

Salem-Keizer won’t require masks after March 12, superintendent says

Starting March 12, students and employees in Salem-Keizer schools won't be required to wear masks. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Superintendent Christy Perry said the Salem-Keizer School District won’t require students or employees to wear masks once a statewide mandate lifts on March 12.

Perry made the announcement Friday in emails to district employees and families of students.

"We know some students and adults will choose to wear face coverings and others will not. It is critical we support these decisions as we work together to build a community that supports each other in the decisions that protect their health or the health of those close to them," Perry's email to families said.

The change applies to school buses, school buildings and other district facilities during school, athletics and other before and after-school programs.

Perry told Salem Reporter she and other district leaders consulted local health care providers, who supported the decision, and reviewed guidelines from state and federal health authorities.

“They really believe that we’re at the highest levels of immunity at this point and that that immunity … will stand for 90 days,” Perry told Salem Reporter.

Health care providers also told district leaders that if Covid cases surge again, they could reassess requiring masks, Perry said.

Gov. Kate Brown announced Monday that Oregon would lift its indoor mask mandate March 12 due to rapidly declining case counts and hospitalizations.

Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Department of Education leaders addressed the decision in a Wednesday news conference where they announced other changes, including an end to required quarantines for people exposed to Covid who don’t develop symptoms or test positive for the virus.

State leaders said they wanted to return decisions to local authorities, including school districts and county health departments.

The policy changes one week before the district’s spring break is scheduled to begin.

Willamette University also announced this week it would lift its campus indoor mask mandate March 12, except in the campus health center.

-Rachel Alexander

March 4, 2022 at 3:22pm

Salem weekly Covid report for March 4: cases, hospitalizations continue falling

Health care workers work in the intensive care unit at Salem Hospital on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Salem Reporter has reworked our Covid reports to a weekly format based on feedback from readers.

The overwhelming majority of those who responded said they want to keep seeing reports on local numbers, and many suggested data points they found especially helpful.

Our goal is to keep you informed about trends in Covid cases and hospitalizations, as well as how full our local hospital is - whether Covid-related or not.

Here’s our report for March 4, 2022. 

HOSPITAL CAPACITY

Salem Hospital and the mid-Willamette region have reported a decline in both the number of Covid-positive inpatients and the total number of hospital patients over the past week.

As of Thursday, the hospital has 464 total inpatients, 93% of its total capacity of 494 people. Pre-pandemic, Salem Hospital was typically 80% to 85% full, hospital leaders have said.

On Thursday, the hospital recorded 42 Covid inpatients, including four in the ICU and two on ventilators. Of those, 14 are vaccinated against Covid and 28 are unvaccinated.

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.

Region 2, which is Marion, Polk, Yamhill, Linn, Benton and Lincoln counties, had 79 people hospitalized with Covid as of March 3, compared with 120 the week prior.

VACCINATION AND BREAKTHROUGH CASES

For the week of Feb. 26, 47% of all Covid cases were in people vaccinated against Covid, according to the state’s most recent breakthrough case report. About 75% of Oregon adults are vaccinated against Covid.

Of vaccinated people who contracted Covid, 42% had received a booster shot. 

The rate of Covid infection among unvaccinated Oregonians was two times higher than vaccinated Oregonians, and three times higher than Oregonians who had also received a booster shot.

MANDATES

Masks are required in indoor public places and K-12 schools in Oregon through March 12. 

CASES

The number of new Covid cases reported locally has fallen by more than half over the past week. This data is for the week ending March 2. 

Marion County: 50 new Covid cases per day on average, a rate of 99.7 cases per 100,000 residents. 

That’s down from 75 average daily cases for the week ending Feb. 23. 

5.2% of Covid tests this week were positive.

Polk County: 13 new Covid cases per day on average, a rate of 107.4 cases per 100,000 residents. 

That’s down from an average of 24 daily cases the week prior. 

4.2% of Covid tests this week were positive.

Oregon: 685 new cases per day on average, a rate of 112.4 cases per 100,000 residents, with 4.5% of tests positive.

-Saphara Harrell

March 4, 2022 at 1:53pm

Salem man charged with shooting, killing girlfriend Thursday night

A Salem man was charged Friday with murder after deputies say he shot and killed his girlfriend the night prior.

Cruz Hernandez-Rivera, 34, was charged with second-degree murder and three counts of unlawful use of a weapon.

Around 7:40 p.m. Thursday, a 911 caller said they had shot someone at a home on Southeast Elma Avenue just south of State Street, according to a Friday news release from the Marion County Sheriff's Office.

Deputies arrived to find a 45-year-old woman with critical injuries and tried life-saving efforts. She was later pronounced dead at the scene.

The sheriff's office identified the victim as 45-year-old Gloria Rivas-Castillo of Salem. 

Deputies detained the 911 caller and called detectives from the sheriff's office's Criminal Investigations Unit to investigate Rivas-Castillo's death.

They found the incident started as a "domestic disturbance" between Rivas-Castillo and her boyfriend, Hernandez-Rivera, according to the news release. No others were injured during the incident.

The weapon charges allege Hernandez-Rivera intended to use a firearm against two others and attempted to use it against a third person.

Hernandez-Rivera also had outstanding warrants for failing to appear in court on charges of invasion of personal privacy and attempted coercion, according to court documents, which list Rivas-Castillo as the victim in the latter charge.

The Marion County Jail roster showed he was booked Friday.

His arraignment is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. at the Marion County Circuit Court Annex, according to the news release.

The sheriff's office said it would release no additional information, citing an open investigation.

"The family expresses their appreciation for the concern shown by the community and request they be given privacy to mourn their loss," the news release said.

-Ardeshir Tabrizian

March 4, 2022 at 10:31am

Sunday rally will support end of fighting in Ukraine

(A flier shared by Oregon PeaceWorks for the Sunday rally at the corner of Northeast Liberty and Chemeketa Streets)

Two local nonprofits are expected to hold a rally in downtown Salem Sunday in support of ending the war in Ukraine.

The rally is scheduled for noon at the corner of Northeast Liberty and Chemeketa Streets.

“All concerned people are invited to attend and bring appropriate banners, peaceful signs and colorful flags,” a flier for the event says.

The event is sponsored by two Salem-based peace organizations: Oregon PeaceWorks and the Oregon Fellowship of Reconciliation.

-Ardeshir Tabrizian