Local News That Matters

UPDATES: Life Flight base opening in Salem in July

May 27, 2022 at 3:18pm

UPDATED: Lockdowns lifted at North, Parrish following reports of person with gun near campus

Families wait on the lawn in front of North Salem High School to pick up students around 3 p.m. Friday, May 27, just after a lockdown caused by a "suspicious person" was lifted (Ardeshir Tabrizian/Salem Reporter)

This story was updated at 5:05 p.m. with more details from the Salem Police Department.

Two central Salem schools were on lockdown Friday afternoon for about an hour following a report of a person with a handgun near the school.

Salem police received a call around 1:30 p.m. reporting a man in a "sports-type mask" walking near the North Salem High School campus carrying a handgun, police said Friday.

"Patrol officers immediately responded, with the first two officers arriving within 40 seconds, and they began to search the area where the subject was reported to be seen. Four additional officers arrived within 60 seconds to assist in the search," Salem police said in a statement Friday afternoon.

North and neighboring Parrish Middle School were placed on lockdowns around 1:30 p.m. Friday, district spokesman Aaron Harada said. Officers searched the school and all outbuildings and did not locate a suspect, the police statement said.

"Due to the nature of this report, students and staff were asked to shelter in place and barricade their classrooms for a portion of time, which is one of our district safety protocols. The lockdown was lifted at approximately 2:50 p.m. after law enforcement cleared the building," Harada said.

Families at both schools were notified of the lockdown.

Paul Quach, a senior at North, told Salem Reporter in a text the school had been on a level three lockdown, where students are asked to barricade classroom doors and stay away from windows. Around 2:30 p.m., he said the lockdown was lowered to a level two, then about five minutes later to a level one. At level one, classrooms remain locked and students are asked to remain quiet, but regular instruction and classwork can continue.

Shortly after, the district said the lockdown was lifted.

"We are aware of misinformation being shared in the community, primarily on social media. We want to be very clear: There was not, at any time, an active shooter situation at North Salem High School or Parrish Middle School," Harada said in an email.

Salem police said an investigation is ongoing "to determine the facts surrounding the initial report of the suspicious person."

The district asked parents and guardians to pick up students at nearby Grant and Englewood elementary schools on Friday, the district said. Students were supervised at school until a parent or guardian was able to pick them up.

“I’m incredibly thankful for our safety and security team, our strong partnership with the Salem Police Department and their quick and thorough response to the report. At the core of our systems is prompt reporting. I’m sorry that we live in a world where schools need to respond in this way, but our staff and students at North Salem High School and Parrish Middle School did all the right things today," Superintendent Christy Perry said in a statement.

“The recent horrific shooting in Texas has our students, parents, and community on edge, understandably. From the start of the incident, we maintained good communication with the Salem-Keizer Public Schools staff who immediately initiated lockdown protocols," Salem police Chief Trevor Womack said in a statement.

-Rachel Alexander

May 27, 2022 at 1:01pm

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May 27, 2022 at 1:00pm

Salem weekly Covid report for May 27: Cases, hospitalizations still climbing

Covid hospitalizations in the mid-Willamette Valley have climbed steadily over the past week, but remain well below peaks during the omicron and delta waves. (Screenshot of Oregon Health Authority website on May 27, 2022)

Covid cases remain on the rise in the Salem area and statewide, and local hospitalizations have also increased. State health officials said last week they expect hospitalizations during the current wave to peak in June.

HOSPITAL CAPACITY

The average number of Covid patients at Salem Hospital has continued to increase this week.

Salem Health stopped publishing weekly reports on Covid inpatients on March 25 as the omicron surge began to wane. As of Friday, May 27, the hospital had 41 inpatients with Covid, one of whom was in the ICU and one on a ventilator. 

There were 530 of 494 licensed hospital beds in use. The hospital is able to care for more patients than it's licensed for due to continuing emergency rules related to the pandemic.

Lisa Wood, Salem Health spokeswoman, said the number of hospitalized Covid patients over the past week has remained between 23 and 41. Last week, Wood said the daily number was between 20 and 22 Covid inpatients.

The graph below shows the hospital’s trends from the start of the delta surge until March 25, when weekly reporting stopped.

(Graphic by Saphara Harrell/Salem Reporter)

Region 2, which is Marion, Polk, Yamhill, Linn, Benton and Lincoln counties, had 58 people hospitalized with Covid as of May 26, compared with 36 the week prior and 29 two weeks ago.

CASES

The number of new Covid cases reported climbed statewide and in Marion and Polk Counties. This data is for the week ending May 25. 

Marion County: 108.7 new Covid cases per day on average, a rate of 218 cases per 100,000 residents.

That’s up from 80.6 average daily cases for the week ending May 18, and 75.3 average daily cases the week ending May 11. 

11.8% of Covid tests this week were positive, up from 9.3% last week.

Polk County: 31.3 new Covid cases per day on average, a rate of 261.3 cases per 100,000 residents. 

That’s up from an average of 27.7 daily cases the week ending May 18 and 20 daily cases the week ending May 11.

11.9% of Covid tests this week were positive, up from 10.1% last week.

Oregon: 1,656.1 new cases per day on average, up from 1,460.7 average daily cases the week prior; 10.7% of tests positive, compared with 10.5% the week prior.

VACCINATION AND BREAKTHROUGH CASES

The Oregon Health Authority switched to a monthly report on breakthrough cases and will release its next report June 7.

MANDATES

Oregon’s mask mandate lifted on March 11 at 11:59 p.m. 

-Rachel Alexander

May 27, 2022 at 11:17am

Jamie McLeod-Skinner defeats incumbent Kurt Schrader in Oregon 5th District

Jamie McLeod-Skinner, an attorney from Terrebonne, defeated incumbent Rep. Kurt Schrader in the 5th Congressional District. (Campaign photo)

Seven-term moderate Kurt Schrader’s congressional career will end in January after a primary election loss to central Oregon attorney Jamie McLeod-Skinner. 

The final margins might change as Clackamas County, Schrader’s home, continues processing almost 35,000 damaged ballots, but McLeod-Skinner received almost 57% of the votes counted in the 5th Congressional District, which spans Portland to Bend. A printing issue that forced Clackamas County to copy two-thirds of its ballots by hand has delayed results by more than a week. 

McLeod-Skinner tweeted that she was “honored” to be nominated shortly after the Associated Press called her race Friday morning.

“From Sellwood to Sunriver, Oregonians never stopped believing we can protect our families, our climate and our civil rights,” she said. “Oregonians – this is your victory.”

McLeod-Skinner will face Lori Chavez-DeRemer, the mayor of Happy Valley and winner of a five-way Republican primary. The race will be a close one in the fall: forecasters at the Cook Political Report classified it as a “tossup” and forecasters at CQ Roll Call moved it from “likely Democratic” to “lean Democratic” after the primary. 

The National Republican Congressional Committee views the 5th District as a pickup opportunity, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent the primary season campaigning for Schrader and attacking McLeod-Skinner. 

Schrader significantly outraised and outspent McLeod-Skinner. He collected nearly $2.3 million since January 2021 and spent almost $3.5 million, including reserves from previous campaign cycles. McLeod-Skinner raised a more modest $693,000 and spent $579,000.

-Julia Shumway, Oregon Capital Chronicle

May 27, 2022 at 11:04am

New Salem Life Flight base expected to reduce response time

(Courtesy/Berg & Associates)

Willamette Valley residents needing critical care can soon get a faster flight to a hospital when a new transport base opens in Salem in July, the Life Flight Network announced Thursday.

The country’s largest not-for-profit air medical transport service, based in Aurora, will provide 24-hour service in the Willamette Valley and surrounding areas, according to a news release.

The service transports thousands of patients each year in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana – many living in rural communities - who need rapid, critical care.

The helicopter base is expected to open July 1 at the Salem Municipal Airport, said Michael Weimer, vice president for Region 1, which includes Oregon and portions of Idaho and southeast Washington.

It will allow helicopters to be dispatched directly from Salem to pick up patients and transport them to a hospital.

Weimer said the Life Flight Network has served Salem and its surrounding areas for over four decades but wanted to expand into the city as it’s seen significant growth in recent years.

“The current growth and future growth is going to be in that area,” Weimer said of Salem. “Our goal is to serve the needs of the communities, and having a critical care helicopter there to serve those needs.”

Crews can provide various forms of life-saving medical care on the aircraft while transporting patients, including managing intensive care ventilators and emergency blood transfusions.

The helicopters have flight nurses and flight paramedics on board in addition to the pilot.

“Certainly there are some staffing challenges in the medical industry right now, but I don't anticipate problems,” Weimer said.

Life Flight Network has helicopter bases in Astoria, Aurora, Cottage Grove, La Grande, Newport, Ontario, Pendleton and Redmon. It has airplane bases in Aurora and La Grande as well as ambulances in Aurora, Portland and Springfield.

“Air medical resources are a lifeline for rural communities’ access to specialty care across Oregon. At Life Flight Network we are excited for the opening of a base in Salem as it represents our steadfast commitment to the healthcare partners in the Willamette Valley and the surrounding area,” said Dr. Tom Lorish, Providence Health & Services spokesman and an owner representative on the Life Flight Network Board of Directors, in a statement. 

-Ardeshir Tabrizian