▶️ Health expert says small gatherings, lack of masks to blame for case spike


Last week, COVID-19 cases in Deschutes County nearly doubled from the week before, going from 150 to 282.

This week, cases continue to rise.

“We are very, very busy right now,” Carissa Heinige, case investigation branch director with Deschutes County Public Health, said. “Long days, long hours.”

Heinige attributes the bump in cases to people gathering without distancing and without masks.

“We had some big events,” Heinige said. “There was spring break travel that had some cases. Easter weekend, there was a lot of social gatherings, things like that.”

This week’s weekly report from the Oregon Health Authority listed active outbreaks in Deschutes County at businesses including Tetherow and at a child care center. The two added 13 and eleven cases, respectively.

It also shows 53 cases connected to Summit High School – but most from an outbreak earlier this year.

But Heinige said the county’s spike can’t be tied to a lone culprit.

“It’s not particularly one business location,” Heinige said. “Social behaviors are driving a lot.”

Young people make up around 22% of Deschutes County’s active cases, according to the county’s website. People 80 and older make up around 3%.

Heinige said people who are half-vaccinated, meaning people who have received one dose of a two-shot vaccine, are also not to blame.

“We’re not seeing a large portion of our cases are people who have had one dose of the vaccine and have completely disregarded safety practices,” Heinige said.

Heinige wants to remind the public that a person is not considered appropriately protected after the first dose of a two-shot vaccine. It takes around two weeks after the second shot to be considered fully vaccinated.

▶️ Bend business attorney: Yes, your boss can require the COVID vaccine


The King Estate Winery in Eugene sent out a letter to employees recently, saying they must get the COVID-19 vaccine or they could lose their job.

“We’re very proud, as a company, to put such an emphasis on workplace safety,” Chief Operating Officer Brent Stone said.

The news sparked a lot of reaction from people online who thought it was at best, an employer overstep if not outright illegal.

But Bend business lawyer Jeff Eager said the winery’s requirement is within the letter of the law.

“Yes, most employers can require most employees to get a vaccine,” Eager said.

Eager said there are some exceptions to a vaccine requirement in the workplace, including if the employee raises a religious objection or has a disability.

“The employer would be required to quote on quote reasonably accommodate the disability or religious preferences,” Eager said.

While requiring a vaccine is legal, Eager said he hasn’t heard of any businesses in Central Oregon that are demanding their employees get the shot.

“There surely are other employers out there who are doing it, but it hasn’t been top of mind of the clients that I’ve talked to,” Eager said.

Bend Chamber of Commerce CEO Katy Brooks agrees — she also hasn’t heard of a local business requiring vaccinations.

“I think a lot of employers are asking the question of whether or not to require vaccines,” Brooks said. “I think a lot of them have chosen not to for a lot of reasons, one being it’s just a difficult thing to mandate.”

But she said some businesses may still be considering making it a requirement.

“A lot of employers are just trying to figure out what the right thing to do is right now,” Brooks said. “A lot of them are talking about how to reduce their liability, how to protect their workforce, how to be productive again after a year of really messed up operations.”

▶️ OSU Cascades sees spike in applications following low-enrollment year


Overall applications and admission offers for the fall semester at OSU Cascades are almost double the amount of a typical year, according to Director of Admissions and Recruitment Brittany Preston.

“Announcing that we’re back in person…that created a lot of excitement,” Preston said.

Preston said the spike could be attributed to many different factors, one possibly being this is the first time SAT and ACT scores weren’t required to apply to OSU.

“It’s hard to tell,” Preston said. “Was it COVID? Was it having more time at home and applying to more schools, or was it removing the test?”

Not requiring a test score has also changed how admissions is approaching incoming applications.

“We have always been holistic in our admission, but now we are way more so,” Preston said. “Because we’re not able to pull a test score and pull a GPA, we’re looking at the transcript, we’re looking at the classes we’re taking.”

But Preston said twice the applications won’t mean twice the number of students in the fall.

Right now, they aren’t sure how many students will actually commit to the school, mostly because the metrics they usually use to measure an incoming class size have gone out the window.

“In a typical, non-COVID year, we’re looking at a lot of trends and what we call interactions,” Preston said. “Did they visit campus, did they come to an open house? Usually those are indicators of interest. But when you throw those out, it’s much more difficult.”

Across town, Central Oregon Community College said it’s also seeing a renewed interest following the drop in students it saw throughout the pandemic.

Spokeswoman Jenn Kovitz said she can’t provide exact enrollment numbers yet. She’ll have a better idea of fall enrollment in June.

▶️ Olympian Laurenne Ross reflects on last race win, retirement and what’s next


Olympian and World Cup Skier Laurenne Ross came out on top in the final race of her career Saturday.

She finished first in women’s downhill at the U.S. Alpine Championships in Aspen, Colorado.

“When I ended up winning the race, a couple family members and friends were like, ‘does this make you want to keep going, because you know you’re fast?'” Ross said. “Nope! I feel good about just going out with a win and being done.”

The 32-year-old announced last week she is retiring from her sport after a long career marked by both successes and setbacks from injuries.

She describes the motivation to retire as “a gut feeling.”

“I want to be able to hike when I’m older and I want to be able to use my body for the rest of my life, so I think it’s sort of a self-preservation tactic,” Ross said.

Ross is a two-time Olympian, having competed for the U.S. ski team in PyeongChang and Sochi.

But it all began on the slopes of Mt. Bachelor.

“That is where I spent most of my younger years learning how to ski well and creating all of these really incredible friendships that I still have,” Ross said.

With her competition days behind her, she is turning her attention to giving back to the ski community that lifted her up.

“Interacting with the kids is definitely my favorite way to give back,” Ross said. “Not only is it awesome and wonderful and so impactful for them, but it’s also really wonderful for me to see their faces light up and to see them so excited to be participating in a sport that has helped me grow and become who I am.”

She hopes to inspire young minds with what she’s done and all that she’s learned along the way.

“I would be really adamant about free skiing as much as you can and spending time with your family and friends and pushing yourself,” Ross said. “But in life, just trying to stay present and trying to be where you are and be grateful with what you have has been really huge for me.”

Ex-NFL player’s brain to be probed for trauma-related harm

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The brain of the former NFL player who killed five people in South Carolina before fatally shooting himself will be tested for a degenerative disease that has affected a number of pro athletes.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy has been shown to cause violent mood swings and other cognitive disorders.

York County Coroner Sabrina Gast said in a statement issued Friday that she had gotten approval from Phillip Adams’ family for the procedure to be included as part of his autopsy.

The Medical University of South Carolina will be working with Boston University, which has a CTE Center.

According to its website, the center conducts research on the long-term effects of repetitive brain trauma in athletes and military personnel.

▶️ Gyms adjust processes again as Deschutes Co. moves back to high risk


On Friday, gyms, restaurants and event venues were required to adjust their capacity from 50% to 25% as Deschutes County moved into the high risk COVID-19 category.

For Barre3 Bend, an exercise studio, moving into the new category means limiting all indoor classes to only six people at a time.

“We were at ten, which doesn’t sound like a significant difference, but it really is,” Alisha Wiater, owner of Barre3 Bend, said.

Case counts locally are rising and Deschutes County’s category could get worse before it gets better.

But Waiter said vaccinations are offering some hope on the horizon.

“We hear from new clients, returning clients, every day that they’re ready to come back in and they’re happy to be back,” Wiater said.

Wiater said being flexible is just one aspect of being a business owner this year.

“I just have to keep my eyes and my vision and my focus moving forward and adapting and making it work for our community the best we can, even when we have these setbacks,” Wiater said.

Sharman Watt, owner of the Central Oregon Gymnastics Academy, said she doesn’t have to adjust much at her gym with the category change.

The academy has been operating at around 25% capacity anyway, even through moderate risk.

“Even at a low, even if we were at that low category, we can only operate at 50% and me along with probably everyone else breaks even at 75%,” Watt said. “We can’t even run at a capacity at any scenario that even breaks us even.”

While some people are getting vaccinated and may feel like they can put COVID behind them, Watt said business owners are still feeling the pain of this pandemic.

“I think a lot of people are out there and they just think that we’re all better, the vaccine is there and everything’s all better,” Watt said. “My business and any business like mine — it’s not better.”

Expert: Lack of oxygen killed George Floyd, not drugs

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A medical expert says George Floyd died from a lack of oxygen that damaged his brain and caused his heart to stop.

Dr. Martin Tobin is a lung and critical care specialist from Illinois.

He testified Thursday at former Officer Derek Chauvin’s murder trial that Floyd’s breathing was too shallow to take in enough oxygen while he was pinned on his stomach with his hands cuffed behind his back for 9 1/2 minutes.

His testimony came a day after a use-of-force expert said Chauvin had his knee on George Floyd’s neck area the entire time that he pinned.

New Mexico latest state to adopt medically assisted suicide

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has signed into law legislation legalizing medically assisted suicide.

It’s the latest state to provide a pathway for terminally ill patients to end their lives with lethal medication.

The law requires patients to be given six months or less to live by two medical professionals, be of sound mind, and be able to take the drug themselves.

Opponents fear diagnoses could be mistaken and insurance companies could cover medically assisted suicide instead of more expensive cures to an illness.

New Mexico is the second state after New Jersey with a third or more of its population identifying as Catholic to legalize medically assisted suicide.

Oregon passed the first such law in 1997.

▶️ Tumalo Irrigation District says pipe project still on track after vandalism


The Tumalo Irrigation District was almost finished piping a stretch of canals in Tumalo, when it faced an unexpected setback.

“We were pressure testing the pipe two weeks ago and it failed the pressure test,” Chris Schull, interim general manager of the irrigation district, said. “We went investigating to find where the water was coming up, and we located seven different drill holes.”

Holes intentionally drilled, costing an estimated $100,000 in damage, according to Schull.

“It is frustrating when these issues arise,” Schull said. “It costs the district money.”

The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the incident. They won’t comment on who might be the culprit.

But the piping has been protested in the past.

In March of 2020, eight property owners filed a lawsuit against this same project, citing environmental concerns.

“I don’t want to speculate,” Schull said. “I’m going to let the Deschutes County Sheriff — they’re the professionals — do their job.”

The district was able to fill in the holes, and Schull said the water turn on date won’t be delayed.

Starting April 19, water will flow through the pipe to around 50 patrons and 520 acres of irrigated land.

“We’re going to run it this year and see how it does,” Schull said. “If we have an issue that continues to arise, that would be something we’d look at doing in the next off season, of digging that up and replacing that at that point.”

The district is offering a reward up to $10,000 for any information on the vandals.

If you have any information, contact the Sheriff’s office.


Biden open to compromise on infrastructure, but not inaction

President Joe Biden is drawing a red line on his $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan.

He says he is open to compromise on how to pay for the plan but inaction is unacceptable.

The president turned fiery in a Wednesday afternoon speech, saying that the United States must build, invest and research for the future.

Biden says failure to do so would amount to giving up on “leading the world.”

Biden allowed that “compromise is inevitable.”

He says the administration will be open to “good ideas in good faith negotiations.”

But he added, “We will not be open to doing nothing.”