▶️ Bend woman seeks rightful owner of unemployment checks mistakenly sent to her

By MEGHAN GLOVA
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

Bend resident Sasha Warren last week received six unemployment checks in the mail.

The only problem is, they don’t belong to her.

“That’s quite a bit of unemployment to miss out on, unfortunately,” Warren said. “It does have my actual address on it, so it wasn’t just dropped off at my house by mistake.”

The checks belong to an Abdul Gray, who Warren says didn’t live at her address before her.

She wants to get the money back to him.

“This person is going without their unemployment checks, which can be a lot,” Warren said. “That could be their food, that could be their rent, that could be their gas to get to work, it could be really important things.”

More than 120,000 Oregonians are currently on some form of unemployment assistance.

Regional Economist Damon Runberg says any money received is extremely important, now more than ever because tens of thousands could be losing it within the next month.

“There are going to be a lot of people, as we call it, sort of falling off the benefits cliff,” Runberg said. “We think over 70,000 Oregonians are going to lose benefits on December 26th, the day that the CARES Act expires.”

Warren hasn’t had any luck finding Gray.

She posted about the checks on Facebook but doesn’t want to return the checks assuming they’ll be sent right back to her.

“Unfortunately, I know sending them back to the unemployment office, it’ll take months to get sorted out,” Warren said. “So I was hoping that I could just get a hold of them in some way or another.”

Warren says she won’t hand off the checks to anyone without an ID.

And having gone on unemployment herself this year, she knows it’s the right thing to do.

If you know the person these checks belong to, email info@centraloregondaily.com.

▶️ Bend opens temporary warming shelter; additional services available for addicts

By MEGHAN GLOVA
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

Monday marks the opening of Bend’s cold weather shelter off 2nd Street.

A much needed place to escape the cold.

“That’s what really this facility is for,” Ryan Olufson, Shepherd’s House associate director of development and volunteers said. “It’s helping people know that if we’re in a situation as a family, maybe we’re living in a motor home or vehicle, you can get out of the cold and come into this space and stay warm.”

The shelter will provide a warm place to stay, hot meals, and a shower truck service twice a week.

“Folks are coming daily to us to check in and then check out in the morning, and then they come back,” Olufson said. “So it’s a rotating basis, but folks can stay with us essentially as long as they need to throughout the season.”

The 10,000 square foot shelter is open to men, women, and children with separate areas for each.

It can hold up to 60 guests over night, and an additional ten who just need warmth.

“This shelter is going to provide folks with the opportunity to stay warm every night,” Olufson said. “It literally can be life or death as we know.”

It is what’s known as a low barrier shelter, where guests struggling with addiction will be handled individually.

“If folks do come to us with specific needs, whether that’s mental health or maybe intoxicated,” Olufson said. “That’s where we contact our local authorities to get assistance there to make sure that we just don’t turn people away.”

Bethlehem Inn, another shelter in town, often cannot take in people struggling with addiction.

Executive director Gwenn Wysling says this is a barrier many face when seeking shelter.

“People end up utilizing tools to keep themselves comforted in their time of crisis,” Wysling said. “That may be drugs and alcohol.”

Olufson says he doesn’t think the shelter will be at full capacity night one, but wants it known that staff and volunteers are here to help.

“Hospitality is a big part of what we do,” Olufson said. “We just want people to know that we love them, we care for them, and we’re glad they’re here.”

Well behaved pets are allowed in the shelter.

The shelter is not allowing people on the property prior to their 6 p.m. check in time.

Olufson says volunteers are still needed, including local artists willing to donate their time to paint murals.

If interested in volunteering, email ryano@shepherdshouseministries.org.

▶️ Redmond PD on enforcing mask mandate; compliance through education

By MEGHAN GLOVA
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

The Redmond Police Department is promoting “compliance through education” during Oregon’s two-week freeze.

This pertains to all aspects of Gov. Kate Brown’s executive order, including wearing a face mask.

Brandon Weimer, owner of Herringbone Bookstore in Redmond, says he’s had hardly any customers refuse to wear a mask in his store.

“Very small,” Weimer said. “I could probably count on one hand how many incidents I’ve had. Sometimes they more or less just forget and we just provide one for them, so it’s good.”

During those few times Weimer did have to confront a customer, he says it went okay.

“A lot of times when I’m explaining to people it’s just hey, this is a private business, it’s in my guidelines and different things,” Weimer said. “Most people completely understand. Like I said, I’ve never had really any incidents where someone has walked off, gotten rowdy, or yelled.”

In a press release Tuesday, Redmond Police said they will “continue to follow an education approach first” and that they will only take action, such as a criminal citation, as a “last resort.”

There is a statewide hotline to report people violating the mask rule.

Redmond Police recommend reporting violations to Oregon OSHA for businesses or workplaces, and either OSHA or the OLCC for violations at restaurants and bars.

Weimer says just in the interest of being a good neighbor, he hopes that customers of any business do their part by wearing a mask.

“Let’s try and end 2020 on a good year by abiding by that so businesses can stay open, and restaurants can reopen for the holidays,” Weimer said. “It’s the right thing to do.”

Taste This: Big Ski’s Pierogis

Richard Winiarski wanted to build a business inspired by his Polish roots, in a place where pierogis aren’t too easy to find.

From there, Big Ski’s Pierogis was born.

On this episode of Taste This, sponsored by Newport Avenue Market, Meghan Glova tries out the Bend food cart serving up hundreds of hand-made pierogis every day.

Big Ski’s Pierogis is located at the Podski on Arizona Ave. near the Box Factory.

▶️ Bars, restaurants statewide plead for COVID relief; cocktails to-go clearance

By MEGHAN GLOVA
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

With the two-week freeze beginning Wednesday, the Independent Restaurant Alliance of Oregon (IRAO) is requesting that Gov. Kate Brown provide greater COVID relief statewide.

That includes extended eviction moratoriums, more rapid testing for employees, and clearance to sell cocktails to go.

Like many, business has been slower at Foxtail Bakeshop in Bend since the start of the pandemic.

The upcoming shut down won’t help.

“We really hope that the Oregon government would do more for local businesses,” said Ben Blauvelt, Foxtail Bakeshop manager. “We want to see support and solidarity standing with us, not just restricting for the health of everybody, but helping us survive through it so we can come back stronger when this is all over.”

That feeling is catching on statewide by over 400 businesses that signed a letter to Brown, written by the IRAO.

“You know our bars are closing already, our restaurants are closing already,” Ricky Gomez, IRAO board member said. “We need our state representatives to step up to the plate now before we have more closures.”

Local businesses owners say the extra source of revenue made from to-go cocktails would be helpful.

“That’s definitely something that if OLCC would approve,” Joe Kim, Five Fusion co-owner said. “We would definitely love to do and I think that our customers would appreciate that.”

“The baked goods don’t really make us money,” Nickol Hayden-Cady, Foxtail Bakeshop owner said. “What makes us money is all our drinks. So our cocktail list, our coffee-to-go. Adding a shot of bourbon or anything in our coffee drinks, that really does help us.”

“OLCC rules should loosen so that bars can offer take out cocktails,” Juli Hamdan, Joolz owner said. “This industry feeds the hungry, employs so many people, literally keeping chains of commerce going. Where is the relief that we can access to get through two weeks of lost income? Our bills, utilities, lease, payroll and taxes don’t just cease because there is a pause.”

Multiple Central Oregon businesses signed the letter to Brown, including:

Flip Flop Sounds, Bend
Five Fusion, Bend
Bellatazza, Bend
Foxtail Bakeshop, Bend
Downtown Bend Business Association
Chomp Chomp, Bend
Vector Volcano Classic Arcade, Bend
Joolz, Bend
Twist Cocktail Catering Co., Bend
The Commons Cafe & Taproom, Bend
Sun Mountain Fun Center, Bend
Velvet Lounge, Bend
Geneva Financial, Bend
Monkless Belgian Ales, Bend
DJ Chuck Boogie, Redmond
The Suttle Lodge & Boathouse, Sisters

“Cocktails to go is not a miracle that’s going to save our industry,” Gomez said. “But it’s just another tool we can utilize to expand our sales to increase our profitability and have a chance to survive this winter.”

The IRAO says Brown’s office is supportive of their requests, but a special legislative session is needed to see any action.

Late Tuesday, Brown announced the state will commit $55 million to businesses impacted by the COVID restrictions.

It will be up to each county to determine who receives the money.

State commits $55M for businesses hit by COVID restrictions; counties to distribute funds

▶️ Parents express concern over distance learning drop in grades

By MEGHAN GLOVA
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

Christie Otley is a parent of three boys.

One in seventh grade, one in third grade and a first grader with an Individualized Education Plan.

Otley said all of them are falling behind learning from home.

“They’ve had more hardships with learning and understanding the technologies, and the materials provided to them,” Otley said. “It’s just all around been very difficult and unfortunate.”

Susanna Abrahamson has two sons at Mountain View High School — Reed, a freshman, and Andrew, a junior also on IEPs.

“It is staggering,” Abrahamson said. “The bad habits that have been created that I’m so worried will continue with them.”

Both parents say their kids have lost motivation.

While none of them are currently failing a class, they are struggling.

“If we were to do a side by side comparison of all three of my kids from last year versus this year,” Otley said. “In my eyes, they’re all falling dramatically.”

“In the previous six weeks,” Abrahamson said. “My older son did have a D in his class.”

Lora Nordquist, Bend-La Pine Schools’ interim superintendent says this time away from in-person instruction could, and likely will, catch up with students.

“I think that we will see lagging learning in our students when we are able to return in-person,” Nordquist said. “That’s not just a few students, that’s many students.”

Nordquist says both school employees and teachers are reaching out to students who they notice aren’t doing so well, primarily those in middle and high school.

“We are looking to intervene more at all levels,” Nordquist said.

Both Otley and Abrahamson say they worry for their sons if distance learning goes on any longer.

“He’s just doing enough to get by,” Abrahamson said. “That’s never been the kind of student that he’s been.”

“They want to be in school,” Otley said. “They want to see their friends, they want to be able to talk to their teachers without a screen in their way or without technology in their way.”

Nordquist says exact numbers of how many Bend-La Pine students are failing will not be available until the end of the semester.

▶️ Taste This: Mauna Kea Grill

What do you get when you combine tangy Hawaiian flavors, savory barbecue, and a little bit of Japanese flare?

Just ask Zach Baumann, he’s making that and more at Mauna Kea Grill in La Pine.

On this week’s episode of Taste This, sponsored by Newport Avenue Market, Meghan Glova gives this little piece of paradise a try.

Mauna Kea Grill is located outside of Legend Cider, 52670 US-97, La Pine, OR 97739

▶️ As COVID cases spike, St. Charles, Oregon hospitals braces for surge

By MEGHAN GLOVA
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

As of Tuesday, St. Charles has 15 COVID-19 patients – twice the number it had last week.

Of those, 13 are from Oregon counties, mostly Deschutes and Crook County.

While hospitals across the state may be able to withstand a surge of COVID-19 case, Gov. Kate Brown says it’s up to Oregonians to make sure they don’t have to.

“While we have plans to share beds and ventilators if necessary,” Brown said during a press conference Tuesday. “That needs to be a last resort.”

On Tuesday, the Oregon Health Authority had a record 285 confirmed COVID-19 patients in hospitals across the state.

That’s a 57% increase in just the past week, and 83% in the past month.

Dr. Jeff Absalon, the chief physician executive at St. Charles, says right now the hospital has room both in and out of the intensive care unit.

If a surge does happen, they have a plan in place.

“We’ve got a basement that’s full of extra hospital beds, a variety of other types of equipment, we’ve got multiple ventilators, much more so than what we normally or ever use available to us,” Absalon said. “We have plans on bringing those into play if necessary.”

Patients also could be rebalanced between St. Charles facilities across the region, and the hospital could once again scale back elective surgeries.

“So we’re hopeful that we won’t have to go there,” Absalon said. “But we do have plans in place to be able to pull those levers if necessary.”

Absalon says staffing, not beds, would be an immediate concern if COVID hospitalizations continue to spike.

Another week, another peak; social gatherings to blame for local COVID spike

By MEGHAN GLOVA
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

COVID cases continue to skyrocket in Central Oregon with Deschutes County reporting nearly 50 cases in the last two days alone.

And County Commissioners are puzzled about how to stop the spread.

“How do we know this isn’t just going to keep going on no matter what we shut down,” Commissioner Phil Henderson said Monday.

Deschutes County cases have been steadily climbing each week since mid-October, reaching their highest level since the pandemic began.

Overall, the county has reported 1,484 cases.

Local health officials say it’s going to take more of a personal effort, limiting travel and social gatherings.

Jill Johnson, Deschutes County Public Health communicable disease supervisor, says it’s important to remember that just because you’re with close friends or family, doesn’t mean you can’t get sick.

“Everyone has their own experiences that they’re bringing to those social gatherings,” Johnson said. “That’s why the prevention measures remain so important.”

Vicky Ryan, Crook County Health Department emergency preparedness coordinator, says all of their cases are tied to personal behavior, not outbreaks.

“We’re starting to see a lot of the relaxed behaviors in the personal environments of our community members,” Ryan said.

Crook County has reported 141 total cases since the pandemic started.

While County Commissioners did not come up with a solution at Monday’s meeting, they say it will be discussed further.