127K to go; Brown lays out reopening plans once 70% COVID vax target is met

The countdown is on.

The state’s COVID vaccination rate is now at 66% and Gov. Kate Brown said Friday roughly 127,000 more people need to get the shot to reach the coveted 70% target.

Once met, she’ll fully reopen the economy and end statewide mask, physical distancing and capacity limit requirements in nearly all settings.

Additionally, the state will turn its attention from COVID emergency response to pandemic recovery.

“I want to be very clear that we are able to reopen like this because of the efficacy of the vaccines,” Brown said in a morning news conference. “For those of you who are vaccinated, you’ve helped us reach this point — and you are protected from this virus.”

So how long will it take to reach the goal? Modeling suggests it could possibly happen by June 21st but OHA Director Patrick Allen said that’s by no means a slam dunk.

Mask requirements for Oregon’s students under 12-years-old and staff will remain in place through this school year. And per current federal guidelines, masks will be required in airports and on public transit.

“If you are not vaccinated, this virus still poses a very real threat.”
– Gov. Kate Brown

But in nearly every other setting, Oregonians – vaccinated or not – won’t have to wear a mask and can sidle up to their friends at restaurants, the movies, bars, and everywhere else.

Brown said it’s become a tale of two pandemics and those who have been vaccinated can feel comfortable out and about without wearing a mask.

“If you are not vaccinated, this virus still poses a very real threat,” she said.

Numbers released Thursday by the Oregon Health Authority back that up.

The agency reported 98% of the 16,000+ COVID cases reported in May were in unvaccinated patients.

Additionally, the state’s seen only 1,000 “breakthrough cases” out of more than 1.85 million vaccinated Oregonians.

Dr. Louis D’Avignon, a pulmonary critical care physician at St. Charles who joined Brown in her news conference Friday said simply “the vaccinated population is staying out of the hospital.”

He said since March 1st, of the 346 patients hospitalized for COVID complications, all but 18 were not vaccinated – that’s 95%.

Meanwhile, COVID cases continue to fall across the state.

Last week, the 2,677 new cases were a 13% decline from the previous week and hospitalizations were at their lowest point in six weeks, according to the OHA.

Deschutes County cases have been falling for four straight weeks and the 220 cases reported last week were the fewest since early April.

Cases across Central Oregon reflect the same decline.

There’s been a steadily building sense of normalcy across the state in recent weeks as more and more businesses loosened mask requirements for vaccinated customers.

And with larger crowds gathering outside in the warmer spring weather, you’d almost never know we’re coming out of a global pandemic that’s killed more than 2,600 Oregonians.

But health officials were quick to warn Friday that while that state will soon end the restrictions that came along with COVID, the virus hasn’t been eradicated.

“We don’t end at 70%,” said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the state epidemiologist. “It begins the next stage of our fight against this virus.”

Last month Brown hoped to entice more people to get vaccinated by offering a $1 million prize to one lucky vaccinated Oregonian, $10,000 prizes to one winner in each county and five $100,000 college savings plan scholarships.

She said the initial data shows the lottery is leading to small upticks in vaccination numbers in rural areas.

She said Friday more surprises were on the way.

Individual counties – including Jefferson County – have upped the ante by offering additional lottery prizes to those who get the shot.

Mass vaccination clinics have closed, but smaller pop-up clinics have opened in local schools and even the Deschutes Public Library. 

Locally, more than 66% of eligible Deschutes County residents have been vaccinated; 46% in Crook County and 50% in Jefferson County.

For more info on where to get a shot and to sign up, visit: https://www.stcharleshealthcare.org/CentralOregonCOVIDVaccine

Clean up continues as strong winds fan Bend-area brushfires, topple trees

Fire crews on Monday continue monitoring a 211-acre bushfire that evacuated neighborhoods west of Bend near Tumalo while others in the area begin the clean-up after a wind storm toppled trees and power lines.

Those winds – the National Weather Service reported 65 mph gusts – fanned the flames on two brushfires in the area on Sunday.

One fire near Deschutes River Woods threatened structures on Cinder Butte and Apache Road, burning four lots, debris, vehicles and an outbuilding before crews got a handle on it.

Officials said it was a burn pile from Saturday that rekindled and spread on Sunday.

Evacuation notices in that area were lifted around 7 p.m.

Meanwhile, multiple neighborhoods west of Bend and north of Shevlin Park were on Level 3 “Go Now” evacuation notices as the Bull Springs Fire started to spread.

By Sunday night, some of the evacuation notices had been lifted or reduced and by Monday, all the evacuation notices had been reduced to Level 1 “Be Ready.”

The Bull Springs Fire was fully lined Monday morning and burning private, USFS and BLM managed land north of Shevlin Park near Tumalo, according to Bend Fire & Rescue Chief Bill Boos.

No homes were impacted, but two outbuildings were lost, Boos said.

No word yet on the cause of that fire.

The strong winds wreaked havoc across the region, knocking down trees, power poles and road signs.

A stretch of Highway 97 near Madras was closed for a period due to limited visibility from blowing dust.

About 7,000 Pacific Power customers were without power Sunday night after a tree knocked down a power line

You can see the outage map and get updates here. 

Central Electric reported high winds are likely to blame for knocking out power to nearly 1,000 people in Alfalfa and near Terrebonne.

In Bend’s Widgi Creek neighborhood, a giant Ponderosa fell on top of a house along the golf course.

No one was injured, but the tree significantly damaged the home.

“Falling debris actually broke the recliner (his wife) was sitting in! Thankfully, we are safe,” said Steve Bryant, the homeowner. 



State report says pandemic caused fewer business closures than expected

Foxtail Bakery. Baltazar’s. Vine-N-Tap…just three local business casualties to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hundreds more have closed across the state, while others struggle to rebound and survive as indoor dining restrictions slowly loosen.

But a new state report indicates the situation never got as bad as initially expected.

“It is encouraging from a big picture perspective that there have been relatively few closures compared with the initial level of fear at the start of the pandemic,” according to the report from the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis. “The fact that entrepreneurship has remained so strong means the total number of businesses in the economy will continue to increase.”

▶️ Local restaurants continue to struggle amid COVID; popular spots closing

The report set to get real-world data to either debunk or confirm some third-party sources that showed 30% of Oregon businesses have closed and 50% of leisure and hospitality firms closed over the last year.

It laid out four points:

  • Active business licenses actually increased nearly 2% from January 2020 to January 2021 and “private sector business units” jumped by nearly 3%.
  • Businesses close every year, even in good economic times. While sizable increases in the number of firms shutting their doors, this is nowhere near some of the estimates cited in the past year. Either the pandemic generated three times the number of closures as past severe cycles or these third-party data estimates are not truly representative of the overall economy.
  • Small business income is largely flat over the past year thanks to the Paycheck Protection Program.
  • Timely data for bars and restaurants – the most impacted sector in terms of the pandemic – show that firm closures are up in the past year, but not nearly as much as the conventional wisdom or miscellaneous third party data indicates.

Specifically, OLCC data shows the number of active liquor licenses for on-premise sales over the past year is down around 5% while renewals hover around 92%.

“Overall there is a clear increase in closures among bars and restaurants in Oregon, however, that increase thankfully appears to be around 5% not 50%,” according to the report.

The report’s most encouraging data points show start-up activity has surged since the shelter in place phase of the pandemic ended based on business application data from the Census Bureau and the Oregon Secretary of State.

“The best-case scenario here is that the rising number of start-ups means innovation and productivity will increase in the years ahead, boosting long-term economic growth prospects,” the report said. “At a minimum, the higher number of start-ups means the economy will not suffer the double blow of more closures and fewer start-ups as has been the case in past severe recessions and which would slow the overall recovery.”

Damon Runberg, a regional economist with the Oregon Employment Department said his own analysis of Central Oregon data backs up the state report.

Runberg looked at the number of businesses that had reported payroll employment in Q3 2019 but no longer in Q3 2020 and compared that to previous years.

“That VERY early results reveal that the ‘closure’ rate in 2020 wasn’t much worse than the years leading up to 2020,” he said in an email to Central Oregon Daily News. “In fact, the closure rate was lower in some industry sectors, such as professional ad business services.”

He said the CARES Act and other federal programs probably saved many businesses during the pandemic.

“We shall see if that support carries us through the recovery,” he said. “The good news is that we expect to see a figurative shot in the arm this summer as the economy opens back up.”

COVID metrics won’t matter for BLP, RSD; both districts committed to starting year online


The Bend-La Pine and Redmond School districts on Wednesday said they are committed to starting the year online – regardless of whether Deschutes County meets the health metrics that would allow K-3 students back in class.

Oregon school districts can bring back students in grades K-3 if the county has fewer than 30 COVID-19 cases per 100,000, a test positivity rate below 5% and no active community spread or outbreaks for three weeks.

Deschutes County met those metrics last week with just 18 cases/100,000 and a test positivity rate of 2.1%

With 20 cases reported by the OHA so far this week, Deschutes county is once again trending to fall below the 30/100,000 required to open for K-3.

Bend-La Pine has plans to start its comprehensive distance learning model on September 14th, which means there are four more weeks between now and the start of the year

We asked district leaders if they would scramble and try to get kids back in class if the metrics were met before then, but they said no.

Bend-La Pine officials tell us they are committed to online learning for the first six weeks of the school year.

However, interim superintendent Lora Nordquist told parents during an online town hall on Monday afternoon, if the metrics are met it would open the door to limited in-person instruction for K-3, potentially allowing small groups of students to be in classrooms prior to November.

Redmond is planning to start September 10th and officials tell us they are committed to at least three weeks of online learning for consistency’s sake and to let teachers plan and train ahead of the school year.

Superintendent Charan Cline said this is the best option to give students and teachers the highest chance of success.

“We’d like to make sure the numbers are stable as we’re going through to make sure that we’re not going to yo-yo people, bring kids back to school and have to quarantine them and moving them back and forth,” he said. “We’d like to create a path that we feel like is going to be stable for our families.”

And even when the schools get the go-ahead to reopen, the district would ease younger students back into the classrooms through a hybrid model to help them learn the routines and safety protocols.

Cline released to us this look at what a return to class might look like if metrics are met in early September, showing a full return to K-3 wouldn’t happen until late October.

Most school districts in Oregon are planning a comprehensive online learning model for students for at least the beginning of the year, although some have already said they plan to be fully online through 2020.

Bend-La Pine announced July 31st it would start the year online but plans to reevaluate the situation every six weeks.

So the earliest the district will even consider a return to the classroom is mid-October.

Judge denies request to keep Bend men arrested by ICE in Oregon; deportation on hold


A federal judge on Thursday denied a temporary restraining order that sought to keep the two men detained by ICE in Bend on Wednesday in the state of Oregon.

The Innovation Law Lab, a non-profit legal service in Portland, filed the temporary restraining order – arguing they were denied access to their clients during the standoff between protesters and federal agents in Bend.

After hearing arguments from attorneys for both the Innovation Law Lab and the Department of Homeland Security, Judge Karin J. Immergut denied the motion.

Immergut ruled the Innovation Law Lab failed to prove they had both standing in the case and that the men arrested had suffered irreparable harm.

However, Immergut did not dismiss the complaint outright.

She set a hearing for September 3rd for both sides to make further arguments.  She also asked DHS attorneys for assurance the men would not be deported prior to the hearing.

An attorney for DHS said the men have likely already been transferred to the Tacoma Northwest Detention Center, after a stop at a detention center in the Dalles.

Family and friends have identified the men as Marco Zeferino and Josue Arturo Cruz Sanchez.  In court, they were only referred to by their initials – which did align with the names provided by family and friends.

The men were arrested by ICE agents Wednesday morning on their way to work.

Hundreds of protesters learned of their arrest and blocked the ICE transport buses from leaving the area.

A 10-hour standoff ended around 11:15 p.m. when federal agents with the U.S. Border Patrol arrived in riot gear, pushed their way through the crowd and stormed the buses removing the men inside.

Homeland Security issued a statement Thursday on the arrests.

“ICE continues to target public safety threats and immigration violators,” said Homeland Security Investigations Spokeswoman Tonya Roman. “The two individuals arrested by ICE have criminal records that include convictions for assault, harassment, coercion, and criminal trespassing.

“They are also repeat immigration violators who were previously encountered by U.S. immigration officials and granted voluntary return to their home countries.”

Bend city officials on Wednesday said the agents had warrants for the arrests, but it’s unclear what those warrants were for.

Erin Carter, an attorney with the Bend Immigration Group, said it doesn’t matter what the charges are.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has the authority to pick up non-citizens regardless of their criminal record.

Many times it is a criminal record that prompts ice to take enforcement action against an individual,” she said. “Historically enforcement priorities by ICE were very clear under previous administrations.”

Oregon court records show Sanchez has a criminal record in Deschutes County dating back to 2015 for various offenses including speeding, driving while uninsured, and operating a vehicle without driving privileges.

In 2018 he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor fourth-degree assault (domestic violence) and felony coercion for injuring a woman and threatening more harm if she left him. He was sentenced to two years probation.

In February 2019 he pleaded guilty to first-degree criminal trespassing for unlawfully entering a residence.

In May 2019 he pleaded not guilty to fourth-degree assault charges stemming from an incident in November 2018; he’s scheduled for a jury trial in January.

Zeferino Rios admitted in 2019 to an attempt to commit a Class B misdemeanor – one attorney tells us that’s not even classified as a crime – in regard to a harassment claim.

Gofundme pages have been set up for the two men and their families, who Carter said have lived in Central Oregon for years.

We have reached out to the organizer of both and have not been able to verify her relationship with either of the two men.