OHA Report: ‘substantial’ proportion of Oregonians have undiagnosed COVID infection

As of mid-June, 1% of Oregonians without COVID-19 had evidence of past infection of the virus in their blood, which is 10 times higher than the reported rate of infections obtained through conventional testing, according to a new study.

Oregon Health Authority epidemiologists who authored the study, which appears Friday in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), found that nine of 897 blood specimens collected from 19 health care facilities around Oregon between May 11 and June 15, contained antibodies against the virus that causes COVID-19.

The study also suggested that rates of infection increased with age, with no antibodies detected in the blood of pediatric patients 17 and younger.

The rate was 0.4-0.5% in those ages 18-64; and 1.6-2.1% in those 65 and older.

The results indicate a “substantial” proportion of Oregon residents have an undiagnosed and unreported infection from COVID-19.

“We suspected that a much larger segment of Oregon’s population has been exposed to and infected with COVID-19 than traditional diagnostic testing shows,” said Paul Cieslak, M.D., a study co-author and OHA medical director for communicable diseases and immunizations. “But these results also tell us that the great majority of Oregonians remain susceptible to this virus.”

The first case of COVID-19 in Oregon was diagnosed Feb. 28.

Through May 31, 4,243 people in Oregon, or about one of every 1,000 people, had tested positive for COVID-19.

Because this rate doesn’t account for people who were infected but did not seek testing — such as those with mild or no symptoms, or people unable to access testing — the rate is believed to be lower than the state’s actual infection count.

Seroprevalence surveys like this one — testing blood samples to look for antibodies — may estimate the rate of infection more accurately than conventional testing by identifying all people who have had previous infections with COVID-19, including those who didn’t show symptoms or did not seek care.

“Because most of us are still susceptible,” said Cieslak, “we need to keep practicing physical distancing and masking until we have effective vaccines, treatments or other means of mitigating illness.”

The antibody test shows that people whose blood was tested for antibodies were exposed to COVID-19 at some point, even if they never had symptoms.

But Cieslak emphasized it’s not a good test to get if you think you have COVID-19, because antibodies don’t appear in your blood until two to three weeks after exposure to the virus.

Plus, he explained, “we don’t know if antibodies to COVID-19 mean you are protected, so you still need to wear a face covering, maintain physical distancing, and keep washing your hands.”

For more information on antibody testing, visit the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/testing/serology-overview.html.

Nonpartisan watchdog group says Homeland Security officials were wrongly appointed

WASHINGTON (AP) — The top two officials in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security were improperly appointed to the posts under federal law by the Trump administration, a nonpartisan congressional watchdog said Friday.

The Government Accountability Office says acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf and his acting deputy, Ken Cuccinelli, are ineligible to run the agency under a federal law known as the Vacancy Reform Act.

GAO said it has asked the DHS inspector general to review the situation and determine if the violation affects decisions they have taken at a time when the Department of Homeland Security has been at the forefront of key administration initiatives on immigration and law enforcement.

Both men should resign, according to Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security and Rep. Carolyn Maloney of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

“GAO’s damning opinion paints a disturbing picture of the Trump Administration playing fast and loose by bypassing the Senate confirmation process to install ideologues,” the two Democrats said in a joint statement.

DHS had no immediate comment.

The GAO analysis traces the violation back to a tumultuous period at DHS in 2019 when then Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned. It found that she was improperly replaced by Kevin McAleenan under the rules governing succession in federal agencies.

McAleenan altered the rules of succession after he was subsequently removed but GAO’s legal analysis concluded that the later appointments of Wolf and Cuccinelli were invalid.

DHS is the third-largest Cabinet agency with about 240,000 employees.

Trump gives credence to false, racist Harris conspiracy

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Thursday gave credence to a false and racist conspiracy theory about Kamala Harris’ eligibility to be vice president, fueling an online misinformation campaign that parallels the one he used to power his rise into politics.

Asked about the matter at the White House, Trump told reporters he had “heard” rumors that Harris, a Black woman and U.S.-born citizen whose parents were immigrants, does not meet the requirement to serve in the White House. The president said he considered the rumors “very serious.”

The conspiracy theory is false. Harris, who was tapped this week by Joe Biden to serve as his running mate on the Democratic ticket, was born in Oakland, California, and is eligible for both the vice presidency and presidency under the constitutional requirements. The question is not even considered complex, according to constitution lawyers.

“Full stop, end of story, period, exclamation point,” said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School.

Trump built his political career on questioning a political opponent’s legitimacy. He was a high-profile force behind the so-called “birther movement” — the lie that questioned whether President Barack Obama, the nation’s first Black president, was eligible to serve. Only after mounting pressure during his 2016 campaign did Trump disavow the claims.

Trump’s comments landed in a blizzard of other untrue, racist or sexist claims unleashed across social media and conservative websites after Biden picked Harris, the first Black woman and the first Asian American woman on a major party ticket.

The misinformation campaign is built on falsehoods that have been circulating less noticeably for months, propelled by Trump supporters, and now the president himself.

“I have no idea if that’s right,” said Trump, who said he had read a column on the subject earlier Thursday. “I would have thought, I would have assumed, that the Democrats would have checked that out before she gets chosen to run for vice president.”

Trump made the comments in answer to a reporter’s question and appeared to be referencing an op-ed written by John Eastman, a conservative attorney who argues that the U.S. Constitution doesn’t grant birthright citizenship. Eastman sowed doubt about Harris’ eligibility based on her parents’ immigration status. Harris’ mother was born in India and her father was born in Jamaica.

But constitutional law experts say Harris’ parents are beside the point. The 14th Amendment grants citizenship to all people born in the U.S. and Article II Section 1 of the Constitution says that to be eligible for the vice presidency and presidency a candidate must be natural-born U.S. citizen, at least 35, and a resident of the United States for a minimum of 14 years.

Trump has questioned other rivals’ eligibility to serve in the White House. In 2016, the Republican nomination fight raised questions about whether rival Sen. Ted Cruz met “natural-born” citizen requirements. Cruz was born in Canada, but his mother was born in the United States.

Similarly, in 2008, questions arose about whether Sen. John McCain qualified as a “natural-born citizen” because he was born in the Panama Canal Zone, where his father was stationed.

Questions about McCain’s qualification spurred bipartisan outrage and the Senate passed a nonbinding resolution declaring McCain, who become the GOP presidential nominee, a natural-born citizen. Obama, who beat McCain in the 2008 race for the White House, was even a co-sponsor of the McCain resolution.

Trump admits he’s blocking postal cash to stop mail-in votes

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump frankly acknowledged Thursday that he’s starving the U.S. Postal Service of money in order to make it harder to process an expected surge of mail-in ballots, which he worries could cost him the election.

In an interview on Fox Business Network, Trump explicitly noted two funding provisions that Democrats are seeking in a relief package that has stalled on Capitol Hill.

Without the additional money, he said, the Postal Service won’t have the resources to handle a flood of ballots from voters who are seeking to avoid polling places during the coronavirus pandemic.

“If we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money,” Trump told host Maria Bartiromo. “That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting; they just can’t have it.”

Trump’s statements, including the false claim that Democrats are seeking universal mail-in voting, come as he is searching for a strategy to gain an advantage in his November matchup against Joe Biden.

He’s pairing the tough Postal Service stance in congressional negotiations with an increasingly robust mail-in -voting legal fight in states that could decide the election.

Portland State disarms campus police after Black man’s death

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Portland State University said Thursday it will disarm its campus police force, more than two years after officers from the department shot and killed a Black man who was trying to break up a fight close to campus.

The announcement came as Oregon’s largest city approaches 80 days of nightly protests following the death of George Floyd, the Black man who died after being pinned by the neck by a white Minneapolis police officer

Portland State President Stephen Percy said the decision to have officers patrol the campus unarmed is the first step in a broader policy to re-imagine safety at the state-funded university in the heart of the city.

The university has more than 26,000 students, although many commute to class.

California to end eviction protections as lawmakers mull fix

ACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California will resume eviction and foreclosure proceedings on Sept. 2, stoking fears of a wave of evictions during the coronavirus pandemic unless the governor and state Legislature can agree on a proposal to extend protections into 2021.

The Judicial Council of California voted 19-1 on Thursday to end the temporary rules that had been in place since April 6.

Since the pandemic began in March, more than 10 million people have filed for unemployment benefits in California.

A survey from the U.S. Census shows more than 1.7 million renters in the state could not pay their rent on time last month.

Human-caused Columbia River Gorge fire prompts evacuations

MOSIER, Ore. (AP) — A wildfire burning in the scenic Columbia River Gorge has grown to more than 800 acres and is threatening hundreds of homes.

The fire broke out Wednesday afternoon in the community of Mosier, Oregon, which is between Hood River and The Dalles along Interstate 84. It had burned 791 acres (320 hectares) as of Thursday morning. About 900 homes were threatened with people in about 150 of those homes told to leave their homes immediately, KGW-TV reported.

The blaze, named the Mosier Creek fire, was human-caused, according to The Northwest Interagency Coordination Center.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Wednesday invoked the Emergency Conflagration Act, making more state resources available to fire crews. The state fire marshal’s office assumed command Thursday.

The Wasco County Sheriff’s Office ordered evacuations along several roads in Mosier. A hotel in The Dalles is available as a shelter.

▶️ Local leaders denied in effort to broker an Oregon solution to federal issue

By BROOKE SNAVELY
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

Local leaders tried through various channels to influence the detention of two men arrested by ICE that sparked yesterday’s 10-hour protest about racial injustice.

Central Oregon Daily News spoke with Deschutes County’s DA and a city councilor about their efforts to negotiate with federal police for a peaceful resolution.

It began about noon when word spread that two local men had been taken into custody and placed in unmarked buses.

Within a few hours, a crowd of more than 250 people surrounded the buses preventing them from leaving.

“People were saying ‘do something, do something.’ But first I had to gather facts,” said John Hummel, Deschutes County District Attorney.

Hummel spoke to local police and federal agents to understand it was a federal operation and that local police did not support or collaborate.

In an effort to defuse tensions, he offered to answer protestors’ questions about the charges against the detainees, but ICE refused to share the information.

At that point, Hummel, Bend Mayor Sally Russell, and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown began asking their Homeland Security contacts for help.

“Everyone we spoke to said ‘That decision is being made at a higher level.’ We got very high up in the chain and that person told us ‘Look, the decision is being made at the highest level of government.’ We said how high? They said ‘The highest level of government.’ I took that to mean Chad Wolf, Attorney General Barr and/or president of the United States.”

Today, Brown tweeted she was “appalled by the callous actions of the Trump administration in Bend to target immigrant communities and forcefully disperse a crowd of concerned community members and clergy who, for hours, held the line against injustice.”

Bend City Councilor Barb Campbell took an entirely different approach: She parked her personal vehicle immediately behind one of the ICE buses to prevent it from leaving and joined the protest.

Another city councilor, Gena Goodman-Campbell, shuttled information back and forth between police and protestors in an effort to keep everyone informed.

“I want people to know that their representatives, at least one of them, speaking for myself, that I am here and I understand just how upset people are,” Barb Campbell said.

Today Campbell is getting mixed reactions from constituents on her involvement in the protest.

“Seems to be far more appreciative of my efforts; appreciative that I am out on the streets with the people. There are certainly people who are not happy, telling me they can’t wait until 2022 so they can vote me out,” she said.

Hummel said it became apparent ICE and DHS were not interested in working with state or local officials to try to broker a peaceful resolution to the standoff.

“They wanted a violent response. Their goal was a violent response. Their goal was to send in the federal troops from Seattle and Portland. That was their end game and that is what disgusted me about this.”

Hummel said he’s not received any reports of crimes committed by federal agents or protesters.

He encourages anyone who believes their rights were denied to file a report with local police for review.

▶️ Bend woman recalls fear of husband’s deportation as ICE whisk away men

By HANNAH SIEVERT
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

For Krystal Loverin, a bilingual legal assistant with the Bend Immigration Group, the protests in Bend yesterday hit close to home.

Her own husband was an undocumented immigrant for 14 years before he became an American citizen.

“My twelve-year-old daughter is Mexican-American,” Loverin said. “Mia and I went down there at 5:30, 5:45.”

Loverin recorded her experiences on Facebook Live.

“The instructions were for everyone to remain calm,” Loverin said. “Sit down, don’t be aggressive, don’t engage. The agents just swarmed in like that. I mean, I turned around one second you didn’t see them and all of a sudden you have a whole line of them in SWAT gear.”

Loverin said she was sprayed with some sort of white liquid, which she thinks could have been pepper spray by the way it burned her eyes.

“At that point I retreated because I had a 12-year-old daughter behind me who was in tears, upset that children weren’t going to have their father with them,” Loverin said.

Loverin and her daughter said they watched as two men were taken away by federal agents.

Even though her husband is now an American citizen, Loverin said the incident felt personal for both her and her daughter.

“The trauma of being a child of an undocumented immigrant is huge,” Loverin said. “You never know if your parent is coming home from work. She just stood there asking why, ‘why are you doing this, why are you dividing this family, why are you taking this dad away?’”