▶️ Still no indoor dining, but video lottery in restaurants, bars OK Friday


In Central Oregon, you might not be able to go to a restaurant or bar and enjoy a meal inside, but starting Friday you can go in to play video lottery.

On Tuesday Gov. Kate Brown announced changes to COVID restrictions for “extreme risk” counties.

You cannot eat or drink at the lottery machines, masks must be worn and only every other terminal will be in use to create social distance.

“This will enable those locations that have video lottery to offer the chance to play video lottery while they are waiting or just picking up their food,” Chuck Baumann with Oregon Lottery said. “It is an important thing, a good thing.”

For restaurant owners lottery machines bring in around $2,400 a week.

“The ability to offer the game is huge, not only for the Oregon Lottery but for that retail location,” Baumann said. “They rely on video lottery as one of those things that make them money.”

Garrett Wales, a co-owner of Cross-Eyed Cricket, formerly Mavericks in Bend, plans to have a grand opening in the next couple of weeks.

Wales says they have been delaying their grand opening for months, waiting for the return of indoor dining.

“You want to be grateful that things are maybe starting to open back up but when it is such a blatant play for revenue for the state like this, it is confusing,” Wales said.

Wales says all the other bar owners he talked to were blown away by rule changes made Tuesday.

“To be told that yeah it is safe inside, but only at video terminals, but not at socially distant tables with separation at big wide open space,” Wales said. “It is confusing to say the least.”

When Cross-Eyed Cricket does open they will welcome consumers to come inside to play video lottery.

“At this point a year into this, we have to take what we can get and do whatever we can,” he said.

The Oregon Health Authority is expected to release more guidance in the next couple of days.

▶️ ‘Quite slight’: Deschutes Co. leaders react to Brown’s easing of COVID rules


Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson counties will remain in the “Extreme Risk” COVID-19 risk category until Feb. 11.

That means it will be at least two more weeks before gyms and restaurants are back to normal operation.

Gov. Kate Brown announced some modifications of her previous rules on Tuesday, which might help places like gyms, movie theaters, dance studios and some facilities.

“These adjustments are quite slight to say the least,” Deschutes County Commissioner Patti Adair said.

Six people — not including staff — can now be indoors at any facility that is larger than 500 square feet.

Any building smaller than 500 square feet can have a one-on-one customer experience like personal training.

“I was really hoping they’d modify things more, but apparently not today,” Adair said.

Oregon is doing well containing the virus compared to other states.

Oregon currently sits as the third-lowest state in the country for infections per 100,000 residents, according to the latest Centers for Disease Control data.

“Deschutes County has been in extreme throughout the holiday season, but we are seeing stabilizing numbers, declining numbers throughout the state,” Deschutes County Commissioner Tony DeBone said.

DeBone said Deschutes County seems to be on the brink of reopening. Residents need to be patient and vigilant, continuing to follow guidelines to keep those numbers dropping, he said.

“If we can get it to some natural low level and the vaccines are coming on, everyone can see, it’s just about there,” DeBone said.


▶️ Redmond City Council to consider recreational pot dispensaries


Three Redmond city councilors want to discuss allowing marijuana dispensaries in the city, but Mayor George Endicott has been a vocal opponent of the idea.

Current city ordinance does not allow marijuana dispensaries in city limits.

He says there are three questions the council need to ask.

“Are we willing to change our components to defy federal law, is there a cost-benefit to doing it, is it good for the community or is it not?” Endicott said.

City councilors Clifford Evelyn, Jon Bullock and Ed Fitch are interested in changing that, to capture more tax revenue.

“I would rather do it this way than ask the taxpayers to increase their taxes,” Fitch said. “It doesn’t make any sense to me when there is a source of revenue that we can tap.”

Councilors planned to discuss the idea at a goal-setting meeting Tuesday night. They didn’t have a timeline for when a decision might be made.

Fitch says Redmond pot users are driving to Bend or Madras, spending money elsewhere.

“We don’t want 20 dispensaries in Redmond up and down the road or downtown, but I think two or three would be appropriate,” Fitch said.

Endicott says he believes the majority of people in Redmond don’t want pot business inside the city, citing concerns for children.

“The more of it you have in your community the more prevalent it is,” Endicott said.

Endicott says he is welcome to the conversation about potential benefits.



Central Oregon remains at ‘Extreme Risk’; Brown allows modified gym reopenings

Central Oregon will remain at the “Extreme Risk” level for the spread of COVID through Feb. 11th, but Gov. Brown announced Tuesday some indoor activities, such as gyms and movie theaters can reopen with a limited capacity beginning Friday.

The modifications allow for a maximum of six people indoors at facilities over 500 square feet as long as everyone adheres to social distancing and face-covering protocols.

For facilities smaller than 500 square feet, the modified guidance allows for 1:1 customer experiences, such as personal training, the governor’s office said.

Indoor dining is still prohibited.

The updated guidance for indoor recreation will be posted to coronavirus.oregon.gov by Friday.

“The science has shown us that outdoor activities are safer than indoor activities when it comes to the spread of COVID 19, which is why we have clearly delineated guidance between indoor and outdoor activities,” Brown said. “We have seen over the last several weeks that Oregonians have largely complied with risk levels to the point that we have not seen a surge in hospitalizations that would have jeopardized hospital capacity. This means we are able to make these adjustments for Extreme Risk counties, which should assist both businesses and Oregonians as we continue to work to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

Just three Oregon counties improved their risk level according to an update released by Brown.

Effective January 29 through February 11, there will be 25 counties in the Extreme Risk level, two at High Risk, two at Moderate Risk, and seven at Lower Risk.

A complete list of counties and their associated risk levels is available here.

“Most of the state remains in the Extreme Risk category,” Brown said. “This is an important reminder for all Oregonians to continue to do their part by abiding by the health and safety guidelines in place. Until vaccines are widely available with high participation rates, the surest way to lower our risk and open our businesses and communities is to continue practicing the measures we know are effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19 — wear your mask, keep physical distance from others, avoid gatherings, wash your hands often, and stay home when you are sick.”

The Oregon Health Authority will examine and publish county data weekly.

County risk levels will be reassigned every two weeks.

The first week’s data will provide a “warning week” to prepare counties for potential risk level changes. The next assignment of risk levels will be announced February 9 and take effect February 11.

Updates to Warning Week data and county risk levels will be posted to coronavirus.oregon.gov.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

COVID vaccine eligibility expands to residents 75 and older

Residents in Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson counties who are 75 and older, as well as individuals in Phases 1A and 1B – Group 1, can schedule appointments for a COVID-19 vaccination, Deschutes County announced Monday evening.

According to the Oregon Health Authority, more than 77% of the deaths from COVID-19 statewide have been in those over the age of 70.

Central Oregon residents can schedule their COVID-19 vaccine at the Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center.

“The community vaccination clinic at the Deschutes County Fair & Expo Center is incredibly successful,” said Dr. Jeff Absalon, St. Charles’ chief physician executive. “Since Wednesday, St. Charles and Deschutes County have vaccinated 4,600 individuals in 1A and 1B – Group1 Phases. We’ve been able to move through these two groups so quickly that we are able to expand eligibility to residents 75 and older ahead of the state’s vaccination schedule.”

Vaccines are provided by appointment only and can be made at stcharleshealthcare.org.

When registering for an appointment, residents must attest to meeting the State’s criteria for vaccination.

For more information on who is included in Phases 1A and 1B – Group 1, please visit the Oregon Health Authority vaccine sequencing graphic.

Those who are eligible for vaccination and need assistance with scheduling their appointment at the Fair & Expo Center can call (541) 699-5020.

Between Tuesday and Saturday, St. Charles and Deschutes County—with the help of the Oregon National Guard—plan to administer about 10,000 more doses.

“Our most recent allotment of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is going to allow us to make a significant push to vaccinate residents who are 75 and older, and thus at a higher risk for hospitalization and complications if they acquire COVID-19, as well as to continue vaccinating Phase 1A and 1B – Group 1,” said Dr. George Conway, Deschutes County Health Services Director.

Residents can sign up to receive an email notification when they are eligible that will include details on how to register for an appointment.

Visit vaccine.deschutes.org to fill out the form for Deschutes County.

Residents in Crook and Jefferson counties are also encouraged to visit their local health department’s websites at www.JeffCo.net/PublicHealth or www.co.crook.or.us/health.

▶️ Far from normal, but BLP K-3 students return to class full time


It’s the day many have been waiting 10 months for: some Bend-La Pine Schools elementary school students returned to the classroom Monday.

While many things at school look different this year, Silver Rail Elementary Principal Tammy Doty said many students are excited to be back.

“There’s a lot of little rules and stuff we have to learn or things we have to do differently, but there are a lot of things that can still be the same,” Doty said.

According to BLP, an overwhelming majority of students are choosing to return to the classroom in the next few weeks.

Out of 1,200 BLP families who responded to a school survey, 86.5% will return to in-person learning; 7.2% will participate in Bend-La Pine Schools Online; 6.3% will continue comprehensive distance learning.

“I think people for the most part are really happy to see the kids back in school,” Doty said. “At the same time cautious. They want to know we have things set up for their children to be safe.”

Kindergarten through 3rd grade returned to school full-time Monday; 4th and 5th grades will return to the classroom in a hybrid model starting Feb. 1; 6th through 12th grade will return Feb. 8.

“It’s starting to feel like it has in the past, where we have classrooms full of kids and they’re happy to be here,” Doty said.

Doty said the first day back went well, with a majority of kids and teachers back in the classroom.

“We were fortunate that we didn’t lose anybody to not feeling like they couldn’t come back,” Doty said. “The vaccinations are helping teachers feel safe.”

Their drop off and pick up process might need a few tweaks, Doty said, as many students opted out of riding the bus this year. But mask-wearing is so far so good.

“A little reminder here and there to put their mask over their nose or something, but other than that no big issues yet,” Doty said. “I think they’re accepting that this is the world we live in right now.”


DCSO investigating shooting of SUV near homeless campsite west of Sisters

The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office wants the public’s help tracking down someone who shot at an SUV next to a homeless campsite near Sisters.

Sgt. Jayson Janes said deputies received a report of someone shooting at the truck in the area of Forest Service Road 1510 near the 450 spur about five miles west of Sisters.

A green mid-1990’s Chevrolet Tahoe had been shot multiple times. This SUV was very close to a tent that was being used for housing, Janes said.

The occupants of the camp called 911 and deputies responded to the area and were assisted by a US Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer.

Additionally, a USFS Law Enforcement K-9 responded to search the area extensively, however, no suspects were found.

In the last week, deputies have conducted multiple interviews and have searched the area for additional evidence.

The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office is encouraging the public to contact the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office at 541-693-6911, if they have any further information on this case.

The investigation is active and ongoing.

▶️ Madras High holds senior celebration, preparing for return of class of 2021


Students coming back to in-person learning is a cause for celebration.

That celebration made its way to Madras High School Friday.

It’s been 10 months since the pandemic closed schools in Jefferson County.

Today Madras High seniors stepped back into the building.

“It was so good to see them and they were really excited to see staff and be back in this environment,” said Madras High Principal Brian Crook.

MHS took several COVID-19 protocols including, temperature checks, masks, social distancing, as well as having students in pods of 20 per area.

Two pods were in the gym.

“One session they went to was a celebration of what you would see in a classic pep assembly,” Crook said. “A staff dance, skits and motivational speaker.”

During the assembly another two pods were in informational meetings.

“What it is going to look like when they return to school and about graduation requirements and staying on track for graduation,” Crook added.

After an hour, the two pods switched places.

MHS saw 80 of their 130 seniors show up to the celebration.

Crook added, it was an emotional moment for both students and staff.

“One of our secretaries was in the gym watching the kids and she got emotional and teary eyed, just finally having kids back in the building,” Crook said.

The idea behind the event was more than a celebration.

“I think it was really important to let those seniors know how much we care about them,” Crook said.

Madras High School set a goal to have limited in-person learning back with a staggered start by February 1.

Redmond St. Charles staff outbreak linked to COVID-positive patient exposure

An outbreak among staff at St. Charles in Redmond originated from prolonged exposure to a COVID-positive patient who initially tested negative twice, according to a statement from the hospital.

“The patient—who had underlying health conditions that at times made it difficult to wear a mask—was admitted to St. Charles Redmond on Dec. 31 and was initially tested twice for COVID-19,” according to a statement late Friday. “Because both tests resulted negative, St. Charles caregivers continued to wear droplet precaution personal protective equipment (PPE).”

“Droplet precaution PPE” is a traditional surgical mask and protective eyewear.

A third test on the patient Jan. 6th revealed the positive result.

To date, one patient and 33 St. Charles caregivers at the Redmond hospital have tested positive for COVID-19. 

Because the health system began its vaccination campaign Dec. 21, none of the 33 caregivers at the Redmond hospital were fully vaccinated, according to the release.

An investigation with Deschutes County Health Services and the hospital’s Infection Prevention team revealed the caregivers’ PPE was “overwhelmed by prolonged exposure to the highly-symptomatic COVID-positive patient.”

“The important learning from this outbreak is that negative COVID-19 test results are not foolproof,” said Dr. Jeff Absalon, St. Charles’ chief physician executive. “In spite of negative test results, if a patient is highly symptomatic, we will need to treat them as if they are COVID-19 positive and aerosolizing, in which case the higher level of PPE is required.” 

Evidence suggests that COVID-19 tests are most accurate five to seven days after exposure. 

The virus incubates up to 14 days, taking time to build up in a person’s system, according to the statement.

The St. Charles Infection Prevention team on Friday expected to complete its outreach to patients who may have been at risk of exposure due to the timing of their stay at the Redmond hospital.

All current inpatients at the Redmond hospital have been informed that none of them were exposed. 

“We have a strong contact tracing system in place for caregivers that is working to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” Absalon said. “In the meantime, it’s important to stress that we feel confident our Redmond hospital is a safe place to receive care.” 

 The health system has also instituted some changes at the Redmond hospital, including: 

·         Offering COVID-19 testing to all St. Charles Redmond hospital-based caregivers  

·         Asking caregivers to stay home and get tested if they have any symptoms of COVID-19, no matter how mild 

·         Increasing air exchanges to six times per hour 

·         Increasing air filtration to more than the CDC recommendation (+90% filtration at .3 microns) 

·         Instructing caregivers in direct patient care roles to use N95 respirators and eye protection throughout their shift while the outbreak is ongoing 

·         Adding hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies to more locations throughout the facility 

·         Asking caregivers to eat in the cafeteria or on the outside patio rather than in break rooms 

·         Adding maximum capacity signage to all break rooms and conference rooms to ensure physical distancing can be maintained 

·         Temporarily limiting visitors to a higher degree than before  

 “This sort of situation isn’t any one person’s fault,” Absalon said. “Everyone is working hard to maintain a safe environment, and as an organization we continue to learn and adjust to improve safety for all.” 

Local COVID spike forces Redmond to delay students’ return to the classroom

The Redmond School District said Friday a spike in local COVID cases will delay the return to in-person instruction until late February.

The district had planned on returning to full, in-person instruction Feb. 8th, but Superintendent Charan Cline said COVID cases “are not dropping like we’d hope they would.”

Middle and high schoolers were planning on returning to class two days a week beginning Feb. 2nd.

Students will now return the week of Feb. 22nd.

“After every other major social event this year, COVID cases have predictably risen and fallen, but that has not yet happened after the winter holidays,” he said in an email to parents.

Cline cited county COVID numbers that showed there were 793 COVID cases between Jan. 3-16th, which is a rate of 410.9 cases per 100,000 residents.

The state’s new advisory metrics encourage schools to remain in distance learning if the county is above 350 cases per 100,000, Cline said.

“Locally, the number of Redmond School District staff and students who are currently sick or in quarantine has also risen dramatically,” he said. “With so many people sick or in quarantine, it would be difficult if not impossible to staff our schools and restart in-person learning. In addition, as we saw from the 31-person COVID-19 outbreak at St. Charles Redmond this week, the virus is still very active in our town.”

Cline said the good news is that teachers are now starting to get vaccinated and a “vast majority” of district staff that wants a vaccine will get their first shot this weekend.

“Many of our staff members are highly trained and will be difficult to replace if forced to quarantine,” he said. “A start date after the second shot of the vaccine will create stable schools that are much less likely to have to periodically shut down due to cases of COVID-19. A fully vaccinated staff member will not have to quarantine if exposed to the virus.”

You can read Cline’s full statement below.

Reentry Delay -- 1_22_2021