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.

▶️ With indoor hoops on hold, new courts let CCHS take the game outside

Indoor basketball remains on the list of activities not allowed by the Oregon Health Authority’s COVID restrictions.

So Crook County High School moved its basketball court outside – sort of.

A new sports court purchased from Utah Valley University last month is now fully operational.

Central Oregon Daily’s Eric Lindstrom has more on the unique way Prineville teenagers are getting to do what they love.

 

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

By HANNAH SIEVERT
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

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.”

 

▶️ Event producers flexible with long-term plans amid continued COVID concerns

By MEGHAN GLOVA
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

Lay It Out Events is known for Bite of Bend, Balloons Over Bend, and Winter Fest to name a few.

Producer Aaron Switzer has started planning as if it were a normal year.

“I think you’ll see events come back in some form,” Switzer said. “I think they’ll be modified.”

Switzer is keeping in mind the pandemic could change things.

“I mean I have different floor plans and layouts and safety protocols as if we were back to normal,” Switzer said. “Or if we were restricted down to a couple hundred people being allowed in an area at the same time.”

Les Schwab Amphitheater is taking a similar approach.

“We are planning,” Marney Smith, general manager said. “I said before we had scenarios A and B but we really have A, B, and C.”

COVID ended the concert season last year before it could start, nixing shows by big name artists like Luke Bryan and Dave Matthews Band.

While some shows are already rescheduled, Smith says events at the amphitheater all depend on state and county restrictions.

“We are super hopeful that we’ll be able to actually host guests at the amphitheater,” Smith said. “Our hope is sometime in late July.”

Switzer also intends to follow state and local guidance, but is already expecting smaller crowds.

“If people are imagining full blown concerts and stages and large beer gardens,” Switzer said. “I don’t think that’s a reality for 2021.”

Worst case scenario, Smith says Brew Fest could easily be canceled with short notice.

Concerts would be a little more difficult to cancel depending on the artist.

Switzer goes by a six to eight week cancellation window.

“We’re really just going to follow the guidelines and kind of walk into the process just like we did last year,” Switzer said. “Trying to figure out what can and can’t be done.”

▶️ Tow companies, ODOT plows busy as snowy roads cause problems across region

By HANNAH SIEVERT
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

Tow companies were busy Friday as snow fell across the High Desert, which created difficult conditions on the roads at times.

Three lanes of Highway 97 closed between Redmond and Bend at 2:30 p.m. due to a crossover crash.

Redmond Fire & Rescue said two people were removed from the cars and taken to St. Charles in Bend.

One patient sustained life-threatening injuries.

There were also long backups on Highway 97 after a crash two miles north of Terrebonne.

Highway 20 was closed in both directions around 10:20 a.m. after a multi-vehicle crash.

“The snow is causing some problem for folks out there,” said Peter Murphy, public information officer with the Oregon Department of Transportation. “We recognize it and we have as many crews out as we can.”

ODOT crews were working to clear the roads with plows since 4 a.m. Friday morning.

“This is probably the most snow we’ve had in the winter season at any point in time,” Murphy said.

Consolidated Towing in Bend has worked to tow cars that had slid off the road since early Friday morning.

Lori Anton, Consolidated Towing’s general manager, was so busy, she could only speak with us briefly on the phone.

“Seriously, we have so many customers that are sliding off the road, sliding into other cars, semi-trucks and trailers that are stuck.”

When asked if she sees any patterns in who or what kind of car is sliding off, she said, “We see a lot of people who think they’re invincible because they have an all-wheel-drive vehicle, and they’re just not. Days where it’s icy under a layer of snow, everyone is at risk.”

Murphy recommends checking Trip Check before you head out on the roads.

He also recommends leaving ample space between your car and the car in front of you.

▶️ Local businesses wonder if weather, no indoor seating will work against them

By MEGHAN GLOVA
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

With no indoor seating and snowy weather ahead, could this be a tough season for local businesses?

Caleb Trowbridge, owner of The Podski, said the Bend food cart lot has been surprisingly busy.

“You know the people in Bend, and or people visiting, still want to go do things,” Trowbridge said. “They want to do it safely, they want to do it outside, and so they’ve been showing the support. It’s been pretty amazing actutally.”

Trowbridge shifted any indoor seating at the Podski outside, in line with state mandate.

Now that snow is picking up and his only choice is outdoor seating, Trowbridge said he’s just hoping for the best.

“Thankfully we’ve had a very mild winter so far,” Trowbridge said. “So, we did better in December and January than we thought, up to this point. So, now we can just roll with the punches, have a snow day, and I think people are still going to be out. Snow is better than rain.”

Other local businesses are also doing what they can to stay open.

Bevel Craft Brewing in Bend has added more outdoor seating and a tented area, and Crosscut Tap House is relying on their multiple fire pits.

Each of these businesses, including The Podski, have something in common – lots of outdoor space.

However, not every business is so lucky.

Jason Camberg co-owns The Point Pub and Grill in downtown Bend.

Camberg said they are limited on outdoor seating and likely can’t add more than what’s already there.

“It’s definitely a bit of a concern,” Camberg said. “I mean the snow is nice, I’m hoping that people will get out and want to enjoy it, but I think having the nicer weather that we’ve had has allowed people to sit more at the tables that we have. Rather than trying to just migrate right at the fire pit.”

Every business we spoke with is hopeful that Bendites will pull through, bundle up and make their way outside.

▶️ BLP schools, students make final preparations for Monday return to class

By BROOKE SNAVELY
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

Kindergarten through 3rd-grade students return to in person classes next week in Bend-La Pine Schools.

This week those students spent a day in their schools orienting to new operating and safety protocols.

We spoke with one principal about how preparations for Monday are going.

“At Bend-La Pine Schools we are excited to welcome students back into classrooms,” according to a video posted on Bend-La Pine Schools’ social media platforms.

Since early September, Bend-La Pine teachers, office staff, custodians, and nutrition service workers have been preparing for when students would return.

For Kindergarten through 3rd-grade students, that day is Monday.

“As students arrive by bus, car, foot, or bike, they will follow new protocols and safety practices.”

This week, K-3 students spent a day in school learning about precautions they must take to resume in-person instruction during the pandemic.

Lava Ridge Elementary Principal Gary DeFrang says orientation has gone well.

“Kids are quick to learn. We have a wonderful teaching staff here who have right away helped them understand the importance of wearing masks, social distancing,” said Gary DeFrang, Principal at Lava Ridge Elementary. “Things have gone really well. The spirit and the energy of the kids have been fantastic and it’s wonderful to have them back in school.”

As students arrive, staff will direct them where to go, either heading to class through the main entrance or straight to their classroom through exterior doors.

A staff member will greet students and do visual checks for wellness.

Remember to keep students home who are ill or have any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever of 100.4 or higher/chills
  • Coughing or shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea

Visitors and volunteers may not enter school buildings at this time. Families who make prior arrangements may enter the main office.

Some school times have been adjusted to accommodate transportation requirements. Check with your school to find out if it has adjusted its start and dismissal times.

Once inside, students and staff will follow arrows to keep distanced as they walk the halls.

Every classroom has been measured and desks have been placed to ensure physical distancing between students.

Sharing of materials is discouraged.

“We have increased cleaning throughout the day and are instituting deep cleaning at the end of each day for all high touch surfaces. Additionally, maintenance teams have worked to increase ventilation throughout school buildings. School HVAC system bring in fresh air an hour before school starts and throughout the day. Classroom air is filtered through medical-grade MERV – 13 filters 6 to 7 times hourly.”

Meals continue at school. Students can receive free breakfast and lunch every day or can bring their food to school.

Students will eat outside whenever the weather permits.

Each school has a plan for eating. In some schools, students will eat on a rotating schedule in the cafeteria. In other schools, students will eat in the classroom.

Water fountains have been turned off, but students can refill their water bottles at filling stations.

Students will continue to enjoy outdoor recess and play time throughout the day. Students will stay in their cohort groups and the playground areas will be split into zones.

“Starting Monday, all K-3 students will be here 5 days a week for full schools,” DeFrang said. “Next week then starts an orientation for our 4th and 5th graders where they’ll come back to school one of four days.”

4th and 5th graders return to full-time instruction on Feb. 1st in a hybrid learning arrangement of 2 days in-person and 3 days remote.

6th through 12 graders will also learn through a hybrid model… returning full-time Feb 8th.

“Masks will be worn indoors and out. Families are encouraged to practice wearing masks at home so students feel comfortable and confident wearing them throughout the day.”

Principal Defang says most Lava Ridge students plan to resume in-person instruction.

Some are opting for Comprehensive Distance Learning but he doesn’t know how many.

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

▶️ Deschutes Co. deputy under investigation for FB comments about Harris

By HANNAH SIEVERT
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

A Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office deputy is under investigation for a comment about Vice President Kamala Harris he left on the Central Oregon Daily News Facebook page.

“Great role model for young ladies, just gotta sleep with the right people,” read a comment posted by DCSO Deputy Russell Stanage under a link to a story about the reaction from local female leaders to Harris becoming VP .

Central Oregon Daily reached out to the Sheriff’s Office asking about the comments. Agency spokesman Sgt. Jayson Janes sent a copy of the social media policy and a statement.

“The posts on your Facebook page show they were made from Russell Stanage’s personal Facebook account, and he was not portraying himself as a DCSO deputy,” Janes said. “The posts made are the opinions of Russell Stanage. His opinions are not the opinions of the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office.”

The social media policy includes this passage:

4. When using social media, members shall be mindful that their speech becomes part of the worldwide electronic domain. Therefore, adherence to the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office’s code of conduct is required in the personal use of social media. In particular, Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office members are prohibited from the following:
a. Speech containing obscene or sexually explicit language, images, or acts and statements that ridicule, malign, disparage, or otherwise express bias against any race, any religion, or any protected class of individuals.

When we asked for clarification that Stanage did not violate those policies, Janes said: “we are now conducting an independent investigation into the matter, so we have no further comments due to the investigation.”

Stanage may have been referring to allegations about Harris that have circulated on the internet before.

In 2019, Fox News Host Tomi Lahren apologized on Twitter after alleging Harris used her relationship with former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown for career success.

The deputy’s comments didn’t go unnoticed by Facebook users.

“Great representation for DCSO,” one wrote while another emailed our newsroom saying, “to see this from a deputy is very disturbing, to say the least.”

Another posted in the Facebook thread, “Deputy Russell T. Stanage with DCSO should really think about the statements he makes on Facebook as he represents this county.”

After some replies from other Facebook users, Stanage also posted: “girls deserve better role models than Harris.”

Central Oregon Daily reached out to Stanage to ask about the comments, but we haven’t heard back.