▶️ Summer of Fun? More live music, festivals now possible if vaccine target is met

Local events were lacking last summer due to the pandemic, but the likelihood of less restrictions could be a game changer for local event producers.

“You know the Governor’s announcement yesterday, that’s great,” Beau Eastes, Old Mill District and Les Schwab Amphitheater marketing director said. “It feels like maybe the first real road map we’ve got from the concert industry.”

Summer events have been in the works for Les Schwab Amphitheater and Lay It Out Events, but under the assumption that tighter restrictions are possible.

Now knowing that will likely change, event organizers have a little more flexibility.

“With more people you can have more vendors at the event, you can start to think about music, some childrens’ activities,” Aaron Switzer, Lay It Out Events producer said. “There’s just a lot of stuff with festivals that grow as the event grows.”

Bite of Bend is still canceled for Lay It Out Events, but Balloons Over Bend will likely be able to accommodate more people than originally planned.

Brown sets 70% vaccination goal to lift COVID restrictions, reopen economy

Summerfest is still being thought out.

“I mean now that the numbers for that can go up,” Switzer said. “We just are in a real scramble to figure out what does that look like?”

Brewfest is still canceled at Les Schwab Amphitheater, but they have announced nine summer concerts including Dierks Bentley and NeedToBreathe.

“The announcement is great,” Eastes said. “But we’ve been in the process of putting together a show list well before this.”

What remains a guessing game is capacity.

The amphitheater is now encouraging Oregonians to get vaccinated through their initiative “Ready to Rock, Get the Shot.”

“If we want to have that,” Eastes said. “We really encourage everyone to get vaccinated.”

Bend Park and Recreation was pessimistic about the Fourth of July Pet Parade, but they tell us they’re now much more hopeful it can happen and an announcement is expected soon.

Mosaic Medical now offering COVID vaccines to anyone age 12 and up

Mosaic Medical, a nonprofit community health center serving Central Oregon, is now offering free COVID-19 vaccines to all community members.

All Central Oregonians (Mosaic patients and non-patients) age 12 and older are eligible to walk-in or schedule to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

Walk-ins are currently welcome at our Courtney Clinic in Bend (see below for hours). Additional walk-in hours for our other clinics will be shared online soon.

Youth ages 12-17 are eligible to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine only, offered at our Courtney Clinic in Bend.

WALK-IN

Mosaic Medical Courtney Clinic
2577 NE Courtney Dr. Ste. 100
Monday, Wednesday, Friday
8:30-11 a.m. and 1-2 p.m.

SCHEDULE

Appointments at our vaccine clinics throughout the region may be self-scheduled online at mosaicmedical.orgIf you need assistance, text 458-203-1535.

Students interested in scheduling appointments for high school vaccine clinics may schedule online at mosaicmedicalpediatrics.org.

EVENT

Saturday, May 15
Riverbend Park in Bend
9 a.m.-12 p.m.
Community Vaccination Clinic – no appointment necessary

 

▶️ Unseen History Pt. 2: Bend man’s father leaves Europe with relics of Axis powers

We continue our exclusive interview tonight with a Bend family who’s donating their father’s collection of World War II artifacts to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

As a battlefield intelligence sergeant with the U.S. 5th Army, Alex Sabbadini helped the Allies win the war in Italy.

One of his squad’s missions – capture Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

Tonight, Central Oregon Daily’s Brooke Snavely shows us how that assignment ended and what Sabbadini found when he sat at Mussolini’s desk.

Previous Coverage:

▶️ Unseen History Pt. 1: Bend man’s unique WWII documents heading to museum in D.C.

Brown sets 70% vaccination goal to lift COVID restrictions, reopen economy

The key to opening Oregon’s economy is now in the hands of Oregonians – and their willingness to get the COVID vaccine.

Gov. Kate Brown announced Tuesday she will scrap many of the current COVID restrictions in place across the state as soon as 70% of Oregonians 16 and over have at least their first dose of the vaccine.

Brown said it appears the state has “crossed the tipping point of the fourth surge,” and she’s confident the state can reach her vaccination goal by June.

“Our hospitalization rates have stabilized. Our infection rates are on a downward trajectory. And in the race between vaccines and variants, our efforts to vaccinate Oregonians are taking the lead,” she said. “It brings us to a pivotal moment we’ve all been waiting for. We can truly begin taking steps forward and into the next chapter of post-pandemic life.”

As of Monday afternoon, 60% of Oregonians have had at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the CDC.

Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen said CDC data will be used to determine Oregon’s progress toward 70% because the agency offers a more comprehensive picture that includes numbers from the Veterans Administration, Indian Health Service, and other federal entities.

“The CDC data also enables us to compare our progress against the same goal the Biden administration has set for the nation,” Allen said. (CDC includes everyone who is 16 and older in their 18+ data.)

However, the CDC data is not reliable at the county level, Allen said.

Current Vaccination Rates

Oregon: 60% (per CDC)
Deschutes: 61% (per OHA)
Crook: 42% (per OHA)
Jefferson: 46% (per OHA)

Another 430,000 people need to get their vaccine for the state to reach the 70% mark.

“So Oregon, this is our goal. We each play a part. If you have already been vaccinated, thank you,” she said. “Now help a friend, family member or neighbor make an appointment. Spread the word that folks can call 2-1-1 or visit covidvaccine.oregon.gov for more information.”

Once the vaccination goal is met, you’ll still need to wear a mask and social distance in some cases per CDC guidelines, but other safety requirements and restrictions under the Risk Level framework will be lifted.

Restaurants, gyms, churches, music and sports venues, and more would be able to return to full capacity and set the stage for something close to a normal summer.

Brown specifically mentioned the famed Pendleton Roundup, saying “I would fully expect that we will be able to let er buck, so to speak, in September.”

In Bend, officials with Les Schwab Amphitheater hope music lovers across the state heed the governor’s request to get the COVID shot.

“We will do everything in our power to encourage Oregonians to get the vaccine so we can all get back to normal,” said Marney Smith, the amphitheater’s general manager. “The willingness of our community to get the vaccination is directly tied to our ability to get back to work and put on the concerts people love.”

Even if the state meets Brown’s vaccination goal, schools will still be required to follow the state’s Ready Schools, Safe Learners requirements for the rest of this year.

But some good news heading into next fall: the guidance will be updated and most of those restrictions will be lifted.

Allen called the governor’s goal a “pivotal point in the pandemic.”

“For the first time since the start of the pandemic, we’ll be able to say the virus no longer controls the timelines in our lives,” he said. “We will, if enough Oregonians make the choice to get vaccinated.”

Until the statewide 70% goal is met, Brown said counties will have the option of moving to the Lower Risk category once 65% of its residents 16 and over have at least one dose of the vaccine.

Counties must also submit a plan to close equity gaps in vaccinations.

“I would fully expect that we will be able to let er buck,
so to speak, in September.”
– Gov. Kate Brown on the Pendleton Roundup taking place

Currently, 61% of the eligible population 16+ have had at least one dose of the vaccine in Deschutes County; 42% in Crook and 46% in Jefferson, according to the OHA.

All three currently are in the “High Risk” category, which limits crowds in restaurants, bars, gyms, and others.

And while cases appear to be falling across the state, Deschutes County last week reported the second-highest weekly tally since the pandemic began.

Still, it was about 25 fewer cases than the week before and ended a six-week streak of climbing cases locally.

The governor announced her Risk Levels in November, which set into motion tightened restrictions in counties where COVID continued to spread.

In Deschutes County, it initially forced restaurants and bars to offer take-out only, closed gyms and put in place many other rules on gathering sizes both in homes and businesses.

With the ebb and flow of cases over the next few months, the restrictions and Risk Levels yo-yo’d, putting a strain on businesses trying to get through the winter and residents trying to make sense of the ever-changing rules.

Meanwhile, counties across the state have been working feverishly trying to vaccinate as many people as possible.

At first, the federal shipments couldn’t keep up with the demand of older Oregonians who were first in line for the vaccines.

Since then, those shipments have increased and vaccine appointments are readily available for anyone who wants one, surpassing 34,000 a day statewide.

“We still have some work to do to reach our 70% goal, but I am confident we can get there in June and return Oregon to a sense of normalcy,” Brown said.

Central Oregon Vaccination Information:

▶️ Unseen History Pt. 1: Bend man’s unique WWII documents heading to museum in D.C.

He’s a Bend man with a link to the past – a unique family connection to the critical final days of World War II.

Roger Sabbadini has documents and photographs handed down by his father Alex that have never been made public.

They’re communications between Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini, attack strategies, pictures of the two leaders together.

How Roger got those documents is a fascinating and largely untold piece of military history.

Soon, the documents – never seen publicly before this story – will be part of the collection at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

In part one of a two-part series, Central Oregon Daily’s Brooke Snavely has more on the remarkable story of Alex Sabbadini, a Jewish-Italian Army soldier who ended up in the U.S. Army – tracking Axis leaders in their final days.

▶️ COVID cases at Thriftway in Madras leads to ripple effect in employee shortage

It doesn’t take too many COVID cases to handcuff a small-town grocery store.

Three employees at Erickson’s Thriftway in Madras tested positive for COVID-19 last month, leading to 14 days of quarantine. 

And leading some employees to quit in fear of catching the virus themelves.

It also caused several other factors that put them in a bind.

“We have had 6:30-10 o’clock for decades and now we have to close at 7 and we might even be changing our hours even more to get through this rough patch we seem to be having,” said Erickson’s Thriftway Co-Manager Kevin Eidemiller.

Eidemiller says they may have to close one day a week because of a staffing shortage.

It started when around 10 employees had to quarantine.

“We had three people out from the meat department, a few people from the bakery, a few from the sales department and a couple of managers out,” said Erickson’s Thriftway Co-Manager Savannah Moss.

Three employees tested positive for the virus, including Eidemiller.

“We take every precaution here at the store and once again we keep up with the county and state or we wouldn’t be in business,” said Eidemiller.

The store shut down one day last week to sanitize, shortly after, six employees quit, three saying they were afraid.

“Basically, saying they didn’t want to get infected, or they didn’t want to expose themselves,” said Moss.

Moss says there have been days when they’ve been short nearly 20 positions, leading to other issues.

“We had limited product out in our shelves, especially in our meat department last week that made quite an impact there,” Moss added. “We are slowly trying to open back up ours and get back to our full extent.”

Just like many employers across the country, Thriftway is now struggling to find new workers.

“Now you can find higher paying jobs because there is such an off balance of salaries, especially in Central Oregon,” said Eidemiller.

OSHA says there have been no COVID complaints toward Thriftway and Jefferson County Public Health says this was not a workplace outbreak.

Thriftway’s General Manager is also considering reducing hours at the Prineville store due to hiring issues.

▶️ City of Bend considers idea of new pedestrian bridge over Highway 97

One of the City of Bend’s goals in its Transportation System Plan is to create safer ways for pedestrians and cyclists to get from downtown Bend, on the west side, to the east side.

Right now, that’s difficult to do, as Highway 97 and a railroad divide the two sides of town.

“There needs to be a method to get people on foot from downtown to the east side,” Peter Murphy with ODOT said. “So looking around for options, it seems a bridge, an overcrossing, is the right way to go.”

The City of Bend is looking to make such an overcrossing happen. There are plans in the works to use $12.5 million from the recently-approved transportation bond to build a pedestrian bridge on Hawthorne Ave., as well as improve already-in-place under crossings on Franklin Ave. and Greenwood Ave.

City Councilor Anthony Broadman shared a rendering on Twitter of what that overcrossing could look like.

“I think it shows a commitment in our city to ensuring we have a sustainable future,” Broadman said.

Those improvement projects, including the bridge idea, are now gaining support from local state lawmakers.

Sen. Tim Knopp of Bend has proposed spending 2 million dollars of American Rescue Plan on east-west improvement projects.

“My sense is that there’s a lot of momentum in the community, in the business community, in the advocacy community, and in our delegation to make this a reality,” Broadman said.

Allison Platt, a senior planner of the city of Bend, says the two biggest hurdles — community support and base funding — toward making the improvements happen are already out of the way.

“We already know we have public support to move forward with it and we have identified funding that can be used on it, but we’re still in that scoping and conceptual phase where we need to identify what would that actually look like,” Platt said.

The project is still five or more years down the road, according to Platt.

There are still several more steps of approval to go through with various stakeholders, including approval on design ideas, and more funding would ultimately be needed for the bridge, which could cost anywhere from $10 to $20 million dollars, Platt said.

▶️ Parents plan graduation night parties for seniors after a year of disappointments

Correction: This story has been corrected to say teens account for a rising number of COVID cases in Deschutes County. Central Oregon Daily regrets the error.

Parents of Bend High and Mountain View students are trying to give their kids something seniors didn’t have last year: a graduation night party.

Seniors at the two high schools have the option this year to travel with friends on a bus to Silverwood Theme Park in Idaho after graduation on June 6.

Crystal Young, a parent of a Bend High Student, said she’s glad students have the option to attend the grad night after a year of not being able to have so many other things, like prom and various sporting events.

“We decided it’s a good opportunity for us to provide our kids that have lost everything this school year with a celebration that is following guidelines, and if we didn’t do that, they would be planning their own parties where they probably weren’t safe and sober and they were not wearing masks and they weren’t socially distancing,” Young said.

The grad night is organized by parents and not sponsored by the schools or the district.

The lead organizers said strict COVID precautions will be in place for the grad night. Masks will be worn on the bus, temperatures will be checked and the event is mostly outdoors.

“We want to keep our kids and our community safe, so we feel like this is the best way to do it verses letting them just go rogue and plan their own things,” Young said. “We feel like that could put them at higher risk.”

Organizers have already raised more than $6,000 via GoFundMe for the grad night.

But some have hesitations about a large event taking place, just as teens account for a rising number of COVID cases in Deschutes County.

“We don’t encourage anything like this, and it certainly falls outside the OHA guidelines,” Emily Freeland, with Deschutes County Public Health, said.

Freeland said there’s still time for students who want to attend graduation parties to get vaccinated before graduation, which is around three weeks away.

“In these younger demographics, although some people are accessing vaccination, many many students are not vaccinated or fully vaccinated at this point,” Freeland said.

Freeland said it’s safest to stay masked, distanced and outdoors if you choose to attend a group gathering.

▶️ St. Charles official welcomes vaccine approval for kids 12-15

The FDA on Monday approved the Pfizer COVID vaccine for kids as young as 12, which means Central Oregonians can now register 12-15 year-olds to get the vaccine.

It’s welcome news for local health officials who are hoping to get as many residents as possible vaccinated.

“I have been very encouraged with the safety and efficiency of this vaccine so far,” said Dr. Cynthia Maree, Medical Director of Infection Prevention for St. Charles in Bend. “We have given out millions of doses and when you look at the studies in adolescents, they are very encouraging. 100% efficiency. That’s amazing.”

Maree says clinical trials of the vaccine show even fewer side effects in kids than adults.

“We do think this has incredible protection in this population,” she said. “They seem to be creating a great response when it comes to antibodies.”

Some on social media have questioned whether the vaccine disrupts fertility in adolescents.

Maree says there is no proof that is true for either gender.

“In fact, it is recommended for women who are trying to become pregnant or are pregnant because of the risk of getting COVID when your pregnancy is severe,” said Maree.

Pfizer COVID-19 shot expanded to US children as young as 12

She points out the vaccine protects young people from contracting the virus, which could cause long term health effects.

Maree says it also helps protect others.

“We want to decrease the spread of COVID in our communities and so in order to achieve that we really need everyone to be vaccinated,” Maree added.

Public Health plans to make the shot available for kids at local clinics and pharmacies, just as it is for adults.