City of Bend says no to short-term rental ban

The City of Bend will not restrict the use of short-term rentals in an effort to reduce potential visitors and stop the spread of COVID-19.

Councilors on Wednesday night chose not to take action on a proposed resolution that would have banned rentals within city limits for less than 30 days. The resolution also would have made it a civil penalty – with fines up to $750 per day against both rental operators and guests.

“At a time when people are being strongly encouraged to stay home to minimize contact with other people, non-essential occupancy of STR properties by visitors may introduce additional risks of disease transmission that conflicts with the reasons for which people are being advised to stay at home,” according to the resolution councilors considered.

Mayor Sally Russell laid it out as a discussion “about the risk and economic recovery and how those are interlinked.”

Councilors Bruce Abernethy, Justin Livingston, Bill Moseley and Chris Piper all voiced opinions against the resolution while Barb Campbell, Gena Goodman-Campbell and Russell were in favor of the rental ban.

In late March, City Manager Eric King issued a “strong advisory” discouraging people from visiting the area and asked hoteliers not to book new rooms for tourists during the COVID-19 crisis.

Those against the resolution argued current occupancy rates – which are at roughly 10% to 15% of normal – indicate visitors heard that advisory and many short-term rentals are already complying with social distancing measures.

Last fiscal year, the city received about $10.2 million in revenue from the transient room tax added to guest room bills.

If the current occupancy rate holds steady through the end of June, the city stands to lose about $3 million in revenue, according to Sharon Wojda, the city’s chief financial officer.

Councilors opposing the measure also said they didn’t want to penalize rental operators economically at a time of already widespread job loss.

Livingston said the proposed resolution was a “solution looking for a problem.”

“(The people) in these units right now are not tourists,” he said. “Taking on short term rentals…I don’t think it’s the right thing. It’s not the equitable thing to do.”

Moseley said he had a lot of problems with the resolution, calling it “terribly unkind and xenophobic to say we don’t want certain people in our neighborhood.”

“I don’t think we should unnecessarily take on risks, but I do think we should be compassionate toward people – that’s the way Bend is, he said. “But I don’t think this is a compassionate or logical measure.”

He also said while focusing on the health risk and listening to the voices of health care leaders, it shouldn’t completely guide the discussion.

“I’m terribly worried that as we proceed on a health-only approach on some of these things that we risk a depression entirely – like as in the Great Depression,” he said.

Russell said Bend, as a recreation town, could be at a greater risk because vacationers coming here could possibly bring the virus with them.

She said she understands the need to get the local economy back on track, but “can we do that more quickly by raising the risk of bringing COVID-19 more quickly back into our community?”

Goodman-Campbell said she’s worried about the long-term health risk to the community.

“If we delay and we’re not clear that this is not a place where you can come and enjoy beautiful Bend while you shelter in place, I worry that we will suffer the consequences,” Goodman-Campbell said.

But not everyone agreed.

“That might be the case in theory, but that hasn’t been our experience,” Abernethy said. “We haven’t had that rush here, we haven’t had minimal medical capacity. The small decrease in risk is not worth the known economic downturn.”

Deschutes County earlier this month announced a similar ban until May 15th on short term stays in rural, unincorporated parts of the county which include Sunriver Resort, Tetherow, Pronghorn, Black Butte Ranch and Eagle Crest.

County commissioners last week said violators of the ordinance could be fined up to $1,000 per day.

‘By the grace of God, I’m home’: A St. Charles COVID survival story

By BEN SALMON
ST. CHARLES COMMUNICATIONS

This story is being republished with permission from St. Charles Health System. Stay up to date with the hospital’s latest COVID-19 communications here. 

It was after 10 p.m. on Friday, March 27 when Dave Beermann pulled into the parking lot of St. Charles Bend. Before he could even open his door to help his feverish wife, Barbara, out of the vehicle, he heard someone shouting instructions.

“We arrived at the Emergency Department and they said, ‘Don’t get out of the pickup!’” Beermann said. “I said, ‘OK,’ and they took Barb and put her in a wheelchair and wheeled her off into the dark.

“And that,” Beermann said, “was the last time I saw her for six or seven days.”

Barbara Beermann, 71, is one of handful of people who has recovered and been discharged from St. Charles Bend after testing positive for COVID-19. She spent six days and nights in the hospital’s Progressive Care Unit, where caregivers worked around the clock to lower and stabilize her temperature, which hovered near 100 degrees before finally reaching 101.8 on the night she went to the ER.

By that time, Beermann had awoken soaked in sweat several nights in a row. Just a couple weeks removed from a knee-replacement surgery, she was concerned about an infection and was in touch with both her surgeon and her primary care physician. The possibility that she had contracted the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19 never crossed her mind.

“They thought it had to do with my incision at first,” Beermann said. “But they said if my temperature went over 100.4, I should go to the ER. So that night, I was getting ready for bed and all of a sudden I was just out of energy. I couldn’t even get undressed. I took my temperature and told my husband, ‘We need to go right now.’”

Beermann hadn’t experienced any of the other symptoms commonly associated with COVID-19, including cough and shortness of breath. But she said the St. Charles ER staff tested her oxygen level and found it was very low. They also scanned her lungs, she said, and tested her for the virus by inserting a swab deep into her nasal cavity. At 3 a.m. on Saturday, March 28, she called Dave and said she wouldn’t be home that night.

Dave Beermann, 72, was also experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19, though his weren’t as severe as his wife’s. So he hunkered down and self-isolated at home.

“I pretty much became a hermit,” he said.

Barbara Beermann couldn’t have visitors at all because she was isolated at the hospital to protect caregivers and other patients from the highly infectious virus. Her nurses were “awesome,” she said, constantly updating and encouraging. She had one conversation with a doctor – a “gloom and doom” talk about ventilators and the possibility that she might not survive the situation, she said – that upset her, in part because it highlighted the fact that she couldn’t have her family at her side.

 

“It was petrifying thinking, ‘Oh my God, I want to do this and I want to do that. I want to see all my grandkids grow up,’” Beermann said. “It was pretty devastating, but I could see (my number on the screen) every time they took my temperature. I could see that I was getting better.”

After her second night in the hospital, Beermann’s night sweats subsided, and four days later, she was allowed to go home to her Bend home. There, she decided to make a donation to the St. Charles Foundation in honor of her nurses, who she called “so nice and kind.” Just last week, St. Charles announced a new Hero Fund to benefit caregivers on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19.

“My son is a nurse in California, so I had great respect for them when I went in there,” Beermann said. “And I have even greater respect for them now. They took good care of me, and I just hate to see the loss of life over this. I didn’t give a huge amount, but I hope it can help somebody.”

Now, both Beermanns are feeling much better. A veteran of the agriculture and trucking business, Dave is urging acquaintances far and wide to take COVID-19 seriously.

“I tell them they need to use common sense and be very vigilant about not only their own well-being but also the people around them,” he said.

As for Barbara, her three kids and 10 grandkids are scattered across the country, so she hasn’t gotten a chance to hug them yet, though she did video chat with them to assure them that “grandma is OK.”

She feels lucky – or more precisely, blessed – to have beaten COVID-19.

“I had good care at the hospital and I had a lot of people praying for me,” she said. “By the grace of God, I’m home.”

Bend PD: Teen arrested for credit card theft

A Bend teen was arrested after stealing a credit card out of an unlocked vehicle in northwest Bend on Monday night and using the credit card, according to Bend Police.

Sgt. Eric Hagan said Bend Police began investigating the stolen credit card on Tuesday and found 18-year-old Isaac Brewster to be a suspect. Police located Brewster at Fred Meyer on Thursday, but he ran from the store on foot before the officers arrived, according to Hagan. Bend Police later found Brewster near the store and took him into custody.

Bend Police obtained a search warrant and searched Brewster’s vehicles and home. Hagan said numerous stolen items were found and recovered.

Brewster was charged with identity theft, fraudulent use of a credit card, unlawful entry to a motor vehicle, aggravated theft from a building and theft.

Hagan says the investigation is still ongoing and officers are working to return the stolen items to the right owners. Bend Police asks if you recently experienced a theft, break-in or a stolen credit card, and have not reported it, you should file an online report or call Bend Police non-emergency number at 541-693-6911.

▶️ Costco, Fred Meyer plans official for Bend’s north side

After years of speculation, City of Bend officials and a developer have confirmed a new Fred Meyer and Costco are planned for the north side of town.

Powell Development is still evaluating their budget and improvements on the project, but they are moving forward with the construction process.

“There are still several land-use applications they’ll need to get approved in order to move that project forward, including getting a master plan approved by the city,” Russ Grayson, a Development Services Director with the City of Bend, said.

Central Oregon Daily News’ Anyssa Bohanan has details on the proposed development.

▶️ The Lost Season: Spring athletes deal with the end of much more

It’s a tough time for all of us right now, but maybe even harder on local high school student-athletes.

With spring sports being canceled across the state, many athletes have had their passion and identities taken from them – with little warning.

It’s heartbreaking and disappointing for everyone, but for the Class of 2020, even more so.

Central Oregon Daily News’ Eric Lindstrom takes a look at the effect of life without sports.

 

▶️ Ancient traditions turn to modern technology for Holy Week

BY HEATHER ROBERTS
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

Several major holidays take place this week. This year, they are ancient celebrations with a modern twist, thanks to COVID-19.

“Typically, this is when our whole family would get together, and sit around the table and share a Passover Seder,” says Ron Schutz, President of the Jewish Community of Central Oregon.

Rabbi Johanna Hershenson, of Temple Beth Tikvah in Bend adds, “We gather together with friends, with families, with neighbors and we retell this story of redemption from slavery.”

For Pastor Evan Earwicker, “This is kind of our biggest moment of the whole year, is Easter week.”

Passover, Good Friday and Easter. These ancient holidays are steeped in tradition, marked by large family meals and church gatherings. Not this year.

Jewish families gather for a special dinner called a Seder, on the first night of Passover. Tonight, Central Oregon Jewish leaders use 21st-century technology to keep traditions alive amid the Coronavirus Pandemic. Rabbi Hershenson tells Central Oregon Daily, “I have prepared the Haggadah, the narrative for the Seder, the Passover dinner, on PowerPoint slides that I can share in the Zoom meeting.”

She also launched a YouTube channel, last week, to share educational components of this holy season, along with a little humor, “My husband and I yesterday, put out a video instructional on setting up the Seder plate. But, my husband was hidden behind me and he was my arms.”

Like Temple Beth Tikvah, the Jewish Community of Central Oregon is working with members to get up to speed on the technology, so they’re ready to take part in the festivities.

Schutz says, “We have to kind of remind people that they are being seen, so even though they’re home in their bedroom, or wherever they are, enforcing at least a sort of dress code helps keep everyone comfortable.” His congregation will share the Seder over Zoom, with everyone safe in their own homes. “It’s very different in some ways. It’s also kind of fun in other ways, because you’re now sharing it with a much larger group than your own individual family unit.”

While many have called this Pandemic “unprecedented,” Schutz says there is a strong connection between what’s happening now, and the original Passover.

“They were all hiding out there, that first Passover meal. The plagues were descending on each of them – literally plagues. And, there they were isolated in their own little place with whoever happened to be there with them, forced to stay inside while the plagues were literally passing over them.”

This time, though, they’re not the only people forced to isolate in place.

“The whole structure of our faith is based around the gathering, it’s based on being together in one place,” says Pastor Evan Earwicker, Pastor of Creative Arts for Westside Church in Bend. “So, to separate that out, or make that digital, is definitely a challenge.”

He says Westside Church spent several years beefing up its online presence. He never imagined it would be used as the only way to connect with members.

“It’s an adjustment to have an empty room and a camera, and that’s the only point of contact you’re having with those that are watching.”

From radio messages with families parked in a parking lot, to live virtual services using YouTube, Facebook or Zoom, Central Oregon churches are getting creative in sharing their message.

Pastor Earwicker is grateful, “The fact that we live in a day and age when we can gather online, digitally, is really a gift. And it actually allows us to continue being who we are as churches, as people of faith.”

There is still much to be learned during this time … about faith … about technology … about reaching out.

“Even if it was motivated by crisis, the fact that we really can connect through phone, through social media, through platforms like Zoom,” says Rabbi Hershenson, “Now makes it inexcusable for us to not be reaching out to parts of our communities that don’t show up voluntarily but might flip a screen on.” Pastor Earwicker says, “Faith communities have survived plagues before; they’ve survived wars before, they’ve survived intense persecution…People are looking to cling to things that have proven themselves to be stable. We think that faith is one of those things.”

Schutz adds, “Keep the faith and there’s hope.”

Pandemic deals blow to plastic bag bans, plastic reduction

By GILLIAN FLACCUS

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Just weeks ago, cities and even states across the U.S. were busy banning straws, limiting takeout containers and mandating that shoppers bring reusable bags or pay a small fee as the movement to eliminate single-use plastics took hold in mainstream America.

What a difference a pandemic makes.

In a matter of days, hard-won bans to reduce the use of plastics — and particularly plastic shopping sacks — across the U.S. have come under fire amid worries about the virus clinging to reusable bags, cups and straws.

Governors in Massachusetts and Illinois have banned or strongly discouraged the use of reusable grocery bags. Oregon suspended its brand-new ban on plastic bags this week, and cities from Bellingham, Washington, to Albuquerque, New Mexico, have announced a hiatus on plastic bag bans as the coronavirus rages.

Add to that a rise in takeout and a ban on reusable cups and straws at the few coffee stores that remain open, and environmentalists worry COVID-19 could set back their efforts to tackle plastic pollution for years.

“People are scared for their lives, their livelihood, the economy, feeding their loved ones, so the environment is taking a back seat,” said Glen Quadros, owner of the Great American Diner & Bar in Seattle.

Quadros has laid off 15 employees and seen a 60% decline in business since Seattle all but shut down to slow the pandemic. For now, he’s using biodegradable containers for takeout and delivery, but those products cost up to three times more than plastic — and they’re getting hard to find because of the surge in takeout, he said.

“The problem is, we don’t know what’s in store,” Quadros said. “Everyone is in the same situation.”

Takeout food order, packaged in compostable containers in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The plastics industry has seized the moment and is lobbying hard to overturn bans on single-use plastics by arguing disposable plastics are the safest option amid the crisis. California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon and Vermont have statewide bans on plastic bags, and Oregon and California have laws limiting the use of plastic straws.

New York’s statewide plastic bag ban is on hold because of a lawsuit.

The Plastics Industry Association recently sent a letter to Alex Azar, head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and asked him to speak out against plastic bag bans because they put consumers and workers at risk. And the American Recyclable Plastic Bag Alliance is doubling down on its opposition to plastic bag bans under a preexisting campaign titled Bag the Ban.

Grocery worker unions, too, have joined the chorus. The union that represents Oregon supermarket workers is lobbying for a ban on reusable bags, and a Chicago union called for an “end to the disease-transmitting bag tax.”

Critics argue people with reusable bags don’t regularly wash them.

“If those bags coming into the store are contaminated with anything, they get put on the conveyor belt, the counter, and you’re putting yourself in a bad spot,” said Matt Seaholm, executive director of the American Recyclable Plastic Bag Alliance. “It’s an unnecessary risk.”

A study by the U.S. National Institutes of Health found the novel coronavirus can remain on plastics and stainless steel for up to three days, and on cardboard for up to one day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it appears possible for a person to get COVID-19 by touching a surface that has the virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose or eyes — but it’s not thought that’s the main way the virus spreads.

More studies are needed to fully assess the dangers posed by reusable bags, which are mostly made of fabric, said Dr. Jennifer Vines, lead health officer for the Portland metropolitan area.

“It’s not clear that a virus that you can find on a surface — whether it’s cloth or something else — is viable and can actually make you sick,” she said.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

Some stores such as Trader Joe’s and Target are letting customers use their own bags if they sack their groceries themselves, while others are banning them.

In Oregon, temporary rules now allow disposable “T-shirt” plastic bags with no fee to customers. Many stores ran out of paper bags amid a run on groceries, accelerating the move to ease plastic restrictions, said Joe Gilliam, president of the Northwest Grocery Association, which represents 1,000 retail locations in Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

Food packed in a paper bag in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

“There are some stores out there that are saying, ‘For the time being, please don’t bring those in.’ Other stores are allowing them, but … right now we’re asking that only freshly laundered ones come in,” he said.

Environmental groups, well aware of the nation’s current priorities, were at first unusually silent on moves to temporarily roll back plastic bag bans. But they responded forcefully after the plastics industry asserted bag bans could worsen the pandemic’s toll.

“The fear-driven gains the industry was able to win this month are likely to be extremely short-lived,” said John Hocevar, of Greenpeace USA. “The movement away from throwaway plastic is the kind of awakening that is not going to be that easy for the plastic industry to stop.”

In the meantime, some consumers are getting taken by surprise.

Paul McNamara, who has used his own bags for a decade, said he was stopped at the entrance of his regular market in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, after the state enacted a temporary ban on reusable shopping sacks. His ratty bags have corners reinforced with duct tape from years of use; he instead left with his groceries in plastic bags.

“My question would be, will it become permanent?” McNamara said. “I’m fine with the restrictions on reusable plastics. It makes a lot of sense, and that’s the way to go for the environment. But if it’s a public health issue, we’ve got to figure out some way to deal with it.

▶️ Redmond company pivots to boost used mask sterilization efforts

By HANNAH SIEVERT
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY

During a typical week of work, Medline ReNewal in Redmond works to clean and sterilize used surgical equipment. 

But these aren’t typical times. Hospitals across the country are facing a shortage of personal protective equipment, like masks and face shields. 

To help meet the need, Medline has reconfigured their Remond facility to be able to clean and sanitize face masks.

“This isn’t a business we ever thought we’d be in,” Frank Czajka, a division president with Medline, said. “We saw the need and we were challenged by a few customers.” 

The company’s goal is to supplement the hospital’s supply of new masks with clean, used ones. After a few test runs, Medline is now cleaning more than 100,000 face masks per day. 

“As we looked at what Medline could do, we realized we did sterilize face masks,” Czajka said. “We had the core competency. We just needed to find a way to fit this process into our existing business in Redmond.”

Czajka said they signed St. Charles Health System on Tuesday as a customer for the masks. Providence and Legacy health systems in Portland are also customers. 

The company could soon boost capacity and clean a quarter-million masks per day.

“As we scale up more and more and get better at the process, we’re able to bring on more customers,” Czajka said. “Obviously we want to look at our local systems, but we’re also looking at California and Washington, the hot spots of COVID.” 

▶️ COCC profs adjust to hands-off instruction for hands-on courses

By HANNAH SIEVERT
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY

It might be simple for professors to teach math and English classes over Zoom calls. Some subjects are a little more complicated.

“Learning how to cook, learning how to be a chef or baker, is very hands-on,” Thor Erickson, a chef instructor, said. “It’s a big shift for teaching these students.”

Monday was the first day of the spring term for Central Oregon Community College. All classes at COCC will be taught remotely at least until April 28.

Students are having to adjust and make-do while taking classes that require certain tools and resources that they may not have at home.

“We have wonderful kitchens at the Culinary Arts Institute that aren’t being used,” Erickson said. “That includes things like saute pans and certain appliances. We are asking students to do their best with what they have.”

Massage therapy is another department that typically relies on hands-on learning. Professors are allowing students to borrow massage therapy tables to practice with at home.

“The only thing that’s changing is the method of delivery, and that’s temporary,” Alan Nunes, an assistant professor of massage therapy, said.

Instructor Michael Gesme says teachers in the music department are teaching more music theory before they can get back to in-person music lessons.

“Nobody is approaching this with, ‘this is the best way to do it,'” Gesme said. “We’re saying, this is the best way to do it with the circumstances we’re in.”

Many students’ biggest concern is the job market. Erickson and Nunes both say they’ve gotten a lot of questions about the usefulness of a culinary and massage therapy degree during the pandemic.

“Students are very concerned,” Erickson said. “Is the training I’m getting right now still going to be useful? Will the restaurant industry be changing as a whole with this epidemic is over? But, I’m hopeful.”

Teachers are giving both instruction and encouragement through Zoom calls.

“It’s going to come back,” Nunes said. “When this is all over, there’s going to be a demand for human connection, and that’s what we provide.”