▶️ Hundreds of surgeries delayed as COVID hospitalizations spike at St. Charles


COVID-19 cases keep rising in Deschutes County and St. Charles hospital in Bend has limited beds.

“We are filling up and we are in the process of reducing surgeries in an effort to create capacity to take care of patients that are sick,” said St. Charles Chief Physician Executive, Dr. Jeff Absalon.

There are 29 patients currently hospitalized with COVID-19. 

It’s the highest number they’ve had so far, roughly twice as many as the previous week.

“We’ve seen the numbers in our area increase significantly in the last several weeks,” Absalon said. “It takes a few weeks after we see the community numbers go up for us to see the numbers go up in the hospital and that is exactly what has happened here.”

Deschutes County last week reported 459 new COVID cases – nearly 200 more than the week before.

Lisa Goodman, a spokeswoman for St. Charles said 20 of the hospital’s 30 ICU beds were full.

And across the region’s four hospital campuses, 82% of the beds were occupied as of Monday.

Hundreds of elective surgeries are being delayed, that’s 25 to 40% of all surgeries performed at the hospital.

“Elective surgeries include things such as heart surgery, including such things as cancer surgery. So there are a lot of very important surgeries included in that bucket,” Absalon said.

He adds, everyone is feeling the pressure and stress on the health system at this time.

“We just don’t know if this is the peak or not,” he said. “What we do know is, the measures that have been used previously are effective. If people wear a mask, if they keep their physical distance, if they stay home when they are ill if they wash their hands. We know we can bend the curve and that is exactly what needs to happen.”

Absalon also added, there is a risk the hospital reaches capacity, given the variety of other patients typically admitted this time of year.

Bend’s Old Mill to offer North Pole Express mail service to Santa this year

Kids, start working on those letters to Santa because the big guy’s in-person availability is going to be a little limited this year.

COVID restrictions mean SantaLand won’t happen as usual, but the Old Mill District in Bend has announced it will set up two “North Pole Express” mailboxes this year for kids to quickly get their letters up north.

The mailboxes can be found at the north and south entrances of the Old Mill.

And while you won’t be allowed to sit on his lap this year, Santa will make a few appearances on the back of a decorated truck to swing by and pick up letters on Fridays and Saturdays in December.

Santa will come to pick up the letters the first three Fridays and Saturdays in December – Dec. 4-5, Dec. 11-12, and Dec. 18-19 – at 1 p.m. each day.

He promises to respond to every letter with a return address (but he can’t promise you’ll get every gift on your list!)

Due to COVID restrictions, Santa won’t be making his traditional Black Friday helicopter entrance in Bend.

The annual Tree of Joy will see some changes this holiday season as well.

A partnership between the Salvation Army, the four Rotary Clubs of Bend and the Old Mill District, the Tree of Joy ensures that every child in Central Oregon experiences the joy of Christmas.

Details for the 2020 Tree of Joy are still being ironed out – there will not be a physical tree that participants select tags from this year – but generous Central Oregonians will be able to view desired or needed gifts, make those purchases, and drop those items off at the Salvation Army’s offices at 541 NE Dekalb near Bend High School.

Nearly 1,000 individuals a year benefit from the kindness and generosity of the Tree of Joy program, which dates back to 1984.

Additionally, you can celebrate Chanukah with the annual menorah lighting in the Old Mill District. The lighting ceremony will be held in the westside parking lot across the river from the shops in the Old Mill District, near the Hampton Inn, where people will be able to view the menorah from their cars at a safe social distance.



Presented by the Chabad of Central Oregon, this year’s ceremony will be similar to a drive-in movie, with families taking in the festivities from inside their vehicles. The ceremony is expected to start at 4:30 p.m.

All faiths and denominations are welcome

More details coming.

Deschutes, JeffCo to see continued restrictions once freeze ends; restaurants can reopen

More than 20 Oregon counties, including Deschutes and Jefferson, will be considered at “extreme risk” of COVID spread and will see continued business and activity restrictions once the statewide two-week freeze expires next week.

Gov. Kate Brown and state health officials announced the new framework on Wednesday, putting different health and safety measures in place for counties based on COVID case trends in those areas.

The idea is to eliminate a one-size-fits-all approach to combating the spread of the virus while giving some leeway to businesses to reopen next month.

Under the “extreme risk” category, gyms and other indoor sports are still prohibited, but restaurants and bars would be allowed to reopen to outdoor dining at 50% capacity.

State epidemiologist Dean Sidelinger said outdoor dining does not mean eating in a place enclosed by cloth or plastic walls, as some restaurants had erected as the weather turns cold and rainy in Oregon.

He said a roof is allowed, but three sides should be open.

Grocery and other retail stores must operate at 50% capacity, churches at 25% capacity (or 100 total people, whichever is smaller) and offices must require employees to work from home if possible.

“My hope is that Oregonians in these counties take this news seriously and commit to hunkering down for the next several weeks,” Brown said in a news conference.

Here are the full guidelines:

  • Social and at-home gatherings with people from outside your household will be limited to a maximum of six people, with a recommended limit of two households.
  • Restaurants, bars, and other eating and drinking establishments will be limited to a maximum of 50 people for outdoor dining only, with only six people per table. Take-out is strongly encouraged.
  • Indoor recreation, fitness, and entertainment establishments, including gyms, will remain closed, however, outdoor recreation, fitness, and entertainment activities, including outdoor gym activities, will be allowed, with a maximum limit of 50 people outdoors.=
  • Retail stores, grocery stores, pharmacies, and indoor and outdoor shopping centers and malls will be limited to a maximum of 50% of capacity, with curbside pick-up encouraged.
  • Faith institutions, funeral homes, mortuaries, and cemeteries will be limited to a maximum of 25% of capacity or 100 people indoors (whichever is smaller), or 150 people outdoors.
  • Office workplaces will be required to utilize remote work to the maximum extent possible, with public-facing offices closed to the public.
  • Personal services businesses will be allowed to continue to operate with health and safety measures in place.
  • Long-term care facilities can allow limited outdoor visitation, following established health and safety protocols.

Counties that are successful in reducing their COVID-19 risk levels in the coming weeks and months will be able to incrementally move to lower risk levels, Brown said.

The revamped restrictions to combat the unprecedented rate of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations take effect when the current two-week “freeze” expires on Dec. 3.

Currently, only take-out restaurant service is allowed. The restaurant industry pushed hard against the restrictions as several eateries closed for good and others were at risk of doing so.

Asked if she was bending to industry pressure, Brown said: “I’m in the business, frankly, of saving lives and also preserving livelihoods.”

“The framework is intended to establish sustainable protection measures for Oregonians in counties with rapid spread of COVID-19, while balancing the economic needs of families and businesses in the absence of a federal aid package,” Brown said.

Deschutes County has seen a significant spike in COVID cases in the last several weeks.

This week alone the county has reported more than 160 new cases. Currently, the county has more than 1,100 active cases.

“It’s important to note that there is no Zero Risk category,” Brown said. “Until COVID-19 vaccines are widely available, health and safety precautions will remain in place so that schools, businesses, and communities can reopen, and stay open.”

School metrics, Brown said, remain unchanged.

There’s good news on the vaccine front as OHA Director Patrick Allen said he expects Oregon to get about 30,000 doses which will first go to frontline health care workers and those living in congregant settings in mid to late December.

County Risk Categories as of November 23, 2020
Lower Risk: (5)
Moderate Risk (4)
High Risk (6)
Hood River
Extreme Risk (21)

The Associated Press Contributed to this report.

‘Only likely to go up’: OHA reports single day record for COVID cases and deaths

The Oregon Health Authority on Thursday reported the largest daily number of COVID-19 cases and deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

COVID-19 has claimed 20 more lives in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 808, the OHA reported. The state surpassed 800 deaths less than three weeks after marking its 700 deaths.

The OHA also reported 1,225 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19, bringing the state total to 60,873.

“I have heard frequently from those who have refused to believe this pandemic is serious if we aren’t seeing hospitalizations and deaths,” said OHA Director Patrick Allen. “Those hospitalizations and deaths are here and are only likely to go up. Please take this seriously, and do what you can to slow the spread: wash your hands, wear a mask, and limit the number of people you come in close contact with.”

The new cases are in the following counties: Baker (4), Benton (16), Clackamas (121), Clatsop (2), Columbia (14), Coos (8), Crook (6), Curry (6), Deschutes (31), Douglas (21), Grant (3), Harney (5), Hood River (8), Jackson (89), Jefferson (10), Josephine (13), Klamath (20), Lake (5), Lane (130), Lincoln (1), Linn (11), Malheur (21), Marion (84), Morrow (1), Multnomah (376), Polk (20), Umatilla (20), Union (8), Wasco (8), Washington (127), and Yamhill (36).

According to the OHA, 95% of the total cases reported are later confirmed COVID positive.

Deschutes County has reported 1,781 cases and 14 deaths; 1,292 people have recovered as of Wednesday, the latest data available.

Crook County has reported 180 cases and six deaths.

Jefferson County has reported 738 cases and 11 deaths.

St. Charles reported Thursday it had 11 COVID patients; three are in the ICU and none are on a ventilator.

The hospital has 30 total ICU beds in Bend and Redmond.

COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to rise

The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients across Oregon increased to 414 Thursday, eight more than yesterday, marking a new record for the pandemic.

There are 96 COVID-19 patients in Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds, two fewer than yesterday.

More information about hospital capacity can be found here.


Dept. of Human Services urges Oregonians to consider food, child-care help during freeze

Starting on Nov. 18, Oregon will be in a statewide two-week freeze to stop the rapid spread of COVID-19 across Oregon. Oregonians statewide are asked to stay home except for essential business.

All Oregonians can apply for food, cash and child care assistance provided through the Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) from home without having to visit an office in person.

Visit govstatus.egov.com/or-dhs-benefits for information on how to apply for assistance using the ODHS online application, email, mail, telephone or application drop off.

Oregonians who need urgent and ongoing food assistance can visit needfood.oregon.gov.

Older adults or people with disabilities who need additional information about resources available to help can call 1-855-ORE-ADRC (1-855-673-2372) or visit www.adrcoforegon.org.

Information on how to apply for domestic violence assistance can also be found at govstatus.egov.com/or-dhs-benefits.

While many ODHS offices remain open to the public for essential business, we encourage members of the public to apply online, by email, by phone, or to call before coming in. In most cases, you don’t need to visit an office in person to get assistance.

For more ways to connect with ODHS or to find other types of assistance, contact 211info:

▶️ Bars, restaurants statewide plead for COVID relief; cocktails to-go clearance


With the two-week freeze beginning Wednesday, the Independent Restaurant Alliance of Oregon (IRAO) is requesting that Gov. Kate Brown provide greater COVID relief statewide.

That includes extended eviction moratoriums, more rapid testing for employees, and clearance to sell cocktails to go.

Like many, business has been slower at Foxtail Bakeshop in Bend since the start of the pandemic.

The upcoming shut down won’t help.

“We really hope that the Oregon government would do more for local businesses,” said Ben Blauvelt, Foxtail Bakeshop manager. “We want to see support and solidarity standing with us, not just restricting for the health of everybody, but helping us survive through it so we can come back stronger when this is all over.”

That feeling is catching on statewide by over 400 businesses that signed a letter to Brown, written by the IRAO.

“You know our bars are closing already, our restaurants are closing already,” Ricky Gomez, IRAO board member said. “We need our state representatives to step up to the plate now before we have more closures.”

Local businesses owners say the extra source of revenue made from to-go cocktails would be helpful.

“That’s definitely something that if OLCC would approve,” Joe Kim, Five Fusion co-owner said. “We would definitely love to do and I think that our customers would appreciate that.”

“The baked goods don’t really make us money,” Nickol Hayden-Cady, Foxtail Bakeshop owner said. “What makes us money is all our drinks. So our cocktail list, our coffee-to-go. Adding a shot of bourbon or anything in our coffee drinks, that really does help us.”

“OLCC rules should loosen so that bars can offer take out cocktails,” Juli Hamdan, Joolz owner said. “This industry feeds the hungry, employs so many people, literally keeping chains of commerce going. Where is the relief that we can access to get through two weeks of lost income? Our bills, utilities, lease, payroll and taxes don’t just cease because there is a pause.”

Multiple Central Oregon businesses signed the letter to Brown, including:

Flip Flop Sounds, Bend
Five Fusion, Bend
Bellatazza, Bend
Foxtail Bakeshop, Bend
Downtown Bend Business Association
Chomp Chomp, Bend
Vector Volcano Classic Arcade, Bend
Joolz, Bend
Twist Cocktail Catering Co., Bend
The Commons Cafe & Taproom, Bend
Sun Mountain Fun Center, Bend
Velvet Lounge, Bend
Geneva Financial, Bend
Monkless Belgian Ales, Bend
DJ Chuck Boogie, Redmond
The Suttle Lodge & Boathouse, Sisters

“Cocktails to go is not a miracle that’s going to save our industry,” Gomez said. “But it’s just another tool we can utilize to expand our sales to increase our profitability and have a chance to survive this winter.”

The IRAO says Brown’s office is supportive of their requests, but a special legislative session is needed to see any action.

Late Tuesday, Brown announced the state will commit $55 million to businesses impacted by the COVID restrictions.

It will be up to each county to determine who receives the money.

State commits $55M for businesses hit by COVID restrictions; counties to distribute funds

▶️ Nurse calls Deschutes Co. commissioners’ COVID comments ‘irresponsible’


“People are getting tired of the message,” Commissioner Patti Adair said at Monday’s Deschutes County commissioner meeting. “You only get to live once.”

“I think we all feel the same way,” Commissioner Phil Henderson said. “No one asked us what the governor should do.”

County commissioners appeared frustrated on Monday of the governor’s two-week statewide freeze to slow the spread of COVID.

Tiffany Simmons, a St. Charles nurse and a member of the Oregon Nurses Association, found many of the commissioners’ comments disheartening.

“These types of statements are very irresponsible and frustrating and disrespectful to the work that we do,” Simmons said. “I would expect more from our community leaders.”

At the meeting, Commissioner Phil Henderson said he didn’t understand why COVID was being treated differently than other illnesses.

At St. Charles, Simmons works on the medical services unit, where she has eight COVID patients on her floor.

“That’s eight beds that are taken up by this one virus, and that’s kind of uncommon,” Simmons said. “I would just maybe urge them to give a little more support to the health care community.”

Simmons said working with COVID patients takes an emotional toll.

She’s a single mother of a ten-year-old son, and she worries about who would take care of him if she got sick with the virus.

“As a nurse it’s hard to go out and work your shift and then you stop at the store and you hear people talking about how ‘this is garbage,’ ‘I can’t believe we’re going to to this,’ ‘it’s not a big deal,'” Simmons said. “All these things take an emotional toll and hearing that from leaders in our community was especially disheartening.”


State commits $55M for businesses hit by COVID restrictions; counties to distribute funds

Gov. Kate Brown on Tuesday announced the state will commit $55 million to support Oregon businesses impacted by COVID restrictions.

The money will be allocated to counties to distribute to businesses that have been financially impacted, with a priority given to the hospitality industry, businesses impacted by the freeze set to begin tomorrow, small businesses and women, Black, Indigenous, people of color and tribal-owned businesses.

“Our iconic main street businesses have sacrificed too much already in this pandemic,” Brown said in a statement, adding that the state has already invested $100 million to help businesses. “I know that this is not enough. I remain committed to fighting for additional resources at the federal level, including a reauthorization of the important features of the CARES Act, like the Payroll Protection Program and an extension of unemployment insurance benefits.”

Last week Brown announced a two-week freeze that forces gyms, fitness centers and recreation facilities to close and restaurants to close their dining rooms, among other new, tighter restrictions.

Brown orders 2-week “freeze” to reel in COVID spike; restaurants back to take-out only

Each county will receive a base of $500,000 plus a per capita allocation of the remainder of the money.

The counties will be responsible for deciding how businesses apply to receive funds and communicating the application process to businesses.

The governor’s office anticipates that funds will be distributed to counties within the next several weeks.

Businesses who are interested in applying should contact their county for more information.

OHA reports 13 COVID deaths; 935 new cases

COVID-19 has claimed 13 more lives in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 778, the Oregon Health Authority reported Tuesday.

The OHA reported 935 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19, bringing the state total to 58,570.

The new cases are in the following counties: Baker (4), Benton (15), Clackamas (85), Clatsop (5), Columbia (7), Coos (5), Curry (4), Deschutes (30), Douglas (37), Harney (5), Hood River (4), Jackson (60), Jefferson (28), Josephine (2), Klamath (25), Lake (4), Lane (45), Lincoln (2), Linn (16), Malheur (7), Marion (151), Morrow (1), Multnomah (208), Polk (21), Tillamook (3), Umatilla (41), Union (6), Wallowa (1), Wasco (5), Washington (88), and Yamhill (20).

According to the OHA, 95% of the total cases reported are later confirmed COVID positive.

Deschutes County has reported 1,711 cases and 14 deaths; 1,257 people have recovered as of Monday, the latest data available.

Crook County has reported 168 cases and five deaths.

Jefferson County has reported 713 cases and 11 deaths.

St. Charles reported Tuesday it had 14 COVID patients; four are in the ICU and one is on a ventilator.

▶️ Take-out or close down? Restaurants take different approaches to 2-week freeze


Restaurants are doing everything they can to prepare for another potential blow to the industry. 

And some are taking different approaches.

“A lot of my friends working in the industry are a little worried trying to figure out what to do next and what the next step is,” said Nick Stanitsas, Kefi Chef and Owner. “We’re just rolling with the punches at this point and whatever laws and new legislation comes out, we’re just going to keep trucking. That is all we can do right now.”

Stanitsas says it’s time to launch online ordering and other new services.

“Offer delivery, onside pickup, curbside deliveries,” Stanitsas said. “Everything we can do to keep people coming to the restaurant. That’s all we can do.”

Some restaurants are reducing staff, but others like Worthy Brewing will close their kitchen for the entire two weeks.

“During the upcoming shutdown, manufacturing is going to remain open,” said Dustin Kellner, Worthy Brewing Brewmaster. “The restaurant will be shutting down during that duration to keep our employees safe as well as the general public, encouraging everyone to be responsible and stay home.”

Kellner says Worthy is considering drive-thru beer sales.

Stanitsas says Kefi will remain at full staff even with the freeze.

“We’re keeping all our employees on, we’re not letting anyone go. We shortened our times, so instead of being open 11-9, we will be open 11-8 and we’re going to see if that is something that works.”

Kefi will start their delivery service on Wednesday.