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The Columbia Press

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County moves to make masks mandatory

Clatsop County Public Health Department workers were in Lincoln County last week to help facilitate COVID-19 testing. (Submitted photo)
Thursday, June 25, 2020

County officials will ask the governor to include Clatsop in the requirement to wear face masks in businesses, which she imposed on seven other counties last week.

“From what I’ve been reading, if the whole nation had been wearing face masks from the beginning, we’d have a much lower count,” County Commissioner Sara Nebeker told fellow commissioners Wednesday night. “We have a divided population who thinks it’s a political thing and that’s really very sad because it’s science.”

Warrenton, Cannon Beach, Astoria and Gearhart all have spoken with county officials, encouraging them to make the anti-COVID-19 mask requirement effective countywide, County Manager Don Bohn said.

“It will take the onus off the business owners,” said Matt Stanley, manager of the Astoria Co-op, which is requiring shoppers to wear masks in the store. “Unfortunately, there’s a very vocal minority who make it seem like there’s a lot of people who don’t want this. … I hope you guys support this. It’s the right thing to do.”

After several weeks with no new COVID-19 cases, Clatsop County had recorded two new cases as of Wednesday.

A woman in her 30s and a man in his 50s both tested positive.

The north county woman was in the hospital for an unrelated cause, the Public Health Department reported. The man is self-quarantined in his south county home.

The county has had a total of 48 cases since March 23; all but the latest have recovered.

Statewide this week, an outbreak of 37 cases was reported at Lamb Weston, a potato processing plant in Umatilla County.

The case, which first was investigated June 16, includes people who may be linked to the outbreak, such as family members, not just employees.

Sports programs

Outdoor athletic programs in the Warrenton-Hammond School District began Monday, June 22.

“If your athletes are anything like my children, they are chomping at the bit to have the opportunity to work out and get back to some normalcy,” Warrenton High School Athletic Director Ian O’Brien wrote in a letter to parents.

Things will be different, however. Coaches will take it a bit easy initially because many students haven’t been working out during the past few months, he said.

The workout opportunities aren’t required, but are designed to help athletes prepare for fall, winter and spring sports, he said.

To receive more information or guidelines for each sport, contact O’Brien at obrieni@warrentonk12.org.

Local and state parks

Warrenton’s playgrounds opened Friday, June 19.

Users still will be required to maintain a 6-foot distance from others and avoid congregating in large groups.

Oregon State Parks have been reopening slowly since early May, but nearly every park is experiencing reduced levels of service due to a $22 million budget gap.

Some state parks won’t reopen until after Labor Day, including Saddle Mountain State Natural Area.

Check park status at stateparks.oregon.gov.

Testing

Members of Clatsop County Public Health Department’s “Swab Squad” testing team went to Newport last week to conduct a community testing. Lincoln County has had at least 10 outbreaks of COVID-19, many of them involving members of the Latino community.

Several members of the Clatsop team speak Spanish and the group tested 328 contacts of known cases in six hours.

Oregon’s positive tests

Oregon’s COVID-19 positive test rate is 3.3 percent, according to a testing update released by Oregon Health Authority.

There had been 27,671 tests administered as of late last week, with a cumulative 3.3 percent testing positive, considerably lower than the national average of 10 percent.

The number of tests performed has steadily increased each week, and the number of positive cases and the test positivity rate have increased significantly over the past two weeks.

Recent large outbreaks around the state also have contributed to the increases.

In early June, Oregon reached the threshold of testing 2 percent of the population each month, a national benchmark set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Legislative session

The Oregon Legislature will hold a special session next week to pass legislation to address the pandemic as well as racial justice.

Normally, the state legislature meets just once a year – for about six months in odd years and for a month in even years.

However, the governor called the special session because of matters she deemed urgent.

The People of Color Caucus intends to seek three new laws:

One would prohibit an arbitrator in law enforcement disciplinary actions from lessening disciplinary action if both the law enforcement agency and arbitrator determine the officer committed misconduct.

The second would require the Attorney General’s Office to investigate and prosecute, if the evidence dictates, any death or serious physical injury resulting from use of force by an officer.

The third seeks a bipartisan work group of the House Interim Committee on Judiciary Justice, which would recommend changes to the state’s laws regarding use of physical force during arrests or escape attempts.

DMV up and running

The Department of Motor Vehicles has reopened and is taking appointments.

A moratorium on citations for expired driver licenses, permits, ID cards and vehicle registration has been extended through Oct. 1.

The grace period is intended to allow Oregonians to keep driving while awaiting a DMV appointment as the agency works through a substantial backlog.

Rental, utility relief

Oregon Housing and Community Services is distributing $55 million in COVID rental relief funds and $15 million in Energy Assistance to local organizations statewide.

The money was allocated during an emergency board meeting of state lawmakers.

“I am very happy we were able to act swiftly to get these additional resources into communities to help our friends and neighbors who are struggling to make ends meet,” said Margaret Salazar, OHCS director.

Eligible tenants must have had their ability to pay rent impacted by the pandemic and live at or below 80 percent of median income in the area where they reside.

“This rent relief will help to ease the financial strain on Oregon families who have been unable to pay rent due to COVID-19, but we have more work to do,” Gov. Kate Brown said. “I will continue to work with legislative leaders, community partners, and Oregon Housing and Community Services to help Oregonians who are struggling financially to stay housed during this pandemic.”

The rental relief funds were distributed to Community Action Agencies across the state.

Oregonians concerned about their ability to make upcoming rent payments or concerned about keeping the lights on should call 211 to learn about assistance options in their area.


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