Douglas County has officially surpassed 1,000 COVID-19 cases, the Douglas County COVID-19 Response Team announced Thursday.
By noon Thursday, an additional 18 people were positive with the coronavirus — and one moved from presumed to positive. The disease first came to Douglas County on March 8.
“During the month of November, we recorded a record number of 589 new cases (positive and presumptive combined), which equates to 61% of our total COVID cases since our first case was reported on March 8, 2020,” the daily update read. “That also means that in November we averaged about 19 new COVID cases per day. While this is a significant milestone during this pandemic, Douglas County is still listed as one of the lowest outbreak areas in the United States.”
As of Thursday, the county has had 1,010 total cases; 940 positive and 70 presumed positive. Most of those came in November, when the virus started spreading exponentially throughout the community.
Between March 8 and Oct. 31, there had been 379 cases and eight deaths. In the month of November, there were 589 cases and 11 deaths.
The virus has claimed the lives of 19 county residents since the beginning of the pandemic.
But even for those not directly infected with COVID-19, the disease has had an impact on everyone’s lives.
HOSPITALSOn March 29, the county first reported that a person had been hospitalized locally due to COVID-19.
CHI Mercy Medical Center set up a dedicated coronavirus ward in the hospital in April. But at the same time, the hospital also announced it had to lay off 350 staff members and would see a $9 million drop in revenue for the month of April.
Kathleen Nickel, a spokesperson for the hospital, referred back to the county when asked how the hospital’s approach has changed since then and how the hospital is doing financially.
At the request of CHI Mercy Medical Center, the Roseburg VA Health Care Systems have recently started accepting non-veteran patients who require low-acuity, non-COVID-19 care.
“RVAHCS has the capacity and capability to care for additional patients and is prepared for a wide-range of contingencies in support of local health care systems and the State of Oregon,” Roseburg VA spokesperson Tim Parish said via email.
Parish said numerous measures have been implemented to ensure the safety of veterans and staff, including mandatory masks, restrictions in visitor access and screening for every individual who enters our facilities.
“RVAHCS maintains an ample supply of all levels of Personal Protective Equipment to ensure all Veterans, non-Veteran patients and health care providers are safe while on its campuses and inside its facilities,” Parish said.
ECONOMIC IMPACTWhile all businesses have been impacted differently, Roseburg Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Debbie Fromdahl said it has devastated small businesses.
“The economic impact is devastating, but there’s also a huge emotional impact on businesses,” Fromdahl said. “And when we say businesses, we’re also saying employers. Because those businesses employ our citizens.”
The unemployment rate in Oregon was at 13.8% in May, but according to the latest data released in October, it has since dropped to 6.9%. In Douglas County, the unemployment rate was 6.5% in October.
Fromdahl said for business owners and employers, its tough to make decisions about reducing hours, laying people off and determining who remains employed.
“As a small business to have something in place one week and then have something else in place the next week is challenging,” she said.
She advises businesses to take advantage of programs that are available to help, reach out to their customers, remind people to shop locally and advocate for themselves.
“We don’t have a lot of people coming into our area, so we need to make sure we’re supported by our local community,” Fromdahl said. “That’s why we keep pushing shop local, support local business. Local businesses have been great about supporting each other. We need to make sure this holiday season and through the rest of the winter and until we resolve this pandemic that people focus their dollars, and keep their dollars here in Douglas County and support their local businesses.”
SCHOOLSThe previous school year ended with virtual graduations, socially distant graduations and a lot of frustration about distance learning.
Throughout the summer, school districts worked to establish better remote learning programs, educate staff and get buildings ready for increased sanitation.
The Oregon Department of Education and the Oregon Health Authority released guidance on how schools could reopen safely and several Douglas County schools were able to start the school year with on-site learning.
Even more schools joined in as the metrics improved in the county during the first few weeks of school.
By mid-October, all school districts were offering some on-site education.
The metrics were changed on Oct. 30 to be more lenient. However, as numbers started to climb in November most schools shifted back to distance learning.
“The metrics are under consistent and regular review. We make small regular updates based on new learnings from the WHO, CDC, OHA and others,” Oregon Department of Education spokesperson Marc Siegel said. “These small updates help to clarify and sometimes align to other guidance the state has released. Larger updates go through a longer process, we do not currently anticipate major updates in 2020.”
HELP IS AVAILABLEOn Wednesday, a spokesperson for the City of Roseburg sent out a press release urging the community to take advantage of COVID-19 relief programs — many that are set to expire at the end of December.
“We know that many in our community have suffered financially due to the pandemic,” said Roseburg City Manager Nikki Messenger in the press release. “That’s why we want to remind citizens now that there are programs available, but they are set to expire at the end of December.”
Programs available are:
- Oregon Homeownership Stabilization Initiative COVID-19 Mortgage Relief Program — This program provides assistance to homeowners who have experienced a financial hardship due to COVID-19 and will help them avoid foreclosure. The program provides a one-time payment directly to mortgage servicers to bring delinquent first-lien mortgage accounts current.
- Roseburg Salvation Army Emergency Assistance — A variety of assistance programs for individuals who have been impacted by COVID-19. Some of these programs include rental/mortgage payment assistance, water utility payment assistance, and sewer payment vouchers. Additionally, the Salvation Army provides meals, gas vouchers, and laundry payment assistance for qualifying individuals. In order to receive assistance, individuals must demonstrate that they are impacted by COVID-19. Examples include a doctor’s note, a letter from an employer, or a referral from another partnering organization. For details on the programs offered, please contact Captain Kristy Church at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 541-248-2585.
- United Community Action Network COVID-19 Rent and Utility Relief Credit Program — People whose income is at or below 80% of the Area Median Income, may be eligible for rent and utility assistance through UCAN. The program may provide up to six months of rental credit support, including past due rent to April 2020. All rent payments will be sent directly to the landlord.
- Douglas County COVID-19 Business Funding Program — These grants will be distributed and managed by Douglas County in the coming weeks ahead. Program details, as of this writing, are still being developed. However, if you are a small business in Roseburg that has been impacted by COVID-19, please sign up for alerts from the County. Please email email@example.com to be added to the COVID Business Funding Program mailing list.
- Roseburg Area Chamber of Commerce Business PPE Program — providing free personal protective equipment to businesses. Businesses must apply through the Chamber’s website and demonstrate that they were financially impacted by COVID-19. The program is set to launch by mid-December. For questions, and to be notified of the program launch, please contact the Chamber at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MOVING FORWARDDouglas County officials have spent this week reminding people to wear masks.
“You may have even heard the phrase, ‘Chivalry is dead,’ but the truth is, we all have the ability to show compassion for others,” the daily update read. “For some, we just need to awaken the sleeping giant, or remind yourself and others to stop and take a moment to walk in someone else’s shoes. During the pandemic, we have witnessed incredible acts of kindness, care and empathy across the globe, but simple acts of kindness like wearing a mask to protect others from the spread of germs may not seem like a lot, but this humble gesture shows you have an incredible amount of respect for others … and that is an amazing and noble thing! You can think of it as kind of like being a knight, whose actions symbolize courage, honor, courtesy, justice, and a readiness to help the weak.”
The Douglas County COVID-19 Response Team reminds people to:
- Make a habit of washing and sanitizing your hands.
- Wear a mask when around people who are not in your household.
- Stay 6 feet away from people outside of your household.
- Stay home from work, school and play if you are sick.
- Minimize travel.
- Minimize social gatherings.
“It is no secret that the key to stopping the continued spread of the coronavirus is, YOU, our residents, our families, our communities and our businesses,” the daily update read. “Please celebrate safely this holiday season. Prevention is the best medicine, and not just to help stop the spread of COVID, but for your overall health and well-being as well. If each and every individual in our county would make a real concerted effort to implement prevention measures into their daily routine, we could see a huge decrease in our COVID case numbers.”