Between Sunday and Tuesday this week, the number of statewide unemployment insurance claims spiked from 800 to 18,500.

It’s the latest sign that Oregonians are not just getting sick from COVID-19. Many are losing their paychecks too.

Brian Rooney, a regional economist for the Oregon Employment Department, said specific numbers for Douglas and other counties are not yet available. But he said the number of claims statewide is unusual.

“It’s close to the worst week that we had in the Great Recession, which was 20,000,” he said.

Unemployment insurance benefits are available for people who have been laid off due to the virus’ impact.

In many cases, that means an employer stops operations temporarily for a cleaning or because of a government shutdown order. Restaurants, for example, have been ordered to close their dining rooms and offer food only for takeout and delivery.

Workers impacted by the coronavirus are exempted from the usual mandate that they look for another job, so long as they expect to be able to return to their own job once the crisis ends.

But they must be able and available to work.

That requirement has created an unforeseen wrinkle for those directly struck by the illness. Those who are sick or in quarantine aren’t ready for work, according to the Oregon Employment Department’s website. A newly formed legislative committee is considering creating new laws to address that problem and others specific to the coronavirus pandemic.

Reporter Carisa Cegavske can be reached at or 541-957-4213.

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Senior Reporter

Carisa Cegavske is the senior reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at or 541-957-4213. Follow her on Twitter @carisa_cegavske

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