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Coronavirus
Douglas County to remain at high risk level as county reports 4 cases, 1 death and another drive-thru vaccine clinic

Douglas County will remain in the state’s high risk level designation.

Gov. Kate Brown announced the new two-week risk level status of counties around the state. The new levels take effect Friday and last for two weeks.

Twenty-three counties, almost two-thirds of Oregon’s counties, are also in the high risk level. Many of those counties have moved up to the high risk category this week from lower or moderate risk.

For Douglas County, it’s a continuation in the status the county has held for most of 2021. The county moved to extreme risk from Feb. 26 to March 26, but otherwise has been designated high risk since Jan. 1.

No counties are currently in extreme risk. Just three are at moderate risk, while 10 are at lower risk, the lowest of four possible categories.

The levels are based on the number of new cases over two weeks and positive test percentages. It’s harder to qualify for extreme risk under the current metrics which also take into account statewide hospital statistics.

COVID-19 patients must occupy 300 hospital beds statewide, with a 15% increase in the seven-day hospitalization average over a one week period to qualify any county in the state for extreme risk.

Currently, 11 counties would qualify for extreme risk based on their local county statistics, but they’ve been assigned high risk status because the statewide hospitalization levels aren’t bad enough. Douglas is not one of those counties.

Brown urged Oregon residents to get vaccinated to protect themselves and others from increased spread of the virus in some counties and from variants that could prove more contagious.

“Until you, your family, your friends, and your neighbors are fully vaccinated, it’s also critical that we all continue to wear masks, maintain physical distance, and stay home when sick,” she said in a press release.

The Douglas County COVID-19 Response Team reported four new cases and one new death Tuesday.

A 61-year-old man died April 13 and tested positive the day after his death.

The death brings the county’s COVID-19 death toll to 66.

Eight county residents are currently hospitalized with the illness, four locally and four out of the area.

Douglas Public Health Network is supporting 91 people who have the illness and are in isolation, as well as another 137 people who have been in contact with an infected person and are in quarantine.

All Oregon residents 16 and older became eligible for vaccines Monday.

Douglas Public Health Network, the Douglas County Board of Commissioners and Aviva Health will host the next drive-thru vaccination event this Saturday.

It’s by appointment only, so preregistration is required. You can sign up online or by phone.

The online form is available at https://tinyurl.com/2n27dped, or by going to douglaspublichealthnetwork.org and clicking on the sign up link in the red bubble box on the home page.

Those without online access can call 541-671-3646 and leave a voicemail message. A volunteer will call back to get you signed up.

Spanish speakers can call the Spanish Help Line at 541-671-1355.

All county residents 16 and older are eligible to participate.

Participants will receive the Pfizer vaccine.

The Oregon Health Authority reported 580 new cases Tuesday and one new death.


Education
Roseburg to offer abbreviated standardized testing, follow federal guidelines

Students in Roseburg Public Schools will be taking standardized tests some time before June 11, but there will be fewer and shorter tests in comparison to years past.

“It’s not going to take a week to do, I would say it’s going to be succinct and short,” Superintendent Jared Cordon said. “We’re doing everything we can to make it synched, efficient, and not be a distraction to what needs to be happening in school — which is learning.”

The U.S. Department of Education granted a waiver from the Oregon Department of Education, which will allow students in grades 3-6 to be tested in one subject and students in grades 7, 8 and 11 to be tested in two subjects. The tests have also been altered so they can be completed in less time.

Camron Pope, president of the Roseburg Education Association, said the tests are not necessarily a true measurement of how students are doing.

“The role of teachers is to teach and we do that day in and day out. We know where the kids are in terms of learning,” he said. “I’d love not to do any, but only one is nicer than it has been.”

Several school districts around the state, including the two largest: Salem-Keizer and Portland, have decided not to test their students this year. Others, such as Eagle Point and Ashland will make the tests available to students by request.

“We share some of the same frustrations. I share some of the same frustrations around a pandemic,” Cordon said. “But we believe it can be done in a way that is sufficient, it’s not a distraction.”

Schools districts throughout the state were told that not administering the tests could impact federal funding.

“The federal funds we receive are a way to support students,” Cordon said. “Anytime you’re telling me there’s less resources to serve children, I always want to step back and say ‘Am I making this decision because I’m being prideful? Is it about me or is it about kids?’ I think that’s another consideration.”

Students, or their families, who do not wish to participate in the test can sign an opt out form. Students in grades 3-8 and 11 will be participating in the tests some time before June 11.

Students who have continued remote learning after school buildings reopened will need to come into the building to take the test or opt out.

Michelle Knee, assistant superintendent, was surprised by the low number of remote learners who had submitted opt-out waivers.

“We had very few (remote learning) families that have chosen to opt out, I mean less than 10,” Knee said. “It’s a tiny number. Where you think that they might, because the kiddos have to come in the parents are not opting out.”

Students, or their families, can also opt to participate in all the tests that are offered during non-pandemic years. The school district had not received any of these requests as of Monday.


COVID-19 case cancels Oregon House floor session again

Proceedings in the Oregon House have been delayed once again after another positive case of COVID-19 within the state Capitol.

Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, announced on Tuesday morning the latest positive case of COVID-19 would mean the House would delay voting on bills until April 26th. It’s the third time the House has been forced to cancel sessions due to the virus. The other two cases happened last month.

It’s unclear if the positive case was a lawmaker or staff member.

“We don’t have enough information to indicate a need for all who were on the House floor to quarantine,” a letter from Jessica Knieling, the interim Human Resources legislative director wrote. “However, the individual did spend time on the House floor last week, and last on April 15.”

The state Capitol remains closed to the public in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Lawmakers are trying to social distance and wear masks when they are on the House floor to vote. All committee meetings are virtual and the Democratic caucus meetings are also virtual.

When asked whether the Republican caucus was meeting in person or virtually, Andrew Fromm, spokesman for House Republican Leader Christine Drazan, didn’t answer the question.

Instead, he sent a prepared statement from Drazan in a text, “The Legislature as a body agreed to operate in accordance with health and safety guidelines set forth by the interim Legislative Administrator in consultation with OHA. This includes the Republican caucus.”

The latest cancelation of floor sessions come at a time when the House has finally been able to start working through a backlog of bills.

After a weeks-long standoff that dramatically slowed business in the House, lawmakers struck a deal that allowed them to start moving through bills at a quicker pace. Legislative Democrats relinquished their advantage on a committee charged with redrawing the state’s political districts and Republicans agreed to stop blocking bills with delay tactics.

The latest delay will mean a package of police accountability bills that were scheduled for a vote on Tuesday will be delayed.

Earlier this month, the state’s health authority set up a private drive-up clinic for lawmakers. Legislators were offered the one-shot vaccine offered by Johnson & Johnson.


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