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CDC says fully vaccinated can largely ditch masks, Oregon governor says state will follow guidance

Nearly 14 months to the day since the World Health Organization declared a coronavirus pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people on Thursday, allowing them to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings.

“Starting today, Oregon will be following this guidance, which only applies to fully-vaccinated individuals,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said in a statement Thursday afternoon. “That means Oregonians who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear masks or social distance in most public spaces.”

Douglas County Commissioner Tim Freeman, who is part of the Douglas County COVID-19 Response Team, said the announcement from the CDC was encouraging news.

“I’m excited that (the CDC is) finding some common sense that people who have been vaccinated don’t pose a health risk and don’t need to be masked,” said Freeman, who added he was told by an Oregon Health Authority representative that updated state guidance could be released as early as Friday.

The new guidance issued by the CDC Thursday morning recommends those persons who have had both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines — or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson — will no longer be required to wear masks or practice social distancing in most indoor and outdoor environments. However, there are exceptions.

The guidance still calls for wearing face coverings in crowded indoor settings such as buses, planes, trains, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, but is also designed to clear the way to reopening workplaces, schools and other venues without social distancing protocols.

The new guidance is likely to open the door to confusion, since there is no surefire way for businesses or others to distinguish between those who are fully vaccinated and those who are not.

“In the coming days, the Oregon Health Authority will be providing updated guidance for businesses, employers, and others to allow the option of lifting mask and physical distancing requirements after verifying vaccination status,” Brown said. “Some businesses may prefer to simply continue operating under the current guidance for now, rather than worrying about verifying vaccination status, and that’s fine.”

Meanwhile, The Douglas County COVID-19 Response team announced 15 new positive test cases in its Thursday report. Fourteen county residents remain hospitalized with the coronavirus, eight locally and six out of the area. The team also was monitoring 117 positive COVID-19 patients in isolation as well as 301 possible contacts in quarantine.

Statewide, the Oregon Health Authority announced 733 confirmed positive and presumptive cases and 14 deaths.

The next drive-thru vaccination clinic will be held at the Douglas County Fairgrounds Saturday and will exclusively feature the Pfizer vaccine, which was recently approved to be administered to those ages 12 to 15.

The clinic, a collaborative effort between the Douglas Public Health Network, Douglas County Board of Commissioners and Aviva Health, will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Children ages 12-14 will need to have a parent or guardian accompany them to give written consent for the vaccine.

“Walk-ins” are welcome, but early registration is encouraged for shorter wait times. Those wishing to get the vaccine can register at www.douglaspublichealthnetwork.org or by calling 541-671-3646 (English) or 541-671-1355 (Spanish).

Douglas County Public Health Officer Bob Dannenhoffer will be holding a Facebook Live Q&A session Friday at 4 p.m. on the Douglas Public Health Network’s Facebook page.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Senior Center thrift store is thriving

Word is getting out about the new thrift store located in the same building that houses the Roseburg Senior Center.

Rice Avenue Thriftique opened on March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, and since then, has built a growing clientele. On a recent afternoon, there was a steady trickle of customers looking for bargains among the hundreds of items neatly displayed.

You could literally fill a house with the items on display, which include clothing, tableware, artwork, books, cookware. And they’re sold at bargain prices. For example, glass beer mugs, glass vases and all manner of coffee mugs all sell for 25 cents. The store is located at 649 SE Rice Ave., which is around the corner from the main entrance to the senior center and just west of Southeast Stephens Street.

Don Frady was in the store for the first time. He had been a regular at the senior center for about three years, before it closed more than a year ago due to restrictions put in place to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

“I like this place. If you need something they have it,” Frady said.

Vickie Bryant was also a first-time customer. Bryant stopped in the bakery, located around the corner in the same building, and bought a slice of lemon cake. Then she drifted over to the thrift store for a look.

“I’m collecting Coca Cola glasses,” she said, holding up one she had purchased. “I got a new set of dishes and the glasses really goes will with it.”

Bryant said she first spotted Rice Avenue Thriftique when she was shopping at another thrift store on Stephens Street, and made a mental note of it.

“I just love thrift stores. You find everything there is to find,” Bryant said. “What a fun place. I will be back.”

The thrift store was in large part an effort to generate some revenue during the forced closure, said Ruth Smith, vice president of the senior center’s board of directors. The center has also opened a takeout lunch service and a bakery to try and bring in some money.

Every summer, the senior center has a large yard sale featuring all the items that have been donated during the year. Last year the yard sale was delayed due to the coronavirus, but the donations kept pouring in.

That’s when Smith reached out to Dawn Weikum, who has vast experience in selling such items, including running her own thrift store. Weikum even made headlines in 2012 when she fought for — and won — the right for thrift stores to display their merchandise outdoors.

Weikum began selling some of the items donated to the senior center online. The annual yard sale eventually took place in October, but there were still a number of items left over.

“I happened to mention that the room they were doing the sale in would make a cute little thrift store to benefit the center,” Weikum said. “The idea took off.”

Weikum manages all aspects of the store, even personally giving a final cleaning to every item that goes on a shelf for sale.

“She’s done thrift stores for decades, and she has donated her time to get this one off the ground,” Smith said. “Now we’re looking for volunteers to help run it. It’s all volunteers.”

Sales were brisk from the start. In its the store made $5,000, Smith said.

“All of it goes to the senior center, to pay for senior services, so that was wonderful,” she said. “We needed a way to come up with more cash, and this was the best way to do it.”

Smith said that while coronavirus continues to be a danger, the senior center is looking at events that can be held outside to ensure the safety of guests. Ideas being floated include a July 4 barbecue in the parking lot, sidewalk sales to promote the store, and something to celebrate Grafitti Weekend.

“We’re just trying to take as much of it outside, until this goes away,” she said.

For her part, Weikum said she is just glad she can help. And she gives the credit for whatever success the store has had to the numerous volunteers who donate their time and the support of the community at large.

“The center has been very blessed with the continued donations,” Weikum said. “None of this would be possible without the public’s continued support.”

Rice Avenue Thriftique is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For more information call 541-391-7502.

House Republicans attempt to rein in governor on COVID-19 restriction


Republican legislators serving Douglas County think the governor’s COVID-19 executive orders are gone too far and it’s time for the Legislature to step in.

So far, though, they haven’t persuaded many of their Democratic colleagues.

State Rep. Gary Leif, R-Roseburg, said it’s not that he directly opposes Gov. Kate Brown’s executive orders. The problem is that balance is missing, balance that the Oregon constitution requires, he said.

“These executive orders have allowed the Executive Branch to override existing regulations without any citizen input or legislative oversight,” he said.

At least five House bills have been brought forward this session that have attempted to rein in the governor. Some would limit the time an emergency can be unilaterally declared before triggering legislative oversight, while others would shield individuals or businesses from the governor’s restrictions.

Republicans last week attempted to push three of these bills out of committee and onto the House floor for a vote, but those efforts failed.

For now they’re stuck in committee awaiting further action.

House Bill 2713 would limit the governor’s authority during a declared state of emergency to 60 days, unless the Legislature authorizes a continued state of emergency.

Cosponsors of that bill include Leif, Cedric Hayden, R-Fall Creek, and David Brock Smith, R-Port Orford, all of whom serve districts that include parts of Douglas County.

On May 5, Republicans pulled the bill out of the Rules Committee to the House floor, but a motion to debate on it failed 25 to 31.

Smith is the chief sponsor of a second bill, House Bill 3177, that would limit the governor’s ability to impose restrictions on restaurants, gyms and indoor recreational facilities.

That bill is cosponsored by Leif and is in the Economic Development and Prosperity Committee.

After a two-hour hearing last week, the bill was pulled to the House floor, but a motion to debate on it failed on party lines 35 to 21.

Smith said he’s surprised this bill didn’t get any Democratic support, since the hospitality industry is diverse and tourism has been billed by environmentalists as an alternative to natural resources industries.

“Being a recovering restaurateur myself it’s maddening to watch so many families and so many businesses hurting and especially considering that we’ve been pushed into a hospitality driven economy,” he said.

Smith formerly owned the Port and Starboard Lounge and Restaurant in Port Orford, which had built by his grandfather in the 1970s. Smith ran it from 2002 until he sold it in 2015.

House Bill 2243, with Leif and Hayden as cosponsors, would require the governor to convene the Legislature before extending her own emergency powers.

Leif argued the bill would help restore checks and balances in Oregon and said so much authority should not be concentrated in one office without accountability.

The bill was pulled out of the Rules Committee to the House floor. An effort to persuade legislators to debate on it was also unsuccessful, but by a narrower 27 to 28 margin.

“There is a growing bipartisan support to pull back some of the emergency powers granted by the legislature to the Governor. At present, the efforts are mostly focused in the more rural parts of the state,” Leif said in an email.

Two additional bills have been assigned to committees that never have taken any action on them.

One of those is House Joint Resolution 18, which would have terminated the state of emergency on COVID-19. It was referred to the House Rules Committee in March. Leif and Smith were cosponsors of that bill.

Smith said he doesn’t think that resolution is dead yet.

“There’s tremendous amount of pressure to have a hearing, of course, on our side of the aisle. We’re waiting to see if we can and then if not we’ll try to pull that bill to the floor as well,” he said.

The other is House Bill 3243, which would have pushed the due date for paying COVID-19 violation civil fines back 50 years. That bill, with Leif as a cosponsor, was referred to the House Judiciary Committee in March.

Leif said state departments such as Oregon Occupational Safety and Health, or OSHA, are starting to change their COVID-19 guidelines without legislative input.

He said OSHA officials refused to appear at a hearing called by legislators recently on the department’s plan for changing its mask and other safety rules to permanent status.

OSHA has adopted a permanent rule that would continue COVID-19 safety measures established under a temporary workplace rule in November.

Despite the “permanent” label, the rule will be up for consideration again in July and regularly afterward until it is no longer needed and can be repealed, OSHA said on its website.

Smith said it’s the 90 legislators in the building who are supposed to make policies, but the governor and OSHA are making their own without checks and balances.

“I’m adamantly opposed to that and the super majority obviously isn’t. It’s very frustrating,” Smith said.