KWSO News for 4/27/20

The Oregon Health Authority on Friday released new modeling that shows current social distancing measures are helping to reduce the spread of coronavirus. OPB’s Meerah Powell reports. The report says current aggressive social distancing measures, including Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s stay-at-home order, are estimated to have averted more than 70-thousand coronavirus cases and more than 15-hundred hospitalizations. It shows projections through May 28th and says with those aggressive social distancing measures in place, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases will still rise, but at a slow rate, while the number of people actively sick with the virus will slowly decline. If the state returns to more relaxed social distancing measures, both active and cumulate cases are expected to increase rapidly. The report says along with sticking with aggressive social distancing, the state must also increase testing capacity to avoid a rebound in cases. Meerah Powell, OPB.As of 4pm on Friday, The Warm Springs health and Wellness Center has tested 73 people with 65 negative 4 pending and 4 positive tests. When a community member tests positive the Tribal community Health staff begin working on contact tracing following the Oregon Health Authority investigating guidelines.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has apologized to people who have encountered problems trying to apply for unemployment during the coronavirus crisis. A record number of people have applied for benefits, but many have been stymied by breakdowns in the system in recent weeks. The Oregonian/OregonLive reports total of 334,000 people have lost their jobs in the past few weeks as the state’s economy shut down to try and stop the spread of the virus. The Democrat wrote on Twitter Sunday that she hears the frustrations of people waiting on claims and she’s sorry for delays.

COVID-19 has brought major changes to the Oregon’s criminal justice system. As Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Conrad Wilson reports, jails across the state have made efforts to reduce the number of inmates in their facilities. According to the Oregon State Sheriff’s Association, the average daily population of Oregon jails has dropped nearly 45 percent since COVID-19 forced wide-spread societal changes.  Fewer people are being arrested and coming into jails. And in some cases, vulnerable people have been released.  So far, no inmates in Oregon’s county jails have tested positive for the virus. But only small number – a total of 17 — of the thousands still behind bars have been tested.  At least four sheriff’s deputies either have the virus or are being monitored and quarantined. Inmates in prisons and jails are at greater risk for contracting COVID-19 because social distancing measure are difficult there. This week, the Oregon Department of Corrections reported a spike in prison cases. A total of 25 inmates and staff have now tested positive. I’m Conrad Wilson in Portland

Officials in Klamath County are considering the safety of reopening Crater Lake National Park which has been closed since late March. They’re weighing that against a slow but steady increase in COVID-19 cases in the county. Valeree Lane is the public information officer with Klamath County Public Health. “Will reopening a national park put us in a situation where we have more cases? Potentially. But I can’t say that we wouldn’t have more cases just based upon things that might be coming into play.” According to Lane, the Klamath County commissioners are likely to ask Governor Kate Brown to reopen the park, which is currently under state closure orders. Reopening the outdoor recreation sector is one part of a plan currently being discussed by the Governor’s office.

Oregon lawmakers today/[Thursday] approved a bump in wildfire spending in anticipation of what could be an early and challenging season. The Oregon Department of Forestry’s wildfire readiness and preparedness budget will now be approximately 56 million dollars this season.  Before the Legislative Emergency Board’s vote, Eugene Representative Paul Holvey [HOLE-vee] warned that the state lacks a sustainable funding source for fighting fires — a situation made worse by the Legislature’s inaction this year on a wildfire funding package.
“I hope that work will continue at some point because I don’t believe our general fund is in a position or will be any time in the future to continue to fight these fires.” Normally preparations during the spring include training firefighting recruits and reducing fire risk by setting prescribed fires. But those activities have been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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