Wasco County Administrator Tyler Stone announced during The Dalles City Council virtual meeting on Monday that the County’s Phase 1 Reopening Plan was sent to the Governor’s office on Monday, and it has been moved on to the Oregon Health Authority for its review. North Central Public Health District Director Dr. Mimi McDonell said she feels confident the County is in a good position. Even though she noted Wasco County is now at 16 positive COVID-19 tests after receiving one on Monday, she added that is a cumulative number, and the prevalence is declining. She said with the help of Mid-Columbia Medical Center and One Community Health a testing regimen is in place along with robust contact tracing, plus isolation facilities along with sufficient health care capacity and personal protective equipment.
Hood River County Administrator Jeff Hecksel said the County’s Phase 1 Reopening Plan has passed the Governor’s office, and is now headed to the Oregon Health Authority for review. The County submitted the plan to the state on Friday, the first day counties could do so. County Commission Chair Mike Oates says they are looking for a slow opening no matter what, and Commissioner Rich McBride noted businesses that are eligible to reopen should not feel compelled to do so unless they feel safe. County Health Director Trish Elliott said the County has had its first hospitalization from COVID-19. She also said they are reaching more vulnerable populations with the help of One Community Health.
Washington State Secretary of Health John Wiesman approved Skamania County’s application to move into Phase 2 of Governor Jay Inslee’s Safe Start plan. Skamania County officials say they do not yet have all the requirements regarding Phase 2 openings and will pass that information on once they have it. Businesses must wait to reopen until guidance has been released for their industry on how to keep workers and the public safe. They must comply with all health and safety requirements outlined in that guidance to reopen. Eight Washington counties have been approved to move into Phase 2. Each county had to demonstrate they have adequate local hospital bed capacity as well as adequate PPE supplies to keep health care workers safe, plus plans for making testing available to everyone in the county with symptoms, staff for contact tracing, quarantine or isolation plans, and the ability to rapidly respond to an outbreak in congregate living settings.
Hood River County Commissioners were told that there were a good number of recreationalists using County forestlands over the warm weekend, but the numbers were lower than they would normally expect. County officials had opened County forestlands in an effort to provide outdoor recreation opportunities for local residents, but were concerned about out-of-town visitors using them while other public lands are closed. County Forester Doug Thiesies said right now the policy is generally working, but pressure will increase. He noted they are starting to see people wanting to camp on the forestlands. They are open for day-use only. Sheriff Matt English said there were more visitors this weekend.
Recruitment notifications were sent by mail for the “Key to Oregon” research study led by Oregon Health & Science University to develop information about COVID-19 to help reopen the state, and keep it open. Study researchers expect to contact 150,000 randomly selected households who fully represent the state, including diversity in geography, socioeconomic status and communities of color. All members of a selected household over the age of 18 are eligible to join. The study hopes to enroll up to 100,000 participants. Participation in the study is voluntary. Households selected to participate will first receive a post card that will alert them of forthcoming enrollment information. A mailed letter, with specific directions to guide online enrollment, will follow shortly after.
The eastbound lane of White Salmon’s Jewett Boulevard will be closed beginning Tuesday and continuing to the end of the week as the water line replacement project continues. All parking between Estes and Main will also be closed in order to have a single west-bound travel lane open. Traffic detours for east bound travel will be in place. Contractor Crestline Construction is maintaining strict COVID-19 requirements and pedestrians and others are not allowed in the construction zone. Businesses in this area remain open for curbside pickup.
Hood River County businesses considering reopening when the County gets the go-ahead from the state are being urged to take part in a Zoom webinar on Thursday. The County’s plan for Phase 1 reopening is in the hands of state officials, and County Commission Chair Mike Oates says they hope to learn soon if they can proceed on May 15. Oates adds they are sending businesses to the Hood River County Chamber of Commerce to get answers to their questions, adding the webinar is very thorough with information on what a business must do, and not do, to keep people safe. Hood River County is one of 20 counties in Oregon that have submitted their Phase 1 reopening plans to the state. Sherman County has also done so. To sign up for the webinar, go to hoodriver.org.
Klickitat County Monday added three new positive COVID-19 cases to its numbers, moving the total up to 22. All three of the new cases were in the central part of the County. During a City Council meeting in The Dalles on Monday night North Central Public Health District Director Dr. Mimi McDonell said Wasco County was now at 16. Numbers in other counties in the region remained the same as heading into Monday, with Hood River County at 13, Skamania County 3, and Sherman County 1. The Oregon Health Authority reported 51 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and seven presumptive cases on Monday, bringing the state total to 3,286. Three new deaths were reported in Oregon Monday…moving that total to 130. Washington reported 221 additional cases and 14 deaths from COVID-19 on Monday and is now at 17,122 confirmed cases with 945 deaths.
Oregon OSHA will delay until June 1 enforcement of a temporary rule to increase protections against the spread of coronavirus in employer-provided housing and in labor-intensive farm operations. The agency says the decision is in response to requests from employers for more time to comply with the rule’s requirements. Most of the requirements originally slated to take effect on Monday were in three areas: field sanitation, labor housing, and transportation. The agency says the delay will also allow more time for Oregon OSHA to fully complete educational efforts to help employers understand and meet the rule’s requirements. In field sanitation, for example, it requires employers to appoint one or more social distancing officers to ensure at least six feet of separation during work activities, breaks, and meal periods. The same applies for housing operations to ensure at least six feet of distance between unrelated people. In transportation, for example, the rule requires at least three feet of social distancing during travel in employer-provided vehicles, as well as facial coverings worn by passengers and by the driver in employer-provided vehicles. For more information about the rule, visit Oregon OSHA web page about COVID-19.
The vast majority of hiking trails, waterfalls, and parks in the Columbia River Gorge remain closed due to concerns about sites drawing crowds too large to comply with current health authority guidelines. According to the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, conversations are underway among federal, state, local, and tribal governments about aligning with state and local orders and keeping each other informed of their frameworks for phasing in access to public lands and waterways. All National Forest System lands within the boundaries of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area remain closed to public access. Oregon State Parks trails, parks, boat ramps, and campgrounds remain closed within the Gorge, including all sections of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail. Washington State Parks sites remain closed except for fishing access available at Maryhill State Park and Horsethief Lake. The Historic Columbia River Highway remains closed from Bridal Veil to Ainsworth, with a daytime closure from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the section from Larch Mountain Road to Bridal Veil. And Friends of the Columbia Gorge hiking trails remain closed. The Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Hood National Forest still have closures in effect at developed recreation sites.
Travel Oregon has established a COVID-19 Emergency Response Grant Program. COVID-19 Emergency Response applications may be used for general operating support with the goal of maintaining jobs. Total funding available is $800,000, and one-time grant requests may be up to $10,000 depending on applicant and 2019 budget. No cash match is required. Eligible applicants include Oregon lodging properties with 25 or fewer full-time employees, Oregon-based tour operators, guides and outfitters with a budget greater than $100,000 in 2019, carrying worker’s compensation insurance and can demonstrate working partnership referrals or bookings of lodging, destination marketing/management organizations, and federally recognized tribes. Full application information is available at industry.traveloregon.com.
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