The Hood River County Commission approved a resolution to close County forestlands to recreation and all transient lodging facilities during a special meeting on Thursday. Commissioners made the move after seeing numbers of out-of-town visitors using forest trails in recent weekends, making it difficult to maintain social distancing protocols. Many of the commissioners commented during a Wednesday worksession they were concerned the problem would grow with improved weather. Signs announcing the closure will be put up around the forest, and gates that have already been closed will remain that way. There will also be notifications at various access points. The transient lodging closure mirrors a similar move made by the City of Hood River one week ago. It does include some exceptions, most notably currently registered guests for a term of longer than 30 consecutive days. There was some discussion of requiring golf courses to close, but the Commission decided that was not necessary, citing Indian Creek Golf Course’s strict social distancing measures it has in place, and the Governor’s order did not call for golf course’s to close.
The Oregon Health Authority reported 90 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday to bring the total number in the state to 826, with a new case reported in Hood River County. That brings Hood River County’s total cases to three, while Wasco County remains at seven, with none in Sherman or Gilliam counties. There have also now been over 15,259 negative tests for COVID-19 reported in Oregon, with Hood River County recording 150 negative tests, and Wasco County 116. Of the 826 COVID-19 cases in Oregon, 188 have required hospitalization. Two more deaths were reported by the OHA today, raising that total to 21.
Oregon state epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger said during a media briefing today that while the latest modeling suggests that current social distancing measures could be cutting COVID-19 transmission rates between 50 to 70 percent, those steps must continue to be observed to keep flattening the curve. Sidelinger says the model shows with the current social distancing measures in place for Oregon that COVID-19 cases would rise slowly enough to allow hospitals to provide the care those who are sick need. But he quickly adds the model does assume a couple of things: people continuing to observe social distancing measures, and front line medical personnel having a supply of personal protective equipment. Sidelinger says the COVID-19 cases being discovered now are probably involving people infected two-to-three weeks ago.
A 42-year-old man from The Dalles was sentenced Thursday to seven years in federal prison followed by five years of supervised release for transporting and possessing child pornography. According to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Portland, Jonathan David Murphy had pleaded guilty on February 27 to one count each of transportation and possession of child pornography. According to court documents, local and federal law enforcement conducted undercover investigations in 2017 of online peer-to-peer file sharing programs being used to exchange images of child pornography. Three separate investigations led investigators to an internet protocol address registered to a home Murphy shared with his fiancée in The Dalles. In June 2018, investigators executed a federal search warrant at the residence and Murphy consented to an interview. The U.S. Attorney’s office says Murphy admitted to using uTorrent, a peer-to-peer file sharing network, to download and share child pornography. After his release from prison, Murphy will be required to register as a sex offender.
A Hood River-based cleaning company will be offering free bottle refills of commercial grade disinfectant to anyone who needs it. Pure Gorge Cleaning says it has a surplus of the disinfectant. They will use a drive-thru system to give out the disinfectant on Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Hood River Alliance Church parking lot on 2650 Montello in Hood River. People should bring a clean bottle or container to receive up to 32 ounces of disinfectant per family, and provide a valid e-mail address to receive product usage and safety instructions. For more information go to puregorgecleaning.com.
Child advocates in Oregon say reports of child abuse in the state are down 70 percent since shutdowns of schools due to COVID-19 took place, and many are worried that cases of abuse are now going unreported. Beatriz Lynch of the Columbia Gorge Children’s Advocacy Center says they need community members to keep an eye out for children who may need help. Lynch asks the community to check on vulnerable children and ask them if they are OK. Oregon’s child abuse hotline number is 855-503-7233, and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The application window for businesses to receive a Paycheck Protection Program loan, part of the federal coronavirus economic stimulus package approved last week, will start on Friday. The Small Business Administration has published information on the program on its sba.gov website. The Paycheck Protection Program is a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll. SBA will forgive loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities. The Dalles Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Lisa Farquharson says business owners should be making appointments with their lenders now, while noting not all bankers have received their rollout information. Farquharson says businesses can download the applications from the Chamber’s website or home.treasury.gov, and other information on dealing with coronavirus impacts is available at uschamber.com.
Oregon’s section of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development is involved with helping people who have been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. Director John Huffman says they have thousands of homeowners who received their loan through USDA Rural Development who may be having difficulty making payments until stimulus dollars come in. They are receiving letters from Rural Development outlining various options. Huffman says Rural Development is getting guidance on a daily basis on helping both individuals and those with business loans through them. A website has been set up to provide information on Rural Development loan payment assistance at rd.usda.gov/coronavirus.
The Washington State Department of Heatlh has started to be able to update its COVID-19 statistics after its system became overwhelmed by in particular the number of negative tests it was computing. In its latest numbers, as of the end of Tuesday there had been 5,984 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Washington, with 247 fatalities. Out of nearly 75,000 tests done for COVID-19, eight percent had tested positive. Klickitat County had eight confirmed cases of coronavirus, with one fatality that was reported over the weekend, and 6.8 percent of the 117 COVID-19 tests done in the County had come back positive. Skamania County remains at one confirmed case of COVID-19 out of 29 tests that have been done. County officials say that patient is a male in his 40’s, and is symptomatic but not hospitalized. He has been self- quarantined, as has his immediate family members.
Revised numbers Wednesday from the Oregon Health Authority dropped the number of COVID-19 cases attributed to Hood River County from three to two. The OHA explains the case that had been attributed to Hood River County was from out of state. Wasco County remained at seven cases, while none have been reported in Sherman and Gilliam counties. The OHA reported 47 new COVID-19 cases in the state, moving the statewide case count to 736. The 19th fatality in Oregon as a result of the virus was also reported, a 70-year-old woman in Multnomah County with underlying medical conditions. The OHA also said that updated projections from health researchers show that there is “strong evidence that measures currently in place in Oregon are reducing transmission.” The most recent data suggest that current social distancing measures could cut transmission rates between 50 to 70 percent if Oregonians maintain the limitations on virus-spreading interactions into early May, which would allow the state to meet the likely demand for hospital beds under current strategies. The models state health officials released today were prepared by the Institute for Disease Modeling, based in Washington.