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Bend councilors OK more funding for messaging on COVID, stiffer fine

Special meeting called after school board pressed for action

BEND, Ore (KTVZ) -- The Bend City Council met in an emergency session Thursday to discuss the recent surge of COVID-19 cases in Oregon and Deschutes County, and discuss steps they can take to help combat it, in hopes of getting kids back in school.

With much of the surge tied to private, social gatherings, a big topic of discussion for the council was messaging.

City Manager Eric King said, "The challenge here, is we don't have the (legal) ability to go into people's private homes."

That's why he said curbing the spread of COVID-19 in Bend and around the state (the nation, in fact) has been so difficult.

And that's concerning everyone, with Thanksgiving just two weeks away.

Deschutes County Health Services Director Dr. George Conway detailed a large amount of stats and information in his presentation to councilors.

"We need to coherently message and discourage large holiday gatherings," Conway said. "And this, of course, is in the governor's message last week."

Conway said there have been 36 outbreaks in the county since Oct. 1, 25 of them in Bend, including six at long-term care facilities, three at gym, exercise and recreation facilities, and two at private parties, though they were more frequently mentioned.

Because bars and restaurants have not been added to the state's contact tracing questionnaire, Conway added: "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."

And the knowledge has evolved with the virus, which began mostly affecting older people, then middle-aged adults and in the last few months has seen a definite shift toward young adults and teens.

Everyone going into enclosed spaces as it gets colder is a definite factor in the rise of cases. But Conway said there are things that can be done to make schools safer, once reopened, including frequent antigen testing of teachers and staff, as well as first responders.

Just as the online council meeting ended, the Oregon Health Authority reported another record daily COVID-19 case count -- 1,122 -- and the governor has called a noon Friday news conference to address the "alarming spike" in cases and hospitalizations, and is likely to discuss further steps.

Meanwhile, closer to home, some city councilors are worried about the lack of messaging on COVID in the last few months.

Councilor Barb Campbell said, "It still just really frustrates me to see a City of Bend public service announcement about anything other than COVID right now."

The city hasn't posted a public service announcement related to COVID on its YouTube page since late June. City Manager Eric King said a new campaign featuring students is in the works.

If COVID cases are not under control soon, schools could stay closed in Deschutes County much longer.

Messaging is something the Bend-La Pine School Board wants the city to improve.

Board Chair Carrie Douglass told them, "We know that a significant amount of spread is occurring in homes, where none of us have the ability to stop them. So we all must do a better job about educating our public about how we can gather safely."

"We believe our community is failing our students by not doing everything they can to lower the rate and get kids back in school," she said. "I don't want to make this about businesses vs. kids. But in reality, businesses are also going to suffer, if it gets out of control."

"So we're all intertwined," Douglass said. "We're in this together, and we need to work together to lower cases." She also said the schoo; board is "very frustrated with inconsistency in the state's metrics guidelines."

Douglass said she wanted to make clear, "We're not asking for wide, sweeping restrictions on business and tourism. In fact, the xact opposite. … We are asking for targeted, short-term intervention to get case rates down."

The city council agreed unanimously to use CARES Act funding to develop more messaging to educate people on how to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Stricter enforcement of state requirements is also something the school board requested.

In October, there were 13 complaints to police and 14 to city code enforcement officers, Police Chief Mike Krantz and city Code Enforcement Officer James Goff said. Already in November, there's already been 15 complaints to code enforcement and seven to police.

A majority of councilors agreed to devote more funds to code enforcement and to set the minimum fine for violating businesses at $750, the same as other code violations. (For individuals, the citations remain on a sliding scale, from $100 for the first offense $250 for the second and $500 for the third.)

As always, the first goal is to educate and gain compliance. In fact, only one citation has been issued, to the Seven Nightclub, for mask violations, which also resulted in an immediate OLCC license suspension recently.

The city created a Mask Complaint Hotline earlier this year - find out more at https://www.bendoregon.gov/services/resources/covid-19-information

Central Oregon / Coronavirus / Deschutes County / Education / Government-politics / News / Top Stories
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Jack Hirsh

Jack Hirsh is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Jack here.

Barney Lerten

Barney is the digital content director for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Barney here.

Comments

26 Comments

  1. City Manager Eric King said, “The challenge here, is we don’t have the (legal) ability to go into people’s private homes.”

    ….yea, stay out of mine, thanks

      1. No, absolutely not under any circumstances would we agree with that statement. Believe or not Trump supporters would even stick there necks out to protect your civil rights.

    1. re:nevertrumper.. Really piss poor statement. which is totally and utterly false.. I know several parents who wear masks like they should and want their kids in school. try again Jerkwad.. just because your hiding behind your computer screen with a fake name doesn’t mean you have the right to be rude!

  2. Probably a good idea for folks to start doing some emotional and logistical preparation for another round of shelter-in-place. If cases keep trending, US hospitals will become a clown fiesta, followed by service jobs, and the stock market. Or, maybe consider wearing a mask and keeping 6′ while not getting together with friends or family for a couple months, this is not rocket science people. Please take care, and stay healthy.

    1. Thank you. Why is being reasonable so hard for everyone ? I’ve been a health-care professional for 40 years and still can’t figure out why people don’t use their god-given brains when their safety and the safety of their families and communities is at stake. Sometimes human nature is at odds with survival…Lots of folks out there vying for the Darwin Award right now.

    1. I’m very confident that a louder PSA will help. Thanks Babs Campbell and the rest of our progressive commissioners for all you do here in Bend. Answer this commissioners,, hats a bigger deal, homeless drunks and drug addicts, racism, hate against the self described “queers” or COVID? Maybe its not enough bike paths or perhaps a $50 million Reed Market Road overpass? Please help me figure this out. Wait. Call Carrie Douglass, certainly someone who makes a great living using volunteer laborers can figure it out. Please raise my taxes even more so I might sleep better tonight. Signed, a Bend Grandfather whose grandchildren are falling behind. But the good news is I’m going to have a 20 year old 226 pound grandson (man) playing varsity ball against 16 year old (boy). Its sad that most of the world opened schools 6 months ago while Oregon continues to cower.

  3. So whatever happened to all that Grant money gifted to the Central Oregon Health Council ? A business associate of mine went to them for help (a month ago) in funding a program to directly address the China Virus outbreaks in the Long Term Care Facilities and community- but the program being offered up free of charge (I guess) was shot down by a group of ladies in charge of making the decision on who who is funded and who is not. Looks to me like Bend and Central Oregon (once again) have only themselves to blame for the sudden surge in China Virus cases… and deaths ! There are proven scientific solutions out there ! Maybe the COHC should read the article here and ask themselves if they are helping to solve the problem- or are just another cog in Kate Brown’s failed political system.

  4. instead of the school board complaining to the community.. maybe they should go to the Oregon school board or Govenors office to let them know instead of asking us to do something.. For the most part we are.. It seems to be people in bars not social distancing or wearing masks.. also restuarants I guess your automatically safe when you sit at your booth that others have been at. but for sure close down bars.. Yeah really smart.

  5. Given the overwhelming 24-hour a day news cycle regarding COVID –

    A “PSA” from the Bend City Council on the same subject is absurd –

    This is still “America”…not “Amerika” –

    Wear a mask as appropriate…wash your hands as needed…sustain social distancing as appropriate.

    This pandemic will / is passing –

    Please stay out of our lives, our homes, and our business.

  6. We are keeping schools completely shut down because of 25 COVID cases in a month and a half, 6 of which were traced to nursing homes? Seriously?!! And people want to shut down all bars, restaurants and businesses. Like that’s going to keep old people in nursing homes from dying?

  7. Do these people really think about what they are saying before they say it or print it? “With much of the surge tied to private, social gatherings” – but only 2 of the 36 cases came from private gatherings? Which statement is accurate? The beauty of the article is that the fanatics on both sides can say this article backs them up, and be correct. One of the examples of why so many don’t place as much faith in the media as we maybe did in the past.

    1. Per OHA definition: “Outbreaks” involve 5 or more cases in one location, so both can definitely be true/accurate. There have been many single-person cases (or fewer than 5) at area businesses, many of them self-reported/made public.

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