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COVID-19 impacts update: State expands child care benefits; new C.O. info line

COVID-19 phone line 317

ODOT: No change at this time to April 1 studded tire removal deadline

(Updates from state Early Learning Division, State Parks, more)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Starting Tuesday, St. Charles Health System and Deschutes County Health Services are joining together to open a new phone line to answer questions from the public about COVID-19.

The free phone line, available to individuals in Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson counties, will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday and will be staffed by caregivers and county health services professionals.

“We are thrilled to partner with Deschutes County Health Services to offer this new service to our community to help address this evolving issue and provide up-to-date information and resources,” said Lisa Goodman, St. Charles Health System Public Information Officer.

Phone line: 541-699-5109

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OREGON EXPANDS CHILD CARE BENEFITS TO SUPPORT FAMILIES AND PROVIDERS DURING SPREAD OF COVID-19

Salem, OR -- To support Oregon’s working families dealing with the spread of COVID-19, Governor Brown directed the Oregon Department of Human Services and and the Early Learning Division to make changes to child care benefits. The temporary changes, which are effective immediately, will help more low-income, working families access child care and help providers stay in business during the state of emergency.

“At a time when Oregon’s families are weathering numerous difficulties in their daily lives due to the spread of the coronavirus and its impact on our economy, we need to do everything we can to make sure child care providers can keep their doors open so parents can continue to work,” said Governor Kate Brown.

The changes are:

  • Eliminating co-pays for eligible families.
  • Providing access to more families by increasing the income limit from 185 percent of the federal poverty level ($4,040 per month for a family of four) to 250 percent of the federal poverty level or 85 percent of the state median income, whichever is higher for the family size ($5,899 per month for a family of four).
  • Ensuring more certainty for providers. Child care providers are able to continue to receive payments from DHS, even if children are unable to attend or if they have to temporary shut down during the state of emergency.

“It is important that we come together and help one another through this difficult time,” said Fariborz Pakseresht, Oregon DHS director. “Child care providers play an important role in supporting families, and we want to make sure families can still access this important service.” 

“These measures are helping families access safe care for their children and will help stabilize child care businesses during an unprecedented time,” said Early Learning System Director Miriam Calderon.

Providers and parents/caretakers may contact the DHS Direct Pay Unit with questions Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 1-800-699-9074.

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Here's other information and announcements that have arrived Tuesday from government agencies and others. We'll keep this running list for the duration; please send any notices to stories@ktvz.com.

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Unlike other Oregon ski resorts that have closed for a week, Hoodoo Ski Area announced Tuesday they are closed for the season.

"Stay healthy and we'll see you next winter!" the resort said on its web homepage.

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ODOT officials told NewsChannel 21 Tuesday there is, at this time, no change in the April 1 deadline to remove studded tires, but say it's "clearly a fluid situation" and they will advise of any changes.

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Jefferson County Remains Open, Restricts Building Access to Employees and Appointments

March 17, 2020

Jefferson County is committed to make every effort to prevent, slow, and stop the spread of COVID-19 in our community.  County officials encourage everyone to limit their contacts in the community in the days ahead and conduct as much business as possible online and by phone. 

Beginning at NOON on March 17th all Jefferson County buildings other than Sheriff’s office and County Courthouse will be restricted to employees and prearranged appointments with citizens.  Citizens may request an appointment for urgent business.  This is an effort to reduce the potential risk of exposure between employees and the public.  County services will continue through phone calls, email, facsimile, on-line payments, regular mail and drop boxes at buildings.

While this restriction includes the Public Health building, preventive health services, not related to COVID-19, will continue.  Clients will check-in via phone from the parking lot, then be escorted into the building.

Departments may be reached by using the numbers listed below. For more information or to make an appointment please call.

Adult Probation                     541-475-6145

Assessor’s Office                    541-475-2443

Board of Commissioners       541-475-2449 

Buildings/Cemetery               541-475-6288

Clerk/Elections                       541-475-4451

Community Center                541-475-1148 or 541-419-1275 (leave message)

Community Development     541-475-4462

District Attorney’s Office      541-475-4452

Health Department               541-475-4456

Human Resources                  541-325-5002

Fairgrounds                            541-325-5050

Finance/Treasurer’s Office   541-325-5023

Juvenile Department             541-475-3463

Public Works/Roads               541-475-4459

Public Health                          541-475-4456

Senior Center                         541-475-1148 or 541-419-1275 (leave message)

Veteran’s Office                     541-475-5228

OPEN

Sheriff’s Office/Jail                541-475-6520

Circuit Court                           541-475-3317

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COUNCIL ON AGING MOVES TO IMPLEMENT MODIFIED, SAFER APPROACHES TO DELIVERING SERVICES TO SENIORS DUE TO COVID-19

Staff remain available to support Central Oregon senior community members by phone Monday-Friday 8:00 am to 4:30 pm

Bend, Ore., March 17, 2020   – The Council on Aging announced today that they are continuing to support older adults and their families while temporarily modifying some operations due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Central Oregon. The agency’s hours remain the same: Monday – Friday from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm. However, in order to keep staff and volunteers safe, the agency’s office at 373 NE Greenwood in Bend is now closed to the public. Staff will continue to provide information, referral and support services for seniors, caregivers and family members by phone only for the foreseeable future.

“We are making changes to our operations to ensure the safety of our employees, clients and our volunteers,” says Susan Rotella, Executive Director of the Council on Aging of Central Oregon. “Because we work with an older population that is more vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus, we are being especially vigilant in light of the current health threats.”

Other temporary operational modifications adopted by the Council on Aging include:

  1. Meals on Wheels home-delivery will continue using a non-contact delivery method. The Meals on Wheels delivery service is suspending hand-to-hand delivery and requiring volunteers and clients to keep a six-foot distance from each other.
  2. Seniors (60+) who regularly dine at Council on Aging’s Bend Community Center location at 1036 NE 5th Street for free lunches on Thursdays will now be provided a take-home meal. Our nutrition center, which recently scored 100 out of 100 from a Deschutes County public health inspection, is taking even more care with hygiene and food preparation. Take-home lunches will be available for pick up between 12 noon and 12:30 p.m. on a first come first served basis each Thursday until further notice.
  3. To learn how our tri-county partners are modifying their senior nutrition programs, you can find details on our COVID-19 update page.
  4. All free Medicare counseling (SHIBA) provided by trained Council on Aging volunteers will be provided over the phone until all offices and senior centers reopen to the public. Interested parties can make an appointment by calling: (541) 678 - 5483 x 211.
  5. While the agency remains grateful to its wonderful volunteers, all volunteers who have a cough or have symptoms of the flu, or who have been exposed to someone with flu symptoms are being required to stay at home rather than risk exposing seniors, caregivers, and other volunteers.
  6. Information and referral services will continue over the phone for the tri-county area Monday through Friday from 8:00am to 4:30 pm. People can reach the Council on Aging with questions at (541) 678-5483. Information and referral services offered by the Council on Aging staff in local senior centers will not be available until the senior centers reopen for business.

The Council on Aging is taking these temporary but important extra steps to keep our seniors, caregivers, employees and volunteers safe during these ever changing circumstances. For a list of the latest program updates for seniors in Central Oregon, please see our COVID-19 website page.

The agency reminds the community that it continues to provide Meals on Wheels, case management, and information and referral services to Central Oregon seniors during this crisis.  We would also like to acknowledge the many offers of volunteer support, as well as food donations, especially from Birdie’s Cafe and Riff Taproom.  If you would like to contribute to help us provide services for the increasing number of older adults in need during this trying time, please click here

To find out more, contact the Council on Aging of Central Oregon at (541) 678-5483 or councilonaging.org.

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COCC PROVIDES UPDATE ON ACCESS TO FACILITIES, SERVICES

As Central Oregon Community College (COCC) continues to monitor the COVID-19 health situation, it is announcing some new restrictions pertaining to operations and facilities at its campuses.

At this time, COCC remains open to students. However, the college has placed new restrictions on some operations and facilities that will go into effect beginning at the end of business on Monday, March 16, and continue through Sunday, April 5.

-          The Mazama Gymnasium, weight room and recreational drop-in facilities are closed, except as needed for finals week.

-          The Barber Library is closed to the public; however, the tutoring and testing center and the office of services for students with disabilities remain open.

-          One computer lab on each of the four campuses will remain open to students; on the Bend campus, the open lab is in Pioneer Hall.

-          All events scheduled by outside groups on any of the four COCC campuses have been cancelled.

-          Food service is available only to students who live on campus.

For more information, members of the public can call 541-383-7700.

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CITY OF PRINEVILLE ANNOUNCES OPERATIONAL CHANGES DUE TO COVID-19

Essential city services to continue

(PRINEVILLE, Ore) – The City of Prineville will be implementing operational changes to support the call for social distancing to stop the spread of COVID-19.

City Hall and the Prineville Police Department lobby will be closed to the public effective March 17. The city will continue to provide essential city services to the community, including public safety, water utilities, and emergency response services. The operational changes are in place for 30 days. City officials are continually monitoring the situation to make well-informed decisions intended to ensure the continued health and safety of the community.

Residents and businesses are strongly encouraged to use online services, pay by phone, or utilize the drop box when possible.

Further information regarding city facilities and services are as follows:

  • The city will not send shut-off notices or shut-off water for non-payment of unpaid water bills during the emergency. Any late fees caused as a result of the emergency shall be eligible for future credit. Residents and businesses may pay utility bills by phone at 541-447-5627, by mail, utilizing the drop box located behind City Hall, or through the city’s website at www.cityofprineville.com.
  • Prineville Police Department lobby will be closed to the general public. Citizens may call the Prineville Police Department at 541-447-4168.
  • All non-emergency service calls to Prineville Police will be handled by phone.
  • Visit www.cityofprineville.com for City Council meeting updates.
  • City advisory and committee meetings are canceled.
  • City project-based meetings will be conducted by phone and/or live feed.
  • All permitted special events of more than 25 people are canceled.

The city, in partnership with health officials, will continue to follow the guidelines and measures as issued by the Oregon Health Authority and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as it pertains to the COVID-19 Virus.

Visit https://www.cityofprineville.com/covid19 for the latest city information. For general information on COVID-19, please visit www.cdc.gov/COVID19. For updates from the Oregon Health Authority, visit https://www.oregon.gov/oha.

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NONPROFIT TOWER THEATRE FOUNDATION
2020 SPRING EVENTS UPDATE

(3/17/2020 Bend, OR) The nonprofit Tower Theatre Foundation, which owns and operates the stage in downtown Bend, is following Oregon Governor Brown’s order banning gatherings of 25 or more people until April 14. Unfortunately, this will also effect scheduling beyond this date.

We are contacting ticket holders directly about the status of each upcoming performance. Regarding cancelled events: all ticket holders will be refunded via original payment method. Regarding postponed events: we are currently working with the presenter to secure a new date. We will contact ticket holders directly via email when we have an update. Please note: all current tickets will be transferred to the new date.

If your event has been postponed or rescheduled and you are unable to attend the new date, rather than a refund, please consider sustaining the performing arts and the Tower Theatre during this difficult time by:

  • Donating the price of your unused tickets as a tax-deductible gift
  • Applying the ticket amount to a future program
  • Purchasing a Tower membership
  • Texting Tower80 to 44321 with a special donation

STATUS OF EVENTS AS OF 3.17.2020:

MARCH
3/19 Mostly Kosher - Postponed
3/21 World Water day – Cancelled

3/25 Gone with the Wind - Postponed
3/26 Fantastic Fungi - Postponed
3/28 Pretty Strong - Cancelled

3/31 Nature Nights – Cancelled

APRIL
4/1 Orangetheory’s “Momentum Shift” - Rescheduled to June 14
4/2 Ottmar Leibert & Luna Negra - Postponed
4/3-4/4 Sunriver Music Festival Piano Showcase - Cancelled

4/5 Delgani String Quartet – Postponed
4/6 The Fate of Food with Amanda Little – Postponed
4/7 David Archuleta – Postponed
4/9 Men are from Mars; Women are from Venus – Rescheduled to November 12
4/11 She Stands Up – Postponed
4/13 Yamato Drummers – Postponed
4/17 Trivia Bee – Postponed
4/23 Warren Miller MTB Film “Ritual” – Postponed
4/25-/26 Banff Mountain Film Festival - Postponed

4/30 OSU Choir “Considering Matthew Shepard” - Postponed

We hope you’ll recognize the profound impact this event ban will have on the livelihoods of the performers, staff, and operations, and we ask for your patience as we navigate this evolving situation together.

Visit www.towertheatre.org for the most up-to-date information.

Tower Theatre Box Office Hours: Tuesday-Friday 9am-5pm 541-317-0700 or info@towertheatre.org

Thank you for your support and understanding.

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EAST CASCADE WOMENS GROUP TAKING PROACTIVE APPROACH TO COVID-19

(Bend, OR) -- As federal, state, and local health officials work with communities across the region to slow the spread of COVID-19, the providers at East Cascade Women’s Group (ECWG) are eagerly embracing our responsibility to do our part to reduce this spread. In doing so, we aim to protect our patients, our staff and providers, and the community of Central Oregon. Excellent patient care is always our utmost priority.

Effective immediately, ECWG is taking aggressive measures, including patient screening upon clinic entry, decreasing waiting room congestion, and reduction of patient flow within the clinic. Patients who are considered low risk or non-urgent for their routine obstetrical or gynecologic care may be offered to reschedule in 2-4 weeks. Alternatively, some patients may be able to convert their on-site appointment to a telephone appointment. Any appointment changes will be a shared decision between the patient and the provider.  For now, visitors, including children, will not be allowed to accompany patients during their clinic visit. In addition, staff has implemented vigorous changes to our infection control policies throughout the clinic.

However, any patient who feels they need to be seen will not be turned away.  They will be evaluated or given instructions for urgent care or emergency evaluation.  Any patient who develops fever, associated with cough, and/or shortness of breath, is encouraged to contact the clinic promptly. 

ECWG understands that these changes may temporarily burden our patients, and we encourage open feedback and communication. We are extremely hopeful that most of these operational changes will be short term as we endeavor to do our part in mitigating the spread of COVID-19.

To learn more, visit eastcascadewomensgroup.com or call  (541) 389-3300.

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Cascade Natural Gas taking actions to help customers, maintain reliable service during coronavirus situation

KENNEWICK, WASHINGTON – March 17, 2020 – As the situation with COVID-19 (coronavirus) continues to evolve, Cascade Natural Gas’ priority is always the safety and health of our employees, our customers and the public. We know our customers look to us to provide safe and reliable natural gas service, which requires employees being available 24/7 to fulfill critical roles and emergency response. We also know some of our business and residential customers might have trouble paying their bills because of coronavirus related hardships. In that regard, Cascade Natural Gas has taken measurable actions to help our customers:

  • We will not be disconnecting customers for nonpayment during this time.
  • We have filed requests with our regulatory commissions for a waiver that allows the company to waive late fees.
  • And, as always, we will work with customers on payment plan options.

We have instituted certain measures to help protect our employees from exposure to COVID-19 and to curb the potential spread of the virus in customer homes and facilities. We are closely following recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This includes recommendations on social distancing. These temporary practices may appear less friendly than the interaction you’ve come to expect from us, but please know we are committed during this difficult time to providing our same high level of customer service.

For more information and to track updates on coronavirus related measures taken by Cascade Natural Gas, visit our website at www.cngc.com.

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Lottery headquarters closes for deep clean

The Oregon Lottery is closing its Salem headquarters today in response to new information received late yesterday. A non-public facing employee who is sick with flu-like systems was tested for COVID-19. Lottery is not waiting for the results to come in before acting.

The building will remain closed through this week. Lottery is also contacting anyone who worked in close contact with the individual, so they can self-quarantine as a precaution.

Players needing to collect prizes may still do so at the Wilsonville payment center, or through the mail.

Upon completion of a deep clean, Lottery will evaluate re-opening for continued business operations. Employees who can, will telework for the next few days. Those employees without work will be placed on administrative leave with pay until further notice.

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Child Care Facilities Can Remain Open Through Latest Order

(Salem, Ore) – Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced new social distancing orders on March 16, 2020 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, which include canceling events and gatherings larger than 25 people. This limit does not apply to child care facilities, which can remain open at this time.

“Child care workers are essential to our workforce,” said Early Learning System Director Miriam Calderon. “I am thankful for the providers who continue to serve families during this uncertain time. Your work is just as important as doctors, nurses and other caregivers on the front lines.”

The Early Learning Division (ELD) is encouraging providers to take care of their own health during this time, especially if they believe they are at high-risk due to age or medical condition. The ELD is also working with providers to give them more flexibility to operate during this public health emergency and to understand what supplies and other supports are needed to stay open. Providers who decide to close should call 211 and/or their licensing specialist to notify them of closure.

Frequently Asked Questions to address family and provider questions are available and updated regularly on the Early Learning Division’s COVID-19 webpage.

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Future Oregon State Park responses to COVID-19 will be announced online

SALEM, Oregon – The Oregon State Park system will continue to adapt to the COVID-19 outbreak by limiting park services and events. These changes will happen as new guidance is released by the State of Oregon team and federal Centers for Disease Control, and could affect operating hours for parks, the facilities that are open within a park, and what services staff provide.

Rather than issue individual news releases for each change, we will keep a running tally online at https://bit.ly/OPRD-covid and update this page as needed. Please advise your readers and reporters to check this web page for updates before visiting or requesting information from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

General advice for state park visitors:

  • Getting outdoors is good for the body and mind. When you can, do it, whether it’s a state park or not.
  • If you're ill, stay home.
  • Cover sneezes and coughs with a tissue (then throw it away) or inside of your elbow.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Wash regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. It's up to you to practice good personal hygiene, and not every place at every park can be kept clean all the time.
  • If place is so crowded you can't maintain a healthy social distance—at least six feet—find a different place to go.
  • Some parks will see reduced service to trash, restrooms, and other facilities like visitor centers. Visit https://bit.ly/OPRD-covid before you travel to understand how a destination might be affected by reduced services and resources.

Dorchester 2020 Announcement

Yesterday, Mt. Hood Resort announced that they will close down the hotel and conference center until May 1. Although we are disappointed to lose our venue, the Board agrees with this decision to do our part as good citizens by cancelling the Dorchester Conference for 2020 in the interest of public safety.

We are currently discussing how to use technology and media partnerships to bring some of the content – including the CD2 debate – to everyone.
We want to thank all of our registrants for their understanding and support. We will be working with Eventbrite to coordinate logistics to make it right with those who have already registered. Because payments periodically draw from the Eventbrite registration system into our bank account, we have to figure out how to get it back in to offer refunds. We will be looking to private donors to help cover the costs we have incurred. We appreciate your patience while we navigate this unprecedented circumstance.

We wish you and your family good health through this crisis. Following the President’s guidelines we will survive and grow to thrive again. Remember, the comeback is always bigger than the setback!

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March 17, 2020

Wyden Demands Answers from Trump Administration on Shortage of COVID-19 Diagnostic Testing Kits

Failure to Ensure Availability of Kits and Misleading Information Have Confused and Delayed Response to Coronavirus Pandemic, Placing Millions at Risk

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today, along with 15 of his colleagues, sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence and federal health officials requesting information on the Trump administration's failure to ensure that diagnostic tests are available for the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

"This failure has resulted in a significant delay in detecting and responding to the first cases of COVID-19 in the United States, dramatically increasing the scope of the epidemic, and placing millions at risk," the senators wrote in their letter to Pence, head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, and Assistant Secretary of Health Brett Giroir, coordinator for diagnostic testing efforts. "These problems...have been exacerbated by the numerous false statements by Vice President Pence, by other members of the Task Force, and by President Trump about the status of testing.”

The ability to accurately and swiftly test for COVID-19 is critical to making public health decisions-like social distancing, quarantining and contact tracing-which can slow the exponential growth of the virus. According to National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, our testing system is "failing" and "is not really geared to what we need right now."

In their letter, the senators laid out a series of missteps by the Trump administration related to the rollout of diagnostic tests, such as delays in the development of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) own diagnostic test; distribution to states and local labs of hundreds of faulty test kits that delivered inconclusive results; and an ongoing series of false statements from Donald Trump and other key officials about the country's diagnostic capacities.

"The Administration's continued failure to ensure a sufficient number of diagnostic testing kits for COVID-19 are available, and its inability to provide clear and honest answers about this problem in the midst of this public health emergency, is unacceptable. The American public deserves answers," the senators continued.

To address their concerns, the senators asked Vice President Pence and Assistant Secretary Giroir to answer a series of questions about the nation's testing capacity, the Trump administration's inability to provide clear information and purported manufacturing shortages facing labs across the country.

Joining Wyden in sending the letter are U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., Robert P. Casey, Jr., D-Pa., Tim Kaine, D-Va., Tina Smith, D-Minn., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Cory A. Booker, D-N.J., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Mazie K. Hirono, D-Hawaii, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.

A copy of the letter is available here.

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