Skip to Content

Bend mayor calls emergency council meeting as school board urges COVID-19 rules crackdown

Deschutes County Covid cases 1109
Deschutes County Public Health
Deschutes County's reported COVID-19 cases last week nearly doubled the previous peak, seen in mid-July.

Surge in cases, continued delays also prompt statewide parent coalition to reopen schools

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – Bend Mayor Sally Russell has called an emergency city council meeting for noon Thursday to discuss new steps to curb the area’s spike in COVID-19 cases, after the Bend-La Pine School Board fired off a letter pressing local officials and police to quickly consider stronger short-term action, including “formal restrictions on tourism and businesses.”

“We applaud the previous efforts of the Bend City Council and county commissioners to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our community and we call on you to revisit the issue and consider additional steps,” read the school board’s letter, sent Friday to Bend and La Pine city councilors, Deschutes County commissioners, Bend Police Chief Mike Krantz, Deschutes County Sheriff Shane Nelson and the OLCC, also copying in local health officials and newly elected officials.

“With the input of local health authorities and based on what we know about what is causing the spread, we are requesting that the Bend City Council and county commissioners immediately consider formal restrictions on tourism and businesses for a short period of time in order to reduce the transmission of COVID-19,” said the letter, signed by all seven school board members.

As for law enforcement, the board asked city police, the sheriff’s office and OLCC to “actively use all methods available to ensure that businesses and residents are adhering to current policies and guidelines, including holding businesses accountable for maintaining required physical distancing, health screening, and masking wearing and breaking up residential parties that are not following state COVID-19 restrictions.”

“Now is not the time to become even more divided and divisive,” the letter continued. “We can conquer this obstacle if we come together as a community to propose a community-wide plan for getting our students back into school. We believe our intentions are aligned and we look forward to continuing to work together toward a common goal.”

The school board requested a reply to their letter by Tuesday, “so that we can discuss next (steps) at our board meeting that evening.”

“If our local elected leadership is not unified in its desire to step up to help get our kids back in school, then we will attempt to form a cross-agency leadership group with those who are willing to develop a plan to bring to the community,” the letter concluded.

Deschutes County reported nearly 200 COVID-19 cases last week, nearly double the previous peak case count seen in mid-July. However, no Central Oregon County has reached the 200 cases per 100,000 population over two weeks that has put nine counties on a state-mandated two-week "pause" of social gatherings, starting Wednesday, to curb the spread of the virus.

Here in full is Mayor Sally Russell's response Monday to the school board chair and vice-chair, which also notes new efforts launched in recent days:

Greetings Carrie and Melissa,

A thanks to you and the entire Bend LaPine School Board for joining the Bend City Council and St Charles Health in partnership to develop and execute a campaign focused on the 20-29 age demographic which has been linked to a large number of recent cases. This campaign is being produced as I type. 

Since we received the Bend LaPine School Board letter on Friday, there’s been a good deal of back and forth discussion re: what next steps could be in Bend and Central Oregon to curb the COVID-19 cases.  I also understand that there is a cross agency group already at work developing a strategic plan for communicating around reducing COVID in Deschutes County for the next three months. I look forward to hearing more about this plan.

We all recognize the pressing need to get our schools re-opened in Deschutes County.

The huge surge in COVID-19 cases these days is especially worrisome, and reducing cases and staying off of the State of Oregon watch list must be a huge priority for us.

On behalf of the Bend community, we are committed to reducing Deschutes County COVID cases as much as possible.  We also recognize the importance of making sure that the decisions Council does make is based on solid data from Deschutes County Health Department.

Therefore, I have called an Emergency Bend City Council meeting this Thursday at noon.  Dr. George Conway and Nihad Sadr-Azod, Director and Deputy Director of  Deschutes County Health, will join the meeting to present the most up to date information they have for Deschutes County at this moment.   I invite the entire Bend LaPine School Board to watch the Bend City Council meeting.  You are invited to submit questions to either Eric King, Bend City Manager or email them directly to me.  After the initial presentation, I will make sure your questions are included in the Q&A. This will be a virtual meeting.

Finally, in preparation for your Bend LaPine School Board meeting tomorrow evening, November 10th, I would like to connect with you virtually to chat about what Bend has in place, what increased enforcement actions could accomplish and look like, and where the limitations are as a City making COVID policy, in contrast to a County or the State.

Certainly, whatever decisions we make individually or collectively, we want to be sure they are accurately informed, and accurately focused to be effective and least damaging to the more fragile elements of our local economy.

Meanwhile, the City is continuing to advocate to allow the State of Oregon to allocate CARES funding for ventilation projects, which I understand is a key component to complete in order for local schools to re-open.



Meanwhile, a coalition of parent groups across Oregon, including in Bend-La Pine, announced Monday formation of a statewide coalition, ED300, to press for schools to reopen by early January, for those who choose to return.

Here's their news release:


Family groups call for prioritizing in-person K-12 options by January 6, 2021

A coalition of parent groups across Oregon have united under a single umbrella organization, ED300. We are calling on appointed and elected leaders to remove statewide barriers to in-person learning by January 6th.

The announcement on Monday by the leaders of multiple grassroots organizations represents the first joint effort by tens of thousands of parents from Portland to southern and eastern Oregon. January 6th marks the 300th day since the vast majority of Oregon’s approximately 600,000 students set foot in a classroom. 

Parents began organizing in September to advocate on behalf of students as we witnessed learning losses, technology failures, repercussions of no school-based activities, accessibility issues for students with disabilities, and significant mental and emotional health challenges for too many students.

“We call on Governor Brown to remove the state’s barriers, and ask superintendents, school boards and lawmakers to engage parent groups such as ED300 to implement a safe and prompt return to in-person learning and co-curricular activities for those who choose,” said Rene Gonzalez, a parent of three school-aged children and spokesperson for ED 300 and Opening PDX Schools.

“The learning losses attributable to remote education are not recoverable for many students with learning challenges,” said Jennifer Dale, spokesperson for Clack to School and parent of three school-aged children, including a daughter receiving special education services. 

We are asking the Governor and the Oregon Department of Education to:

Immediately prioritize reopening Oregon schools so that all students have an option for in person-learning by January 6th, 2021. 

Data from numerous states and countries show schools are not significant sources of spread.

OR’s recent uptick in cases is not due to schools and data do not support that open schools worsen existing spikes driven by other sources (workplaces and in the community). 

The mental, social, and educational impacts on children and reduced ability of parents to work is now a crisis that must be addressed.  

Renowned public health expert Dr. Ashish K. Jha: “Schools need to be bolder about returning to the classroom…There are other things that are far more high risk that we’re leaving open while being remote in schools, and that doesn’t make any sense…. [T]he idea that schools should be the first casualty, before casinos, bars, and restaurants, in my mind defies logic.”

Remove statewide mandates and county-level metrics and replace them with guidelines that will allow for tailored community-level approaches.

We are out of alignment with 42 other states that have guidelines rather than mandates. Oregon’s overly blunt mandates are prolonging closures and harming every age student, from early learners to high school students who need support in their journeys to higher education.

Collaborate with parents to track and share outcome data related to distance learning. 

School districts must be transparent about reporting enrollment data, student engagement information, grading outcomes and attendance in order to allow parents to make informed decisions about in-person versus remote options. 

Discuss the impact of the looming expiration of the FFCRA (employer paid leave) on December 31st.

Schools will likely reopen in hybrid models. Families must understand how state lawmakers will support Oregon’s families and parents. 

Article Topic Follows: Coronavirus

Jump to comments ↓

Author Profile Photo

Barney Lerten

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


KTVZ NewsChannel 21 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content