STATE AGENCIES ASK OREGONIANS TO VOLUNTARILY REFRAIN FROM OUTDOOR BURNING WHILE COMMUNITIES RESPOND TO COVID-19

Press Release from Oregon Emergency Management Division tonight:

(SALEM, Ore.) — In response to the “Stay Home, Save Lives” Executive Order to reduce the effects of the COVID-19 virus, a coalition of Oregon state agencies are asking Oregonians to voluntarily refrain from conducting outdoor burning. 

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF), Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office (OSFM), Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA), and Oregon Health Authority (OHA) recognize that many Oregonians use fire as a necessary tool to manage their lands, including industrial forest landowners, farmers, small woodland owners, and rural residents. However, it’s important to weigh possible effects on the wider community before choosing to burn. Please be a good neighbor. Smoke from fires during the current pandemic may result in the following negative consequences for the public and first responders:

  • Smoke inhalation can cause upper respiratory symptoms, which could be incorrectly attributed to COVID-19, leading to unnecessary testing or self-isolation.
  • Exposure to smoke and other forms of air pollution can increase the risk of contracting infectious respiratory disease such as COVID-19, increase the severity of existing respiratory infections, and worsen underlying chronic respiratory conditions.
  • There is a severe shortage of personal protective equipment to reduce smoke exposure at this time.
  • First responders and other emergency services are operating at a reduced capacity and have limited resources to respond to out-of-control burns.

COVID-19 affects the respiratory system. Fever, cough and difficulty breathing are the most common symptoms. While some people with COVID-19 are hospitalized, most patients recover at home, where smoke from a nearby outdoor burn could worsen their condition. To avoid additional health impacts, all people in Oregon are asked to voluntarily refrain from conducting outdoor burning activities until further notice.

Burning that can be delayed includes:

  • Debris burning around one’s property
  • Burn barrels
  • Industrial burning
  • Slash and forest burning
  • Agricultural burning that would impact neighbors and can be delayed

Local officials may already have prohibited outdoor burning in your area. If you must conduct outdoor burning, please first check with your local fire agency to see if outdoor burning is still allowed. If it is, please follow best burn practices, which can be found on the website of the Office of the State Fire Marshall.

DEQ, ODF, OSFM, and ODA encourage the public to use the following alternatives to burning when available:

  • Recycle paper products when possible
  • Compost or chip yard debris on site
  • Haul to a yard debris composting or recycling site
  • Reuse old lumber

For more information, visit:

ODF – https://www.oregon.gov/odf/Fire/pages/Burn.aspx

DEQ – https://www.oregon.gov/deq/aq/Pages/Burning.aspx

ODA – https://www.oregon.gov/ODA/programs/NaturalResources/Pages/Burning.aspx

OHA COVID-19 website – https://govstatus.egov.com/OR-OHA-COVID-19

This is a rapidly evolving situation. The latest COVID-19 response and protocols information is available at the Oregon Health Authority | COVID 19 Updates webpage. Additional information can be found on the CDC website.

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SBA Paycheck Protection Program For Small Businesses And Their Employees Begins Today.

As part of the stimulus package just signed by President Trump, SBA loans are available beginning today 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.

A business can apply through any existing SBA 7(a) lender or through any federally insured depository institution, federally insured credit union, and Farm Credit System institution that is participating. 

The Paycheck Protection Program will be available through June 30, 2020.  Full details at the website

COVID-19 Relief Package Payments Scheduled To Begin April 13 Per Oregon Congressman.

Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer serves on the House Ways and Means Committee and released an update today on the status of the COVID-19 Relief Package:

“I want to give you updated information as I understand it right now for when you might receive your direct payment of $1,200 from the COVID-19 relief package, and what you may need to do in order to receive it.

The Department of Treasury determined that beginning April 13 they will begin sending out the COVID-19 payments through direct deposit information submitted with your last tax return. If the IRS doesn’t have that information on file, the best way to receive the benefit would be to file your 2019 taxes.

Just yesterday, we received great news. According to the Treasury Department, if you receive Social Security benefits, your check will automatically come to you. 

This came after pressure from my colleagues and I on the Ways and Means Committee, who are continuing to fight for those in need to receive direct cash assistance. We are also looking to build on this progress and make the same automatic payment available to some Veterans and those who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

As of today, here is the latest estimated timing from the IRS on economic impact checks: 

-The IRS will make payments to people through direct deposit in mid-April (likely, the week of April 13th). In order to be in the first round the IRS has to have direct deposit information from either your 2019 or 2018 tax filing.

-About 3 weeks after those deposits are made (the week of May 4th), the IRS will begin issuing paper checks to individuals.

-The paper checks will be issued at a rate of about 5 million per week, which could take up to 20 weeks to get all the checks out.

-The checks will be issued in reverse “adjusted gross income” order—starting with people with the lowest income first.

-The IRS is encouraging taxpayers to file their 2019 returns to the maximum extent possible. As taxpayers file their 2019 returns electronically, the IRS will post updated tax information weekly to its files and then send this information to another agency that will issue weekly payments.

-The IRS expects to create a portal by the end of April/early May that will allow taxpayers, once they have been authenticated, to: (1) find out the status of their rebate payment and (2) update direct deposit information.

-For SSA beneficiaries who do not file returns, Treasury and the IRS announced on the evening of April 1st that these beneficiaries will not need to file a “simple tax return” to receive their rebate. Recipients will receive their rebate just as they would their Social Security benefits.

-For other taxpayers who do not file returns, the IRS expects to release the “simple tax return” soon. The IRS expects it will contain only a few questions, including name, Social Security Numbers, dependents, and deposit information. There also will be other IRS guidance accompanying this simple tax return.”

IRS Answers Questions On The Stimulus Payment With Easy To Read FAQ.

Everyone seems to have questions about the upcoming stimulus program and payment, and the Internal Revenue Service has created a webpage to answer them.  It’s easy to read and updated almost daily.

https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/economic-impact-payments-what-you-need-to-know

State Troopers Involved In Deadly Shooting South Of Salem.

Press Release From Oregon State Police:

On Thursday, March 26, 2020, shortly before midnight, Oregon State Police (OSP) Troopers from the Salem Area Command were involved in an officer-involved-shooting on Interstate 5 (I-5) near milepost 248, on the southbound side. The involved troopers were uninjured and the suspect was pronounced deceased at the scene.  Per Marion County Deadly Force Protocols, the Salem Police Department (SPD) is leading the investigation in cooperation with the Marion County District Attorney’s Office. The involved troopers have been placed on paid administrative leave as is standard practice for these events.  All future media releases on this incident will be from the Salem Police Department.

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has closed that portion of I-5 at the request of investigators and established a detour. The highway is expected to remain closed until approximately 9:00AM, with a detour in place. Drivers are urged to use caution and expect delays when travelling south of Salem on I-5.

OREGON RELEASES HEALTH CARE SYSTEM ACTION PLAN TO FIGHT COVID-19.

Press release this afternoon from the Oregon Health Authority:

New projections show social distancing must be maintained to protect health care system

(Portland – March 26, 2020) The fight against the coronavirus depends on Oregon hospitals having enough beds to treat the coming surge in patients who will become seriously ill with the virus. Today, Oregon health officials and hospitals announced a joint statewide action plan to dramatically bolster the state’s ability to treat people with COVID-19 illness who need hospital care.

The plan was developed by the “Governor’s Joint Task Force for Health Care Systems Response to COVID-19,” convened by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA). It includes a broad range of health systems, health care providers, human services organizations, public health and public safety agencies, insurers and other organizations needed in the battle.

The plan addresses 4 urgent actions necessary to expand the health care system’s capacity and maintain its capability as Oregon braces for a projected spike in new coronavirus cases:

  1. Procure and distribute critical medical supplies, including personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care workers and ventilators.
  2. Optimize hospital capacity to be able to treat COVID-19 cases.
  3. Mobilize the health care workforce to respond to COVID-19.
  4. Maintain a unified, coordinated and transparent emergency response to COVID-19.

New projections of COVID-19 cases in Oregon show the state is at a critical moment in the fight against the disease. Social distancing measures could alter the trajectory of new infections, which gives Oregon’s health care system the chance to ramp up to meet the coming surge. But the state has little margin for error. A return to “business as usual” or slight differences in actual infection rates (compared to projected ones) could swamp hospitals with more coronavirus cases than they could treat.

Governor Brown said, “Hospital leaders and health officials are doing their part to find beds, secure supplies and protect health care workers. Oregonians can make a difference too: stay home and save lives. We all have a role to play in an unprecedented, unified effort across Oregon to stop the coronavirus from taking the tragic toll we’ve seen it claim elsewhere.”

State agencies, hospitals and health care providers have already begun to implement the plan.

  • The state is collecting PPE for re-distribution to facilities in need.
  • Regional hospitals have signed mutual aid agreements to shift equipment, workforce and patients from overburdened facilities to others with adequate capacity.
  • The state is working with providers to stand-up alternate care locations (such as the Oregon Medical Station), identify and develop new alternate care sites, enable ambulatory care centers to house patients and re-purpose long-term care facilities.
  • The state and hospitals are sharing hospital bed utilization data so hospitals can manage the use of beds and equipment across their region.
  • The state is developing childcare options for health care workers, so their work isn’t interrupted by school closings and family responsibilities.

OHA Director Patrick Allen said, “Oregon’s health care system began preparing for a pandemic years ago, which gave us a head start on this plan. From expanding testing to securing more ventilators for Oregon hospitals, we are united by a set of common strategies to save lives in every corner of the state.”

The latest models state health officials released today forecast the following outcomes for 3 different scenarios:

  • Return to business as usual: If Oregon lifted all the social distancing measures state leaders have instituted in recent weeks, there will be an estimated 15,000 cumulative infections by May 8th (within a range of 5,900-26,000). Approximately 1,100 people would need inpatient beds (850 AAC/250 ICU) across Oregon.
  • Maintain bans on large gatherings and indefinite school closures: There would be an estimated 6,100 cumulative infections by May 8th (within a range of 2,000-12,000) and 340 people will need inpatient beds (260 AAC/80 ICU).
  • Maintain aggressive interventions put into place on Monday, March 23rd (i.e.., Stay Home, Save Lives) with high public adherence: There will be an estimated 1,000 (within a possible range of 700-3,800) cumulative infections by May 8th. Under this scenario, hospitals would have to boost capacity by a smaller number of beds.

The models show that only aggressive interventions, like the Stay Home, Save Lives executive order Governor Brown issued on March 23rd, are predicted to decrease the number of active infections.

The models state health officials released today were prepared by the Institute for Disease Modeling. While similar to projections completed earlier by researchers at Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU), these newer models from IDM take into account the impact of community-level social distancing interventions, which were not incorporated into the OHSU study. Researchers from OHSU and other hospitals are collaborating with OHA to forecast the COVID-19 burden for their specific hospitals based on this information.

Dr. Dean Sidelinger, state health officer at OHA, said: “These projections tell us the sacrifices Oregonians are making right now can save lives. At the same time, they paint a dark picture of what could happen. We can’t afford to drop our guard.”