COVID-19 Updates 10/9/2020

Rep. Sollman

Friends and Neighbors,

Oregon Health Authority Updates

Major Testing Increase Will Bolster Oregon’s Strategy to Contain COVID-19

From the Oregon Health Authority

This week, the Oregon Health Authority announced a major expansion of testing for COVID-19 in Oregon that will strengthen the state’s strategy to suppress the virus. Starting this week, Oregon will receive between 60,000 and 80,000 Abbott BinaxNOW rapid point-of-care antigen tests per week through the end of December.

Oregon will receive the new tests as a result of a time-limited supply of testing capacity federal officials have allocated to states.

The new additional rapid antigen tests will nearly double Oregon’s testing capacity, which will help physicians and health officials identify more people who are infected with COVID-19 and – over time – reduce transmission, prevent new cases (and hospitalizations) and sustain the state’s reopening.

OHA also broadened its testing guidelines to supplement the added testing capacity. The new guidelines recommend testing for anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 regardless of the severity of those symptoms, along with testing of all close contacts of those individuals, regardless of whether they shown symptoms.

The tests yield quick results, in as little as 15 minutes. But there are limitations. The rapid antigen tests must be administered by a trained professional or at a location that meets certain federal standards for laboratory testing.

As in other forms of COVID-19 testing, positive results are considered reliable. However, false negative tests are common, even among asymptomatic individuals.

Health officials cautioned that people who test negative under any form of COVID-19 test should continue to exercise caution and practice personal actions to prevent transmission. OHA public health physician Melissa Sutton, M.D., said, “Even if you have a negative test, it’s important to wear a mask, stay physically distant from other people (especially older people or those with underlying medical conditions), avoid large gatherings and wash your hands thoroughly.”

State health officials said the new tests will bolster a strategy that has kept Oregon’s COVID-19 case rates low compared to other states. Along with testing, Oregon’s strategy has relied on guidance that has emphasized face coverings and physical distancing, as well as robust case investigation and contact tracing, isolation and quarantine, and targeted interventions in hotspot counties and for vulnerable populations. Since May, state and local health officials have more than doubled the number of contact tracers in Oregon – this week there are more than 1,290 contact tracers and case investigators working to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The first 15,000 BinaxNOW tests were deployed to counties and long-term care facilities affected by recent wildfires. In addition, OHA will prioritize testing for communities hardest hit by COVID-19:

  • Migrant and seasonal farmworkers.
  • Communities of color and tribal communities.
  • Residents of congregate care settings.

Plans call for eventually expanding the testing to students and staff at schools and Oregon’s colleges and universities through school-based health centers and other community partners.

Some tests will be maintained as a strategic reserve to ensure a supply beyond December (when the current allocation is scheduled to end) and to be used to contain major outbreaks in counties.

COVID-19 Testing Completed at 683 Large Long-Term Care Facilities Statewide


From the Oregon Department of Human Services

The Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) and Oregon
Health Authority (OHA) have completed initial baseline COVID-19 testing of staff and
consenting residents in 683 long-term care facilities statewide, achieving the first of
two objectives set by Governor Kate Brown’s testing plan.

Baseline testing found that the overall rate of COVID-19 infections in nursing, assisted living and residential care facilities is 2.2 percent based on preliminary results. Facilities were required to complete administration of tests by September 30 and follow up by submitting results. With baseline testing complete, the plan calls for facilities to test all staff at least once a month on an on-going basis.

“We took quick action in the first days of this pandemic to protect the residents and staff of long-term care facilities by enacting some of the strictest visitation policies in the country, but with that protection has come great sacrifice. One of the most heartwrenching aspects of this crisis is the reality that, to keep our vulnerable long-term care residents safe, so many  Oregonians have not been able to visit their loved ones, to sit with them, to hold their hands,” said Governor Brown. “With this first phase of long-term care testing complete, we are one step closer to finding a way to strike the balance between keeping our long-term care facilities free of COVID-19, and making sure residents are able to have the family time that is so critical to their wellbeing and health.”

In addition to providing information about COVID-19 cases, the baseline testing requirement provided facilities with the opportunity to develop the capacity to quickly and regularly test residents and staff.

Facilities are required to report any positive test result immediately to their local public health authority and ODHS. ODHS conducts at least weekly onsite visits to facilities with COVID-19 cases and collaborates with OHA and the facility’s local public health authority to monitor how the outbreak is being managed.

To ensure individuals’ privacy, the only publicly released information from the testing will be aggregate data. Positive test results are included in OHA’s Weekly COVID-19 Report, if the facility has three or more cases or one or more deaths. In addition, facilities with cases are included in ODHS lists published twice weekly. 

Wildfire Updates

Thank you to Oregon Department of Forestry for the following updates.

Forecasted Fall Weather

Fire danger is expected to decrease as we extend deeper into our typical fall weather pattern. Cooler temperatures are forecasted through the end of the week with another rainy weather event starting across the region Friday night. Rain should fall on much of the state by the end of the weekend with accumulations west of the Cascades between 0.5 and 3 inches.  On the east side, less moisture is anticipated, but rainfall totals will still  be in the 0.5 inch range in much of northeastern Oregon. There may also be another rain event next week but the forecast lacks confidence at this time.  

Oregon’s Current Fire Activity

As of October 8, Oregon has experienced 2,027 fires for 1,221,324 acres burned. This includes fires and acres burned across all fire jurisdictions in Oregon, such as ODF-protected lands, federal lands, tribal lands, and the rangeland in southeastern Oregon. The ten-year annual average is 2,150 fires. We are consist with the average number of fires, but have eclipsed the annual average acres burned of 557,811. A summary of ongoing large fires (Riverside, Beachie Creek, Lionshead, Holliday Farm, Archie Creek and Slater) and a useful visual are available at:

Smoke Impacts

It really goes without saying that the smoke impacts from wildfire have been staggering. You can stay up to date on smoke levels in your area and statewide on Oregon's smoke blog. City, county, tribal, state and federal agencies coordinate and aggregate the wildfire smoke information for this site. Along with staying up to date with the Smoke Blog, you can also check air quality levels using a mobile device through the OregonAir app.

Additional Information Sources 

Employment Department Updates

Thank you to the Oregon Employment Department for the following updates.

Below are the audio and video links to Employment Department Director, David Gerstenfeld’s media briefing from yesterday:

Some of the highlights include:

Lost Wages Assistance-FEMA extra $300/week for 7/26 – 9/5:

Last week we announced that we met the goal of starting to issue LWA payments by the end of the month.

In Last Thursday’s initial run, we issued over $225M to almost 148,000 people. Soon after that, we identified issues that led to some eligible claimants not receiving their benefits, as well as a small number of duplicate payments for some others. We paused on issuing payments so that we could address the issues. Yesterday, we issued nearly another $95 million in LWA payments to eligible claimants and a total of about $330M to 230,000 people have received LWA payments.

We encourage claimants who believe they are eligible but haven't yet certified to do so ASAP here Online Claims System.

Certification is the one-time step required by FEMA for claimants who receive UI, PEUC, or EB benefits for a COVID-19 reason.

Waiting Week

We are still on track to meet our preliminary estimate of paying the Waiting Week by the end of November. This is subject to change pending any new federal relief programs, but we are keeping an eye out for that.

Tax rates 

We have received interest from employers who are wondering what the high number of unemployment benefits we’ve paid since the onset of the pandemic means for their tax rates. We won’t be announcing the new tax rate until November 13, but I do want to share that for several reasons, we do not anticipate any sudden or severe changes to the UI tax schedule. Oregon’s self-balancing statutory formula for funding the UI Trust Fund kept Oregon solvent during the Great Recession and appears very likely to do so now. So far, 19 other states have had to borrow a total of $34.5 billion in order to pay unemployment benefits. Because of Oregon’s self-balancing formula, it does not look like we will need to borrow money, and that is good news because it saves Oregon employers from having to pay interest and other borrowing costs.  A good number of the benefits we’ve paid this year are actually reimbursable by the federal government, as opposed to employer taxes.

Reusable Bags During COVID-19


Thank you to Celeste Meiffren-Swango of Environment Oregon for the following article on COVID-19 and reusable bags.

Nothing we use for ten minutes should pollute the environment for hundreds of years.

In 2019, the Oregon Legislature passed the "Sustainable Shopping Initiative," which bans the sale of single-use plastic grocery bags and requires retailers to charge at least five-cents for 40% post-consumer recycled paper and reusable bags. This law went into effect January 1, 2020. 

During the early stages of the pandemic, when little was known about how COVID-19 spreads, the state recommended an eased enforcement of the bag law to allow for some flexibility for grocery stores with frontline workers who were feeling uneasy about handling reusable bags and because of a reported shortage of paper bags. 

Now, over six months later, if you walk into a grocery store in Oregon, it's not clear that there are any restrictions on bags at all. In some stores, thin plastic bags are being used at checkout. In some, there's no charge for paper bags. In others, you aren't allowed to bring your reusable bag into the store at all. 

We now know more about how COVID-19 spreads, and it's time for Oregon to recommit to the bag ban. 

Isn't there a shortage of paper bags? 
The Sustainable Shopping Initiative includes a five cent fee on paper bags so that more Oregonians choose to use reusable bags-- and so we don't simply trade one single-use bag for another. If there is, in fact, a shortage of paper bags in Oregon, grocery stores ought to find ways to encourage people to use reusable bags, give them boxes at checkout or have people simply go without a bag. 

Additionally, we should not waive the fee for paper bags. Waiving the fee may confuse the public and create a false sense of safety with single-use bags. The fee should remain in place and customers should be able to bring their own bags. We do not need plastic bags.

But don't reusable bags potentially transmit COVID-19?
In June, a group of 115 doctors and scientists signed onto a statement addressing the safety of reusables during the COVID-19 pandemic. They found that if basic hygiene and safety measures are in place, reusable bags are no less safe than single-use.

Another recent study found that COVID-19 can survive on plastic for up to 72 hours, and on paper for 24 hours. Fabric and mesh were not part of the study, but we know those materials are much easier to clean and disinfect.

We are experiencing a difficult and unprecedented time, but it is important that our decisions stay grounded in science. 

The bag ban was passed because plastic waste is polluting our environment and Oregonians demanded action. During this pandemic, while we spend time closer to home, we're reminded how special Oregon's environment is-- and how worthy it is of protection. The sooner we can get back to reusable bags, the better, for our oceans, our beaches, our parks and the health of our environment.

In the meantime, here are some basic tips for safely using reusable bags:

  • Make sure your reusable bags are properly cleaned before each use.
  • Make sure your bags are cleaned and disinfected after their use. Wash reusable fabric bags with soap and water either by hand or machine, and disinfect reusable plastic bags.
  • Follow the rules at the grocery store. If they ask you to bag your own groceries, comply if you are able. If the store doesn't allow reusable bags, you can ask them to place your items back in the cart and bag them yourself at your car, bike trailer, or for your walk home. 
  • Use the self-checkout when possible, and bag your own groceries in your reusable bag.

Additional Resources

 House District 30 Links

Federal Delegation Links

Education Links

Utilities Assistance

Food and Housing Assistance

Remember to take care of your own mental health and well-being during the pandemic. Thank you to Hillsboro Arts & Culture Council for the reminder that art is great therapy! 


Thank you to Age Celebration for sharing the following art therapy event that can be a welcome mental health break for children as Hillsboro School District has today off of school. Open to all, bring a lawn chair, wear a mask and be prepared to sit 6' apart as you color a card to hang on the Wishing Tree in downtown Hillsboro.

Wishing Tree

Be good to yourself and each other. ❤

Onward & Upward,


Capitol Phone: 503-986-1430
Capitol Address: 900 Court St. NE, H-487, Salem, Oregon 97301