August 8, 2022 Update from SD 23

Michael Dembrow

August 8, 2022

Dear Neighbors and Friends,

I hope that you and your loved ones are doing well, staying healthy, and looking out for your neighbors and friends during this past week. 

As you’ll see in tonight’s newsletter, we continue to see a decline in our COVID infection and hospitalization rates in Oregon, particularly here in the Portland Metro area.  However, that doesn’t mean that plenty of us aren’t continuing to catch this highly infectious form of the Omicron virus.  And after two and a half years, that finally includes me.

As I mentioned in last week’s newsletter, I was in Denver last week for a couple of back-to-back national conferences (the National Conference of State Legislatures and the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators).  It was time well spent, allowing me to compare notes with a number of colleagues working on similar priorities--such as the educator workforce shortage, new models of higher education support and funding, gun violence prevention, prison reform, and plastics reduction.  I also had a hand in crafting and passing some long-overdue NCSL resolutions to reform our broken immigration and refugee systems.  And much more.

It was great to be able to get together in person to do this work after two years of gatherings limited to zoom.  But unfortunately there was obviously a lot of COVID going around and not much mask-wearing by most (I was myself erratic).  According to the Legislature’s Human Resources Department, a number of legislators and staff tested positive after their return to Oregon.  I was one.

Fortunately, it’s a mild case—congestion (fortunately not in the lungs) and some fatigue, and my five-day isolation period ends soon. As a result of my age, I was able to be prescribed for the antiviral Paxlovid right away, so I’m optimistic that it will stay mild.  As usual, fingers crossed.      

Moving on from my own situation, in tonight’s newsletter you’ll find the latest on the bigger COVID picture.  As I mentioned above, the overall message is a positive one.  All three Portland-area counties are now considered by the CDC to be Low Risk.  OHSU predicts a continued decline in cases for the next couple of months, given that no new variants appear to be taking hold for now.  You can read all the details below.

You’ll also find the latest on the growing number of wildfires starting to appear, the latest encouraging news on climate action, the status of Monkeypox in the state, and an update on the poultry CAFO workgroup.

Until next time, please do your best to stay healthy and safe.  And let me know if you have any questions or thoughts about anything in this week’s newsletter.


Thursday’s Fire Report

We are now clearly in the midst of wildfire season.  Last week I reported on the big McKinney Fire in Northern California, which was approaching Oregon.  That advance appears to have slowed down, but we now have new fires in other part of the state as well.  Here’s the latest report sent out to legislators on Thursday by Mike Shaw, Chief of Fire Protection Services:

Good morning,

As you are all aware, fire activity has picked up significantly across the state over the past week. This is mostly due to thunderstorms and dry lightning but came on the heels of a week-long heat dome that produced triple digit temperatures across much of Oregon. This weather event has made fuels extremely receptive to fire, especially in southwest Oregon and east of the Cascades. Even with these challenging weather conditions, plus moderate to heavy initial attack, firefighters have been very successful at catching fires at a small size and are doing so with an excellent safety record across the fire front.

That said, there are still a few fires of concern which remain on the landscape, none of which are on ODF protected land, yet we continue to assist as needed :

  • McKinney(CAL Fire) – recent rain provided some relief but given the proximity to Oregon, ODF continues to monitor.
  • Beech Creek(USFS)– 248 ac with 15% containment.
  • Miller Road(OSFM) – currently at 10,500 acres with 0% containment and active fire behavior. OSFM Blue Team in-briefed yesterday and an interagency Type 2 team will join them in unified command today. ODF continues to monitor and provide assistance as requested.
  • Windigo- 1,093 ac / Potter- 125 ac (USFS) – both fires experiencing moderate fire behavior with 0% containment. Fire currently managed by a Type 2 interagency team. ODF continues to monitor. The team experienced significant initial attack activity within the fire area and responded to 17 additional fire starts yesterday.
  • Cedar Creek(USFS)– 300 acres with 0% containment. A PNW interagency Type 1 team will be assuming command of this fire today.

Winds are expected to be breezy again today, mostly east of the Cascades, with relative humidity improving around the Columbia Basin. Southeast Oregon will see more chances for thunderstorms this afternoon and eastern Oregon will see a more widespread chance on Friday. Then temperatures will rise again over the weekend and into early next week. There is a greater potential for new fires today on the east side of the state due to breezy winds, possible lightning, and low humidity. Additionally, we will likely see new and holdover ignitions from lightning over the next few days, but the chance for new significant fires will decrease into the weekend.

Again, a shout out to all the agencies, landowners, cooperators, and everyone involved in keeping Oregonians safe from wildfire during the last week - most importantly, all while maintaining an impressive safety record. Without these folks and their dedication to the mission, the list of fires above could be much, much longer.

We sincerely thank you for your ongoing partnership and support this fire season. We will continue to keep you updated as fire season progresses.

You can keep up with the latest news by reading the Department of Forestry Wildfire Blog.


Good News On the Climate Front from Oregon and from Congress

Even as much of the United States and Europe are suffering under unusually high temperatures, and we’re again beginning to experience the long-term effects of climate-induced drought here in Oregon, there is actually some good news coming our way, providing some hope that we still may be able to avoid the worst effects of climate change through concerted action.

The first has to do with new evidence that after years of legislative and executive action, Oregon is finally on track to reach its short-term climate goals.  As part of Oregon’s long-standing climate action work, the Legislature established ambitious emissions-reduction goals back in 2007.  One of the key goals was that by 2035 we would reduce our annual emissions enough to get them at least 45% BELOW where we were back in 1990.  That same year of 2007 the Legislature also created the Oregon Global Warming Commission to monitor and report on progress in meeting these goals. (I sit on the Commission as one of its legislative members.) 

As part of its work to assess the state’s progress in meeting its 2035 goal, the Commission has developed the Roadmap To 2035, which looks at the cumulative impacts of the different requirements and incentives that have been put in place—e.g., our Renewable Portfolio Standards, Clean Fuels program, EV rebates, 100% Clean Electricity requirement, and the various elements of the Governor’s recently enacted Climate Protection Plan. It also reflects the effects of improved technology and reductions in the cost of renewable energy.  What the modeling shows is that as long as these different programs are allowed to stay on track (e.g., not overturned by future governors or legislators), we will hit the 45%-reduction goal in 2035.  The model also shows positive impacts for public health and our economy.

You can read all about it in this press release from the Global Warming Commission.  

This is really great news.  But it shouldn’t make us complacent.  The projection shows that we will JUST BARELY hit our goal.  There’s not a lot of wiggle room for us.

What I think will help give us a little more wiggle room will be the impending passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which made it out of the U.S. Senate yesterday and is on track to make it through the House very soon. As I’m sure you know, it includes hundreds of billions of dollars in incentives for the clean energy transition, along with toughened standards on methane.  Oregonians will be the beneficiaries of those changes, along with people in other states.

If you want a detailed analysis of the climate aspects of the bill, I recommend this detailed analysis by Evergreen Action.  And for those of you into podcasts, I strongly recommend last week’s edition of David Roberts' Volts, featuring two of this country’s leading academics on climate action, Princeton’s Jesse Jenkins (for the economic perspective) and UC-Santa Barbara’s Leah Stokes (for the political science perspective). It’s excellent.

I know that some of you will fee disappointed that the bill doesn’t go far enough and wish that it didn’t contain so many compromises.  I wish it went further myself and had fewer compromises from its original version.  But the fact that it was able to get the support of every Democratic senator—liberal, moderate, and conservative alike, from Oregon to Arizona to West Virginia—was a real accomplishment and a laudable example of forward movement in these polarized political times.  These are crucial financial investments—investments unthinkable for an individual state like ours—that come not a moment too soon.  What a turnaround from two weeks ago!  Many thanks to those—including our own Senator Ron Wyden—who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make it happen.


OHA Provides Briefing on hMPXV (Monkeypox)

hMPXV, more commonly known as Monkeypox, is on the rise in Oregon, as it is around the world.  Last Wednesday the Oregon Health Authority held a primer briefing for legislators and legislative staff on Monkeypox infections, with a focus on the Oregon experience.  It was very thorough, with lots of info about the disease, its genesis, transmission, treatment, and demographics of those affected here in Oregon.  It also provided information about what the disease is NOT, shedding light on some of the myths that are out there.

Here are the slides that they provided with all the details.  By way of explanation, LPHA means Local Public Health Authority (i.e., the County Public Health Department). FQHC means Federally Qualified Health Center.  CBO means Community Based Organization.  PEP means Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (Treatment).

OHA now has a website with more information on hMPXV. 

If you or someone you know has had potential exposure to hMPXV, please direct them to their local county health department. Those agencies will have the best local information and are the primary recipients of the vaccine doses at this time. Here's a directory of local public health authorities. 


Upcoming This Week: Third Meeting of the Workgroup on Poultry CAFOs

As I’ve mentioned in previous newsletters, I’ve been asked to head up a workgroup trying to get a better understanding of the growing number of poultry CAFOs located or proposed to be located here in Oregon. 

A CAFO is a Concentrated Confined Animal Feeding Operation, where very large numbers of animals are brought together within a single facility (one large building or many).  In this case, they involve chickens who are brought in as hatchlings and then raised over the next few months prior to slaughter.  Because they involve so many animals (in this case as many as a million chickens at a time), they require special permitting to monitor environmental impacts.  Needless to say, they are very controversial, drawing many complaints from neighbors concerned about potential impacts on their own air quality and water supply.

You can follow the work of the workgroup, including the agendas, calendar, member list, handouts, powerpoints, and meeting recordings, at the workgroup website.

We’ve had two meetings so far, the first one focused on the process of CAFO permitting and issues related to air and water quality. The second focused on how CAFOs fit into the state and county land-use decision process and an overview from the poultry industry.  This Friday (1-3 pm) we’ll have our third meeting, this one focused on the issue of water quantity and use of the “stockwater exemption” that puts operations with animals who need drinking water at the front of the line (ahead of crop irrigators) for access to water. Needless to say, this whole issue is quite controversial, especially in our increasing times of drought.

Our fourth meeting, on August 31 (3 pm-5 pm) will be an extended opportunity for us to hear from the public.

For more on the issue, here are two very recent articles.  The first is from the Oregon Capital Pressa publication focused on Oregon agriculture.  The second is from the Oregon Capital Chronicle.



Weekly Data Report:

Here is what this last week looks like in Oregon, based on information gleaned from OHA's daily reports.  At the end of the newsletter you’ll find graphs that I’ve put together showing the daily counts and trends for the last two weeks.

Overall, infections and death have gone up slightly for the state as a whole, while hospitalizations and test positivity have continued their downward movement.  As reflected in the OHSU forecast that comes further down in the newsletter, we continue to be on the downslope of the most recent “COVID Crest” for now.

  • The number of reported infections has risen over the last week. OHA reported 8,615 new cases of COVID-19 during the week of July 29-August 4 (vs. 7,932 the week before), a 7-day average of 1,231 per day (vs 1,132 the previous week). The number of new cases is again likely an undercount, as many people are using home tests to determine their infection status but are not reporting those results.
  • Average test positivity for the last week was 12.9%, down from from the previous week’s 14.3%. Again, this number skews high because it likely reflects a higher proportion of people showing COVID symptoms (and thus going in for a test, rather than self-testing).
  • On Thursday there were 398 COVID-19-related hospitalizations statewide, vs. 400 last Thursday.. Again, most of these hospitalizations are not in and of themselves due to COVID—they include those who tested positive after having been admitted for other reasons.
  • The number of COVID patients in Oregon’s ICUs has gone up over the last week: 51 on Thursday, up from last week’s 43. These are the most serious COVID infections. 
  • There were 120 COVID-19-related deaths reported during the last week, vs. 76 last week. Again, many of these deaths actually occurred in earlier weeks but were just reported to the state. (You'll see this reflected in the final graph at the end of the newsletter.)


Weekly County Report: About the Same Risk Rates As Last Week

According to the CDC Daily Counter (updated each Thursday), 12 (up from 11 last week) Oregon counties are now at high risk of COVID transmission, a status that reflects both the number of new COVID cases and the number of people in hospital for COVID:  Baker, Benton, Coos, Curry, Douglas, Klamath, Lake, Malheur, Umatilla, Union, Wallowa, and Wasco.

Here’s what the CDC recommends for this category:  Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines. Get tested if you have symptoms. Wear a mask if you have symptoms, a positive test, or exposure to someone with COVID-19. Wear a mask on public transportation. You may choose to wear a mask at any time as an additional precaution to protect yourself and others. If you are at high risk for severe illness, consider wearing a mask indoors in public and taking additional precautions.

Sixteen Oregon counties (down from 23) have reported infection rates that place them in the Medium Risk category:  Crook, Deschutes, Gilliam, Grant, Harney, Hood River, Jefferson, Jackson, Josephine, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Morrow, Sherman, Tillamook, and Wheeler.

Eight Oregon counties (up from 5)— Clackamas, Clatsop, Columbia, Marion, Multnomah, Polk, Wheeler, and Yamhill—are now at Low Risk. This includes the entire Portland Tri-County region for the first time in months.

Again, we must remember that these are only the tests results that have been reported.  With the prevalence of home tests, there are certainly many more positive cases out there that have not been reported.

We can also track the test positivity rates for each county at this dashboard. The test positivity rates reported this week show continued increases.

At  10.3%, Multnomah County shows a big decrease from last week’s 12.8%. Washington County has gone down a little—12.3% vs. last week’s 13.0%.  Clackamas County remains the lowest in the Tri-County region at 9.2% (vs. 11.0% last week).



This Week’s Wastewater Monitoring Report Shows Continuing Stability in Oregon Cities

With testing reports giving us just a fraction of infections out there, wastewater monitoring has become a more reliable indicator of the amount of virus in cities around the state.  That report is updated each week.

This week’s report shows us that two cities (same as last week) are showing sustained increases: Bend and Florence.  The remainder are declining or remaining the same.

Of the 40 cities monitored, 5% showed sustained increases (same as last week), 11%  showed sustained decreases (vs. 16% last week), and 84% remained on a no-change plateau (vs. 78% last week).


OHSU Forecast: Downward COVID Slope Continues

The current OHSU forecast report, published on Friday, uses data provided by OHA and others that project how fast the virus may spread in the population and provides projections on possible outcomes, including infection rates and impacts on hospital capacity.  The lead author is Dr. Peter Graven, Director of OHSU’s Office of Advanced Analytics. 

It now appears every two weeks.

This week’s report confirms that the recent surge has peaked and is very slowly receding.  Looking forward, the new forecast is similar to the one from two weeks ago.

  • Oregon’s cases levels have been relatively flat since middle of May. At 28 per 100k per day, they are 33rd highest in the US.
  • The peak of the current wave was estimated to occur on 7/13 at 5.6% of the population. The model expects that rate to decline over the next 6 weeks
  • Wastewater data also continues to show a peak in mid-July with general declines in viral concentrations since then.
  • These infection rates also drive staff illness and thus Oregon is likely seeing a peak in staff out due to COVID. This should begin to decline as there are no additional variants currently poised to cause increases.
  • As of Aug. 3, 398 people were in Oregon hospitals with COVID-19. So far, the current wave's peak was 464 on July 17.
  • Statewide, the number of available beds remains low at 311 (most likely due to staffing shortages).
  • The portion of visits to emergency rooms sparked by symptoms thought to be COVID fell to 4.2%, falling from 6.9% July 9.
  • Test positivity dipped to 13.5%, down from 13.9% two weeks earlier.
  • As of Aug. 2, 9% of occupied ICU beds had COVID patients in them statewide, similar to two weeks earlier. The figure includes people found to have COVID after being admitted to the hospital for something else. (This accounts for more than half of cases.)
  • As of Aug. 3, 12 children were in Oregon hospitals with COVID (up from 10 two weeks ago, but a big decline from the June 20 peak of 22).
  • Some additional increase in deaths are expected as a result of the BA4/5 wave.
  • The forecast window has been extended until the end of December.
  • The current wave is expected to decline through September before increases begin again in October. The forecast results are not based on any specific new variant but instead on general waning immunity parameters from existing strains. If a new variant has different properties than existing strains, the model will need to be revised.
  • The level of seasonal flu observed in Australia suggests that we can expect a stronger than usual flu season in the northern hemisphere and Oregon.


Additional COVID Updates and Links

  • According to CNN, the CDC is about to release new guidance on COVID protocols for schools, continuing to relax earlier requirements for screening, testing, and quarantining. Here’s more. Here's more.
  • The Biden administration released two reports this week to initiate a whole-government effort to prevent, detect and treat Long COVID. Here's more about the reports and the White House strategy on Long COVID from CNN. 
  • Following up on the Monkeypox report in the first part of the newsletter, here’s a useful backgrounder on Monkeypox from the New York Times.
  • And here’s the transcript of an OPB interview with a senior OHA advisor on the same subject.
  • Inside Higher Education reports on a new paper showing the extent to which college vaccine mandates saved lives. 
  • Many who had COVID in the early days of the pandemic lost their senses of smell and/or taste for long periods of time. Fortunately, it now appears, not forever: a new survey shows that 88% of patients had recovered these senses by the time of a 2-year follow-up.
  • Though many of those who continue to test positive on antigen home tests after Day 5 were believed to no longer be infectious, that may in fact not be the case. A small study shows that half of all those who tested positive on Day 6 were still infectious. Here's how they know that.



cases graph




hospital graph


deaths graph


Here again are some COVID resources that you will find useful:

If the above links are not providing you with answers to your questions or directing you to the help that you need, please consider me and my office to be a resource.  We’ll do our best to assist you or steer you in the right direction.


Want to See Past Newsletters?

If there was COVID-related information in a past newsletter that you want to go back to, but find you’ve deleted it, you can always go to my legislative website (, click on “News and Information,” and you’ll find them all there.  Also, if someone forwarded you this newsletter and you’d like to get it directly, you can sign up for it there.


dembrow signature

Senator Michael Dembrow
District 23

phone: 503-281-0608
mail: 900 Court St NE, S-407, Salem, OR, 97301