September 11, 2022 Update from SD 23

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Michael Dembrow

September 11, 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. 

In tonight’s newsletter, you’ll find a recap of yesterday’s 2022 Bike Town Hall, complete with photos.  It was a great one, despite the smoky conditions, another opportunity to experience and learn about important grassroots projects underway in a number of local communities.

You’ll also find the latest on wildfires in Oregon.  We’re continuing to experience by far the worst fires of the season, but hopefully the worst will soon be behind us.

On the COVID front, you’ll find the latest numbers.  Overall, we seem to be in a holding pattern right now.  The steady declines of the last couple of months appear to have leveled off, at least for this week.  You’ll find details in the summaries and graphs in tonight’s newsletter.

You can also read about the arrival of the new booster in Oregon and thoughts from various experts about when you should seek one. 

As you’ll see below, this will be the last newsletter where I’ll be able to give you daily numbers for reported infections, percent positive, and COVID deaths.  Beginning this week, OHA will only be providing these numbers once a week, much as they have been doing for hospitalizations.  More on that below. But I’ll continue to be able to show you the week-over-week trends, which will remain very useful.

In closing, I want to express my deep sadness at the passing of Bob Stacey, a great public servant, whom we lost this week.  Bob was a tireless fighter for sensible land use and environmental protections in this state, as an advocate, a public servant, and as an elected official. I saw him last at last year’s celebration of the successful transfer of 82nd Avenue from state oversight to local oversight, a move that will result in remarkable changes for that part of town.  Bob was already seriously affected by the disease that would eventually bring his life to a close, but there he was, showing up as he always did for important work.  Bob frequently participated in our bike town halls, always eager to learn and to find new ways to help local communities that needed support. (His replacement on the Metro Council, Duncan Hwang, is also a frequent participant.) We took a moment during this year’s bike tour to pay tribute to Bob, led by Metro Councilor-elect Ashton Simpson.

If you’re not familiar with Bob and his many contributions, OPB has a nice piece on him..  Please join me in extending deep appreciation and deep condolences to his family.

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.


Another Inspiring (and Emotional) Bike Town Hall

It was smoky in Northeast Portland yesterday, and I was a little concerned that we wouldn't see too many people show up for the 2022 SD 23 Bike Town Hall.  I needn't have worried.  As you can see from the photo below, we had a great turnout, and for most of the group, this was their first time participating. 

group photo

We've been holding these town halls each fall since my first year in the Legislature in 2009. (Correction: we did need to take 2020 off due to the pandemic.) We've seen it all: sun, clouds, drizzle, rain, and now smoke.

The bike town hall was the brainchild of my 2009 legislative assistant, Alex Berke (now an attorney specializing in women's issues and family law in New York). She wasn't much of a cyclist herself but she knew I was, and she thought it would be a good way for us to learn about some of the interesting things happening in the various communities in our district.  And so it began, as a partnership among the legislators who made up SD 23 (Jackie Dingfelder the senator, Ben Cannon the representative from HD 46, and I from HD 45).  Ben was replaced by Alyssa Keny-Guyer, Barbara Smith Warner replaced me when I became senator in 2013, and then Khanh Pham replaced Alyssa as HD 46 rep in 2021.  This was Barbara's last bike town hall as a rep, and we focused on the HD 45 part of the district.  As you can imagine, much love was given Barbara for all her wonderful service to our state.


We met at McDaniel High School (formerly known as Madison HS), which just reopened last year after extensive renovation as one of the extensive PPS Bond projects.  We got to see their new Career/Technical Education shops and the beautiful new Theater/Auditorium.

We also got to celebrate the recent jurisdictional transfer of 82nd Avenue from ODOT to the City of Portland, a decade-long effort that came to fruition last year with great leadership from Khanh and important support from many.  One of the key supporters, Ashton Simpson from Oregon Walks (now a Metro Councilor-elect) was on the bike tour with us and spoke about the importance of the project.  He also paid tribute to the late Bob Stacey.  Bob gave so much to this state and was an inspiration to all who knew him.  He was a frequent participant in our Bike Town Halls and was seriously missed this year.  But it was great to have Ashton there to carry on the tradition. 

cully park

Here, Barbara, Khanh, and I are at Cully Park, a new, large city park built on an important Native American gathering place that sadly had served for years as a landfill.  We're meeting with Natalyn Begay and others from the Native American Youth Association (NAYA), who were showing off the Native Gathering Garden that is planted with traditional foods.  The phot below includes Candace Avalos from Verde, the community-based organization that was the real powerhouse behind the creation of this park. They are advocates for Environmental Justice and immigrant communities and continue to do extremely important work, including opening the new Las Adelitas housing complex on the site of what was once region's largest strip club, the Sugar Shack.

with Candaceair quality

At this stop Khanh introduced speakers informing us about urban forestry (and the importance of trees in preventing urban heat deserts as well as capturing carbon) and about removing unnecessary pavement (a local organization called DePave, which showed off one of their projects back in our first bike town hall).

group 2

We also met with advocates for immigrants and refugees--Hacienda CDC and the African Youth and Community Organization (AYCO) to learn more about community-based supportive housing.  And we learned a lot about alternative transportation and efforts to make Portland's streets safer for children and others of all ages.

And finally, upon our return to the starting point, it was a celebration of deep appreciation for my dear colleague, Barbara Smith Warner. Khanh and I will miss her as a colleague, but we know she'll be back for more town halls as a constituent.  And we look forward to having her likely successor, Thuy Tran (who had National Guard Duty this weekend), with us next year.


Another Difficult Week for Wildfire

As was feared and I’m sure you know, we’ve had a rough week in the Northwest for wildfires.  East winds, dry conditions, and heat coalesced to create dangerous conditions reminiscent of 2020.  In order to be better prepared than they were two years ago, electric utilities turned off power in parts of the state deemed most at risk of trees coming down and sparking electric fires.

Just as the fires in Southwestern Oregon began to recede and air quality there began to improve, the opposite occurred in the fires in Central and Northeast Oregon, and smaller fires broke out south of Salem and in Clackamas County.  Much of Oregon and Washington have been dealing with compromised air quality, and several areas have experienced Level 3 forced evacuations.

The Cedar Creek Fire near Oak Ridge in Lane County grew by more than 30,000 acres just yesterday. It is now at nearly 85,000 acres and is once again 0% contained.  Here's reporting from the Eugene Register Guard with details. 

The biggest fire in the state remains the Double Creek Fire near the community of Imnaha in the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area in Wallowa County in the far northeast corner of the state.  Its explosive growth has continued this week, as it has grown from 43,669 acres to nearly 150,000. It is currently 15% contained.

According to the Office of Emergency Management’s wildfire dashboard, there are now 21 (down from 37) fires currently burning around the state, with a little over 286,255 acres involved (up from 80,000). 1,461 people are under Level 3 (Go Now) evacuation orders (up from 213), 6,438 (up from 1,241) under Level 2 (Be Ready), and 3,076 (down from 11,811 under Level 1 (Be Prepared).   

On the Good News front, fire crews appear to be on top of the Van Meter Fire in Klamath County, which is held at 2,500 acres.  The big Rum Creek Fire in Josephine County is now at 21,000 acres (up from 18,000 a week ago), and is nearly 70% contained, a very good sign. 

And although a number of structures have been lost and there have been some injuries, we have so far avoided fatalities among residents.  However, we have lost two firefighters this year and conditions have been particularly hard on all the fire crews around the state.  We again owe them so much.

Here’s a survey of conditions around the state as of this morning from OPB.

Here’s some prognosis from Zach Urness at the Salem Statesman-Journal, who as usual has been doing a great job of tracking the wildfires (and natural resource issues in general). It does appear that we should be seeing improvements in both fire and air conditions tonight and tomorrow.

For a city-by-city picture of air quality in Oregon, I’d recommend DEQ’s Air Quality Map and Oregon Smoke..

For daily information on the fires around the region, here’s the Northwest InterAgency Coordination blog:

And again, I’d also recommend KOIN TV’s Wildfire Watch 2022 for ongoing information and stories.  They’re doing a great job of covering the wildfire situation in the state.



Interested in the New Heat Pump Incentive Program?

During the last session the Legislature passed SB 1536​ as part of our climate-action efforts both to lower emissions and help people deal with the hot conditions that are becoming the norm.  SB 1536 dedicates $10 million to help people most impacted by inadequate heating and cooling purchase electric heat pumps, which have been proven to be effective, efficient, and less expensive to operate than other forms of heating and cooling.

The program is now being set up, and it’s time for broader public awareness and input.  This $10 million will likely just be the first step in a much broader deployment, as federal dollars from the Inflation Reduction Act begin to flow into the state.

The Oregon Department of Energy will be holding two online meetings in the next few weeks for people interested in learning more.

Monday, September 19, 2022 from 10 – 11 a.m.

Monday, September 26, 2022 from 1 – 2 p.m.

Here's more information about the program and how to log in.


Want to Run for Governor?

Just last week I mentioned that with Labor Day we have now officially entered election season. We’re already being barraged by news items about and ads for the major candidates for Governor.

You may think that three is plenty, but you may think that you or someone you know would also make a good candidate.  If so, it’s not too late.

As long as you’re in 5th Grade and want to be Oregon’s 2023 Kid Governor!!!

This week marks the kickoff for the 2023 ORKG campaign, which will culminate at the same time as that other Governor’s race.  ORKG is a statewide Civics Education program coordinated by the Secretary of State’s Office.  Our current governor is Emerie Martin from Pleasant Hill Elementary (near Creswell in Lane County).  You can meet Emerie and her cabinet and find all about the program at

To learn how to declare and proceed with your candidacy, here's the announcement from Secretary of State Shemia Fagan. 



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.

You should know that this will be the last newsletter that includes daily counts in this section and in the graphs.  Starting with the end of this week, OHA will no longer be providing this information on a daily basis.  Instead, the data will be provided only on a weekly basis (as they already have for hospitalizations).  This does make sense for this stage of the pandemic, and of course aligns well with this weekly newsletter.  it will continue to allow us to see overall trends.

The reporting changes were announced in an OHA press conference this week.  You can find all the details, along with a recording of the press conference and prepared remarks here.

Overall, we see that the chief COVID metrics--infections, test positivity, hospitalizations, and deaths--have stabilized over the last week, following weeks of declines. 

  • The number of reported infections has risen slightly over the last week. OHA reported 4,086 new cases of COVID-19 during the week of September 2-9 (vs. 3,937 the week before), a 7-day average of 584 per day (vs 562 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 again 8.5%, identical to the previous week. 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 Wednesday there were 269 COVID-19-related hospitalizations statewide, vs. 268 last Thursday. Hospitalizations are now our best indicator of disease spread. Again, however, most of these hospitalizations are not in and of themselves due to COVID—more than half are those who tested positive after having been admitted for other reasons.
  • The number of COVID patients in Oregon’s ICUs has gone down again over the last week: 31 on Thursday, down from last week’s 35. These are the most serious COVID infections. 
  • There were again 42 COVID-19-related deaths reported during the last week, the same as last week. Again, some of these deaths actually occurred in earlier weeks but were just reported to the state.


Weekly County Report: 29 Out of 36 Counties Now at Low Risk

The CDC assigns risk levels based on a combination of the number of new COVID cases and the number of people in hospital for COVID.

According to the CDC Daily Counter (updated each Thursday), 29 Oregon counties (up from 28)— Benton, Clackamas, Clatsop, Columbia, Coos, Crook, Curry, Deschutes, Douglas, Gilliam, Grant, Harney, Hood River, Jefferson, Klamath, Lake, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, Morrow, Multnomah, Polk, Sherman, Tillamook, Umatilla, Wasco, Washington, and Yamhill—are now at Low Risk.

Three Oregon counties (down from 14 last week) have reported infection rates that place them in the Medium Risk category:  Jackson, Josephine, and Wheeler. All four Eastern Oregon border counties (up from 1 last week) are now at high risk of COVID transmission: Baker, Malheur, Union, and Wallowa.

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.

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

All three Portland-area counties showed increases from the previous week. At 9.2%, Multnomah County shows an increase from last week’s 7.6%. Clackamas County is 8.9%, up from last week’s 6.9%.  Washington County remains the lowest of the three Metro counties at 8.6%, but it too shows an increase from last week’s 6.8%.



This Week’s Wastewater Monitoring Report Again Shows No Increases, Mainly Plateaus 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 the great majority of cities again show little change in the amount of virus in their wastewater.  The exceptions are all decreases in virus levels.

Of the cities monitored, 5% showed decreases (vs. 3% last week), 15% showed sustained decreases (vs. 10% last week), 0% showed increases (vs. 5% last week), 0% showed sustained increases (same as last week), and 79%% remained on a no-change plateau (vs. 90% last week).


OHA Releases Its Second Annual COVID Data Report

On Thursday OHA released its second Annual COVID Data Report, an extensive collection of data on COVID impacts in Oregon during 2021, including statistics on gender, age, race, ethnicity, disability, and risk factors.  It revealed ongoing disparities in severity between White Oregonians and various racial/ethnic communities, though the disparities experienced by Hispanic Oregonians narrowed substantially from the previous year.

You can access the report here.


Additional COVID Updates and Links



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

mail: 900 Court St NE, S-407, Salem, OR, 97301