September 24th Update from SD 23

Michael Dembrow

September 24, 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 I mentioned last week, yesterday was the deadline for requesting bill drafts for the 2023 session. (You can read more about that in last week's newsletter.)  As I predicted, new ideas kept coming into my office up in the final hours before the 5 p.m. deadline.  I’m happy to report (as far as I can tell!) that we successfully got them all submitted.

Yesterday was also the final day of this week’s “Leg Days,” including committee hearings, task force meetings, and interim appropriations from the Legislature’s Emergency Board.  You’ll find a report on all that work in this newsletter.

The news related to wildfires in Oregon is thankfully positive this week.  Again, please think of all those hardy firefighters out there doing this difficult but crucial work on our behalf.

On the COVID front, we continue to see declining numbers overall, particularly with respect to hospitalizations.  Again, though, the declines appear to be slowing down, and according to the OHSU forecast, we can expect to see gradual increases by the end of October. 

That leads to the question that has been much in the media this week: Is the pandemic over, and if not, when will it be?

You’ll find more details in the summaries, graphs, and links in this week’s newsletter.

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.


No October Constituent Coffee

Next Saturday is the first Saturday of the month, and thus normally would be the day for our constituent coffee.  Unfortunately, I have to be elsewhere this time, so we’ll have to put it off.  I’ll let you know when the next coffee will be.

And of course, if in the meantime you have any questions or comments that you were hoping to bring up at the coffee, please do send them my way:  


Relative Calm on the Wildfire Front

With the help of improved weather conditions, firefighters were able to make progress on all the major fires in the state.  Fingers crossed, the worst of this fire season appears to be behind us.  

The Office of Emergency Management wildfire dashboard gives us some good news: the number of active fires has gone down from 21 to 18, with no overall growth in in acres burned from last week. (In fact, the figure of 332,705 acres burned that was reported last week has been adjusted down to 330,330,521.) Again, no Oregonians are currently under active evacuation notices.

Work on the state's biggest fire, 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 has progressed significantly. It is now 71% contained (up from 27% contained last weekend.)

The state's most challenging fire remains the Cedar Creek fire near Oakridge in Lane County. There are nearly 2,000 people deployed at fighting this difficult fire, and they are definitely doing good work: :there too the explosive growth of last week has slowed down dramatically.  It is now at  113,809 acres burned, only slightly higher than last week's 113,322 acres. It is now 17% contained, up from last week's 11% contained.  

You can get all the details on all the fires around the region, including weather conditions, deployment of resources, firefighting strategies, and progress being made at  the Northwest InterAgency Coordination blog:

Air quality around the state has also been improving. For a city-by-city picture of air quality in Oregon, I’d recommend DEQ’s Air Quality Map and Oregon Smoke..

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. They just provided us with a piece of good news a couple of days ago: Milo McIver Park in Estacada has reopened after a serious fire there last month. I had just been there myself a week or two before the fire for some hiking and dog walking next to the Clackamas River.  Can't wait to get back!


“E-Board” Appropriates $35.4 Million for Emergency Needs During “Leg Days”

During the “interim” months between sessions, the Legislature has made it a practice to hold a week of committee and task force hearings every few months (known as “Leg Days”).  It’s also a time for the Senate to convene at the Capitol to vote on Governor appointments to boards, commissions, and agency directors.  We just concluded the most recent one yesterday.

Nearly every Senate and House committee met between Wednesday and Friday, receiving a wealth of information on a variety of timely topics, providing a glimpse at the issues that will be before the Legislature in the upcoming session.  You can find all the agendas for the meetings, recordings of the meetings, and the PowerPoints and other materials offered at the meetings by going to the COMMITTEES section of the Oregon Legislature Information System (“OLIS”):

Leg Days are also a time for the Joint Legislative Emergency Board (“E-Board”) to meet and allocate funds to address emergency situations that have arisen while the Legislature is out of session.  Those funds come out of the Emergency Fund that is set up at the end of session to handle such contingencies.  E-Board subcommittees met on Wednesday to discuss proposals from the Governor, Speaker of the House, and Senate President and choose to move them forward or not.  Those that were passed by the subcommittees were then discussed and voted on yesterday.

Here's the list of all the items that were discussed yesterday, with all the supporting info available under MEETING MATERIALS. Many of them were routine reports and appropriations of funds already allocated (they’re listed under the “Consent Reports” and “Consent Grants” sections), but the E-Board also made more than fifty individual appropriations.  They address our current hospital bed shortage, food insecurity, natural disasters, and other issues facing Oregon communities.

In response to the ongoing health care capacity crisis, the Emergency Board approved $35.4 million in funds to address the shortage of available beds in hospitals and long-term care facilities. The Emergency Board approved:

  • $21.8 million for contracts with nurse staffing agencies to support the short-term staffing needs of hospitals and long-term care facilities.
  • $4.4 million to continue operations of two respite shelters in Jackson and Marion Counties, freeing up hospital beds for individuals requiring a higher level of care.
  • $4.2 million to establish an incentive program for adult foster homes, residential care facilities, and in-home care agencies accepting individuals who are ready to be discharged from the hospital.
  • $2.3 million to increase the number of available Enhanced Care Facility beds by recruiting additional facilities and increasing rates.
  • $1.5 million for the Community Based Care Distressed Provider Relief Fund to support long-term care facilities in underserved areas at risk of closure.
  • $750,000 to the Oregon Medical Coordination Center for the hiring of staff to track bed availability and coordinate patient transfers around the state, and for grants to six regional hospitals.
  • $500,000 to support licensed and indigenous health care translators with one-time payments through the Oregon Worker Relief Fund.

Other items approved Friday by the Emergency Board include:

  • $5 million to the Oregon Food Bank to support the purchase of an estimated five million pounds of food for individuals and families around the state seeking food assistance.
  • $5 million to address dry domestic and community wells in Klamath County.
  • $2 million to the City of Echo to stabilize the banks of the Umatilla River after recent floods.
  • $2 million to help Wallowa County recover from severe storm damage.
  • $882,000 to support immediate public health work addressing water quality issues in Morrow and Umatilla counties.
  • $550,000 for initial Emerald Ash Borer response.

Here’s more on the effort to help with the shortage of hospital beds from the Oregonian and more background on the problem from the Capital Chronicle.

Please let me know if you have any questions about these appropriations. 



Weekly Data Report:

As I mentioned in my last newsletters, OHA is no longer providing COVID updates on a daily basis.  Instead, the data will be provided only on a weekly basis, on Wednesdays (as they already have for hospitalizations). 

As a result, you'll see that I've adjusted all my graphs (you'll find them at the end of the newsletter) to provide weekly reporting over the previous eight weeks.

Here is the first of this new weekly reporting, for the week from 9/12/22 through 9/21/22.

We see that we’re again in a holding pattern, with some metrics decreasing and others increasing.  Overall, COVID in Oregon appears to have stabilized for now.

  • The 7-day average for last week increased to 657 per day (vs. 573 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 8.7%, vs. 7.5% 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 237 COVID-19-related hospitalizations statewide, vs. 253 last Wednesday. 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 up a little over the last week: 30 on Wednesday, down from last week’s 26. These are the most serious COVID infections. 
  • There were 28 COVID-19-related deaths reported during the last week, down from last week’s 39. Again, some of these deaths actually occurred in earlier weeks but were just reported to the state.


Weekly County Report: Only One County at High 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), only one Oregon county is currently at High Risk: Sherman County in the Gorge.

Twenty-six Oregon counties (down from 29 last week)— Benton, Clackamas, Clatsop, Columbia, Coos, Crook, Curry, Deschutes, Douglas, Grant, Harney, Jackson, Jefferson, Josephine, Klamath, Lake, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, Multnomah, Polk, Tillamook, Washington, Wheeler, and Yamhill—are at Low Risk.

Nine Oregon counties (up from 4 last week) have reported infection rates that place them in the Medium Risk category:  Baker, Gilliam, Hood River,  Malheur, Morrow, Umatilla, Union, Wallowa, and Wasco.

We can also track the cases, deaths, and test positivity rates for each county at this website. at this website.

All three Portland-area counties showed increases in positivity rates from the previous week. At 8.1%, Multnomah County is up from last week’s 6.8 Washington County is now also at 8.1%, up from 7.0%. Clackamas County is 8.7%, up from last week’s 8.2%.


This Week’s Wastewater Monitoring Report Shows More Decreases, But  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 more cities are showing decreases. Twenty-five percent (up from 18%) of the cities monitored showed decreases or sustained decreases; six percent (up from 5) showed increases (same as last week), and 72% (same as last week) showed no change.


Last Week's OHSU Forecast Again: Downward COVID Slope Continues

For those of you who might have missed last week's OHSU Forecast Report, published a week ago Friday, here it is again.

It 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.

Last week’s report confirmed that the recent surge has peaked and is continuing to recede. The forecast is largely unchanged from the last report.

  • Oregon now has the 15th lowest level of case rates in the nation.
  • Wastewater data continue to show declining viral levels, though not as low as after the BA variant wave.
  • The number of people in Oregon hospitals as of Sept. 14 is 253. The decline in the number of patients with COVID has slowed but continues.
  • Most of these hospitalizations were not primarily for COVID, but were “incidental” cases, i.e., patients who tested positive upon admission but were there for another reason.  The incidental share is expected to increase mildly from 60 to 64% during the forecast period.
  • Many patients who were admitted to hospitals for reasons other than COVID have underlying conditions, and COVID may have tipped the scales toward admission. Future reports will modify the use of “incidental,” with new estimates to better account for the number of additional beds needed for COVID.
  • Some of the slowing in hospital patient declines is due to “boarding”—patients who cannot leave because there is not a care alternative presently available for them.  Boarding showed a spike in the last 2 weeks, reaching 247 patients statewide.
  • Visits to the emergency department for COVID-like illness are at 2.6% of all emergency visits, a slight decrease.
  • As of Sept 13, COVID patients occupy 4% of Oregon's intensive-care beds.
  • The number of hospitalized children is at 4 as of Sept. 15.
  • Test positivity has shown a continued decline, down to 8%, though it is still above the 5% standard for low prevalence (with good testing patterns).
  • COVID vaccinations have increased slightly as the updated Pfizer and Moderna bivalent boosters have become available.
  • The updated bivalent boosters do not have a specific effect in the forecast yet. Their effectiveness is similar to previous boosters and the number of doses given is expected to be similar to the estimates in previous versions of the forecast. Thus the results have generally accounted for the updated boosters.
  • The forecast continues to predict the current declines bottoming out during the first week of November, then rising again, so that by the end of the year we’ll be back to where we are right now.
  • A flu forecast shows a likely vigorous return of influenza. By December, flu is expected to outpace COVID.
  • The forecast is showing a slightly slower decline than the previous forecast and a later start to the fall surge.
  • The number of deaths per day is expected to remain low for the next few months.


Additional COVID Updates and Links



cases 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