October 8th Update from SD 23

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Michael Dembrow

October 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. 

In this week’s newsletter you’ll find an update on Oregon’s new Taxpayer Assistance Office and a rotten bit of news related to our neighbors at the Bison Coffee House.

News from the COVID front is mixed this week. Some of the metrics are up, while others are down. For the first time in a long time, none of our Oregon counties is at High Risk, though it’s hard to believe that will continue.  We just received the latest OHSU forecast, and they believe we are about to enter our first fall wave, mainly due to waning immunity, particularly for those who have not received boosters.  As you’ll see, they are currently predicting this wave to last till mid-November. It likely won’t be as lethal as some past COVID waves, but in combination with the beginning of the flu season, we can expect our hospitals to be under continuing strain.  In an effort to reduce the impacts on health professionals, OHA has decided to maintain the masking requirement for Oregonians in health settings. (The CDC has made this optional for states.)

Again, medical experts are urging us to get vaccinated against both COVID and flu sometime in the next month. 

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.


The Oregon Department of Revenue Has a New Taxpayer Advocate Office

My office has been spending a lot of time lately advocating for constituents who have run into problems receiving their Oregon tax refunds or other state tax issues.  Sierra has been doing a great job working with the Department of Revenue to get these problems resolved.  

Fortunately, more help is on the way.  In 2021 the Legislature passed HB 3373 (2021). Its purpose was to create an independent office within DOR similar to the federal Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS)for taxpayers. The TAS is an
independent organization within the IRS and serves as the taxpayer's voice within the IRS. 

The measure passed unanimously in the House and comfortably in the Senate (though for some reason that I can't remember half the Republicans voted against it at the time).

The new Taxpayer Advocate Office (TAO) is now up and running.  You can link to the Taxpayer Advocate's website here.  There you can learn more about the office and its services, and you can use it to contact the office to explain and get help with your problem.

Here from the website are the services the office will provide:

The taxpayer advocate will:

  • Identify issues or barriers to equitable and fair tax collection.
  • Identify meaningful ways to work with community partners, especially in efforts to reach previously underserved populations.
  • Provide expedited service to taxpayers whose problems are not resolved through ordinary channels and receive and evaluate complaints of improper, abusive, or inefficient service by agency employees.
  • Identify systemic issues and make recommendations to address them.
  • Promote taxpayer issues and concerns to department policymakers and state legislators.
  • Provide another access point to department information.
  • Problem-solve and suggest options to taxpayer dilemmas that exist through normal channels the taxpayer may not have been aware of.

Of course, our office is always available to help you navigate the process.


Support for the Bison Coffee House

In case you missed it, the Bison Coffee House, a fine establishment owned by Loretta Guzman, an enrolled member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, was recently vandalized. The Bison Coffee House is located in the Cully neighborhood of SD 23.

Loretta and the coffee house were recently the victims of truly reprehensible vandalism.  As you can read in this story in Wednesday's Oregonian, Guzman had just agreed to host a "Coffee with a Cop" event, where neighbors could meet and have a dialogue with police to explain their needs and concerns.

When she announced her agreement to host the dialogue on social media, the announcement generated some pushback and snark from people who saw it as window-dressing for the police.  But snark was soon replaced by extreme violence during the middle of the night.  According to surveillance camera footage, six masked individuals used hammers, crow bars, and a fire extinguisher to smash the cafe's windows and trash the interior.

It not surprisingly left Loretta feeling crushed and frustrated.  Loretta has created a GoFundMe to support the business get back up and running. If you're able to contribute, please do so.  And/or make a point of stopping by the coffee house (at 3941 NE Cully, Portland 97213) and picking up an order. I know I will. 

It's important to let Loretta know that we support her efforts to create community and dialogue. I'm confident that many people who have issues with the Portland Police would have shown up to the coffee event and made their criticism clear, while others would have shown support.  It might not have been pleasant, it might have been uncomfortable at times.  But that's what we need, not thuggery  directed against a decent person and a good business.



Weekly Data Report:

OHA now updates and reports COVID metrics once a week, on Wednesdays.  

Here are the last set of daily results, for this past week from 9/29/22 through 10/5/22.

As you’ll see, this week’s report is a mix of slight increases, decreases, and in one case no change. It appears to affirm the observation that you’ll find in the new forecast from OHSU—that we are now experiencing a plateau that will soon transition to a brief wave in October and the first part of November.  

  • The 7-day average for new infections remained the same as it was the previous week, at 614 per day 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 8.3%, vs. 9.3% 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 272 COVID-19-related hospitalizations statewide, vs. 268 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 declined over the last week after two weeks of increases: 28 on Wednesday, up from last week’s 35. These are the most serious COVID infections. 
  • There were 29 COVID-19-related deaths reported during the last week, up from last week’s 41. Some of these reported deaths actually occurred in earlier weeks but were just reported to the state.


Weekly County Report: No High Risk Counties This Week

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), none of Oregon’s 36 counties is currently at High Risk.

Nine Oregon counties (up from 7 last week) have reported infection rates that place them in the Medium Risk category:  Baker, Crook, Grant, Jackson, Jefferson, Josephine, Malheur, Union, and Wallowa.

Twenty-seven Oregon counties (up from 26 last week)— Benton, Clackamas, Clatsop, Columbia, Coos, Curry, Deschutes, Douglas, Gilliam, Harney, Hood River, Klamath, Lake, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, Morrow, Multnomah, Polk, Sherman, Tillamook, Umatilla, Wasco, Washington, Wheeler, and Yamhill—are at Low Risk.

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

All three Portland-area counties showed decreases in positivity rates from the previous week. At 6.8%, Multnomah County is down from last week’s 8.8. Washington County is now at 7.9%, down from 9.1%. Clackamas County is 8.2%, down from last week’s 9.3%.



This Week’s Wastewater Monitoring Report: More Cities Starting to Show Increases

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 increases than has been the case for quite a while. Fifteen percent (down from 18%) of the cities monitored showed decreases or sustained decreases; 18% (up from 6%) showed increases (same as last week), and 68% (down from 72% last week) showed no change; that again includes Portland.


OHSU Forecast: COVID Slope Starting to Rise

The latest OHSU Forecast Report was released on Friday. 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. 

The forecast report is scheduled to appear every two weeks, but we haven’t had one since September 16th. We’re told that the next one will come out at the end of next week.

This week’s report observes that our previous period of declines appears to have ended. We are seeing an overall flattening of COVID metrics but should soon see another wave beginning.  The forecast also shows the wave should be short-lived, but another wave may follow.

Here are some details:

  • The number of people in Oregon hospitals as of Oct. 7 is 272, a slight increase over the last three weeks.
  • A new wave of COVID infections is projected to begin soon and peak in the middle of November.
  • The first signs of flu picking up are evident. A new projection from national modelers says flu will continue to spread.
  • The flu forecast is much lower than the previous forecast, but there is still much uncertainty about that.
  • New data show a slight increase in vaccinations in Oregon as the bivalent booster has become available.
  • The model has been updated to consider the impact of the bivalent booster. It uses an estimate of upcoming doses similar to the last booster series to make its forecast.
  • Wastewater data have bottomed out. Some sites are beginning to show increases.
  • Visits to the emergency department for COVID-like illness have flattened.
  • The test positivity rate also has flattened.
  • As of Oct. 5, 5% of the occupied ICU beds in Oregon have COVID patients, a slight increase from the previous report.
  • As of Oct. 5, eight children are in the hospital, still low, but twice the number that were in the hospital on September 15th.
  • The number of deaths per day is expected to remain low over the forecast period.
school exposure


From OHA: Q&A with Dr. Paul Cieslak and Drew Strayer

Dr. Paul Cieslak, OHA senior health advisor and medical director, Communicable Diseases and Immunizations, and Drew Strayer, special populations manager, OHA Field Operations, answered today’s questions.

Q: We have a 3-year-old son, and he had COVID-19 three months ago. He wasn’t vaccinated and his symptoms were not severe. We are trying to decide whether to get him vaccinated now, but the fact that the pediatric vaccine doesn’t target Omicron makes me wonder how necessary it is for him to receive the original vaccine. What are the benefits of him getting the vaccine that is targeting a strain that is no longer circulating in the community? If he didn’t get very sick last time, will he generally tolerate the virus in the future? – NH, Portland

A: “If your son is otherwise healthy and has recently had COVID-19, he is probably at very low risk of severe disease. I’m afraid I can’t quantify that risk with any precision. But the immunity he acquired from being infected will wane over time, and the vaccine is quite safe and, even though made with the original strain, is expected to further reduce his risk of severe disease. Additionally, even though your son is not old enough to receive the updated bivalent booster now (which does target Omicron), it may soon become available to younger children. And he will need to complete a primary series with the original vaccine before receiving an updated bivalent booster, should it become available.”

Q: What is the current thinking about immunity following having COVID-19? My husband says that we should wait three months following our testing negative to get our next booster. Is that accurate? – Susan, Salem

A: “Vaccination is still recommended after an episode of COVID-19 to boost your protection further, and you are eligible to get vaccinated as soon as you’ve recovered from your illness and you’re out of isolation. But surviving a bout of COVID-19 provides pretty good protection against severe disease for at least a few months. So we believe it’s safe to wait three months (if you’d like) before getting the new bivalent booster.”

Q: My wife had serious vasovagal responses (fainting) to the early vaccinations such that she nearly ended up in the ER. She was told she should be vaccinated lying down in a clinical setting, which she did for one booster, and it was fine. Now she wants to get the updated shot but can't find a doctor or clinic who will do it. They say they don't have the vaccines and she should go to a pharmacy. This is extremely frustrating. What are our options? – Anonymous, Clatsop County

A:  “I’m sorry you and your wife are having to deal with this, it sounds very frustrating. Unfortunately, booster supply is still unpredictable around the state. You might have better luck at a clinic run by a local public health authority. Here is a link to Clatsop County’s public health department. They host a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Astoria at 820 Exchange St., Monday – Thursday, 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. - 3 p.m. Because bivalent booster supply has been unpredictable, make sure to call ahead to make and appointment and confirm they have them on hand: 503-325-8500.

“You may also consider requesting an in-home vaccination from OHA. Send an email with your name and request to CRRU-FieldOps-Requests@dhsoha.state.or.us. We can send either a single vaccinator or a team of vaccinators to individuals’ homes to provide medical care. These trained medical professionals can respond if your wife has an adverse reaction to the vaccine. When you write to the email address, an OHA representative will respond and work with you to provide the in-home care you need.”



Additional COVID Updates and Links


cases cases graph

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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 (senatordembrow.com), 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

email: Sen.MichaelDembrow@oregonlegislature.gov
web: www.senatordembrow.com
mail: 900 Court St NE, S-407, Salem, OR, 97301