October 31st Update from SD 23

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Michael Dembrow

October 31, 2022

Dear Neighbors and Friends,

Happy Halloween!  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 more information about this week’s constituent coffee, the upcoming legislative session, the close of wildfire season, and a couple of my local legislative visits.

On the COVID front we see another week with mixed results and little change overall. The metrics continue to go up and down.  ICU hospitalizations, and reported deaths have gone up from last week; reported infections, test positivity, and regular hospitalizations have gone down. This is nearly the inverse of what we saw the previous week.

For the fourth week in a row, all of Oregon’s counties remain at Low or Moderate risk.  Wastewater analysis is showing only small changes from last week, but Portland has again showin an increase in virus.  As you’ll see further down in the newsletter, many parts of the country are starting to experience a combination of viral outbreaks.  However, overall, the predicted fall/winter surge does not appear to have hit Oregon yet. 

We should have received another report and forecast from OHSU next week, but it appears that we’ll have to wait till next week.

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.


Next Constituent Coffee This Saturday Morning

Saturday, November 5th, is the first Saturday in November, and that means time for another constituent coffee.  

We’ll be back (with coffee and cookies) at the Hollywood Senior Center, 1820 NE 40th Avenue (from 9 am to 10:30 am). 

This will be an opportunity for us to catch up on bill requests and work groups, and for me to hear your ideas for additional issues that need attention.  (Warning: it will be our last coffee before the election, so there will still be much uncertainty about we can expect in the 2023 session.)

During the summer I received a request from a constituent who must limit her in-person contact to include a zoom component to the meeting, and I of course respect her situation.  I’ve found that such hybrid meetings are tough for those who aren’t in the room.  It wasn’t ideal when we did it during the summer, but I think it worked. If you’d like to participate via zoom, here's the link to register in advance.

In general, we'll continue to alternate between in-person and zoom, so the December meeting will be entirely on Zoom.

Hope to see you soon!


2023 Legislative Session Begins in January

We’ve just received the calendar for the 2023 Legislative session, and I realized that I had forgotten that it now begins in January, not February. (Wishful thinking!)

Prior to 2019 both our long sessions and our short sessions began in February.  However, in 2018 we passed SB 1542, which requires us to begin meeting in session on the Tuesday after the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday.  As a result of this earlier start, we are now able to complete our maximum number of session days prior to the July 4th holiday.   

Members will be sworn in (and the new Governor make her first address to the Legislature) on January 9th, 2023, the day we “organize.”  The rest of that week will be devoted to member meetings and trainings. Floor sessions and committee hearings will begin on January 17.  The session must end on or before June 25th this year.   

The even-year short sessions continue to start the first week of February.


ODF Issues Final Fire Season Report with Relatively Good News

With fall weather fully upon us and no risk of returning to wildfire conditions, the Fire Protection Manager at the Oregon Department of Forestry sent legislators his final report on the 2022 wildfire season.

A combination of favorable weather conditions this year, improved coordination, and investments in new technologies (such as drones) made possible by the Legislature’s big investment in SB 762 (2021) enabled ODF to limit 96% of this year’s fires under to a size under 10 acres.  That has only happened twice in the last two decades.  It has kept suppression costs far below what we’ve become used to in recent years.

As our wildfire seasons continue to become longer and hotter in general, we can’t expect this kind of experience to continue. We were lucky this year.  Still, we’ve also learned a lot from our recent difficulties, and this year they appear to have paid off. Let’s hope that continues.

Here’s coverage of end of fire season from the Oregonian. coverage of the end of the fire season from the Oregonian.


Out and About

Aside from campaigning, fundraising, and other election work, and crafting legislation for the upcoming session, this is the time for legislators to see firsthand the programs, initiatives, and efforts that affect their constituents.  Here are a couple that I was able to do last week:

Learning More About Renewable Diesel:

As part of the critical effort to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels (our biggest source of emissions here in Oregon), diesel from renewable sources is shaping up to be an important part of the solution.  Renewable diesel can be used in regular trucks, is efficient and clean, and it’s competitive in price (thanks to Oregon’s successful Clean Fuels program).  One of its leading advocates is Keith Wilson, owner of Titan Freight Systems.  He had me and Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba (who’s also likely to be in Legislature next year) out to his yard to show off his trucks and discuss potential legislation to help increase our supply of renewable diesel in Oregon. (He’s also a big supporter of the Cascadia High-Speed Rail project here in the Northwest.)  Here I am with Keith and Mark.


And who’s about to drive this new triple-trailer around the yard (miraculously without causing a dent or a scratch)?  Yes, that’s me!!!!

titan 2

Stay tuned for more on the subject of renewable diesel in Oregon.


Back to Outdoor School

By all accounts, this school year is shaping up to be an improvement over last fall in a number of ways.  One of those is a relative return to normalcy for a cherished institution here in Oregon: Outdoor School, which provides an overnight camp experiences for sixth-graders throughout the state.  (Many thanks to those who supported the effort to restore funding a few years ago.) Normal Outdoor School was obviously impossible during the pandemic, but the folks at Friends of Outdoor School, OSU Extension, and the ESDs did amazing work to provide surrogate experiences for the kids via zoom, home assignments and experiment kits, and other creative devices.  Fortunately, this year the kids are back on site, and I got to visit Camp Collins on the Sandy River in Corbett.  Incidentally, that's the same location where my own kids attended Outdoor School several decades ago.  Their experience at Outdoor School helped shape them to be the (extraordinary) people are today, and I remain very grateful.

Here's a picture of a group of kids doing an erosion experiment on the banks of the river.

outdoor school

I'm a strong believer in the power of experiential learning, which Outdoor School is all about.  For many kids, learning by doing is what creates the strongest learning experiences--specially when it's compounded by team-building and strong social bonding.  

Another strong feature of our Outdoor School program is the way that it uses local high school kids to serve as counselors and group leaders.  These kids are building self-esteem and strong leadership skills that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.  These are predictors of future success that no test score will predict.

I'll be working with Friends of Outdoor School, OSU Extension, and the ESDs this year on plans to further improve access, particularly for immigrant and refugee children, and use our new summer learning programs to help with leadership development.



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 10/20/22 through 10/26/22.

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 went down significantly last week, to 398 from 543 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 went down to 6.6% vs. the previous week’s 7.2%. 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 238 COVID-19-related hospitalizations statewide, dropping from 250 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 on Wednesday was 31, a significant jump from last week’s 21. These are the most serious COVID infections.
  • There were 35 COVID-19-related deaths reported during the last week, up from the previous week’s 23. Some of these reported deaths actually occurred in earlier weeks but were just reported to the state.



Weekly County Report: No High Risk Counties for the Fourth Week in a Row, Nearly All 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), none of Oregon’s 36 counties is currently at High Risk.  Nearly all are either at Low Risk or Medium Risk.

Four Oregon counties (down from five have reported infection rates that place them in the Medium Risk category:  Baker, Union, Wallowa, and Wheeler.

The remaining 32 Oregon counties (up from 31 last week) are at Low Risk: Benton, Clackamas, Clatsop, Columbia, Coos, Crook, Curry, Deschutes, Douglas, Gilliam, Grant, Harney, Hood River, Jackson, Jefferson, Josephine, Klamath, Lake, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Malheur, Marion, Morrow, Multnomah, Polk, Sherman, Tillamook, Umatilla, Wasco, Washington, and Yamhill.

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

All three Portland-area counties showed significant decreases in positivity rates from the previous week. Clackamas County is 5.9%, down from last week’s 6.3% Multnomah County is 5.5%, down from last week’s 6.5%. Washington County is now at 6.7%, down from 8.0%. For now, this is good news.

Remember that these are all based on reported test results, and so are more likely to be a little higher than the total percent positivity (i.e., if one were to include all tests taken).



This Week’s Wastewater Monitoring Report: Little Change from Last Week (But Continued Increase in Portland)

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 little change from last week.  Six percent (down from 3%) of the cities monitored showed increases or sustained increases in virus, Twelve percent (down from 24%) of the cities monitored showed decreases or sustained decreases, and 82% (up from 68% last week) showed no change from last week. 

Two cities are now showing sustained increase in viral load:  Portland and Grants Pass.


OHA Provides a Deep Dive Into Just How Much of a Difference Vaccines Have Made

We continue to hear people complain that the COVID vaccines are failing to prevent people from coming down with the illness.  But of course that’s never been the purpose of a vaccine—their purpose is to reduce the likelihood of the disease turning deadly.  In that respect, they have been very successful.  This week OHA provided a deep look at just how beneficial they are.  Here’s the top-line finding:

In August, people who were not vaccinated were: 

  • Six times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those who had received a primary vaccine series
  • Five times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than those who were up to date on their vaccinations
  • Eight times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those who had received a primary series plus at least one booster dose
  • 12 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those who had received a primary series plus two or more booster doses (age 50 and older)

Here’s the full news release.


COVID Q & A from OHA

OHA publishes a series of Questions and Answers related to COVID each week.  Melissa Sutton, medical director of respiratory viral pathogens, and Adelina Mart from OHA’s Data Analysis & Reporting Team, answered this week’s questions.

Q: Where can I find the county data for the number of COVID-19 cases per week? It was helpful to have that information so I could plan outings, but I can only find a state graph. Thank you. – Anonymous, Oregon

A: County-level COVID-19 data can be found here, and it is updated every Wednesday. (It’s available at the bottom of this newsletter every Thursday.) You can also access it through OHA’s COVID-19 data dashboards, and clicking on the “Regional and County Data” tab. Once you find the page you want to see frequently, bookmark it and take note how often it gets updated.

You can also look at COVID-19 case data by ZIP code here, which is updated monthly.

Q: With prevalence of COVID-19 home testing without reporting, it seems like wastewater testing would be the more reliable method for tracking COVID-19. But not only is wastewater data not being reported widely, it appears monitoring has been discontinued at multiple sites. What’s going on? – David, Beaverton

A: Wastewater data is a great way to track the spread of disease, including COVID-19. OHA works with water treatment sites around Oregon, as well as engineers at Oregon State University, to test wastewater samples for the virus. Our wastewater surveillance data is updated weekly on Thursdays and can be found here.

As for the second part of your question, wastewater surveillance participation is voluntary, and we have seen sites drop out of surveillance when they do not have capacity to participate. We encourage them to rejoin as they are able. At any given time, nearly 40 sites are participating.


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 (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