November 21st Update from SD 23

Michael Dembrow

November 21, 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. 

Let me begin by wishing you the very best for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. I hope you get some rest, time for reflection, good food, and good company.

In tonight’s newsletter you’ll find an update on the recent Senate Democratic caucus retreat and caucus leadership elections.  You’ll also find a summary and plenty of information about last week’s Oregon revenue forecast, which again was surprisingly positive for the present but showed our booming economy returning to earth in the future.

On the COVID front we see another week with mixed results and little change overall. We received another forecast from OHSU, which again told us that the fall/winter COVID wave would be more moderate than was originally expected, though RSV will continue to surge. 

For the seventh week in a row, all of Oregon’s counties remain at Low or Moderate risk.  Wastewater analysis is again showing only small changes from last week.

However, as the links to a number of sources tell us, we are seeing ongoing, increasing strain on our pediatric hospitals as a result of RSV, flu, along with COVID.  As a result, the Governor declared a pediatric medical emergency this past week. You’ll find much more about that in the links below.

Speaking of the Governor, we just learned that Governor Kate Brown has pardoned many thousands of Oregonians with convictions on their records for possession of small amounts of marijuana—something that would no longer be a crime here in Oregon.  This decision will affect approximately 45,000 Oregonians, causing their records to be sealed, their names cleared, and remaining barriers to productive employment removed. It was an admirable decision, something that should be done by every Governor of a state that has legalized marijuana.  Coming as it does during Thanksgiving week, I hope you’ll join me in thanking Governor Brown for taking this bold, sensible, and long-overdue step.

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


Caucus Elections Produce New Senate Majority Leader and President-Designate

I mentioned in last week’s newsletter that Senate Democrats were likely to reach our goal of returning seventeen Democrats (out of 30) to the Senate, assuming that Representative Mark Meek prevailed in a very close race with the incumbent in the Oregon City/Happy Valley Senate district. Last week Mark was indeed declared the winner, allowing Democrats to continue to hold the majority. 

The next step was for Senate Democrats to hold our post-election retreat this past weekend.  Most notably, this was the time for the new members and the continuing members to come together to elect our leaders for the upcoming session.  The fourteen continuing members were joined by three new ones. It was a chance for the veterans and the new members to get to know one another and for us to do some initial planning for the next session.

It was the most positive and forward-thinking caucus retreat that I've experienced in my years in the Legislature.  Since this one will also be my last one, this was especially satisfying.

This year’s caucus was also particularly noteworthy because it meant the transition to our first new Senate President in twenty years, as Senator Peter Courtney chose not to run again for his Senate seat and we clearly would be moving in a new direction.  Rob Wagner of Lake Oswego, our current Majority Leader, was chosen to be our nominee for President.  

Though it’s essentially a formality, Senator Wagner will still need to come before the entire Senate to be elected. The entire Senate, Democrats and Republicans alike, will have the opportunity to do just that on January 6, when members are sworn in and the chamber formally organizes itself. Since Democrats will now hold a 57% majority, and all seventeen Democrats have affirmed that they will support Senator Wagner in that election, we know that he will be our next President.  That certainty is important right now because there is much planning and decision-making to do between now and the beginning of session.  The crucial process of deciding Senate committees and committee assignments will begin right away.  It should be completed over the next month.

Rob was replaced as Majority Leader by Senator Kate Lieber, who represents West Portland and inner Washington County. 

Senator James Manning, Jr., of Eugene is returning as the majority party’s nominee for President Pro-Tem (he too will need to stand for election by the entire Senate on January 6). 

Senator Janeen Sollman--who was appointed to the Senate last winter and then in a hard-fought campaign won reelection handily despite being outspent by a million dollars--was elected our Deputy Majority Leader.

Senators Sara Gelser of Corvallis and Lew Frederick of Portland were reelected to serve as Democratic Whips.

Both of the newly-elected Assistant Majority Leaders are new: Senator Kayse Jama of East Portland and Wlnsvey Campos of Washington County.  Very exciting.

This will be the first session in more than ten years that I myself won’t be part of the leadership team.  I decided it was time to step aside and let others step up and run.  It was a bittersweet decision, but I know it was the right one.

Here are a couple of articles about the leadership changes—from OPB and from the Oregonian.


Latest Revenue Forecast Shows Strong Economy But Uncertainty Ahead

This past week we got to hear the latest economic analysis and revenue forecast from Oregon’s Office of Economic Analysis (OEA).  The Legislature receives this report on a quarterly basis in a joint meeting of the Senate and House Finance/Revenue Committees.

The latest analysis is quite similar to what we’ve been used to since September 2020 (when the effects of the pandemic and the first federal stimulus payments were first felt): unexpectedly high corporate and individual revenues have been coming in, leading to another hike in the total projected for the 2021-23 biennium (which ends next June 30). 

They’re predicting a record ending fund balance at that point—which is potentially great news as we plan for the future, except that nearly all of it will go back to taxpayers as “kicker” payments projected at nearly $3.7 billion. Kicker projections have gone up by more than $200 million for the personal kicker and by $200 million for the corporate kicker (which goes to provide additional dollars for education) since the last forecast in August.

Inflation, and the result of efforts to bring it down, continues to dominate the forecast.

Fortunately, Mark McMullen and Josh Lehner of the Office of Economic Analysis pointed out that inflation is continuing to show signs of reducing, thanks to reductions in gas prices and the gradual easing of supply-chain problems.  They believe that we are on track to see inflation go down to 4% from the current 8%-9% in the coming months.  But that’s still much higher than we’ve been used to, and the Federal Reserve wants to see it go down to 2%.  To get back to that level, the Federal Reserve will likely continue to increase interest rates steadily over the coming months in an effort to slow the current growth in the economy and cool off current spending levels, both of which are contributing to inflation. 

If they hit it right, we’ll have a “soft landing”—a gradual slowdown that will return us to more normal levels of growth.  If they apply the brakes too hard, we’ll go into a recession, likely beginning the second half of 2023—a relatively mild recession, but a recession nonetheless, leading to layoffs, increased unemployment, and some reduction in tax revenues.  In their last forecast the OEA predicted that a soft landing was more possible than not.  Now they are predicting that the mild recession is slightly more likely.

However, if it does occur, it should be much, much milder than the recessions we’ve seen in recent years.  We won’t see big drops in state tax revenues, but even if the Federal Reserve hits it just right and we manage to avoid a recession, we can expect growth to be slower, certainly nothing like the overheated growth we’ve been seeing as a result of pandemic payments, a hot stock market, positive capital gains, and short-term tax benefits.

Ten years ago the latter level of reduction would have been catastrophic, leading to widespread reductions in crucial government programs that are particularly needed during a recession.  Fortunately, we’re in a better place now.  I’m proud to say that over the last 12 years, beginning with the Great Recession of 2009 that required huge budget cuts (which unfortunately coincided with my entry into the Legislature!), we’ve been very disciplined in building up our General Fund reserves (the “Rainy Day Fund” and the “Education Stability Fund.” As a result, we should be able to get through a potential downturn with the resources needed to provide Oregonians with the services they need.

However, we will have to be disciplined when it comes to creating any new programs that won’t lead to future savings.  I know I’ll have much more to say about that once the session starts.

Here are the  PowerPoints from the Forecast presentation. You can link to a video of the presentation from this page.

For those of you interested in the detailed economic forecast narrative, with economic and demographic appendices, here's a link to them.  And here is the the full, detailed forecast narrative.

And here is the Office of Economic Analysis Blog, summarizing the latest findings.

For reporting on the forecast, here’s a piece from the Capital Chronicle, one from the Oregonian, and another from the Oregonian focusing on the upcoming kicker.



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 11/9/22 through 11/16/22.

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 rose again last week, from 401 last week to 465 reported infections 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 went down very slightly again, to 6.8% vs. the previous week’s 6.9%. 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 230 COVID-19-related hospitalizations statewide, dropping slightly from 229 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 25, down from last week’s 28. These are the most serious COVID infections.
  • There were 44 COVID-19-related deaths reported during the last week, a big increase from the previous week’s 17 (following a big drop last week). Again, some of every week’s reported deaths actually occurred in earlier weeks but were just reported to the state. The newsletter’s final graph shows when the deaths actually occurred, and you’ll see that the number of COVID deaths each day actually remains low.


Weekly County Report: All But One County Now 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), for the seventh week in a row none of Oregon’s 36 counties is currently at High Risk.  All are either at Low Risk or Medium Risk.

And only one Oregon county (down from five) has reported infection rates that place them in the Medium Risk category:  Malheur in Southeast Oregon.

The remaining 35 Oregon counties (up from 31 last week) are at Low Risk.

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

The three Portland-area counties all small increases in positivity rates from the previous week. Clackamas County is 7.1%, up slightly from last week’s 6.9%. Multnomah County is 6.8%, up from last week’s 6.1%. Washington County is also at 6.2%, up very slightly from last week’s 6.1%.

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: Again, Little Change from Last Week

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 overall from last week.  Seventy-nine percent (down from 86%) of the cities tested showed no change.  Eighteen percent of cities (up from 11%) showed decreased or sustained decrease in viral load from the previous week. Three percent of the cities again showed an increase last week (same as last week). That includes Portland.


OHSU Forecast Again Shows Flattening of COVID, Increase in RSV

Another 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. 

This week’s forecast is similar to the last one.  It continues to show a continued flat period followed by a slight decline.

Here are some details:

  • As of Nov. 16, 230 people were in the hospital.  The number of hospital patients has stayed relatively flat for three months.
  • COVID cases have risen slightly. They're expected to drop slowly through March.
  • The fall COVID wave in Europe appears to have peaked.
  • RSV is expected to remain a significant problem in the next few weeks, especially among children.
  • Hospitals are likely to admit more people with RSV through November, then see cases drop through the winter.
  • Flu cases have increased in Oregon, though not as much as in the Southeast.
  • Wastewater tests show a slight increase in COVID infections.
  • More people with COVID are visiting emergency departments.
  • As of Nov. 15, 4% of Oregon's ICU beds had COVID patients. This is a decrease from 5% in the last report.
  • As of Nov. 17, five children were in the hospital. This is an increase from three in the last report but still a decrease from the nine in the report before that one.
  • The COVID variant BQ.1.1 is spreading in the U.S. but has not shown up much in Oregon yet.
  • The number of COVID deaths per day is expected to remain flat and low.


COVID Q & A from OHA’s Dr. Cieslak (from OHA weekly newsletter)

Dr. Paul Cieslak, OHA senior health advisor and medical director, Communicable Diseases and Immunizations, answered this week’s questions.

Q: Hello! I am 51 years old, and I just had COVID-19. I am recovering after a course of Paxlovid. Is there a recommendation on how soon I can receive the new bivalent vaccine? – Sara, Aloha

A: “You can receive it as soon as you’re better and you’re at least 10 days out from the start of your illness. It also must be at least two months since receiving your most recent (monovalent) booster dose or completion of your primary series. That said, you got some immunity from your recent infection, and it would be fine to wait 90 days.”

Q: Is the protective Evusheld available in the United States? This was sent to me from a friend in Munich. – Catherine, Eugene

A: “Yes. Evusheld is authorized in the U.S. for prevention of COVID-19 in immunocompromised individuals and in individuals for whom COVID-19 vaccination is not recommended due to a history of severe adverse reaction. It may be administered every six months. Be aware, though, that Evusheld may have reduced effectiveness against many of the newer COVID-19 subvariants that are circulating. Patients receiving Evusheld should have a treatment plan in place and quickly seek medical attention if COVID-19 symptoms occur.

There is currently ample supply of Evusheld in Oregon, and every eligible patient should have access to it. You can search for locations near you that carry Evusheld using this federal locator tool, then your health care provider can call to confirm and prescribe.”

Q: I live in Clatsop County and was told that Novavax has NOT been approved in Oregon as a booster. Please clarify because I would very much like to get it as a booster. – Sharon, Gearhart

A: “On Oct. 19, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized for emergency use the Novavax vaccine to be used as a single-dose booster in limited situations, and Oregon endorsed this authorization. To qualify for this booster, however, you must be 18 or older and have completed a primary series of either Pfizer, Moderna, Novavax or Johnson & Johnson vaccines, with no boosters. If you received any boosters previously, you do not qualify for the Novavax booster. Also, one must wait six months after completing their primary series before receiving a Novavax booster, and they also must be unwilling or unable to receive the updated mRNA booster from Moderna or Pfizer.”



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