CORRECTION to January 29th Update from SD 23

Michael Dembrow


The original link had an error.  Use this one:

You can register for the February 4th coffee here.

(You'll find more details below.)

January 29, 2023

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.

We’ve completed the second week of the new session and have already had public hearings on many bills in committee.  I expect that some of them will start hitting the floor this week.  As you’ll see in tonight’s newsletter, the Governor will be releasing her budget on Tuesday, an important step in the trajectory of the session.

You’ll also find details about next Saturday’s constituent coffee, as well as the upcoming opening night of the 33rd Cascade Festival of African Films.

On the COVID front, the news continues to be positive here in Oregon. As you’ll see in the updates, graphs, and links, we’re continuing to see declines in all the COVID metrics, as well as in those related to Flu and RSV.  All but one of our 36 counties are at Low Risk right now, and the one exception—Malheur in far Southeast Oregon—remains at Medium Risk. 

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


COMING ON SATURDAY: February Constituent Coffee!!!

Next Saturday, February 4th, is the first Saturday of the month, which means another monthly constituent coffee from 9 am to 10:30 am.  We’ll be returning to Zoom for this meeting.

It will be a chance for me to share behind-the-scenes info on the beginning of the 2023 session, provide some thoughts on the Governor’s Recommended Budget (see below), and get your thoughts on priorities and bills that I should know about.

You can register for the February 4th coffee here.

See you there!

By the way, Reps Pham, Tran, and I had a GREAT town hall this past Monday, with LOTS of people attending, asking questions, and commenting.  If you missed it and would like to catch the recording, here it is. here it is.

town hall


Time for the Governor’s Recommended Budget

One of the important moments in the legislative calendar is the release of the GRB—The Governor’s Recommended Budget for consideration by the Legislature.  This typically comes at the beginning of December and is the culmination of self-analysis by the different government agencies to see which programs need to be continued (and funded) and which new programs might be needed (and needed to be funded). Those proposals are assessed by the state budget people, culled by the Governor’s policy advisors, and shaped into the GRB. 

This year is a little different because we are transitioning from the end of one Governor’s tenure to the beginning of another’s, something that hasn’t happened since 2011 (because Governor Brown came into office in the middle of Governor Kitzhaber’s term, after his GRB had already been developed and released).  As has been typical of such transitions, the new Governor needs an extra couple of months to create her proposal. 

Governor Kotek promised that she would have her GRB ready for release by February 1. 

She has stuck to her promise. I’ve just learned that the GRB will be released this Tuesday, January 31st.

It will immediately become the object of scrutiny and analysis.  The GRB will become the starting point for the ultimate decisions made by the Senate and House through the Ways and Means process.  In some areas the final LAB (Legislatively Adopted Budget) may look similar to what is in the GRB, and in other areas and respects very different.

The GRB will be the basis of the agency presentations to the various Ways and Means subcommittees that start at the end of this week or the beginning of next week. 

I should add that the GRB will be based on what we now anticipate to be the revenues at our disposal next biennium. It's based on the projections we were given in the last Revenue Forecast back in November. We will be getting our next forecast on Wednesday, February 22. That forecast will give us the numbers that legislators will be working with for most of the session as we reshape the GRB. The ultimate numbers, which will be the basis for the final budget proposal, will come in the May forecast on Wednesday, May 24th.

I’ll give you my initial assessment of the GRB and share clarifying materials in the next newsletter.  If you have any questions before then, please send them our way.


It's That Time Again:  The Annual Cascade Festival of African Films!!!

As many of you know, I’ve been involved with the Cascade Festival of African Films since its inception in 1990.  I’m proud to say that it’s quite a remarkable and unique film festival that goes way beyond just showing films.  The films are just the springboard for a range of cross-cultural dialogue, community-building, and learning.  Thanks to fundraising and ongoing support from Portland Community College, all films are free of charge.

Timed to coincide with Black History Month (February) and Women’s History Month (March, when all the films are by women directors), this year’s five-week festival, the 33rd, begins this coming Friday, February 3rd, at the Hollywood Theatre in NE Portland.

Like the Legislature’s committee hearings, the programs are now hybrid: nearly all the in-person screenings and programs will be available online as well as in-person (either at the Hollywood Theatre or at PCC’s Cascade Campus in North Portland). Directors from Africa will be available for Q&A either in person or online.

We have an excellent website for the Festival:  Check it out!  And here’s a press release on the Festival and its history.

By the way, Friday’s opening-night program features an excellent film from Morocco’s Maryam Touzani, The Blue Caftan.  It’s not available online, so if you want to see it, I suggest you arrive early!


Meet Emory!!!

Last month I had to make a change in my office staff because Sierra Prior, my Chief of Staff, was hired by the Senate Majority Office to serve as a Policy Advisor there.  I'm proud and pleased for her.  However, that of course left me without a Chief of Staff just before the beginning of session.  Fortunately, Emory Mort, who had been working as Chief of Staff for Representative Teresa Alonso Leon (my counterpart as Chair of House Education) was about to lose his position with the Representative, as she was about to leave office.  Emory and I had already gotten to know each other through our work on the Joint Task Force on Underrepresented Students in Higher Education, and I thought highly of him (and still do!).  Here's a little about him in his own words:

I was raised in the small towns of Ghent, NY, and Path Valley, PA, enjoying the music of John McCutcheon, and the horses, cows and other critters of the farm where my parents still live, work and play. My favorite sport was football, but I never played it formally, focusing on all the other sports instead.

As a teenager a handful of my guy friends and I sang the national anthem, a cappella, at a Mets game. Up close, Mike Piazza was a very large man, and they were playing Toronto so we also sang the Canadian anthem.

Later in my 20’s I finished 2nd place in the Philadelphia Marathon, and was once a top-30 steeplechase runner in the US.

While in college when I wasn’t running through the woods I focused on studying biological and environmental engineering. I went into teaching high schoolers – maths, chemistry, physics, Spanish, sports – and through teaching adolescents became very interested in philosophy and deeper questions of how to make sense of a very strange world.

Thankfully, the merciless brutality of life eventually crushed my naive and frivolous curiosities, and now I focus my waking moments on filling my boss’s Microsoft Outlook calendar with as many meetings, acronyms, and 3-4 digit numbers as humanly possible. One final thing I will add is that I have really enjoyed following NASA’s new space telescope (whose official name shall not be celebrated here), and I am thoroughly convinced free will is an illusion.

Favorite author: Eric Wargo.

Favorite subject: History.

Favorite thing about working for Sen Dembrow and the people of SD-23: Perseverance in the ability to bring people together to learn, laugh, and get things done. 


Emory on a recent trip to Oregon's beautiful Painted Hills.



Weekly Data Report:

OHA now updates and reports COVID metrics once a week, on Wednesdays.  Here are the most recent set of weekly results, for this past week from 1/20/23 through 1/26/23.

I’m happy to report that this week’s report shows continuing declines in all of the metrics.

  • The 7-day average for newly reported infections went down again last week, from 331 the previous week to 290 reported infections per day this last 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 went down very slightly during the last week, to 7.6% vs. the previous week’s 7.7%. This number probably skews high because it likely reflects a higher proportion of people showing COVID symptoms (and thus reporting or going in for a test, rather than self-testing and never reporting).
  • On Wednesday there were 222 COVID-19-related hospitalizations statewide, another decrease from 239 the previous 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—most are those who tested positive after having been admitted for other reasons.
  • The number of COVID patients in Oregon’s ICUs on Wednesday also was another decrease from the previous week, from 33 to 27. These are the most serious COVID infections.
  • There were 23 COVID-19-related deaths reported during the last week, a big decrease from the previous week’s 63. However, it’s important to remember that many of every week’s reported deaths actually occurred in earlier weeks but were just reported to the state, and others that likely occurred have yet to be reported. The newsletter’s final graph shows when the deaths actually occurred, and you’ll see that the number of COVID deaths each day continues to remain relatively low.


Weekly County Report: All Oregon Counties (except one) Remain at Low Risk; Metro Region Continues to See Lower Positivity Rates Overall

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), we remain in the same place as we were last week:  all but one Oregon counties are at either Low Risk.  One county—Malheur in far southeast Oregon—is at Medium Risk, and the remaining 35 are at Low Risk.  

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

Positivity rates for the three Portland-area counties went down last week.  Clackamas County in now at 6.0% (down substantially from 8.5% the previous week). Multnomah County has gone down a little to 5.9%(from 6.5%). Washington County has also gone down a little, to 8.1% (down from 8.4%).

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).

countiescounties bar


This Week’s Wastewater Monitoring Report: The Same Increases as Decreases

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, updated on Wednesday, shows the same proportion of increases and sustained increases (10% vs. 9% last week) as decreases and sustained decreases (10%, the same as last week).  Eighty percent showed no change (down slightly from last week’s 81%).

Hermiston, Portland, and Port Orford, are the cities showing sustained increases in last week’s report.


REPEATED FROM LAST WEEK: OHSU Report Continues to Show Declines in COVID, Flu, and RSV

Another OHSU forecast report was released on Friday, January 21. It is now being called the “OHSU Oregon Hospital Forecast and Trends: COVID, Flu, RSV.”

It uses data provided by OHA and others that project how fast the viruses 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 report reflects an ongoing reduction in all the metrics last week, which you can see elsewhere in this newsletter.  As predicted, we’re now seeing declines in all three respiratory ailments. The December COVID/Flu/RSV surge is abating, and we’re returning to pre-surge numbers in most metrics. The strain on hospitals appears to be lessening as well, though it’s still significant.

Here’s a press release on the report from OHSU.

Here are some details:

  • More hospital beds are available in Oregon and fewer people are waiting in emergency rooms for beds. The level of hospitalizations has dropped by 35% since the peak on Nov. 29. They are now at pre-surge levels.
  • Fewer people in Oregon are entering the hospital with flu, RSV, and COVID-19.
  • The rate of people going to Oregon emergency rooms for COVID has declined to 2.2%.
  • Boarding (patients having to remain in the emergency department due to lack of staffed regular hospital beds) is back to pre-surge levels.
  • Four children are in Oregon hospitals for COVID, way down from the previous report’s nine.
  • Five percent of the people in intensive care in Oregon have COVID.
  • Still, many Oregon hospitals still have limited space for people who need certain types of care.
  • The amount of COVID-19 in wastewater samples is dropping throughout the U.S. and in Oregon.
  • The percentage of positive COVID tests in Oregon is down a little to 8.6%.
  • However, overall reported testing is at its lowest level since May of 2020.
  • The COVID-19 variant XBB.1.5 has not spread significantly in Oregon. XBB1.5 has continued to spread in the Northeast, where it is the dominant variant, but has not spread as consistently in Oregon. The primary forecast is based on the likelihood that XBB.1.5 will not spread persistently in Oregon.
  • The alternative forecast shows what happens if XBB.1.5 grows at the rate seen in the Northeast, peaking at 286 people with the variant in Oregon hospitals on March 15.
  • RSV and flu are expected to continue to decline.
  • The number of deaths is expected to remain low.

The next update from OHSU will come out next Friday, February 3.


COVID Q & A from OHA (from OHA weekly newsletter)

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

Q: Is there a vaccine available targeting Omicron XBB1.5? If not, should a person with two or more high risk factors get a booster every four months? – Wyma Jane, Portland

A: “There is currently no vaccine specifically targeting XBB.1.5. The good news is that the XBB.1.5 is an Omicron variant, and the bivalent booster, which contains mRNA from Omicron subvariant BA.5, is expected to provide some protection against it. If you haven’t had it, I recommend that you get it—certainly if you’re at high risk. At this time, it’s only authorized for one-time use. We’ll have to stay tuned for information on whether additional booster shots are needed – and whether a newer booster shot will be developed.”

Q: Is there a vaccine in the works for those of us allergic to components of the mRNA vaccines? It sure would be nice to finally get out of the house! – Diane, Portland

A: “If you have a true, serious allergic reaction (like anaphylaxis) to one of the COVID-19 vaccines, there are risks in taking any of the other COVID-19 vaccines. The Novavax and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines do not contain mRNA, but it’s important to ask your health care provider before receiving one of those vaccines because they contain some of the same or similar ingredients (‘excipients’) as the mRNA vaccines. Your health care provider may also refer you to an allergist who might be able to vaccinate you and treat any reaction that you might have. See Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website for more information on reactions to COVID-19 vaccines.”

Q: My wife and I recently received the bivalent booster, and we were told that we didn't need to have a record put on a paper card; that it would be kept online by OHA. Where can we access this record, and would we need to print copies if we are traveling, especially out of the country? – Don, Springfield

A: “Oregon has an excellent immunization registry called “ALERT IIS,” and persons who administer COVID-19 vaccines are required to enter records of those immunizations into it. You can request your COVID-19 vaccination record through OHA’s website and print it, or request that OHA send you a printed copy. All of these options can be used for international travel.

"If you have problems retrieving your records, review the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for options; or contact the ALERT IIS Help Desk: 800-980-9431 or email”


Additional COVID Updates and Links

  • The CDC has released evidence finding that the bivalent booster is effective against the most recent XBB.1.5 subvariant of Omicron and is proving superior at that to the original vaccine.
  • The Washington Post reports on the declining impact of the "Tripledemic" on the nation’s hospitals.
  • The FDA is proposing that we move to regular, annual COVID boosters.
  • However, the proposal is proving to be controversial. Here’s reporting from Kaiser Health News.
  • And here’s an opinion piece by a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, arguing that the booster protocols need to be more nuanced than a blanket annual booster for everyone. They should be tied to the degree to which individuals face risk of severe COVID impacts.
  • Here are thelatest tracking data from the CDC for the various COVID variants.
  • The Guardian reports on the debate over whether repeated COVID infections create more risk of severe consequences or in fact make one “super-immune.”
  • The JAMA Network reports on a review of the studies on the risk of serious side-effects for children from COVID vaccines.  It shows that negative impacts have been rare and quickly resolved. It also shows that the vaccines have been effective in children.
  • Three years after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a "public health emergency," scientists have learned several lessons about how pandemics begin and how to stop them, according to reporting from National Public Radio.
  • According to an analysis of Workers Comp claims in NY, long COVID is having a significant effect on America's workforce.(You man need to be a New York Times subscriber to access this article.)



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