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Oregon Sees 1st Coronavirus Death, Test Capacity To Increase

UPDATE (March 14, 7:22 p.m.) — A 70-year-old man has died after being infected with the new coronavirus, becoming Oregon's first fatality in the pandemic, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

The man was being treated at the Portland Veterans' Affairs Medical Center.

As of late Saturday afternoon, Oregon had reported 36 cases of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, spanning across 11 counties.

The COVID-19 virus, a relative of other viruses like SARS, was first identified in Wuhan, China, late last year.

The new Linn County case is another person at the veterans’ home in Lebanon where now nine people have been diagnosed with the virus. The Oregon man who died was not connected to that home.

One of the new Deschutes County cases is a person who traveled outside of the U.S. The rest of the new cases are believed to be community spread.

There were 225 pending COVID-19 tests in Oregon as of Saturday.

More than 40 people have died in the U.S. from the virus. Most of those deaths have been in the Seattle area.

Oregon Schools, Libraries Close

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced Thursday night the statewide closure of all K-12 schools, from Monday, March 16, through Tuesday, March 31. That came one day after her ban on public gatherings of more than 250 people. 

As of Friday morning, some school districts had opted to close one day early, ahead of Monday’s official closure.

Director of Multnomah County Libraries, Vailey Oehlke, announced the closure Friday of all Multnomah County Library locations until further notice. 

“We have reached a critical point where we believe we must take swift action to help curb the spread of the virus,” the library system said in a statement. 

The library system is asking people to not return items during the closure. It said people will not be charged for late returns and hold items will remain on shelves. 

Portland Parks & Recreation Friday announced the closure of all indoor recreation facilities including community centers and pools until April 1.

All Portland Parks & Recreation playgrounds, parks, golf courses and other natural areas remain open, but people are encouraged to follow social distancing measures and not closely congregate with groups of people.

Portland Parks & Recreation said all planned outdoor activities and events with less than 250 people can continue as planned.

Portland Mercury Halts Print Publication

The Portland Mercury announced temporary lay-offs Saturday and a temporary switch to an online-only publication. 

“We’ve temporarily laid off 10 members of our beloved staff,” Steven Humphrey, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper, wrote in a blog post

The staff layoffs span editorial, calendar, sales and circulation, Humphrey wrote. Managers also had salary cuts, he said. 

Humphrey said the paper has the intention of “eventually bringing everyone back.”

“Will the Mercury be back in full force after all this has returned to normal? I think so. I hope so,” Humphrey wrote.

Courts Postpone Jury Selections, Trials

The U.S. District Court in Oregon issued an order Friday stating all federal courts in the state will postpone criminal and civil jury selections, trials and hearings through April 26, though courts will remain open. 

The order does not affect any civil or criminal motions that can be resolved without an in-person oral argument from attorneys.

The Multnomah County district attorney’s office made a similar announcement Saturday, postponing until April 30 all civil jury trials, out-of-custody misdemeanor trials and out-of-custody, non-person felony trials at the Multnomah County Circuit Court. 

Traffic and parking court trials and small claims hearings and trials through April 13 will also be rescheduled to be held after April 30.

Burgerville Closes Dining Rooms

The Vancouver-based fast food chain Burgerville announced Friday it’s closing its dining room doors, though people can still order food through the drive-thru or home delivery services. 

“Temporarily closing in-store seating is our way of practicing social distancing,” Burgerville CEO Jill Taylor said in a statement. “Our focus is on keeping our grills hot, shakes cold and fryers ready for drive-thru and delivery.”

The company said all but one of its 41 locations in Washington and Oregon will stay open with this new arrangement. Its restaurant in Tigard, off of Southwest Scholls Ferry Road, is temporarily closing as it does not have a drive-thru.

Hours may adjust depending on location, and the company said it will continue paying all employees scheduled through March 22 at half-pay if their hours are impacted. Impacted employees may also file for unemployment, Burgerville said. 

Washington Cases 

Clark County Public Health announced Friday that it had identified two additional cases of confirmed COVID-19. The two cases, a man and a woman, both in their 80s, are patients at long-term care facilities in Clark County.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced Friday that all public and private K-12 schools in Washington will be closed from March 15 through April 24.

“We do not take these decisions lightly and I am fully aware of the various impacts this has on families and communities,” Inslee said during a Thursday press conference in Olympia. “Today’s decision has a full range of implications from learning plans and child care, to free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch, just to name a few.”

He continued: “I anticipate this will cause ripple effects throughout our state. But we can’t afford not to do it. We must ensure that we slow the spread of the virus.”

Inslee also announced Wednesday his own state’s social distancing measures, banning large events in three Puget Sound-area counties.

Forty deaths have been reported in Washington as of Saturday.

There were 642 reported coronavirus cases in Washington as of Saturday afternoon, according to the Washington Department of Health.

Increased Testing Capacity Coming From Commercial Labs

Quest Diagnostics announced Saturday the increased capacity for processing COVID-19 tests is due to opening two new laboratories. 

Quest conducts coronavirus tests for states across the country, including Oregon, at its infectious disease lab in Southern California.

The company said it is opening two additional labs in Virginia and Massachusetts next week.

“Once additional FDA-approved high-throughput testing is available on large diagnostic platforms next week, the industry expects its capacity to be increased to more than 20,000 tests per day,” the American Clinical Laboratory Association, Quest’s trade association, said in a statement Friday. “Assuming there are no delays or shortages of necessary materials and supplies, commercial capacity is expected to exceed 280,000 tests per week by April 1.”

Quest does not have any specific state-by-state testing numbers available.

A Portland Mercury newsstand in Portland, Ore., Saturday, March 14, 2020. The newspaper announced it would halt print publication, going online-only, due to financial impacts of the large gatherings ban.
Bradley W. Parks /
A Portland Mercury newsstand in Portland, Ore., Saturday, March 14, 2020. The newspaper announced it would halt print publication, going online-only, due to financial impacts of the large gatherings ban.
<p>Multnomah County library director Vailey Oehlke speaks at a press conference announcing the library's closure to prevent the spread of coronavirus on March 13, 2019, in Portland, Oregon.</p>
<p>Jonathan Levinson</p> /
<p>Multnomah County library director Vailey Oehlke speaks at a press conference announcing the library's closure to prevent the spread of coronavirus on March 13, 2019, in Portland, Oregon.</p>
<p>The Edward Allworth Veterans' Home in Lebanon, Ore., March 13, 2020.</p>
<p>Kristian Foden-Vencil</p> /
<p>The Edward Allworth Veterans' Home in Lebanon, Ore., March 13, 2020.</p>

Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting