TriMet Sees Decreased Ridership, Vacasa Announces Layoffs
UPDATE (March 20, 9:13 p.m. PT) — As of Friday night, Oregon has a total of 115 known cases of the novel coronavirus.
OHA reported 26 new diagnosed cases of the virus Friday. Six cases in Washington County, five in Multnomah County, four in Clackamas County, four in Marion County, two in Deschutes County, two in Yamhill County, and one case each in Grant, Linn and Union counties.
Josephine County additionally announced its first confirmed case of COVID-19 Friday.
The health authority has reported three deaths in Oregon from the virus.
The novel coronavirus, a relative of other viruses like SARS, was first identified in Wuhan, China, late last year.
As of Friday morning the Washington Department of Health has announced 74 COVID-19 related deaths.
There are 1,376 cases of the virus in Washington as of Friday morning, according to the Washington Department of Health.
Clark County Public Health announced two additional COVID-19 cases Friday, bringing the county’s total number of cases to six.
One case is a woman in her 60s. The other is a man in his 70s. Neither person has had any known contact with a confirmed case. They are both quarantined and recovering at home.
All Washington counties have at least one confirmed case.
Oregon Gov. Brown’s Efforts
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced during a Friday press call that she is looking into a statewide moratorium on evictions.
“I think this is incredibly important during this unprecedented crisis and want to reduce people’s anxiety about potentially losing their homes in the event they are unable to pay rent,” Brown said.
Brown said she also had a call Thursday with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, along with other governors. She said she has requested for the Real ID deadline to be extended for a year.
“This will ensure that Oregon can comply with the act and that Oregonians will not be inversely impacted while attempting to travel domestically,” Brown said.
Without an extension, Oregonians will need to obtain an updated, federally-accepted driver license to be able to fly domestically after Oct. 1.
Brown said she has also made a request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency requesting more supplies to fight the spread of the virus in Oregon, including personal protective equipment (PPE).
“Yesterday, my team put in an order to FEMA for 1 million N-95 surgical masks, 300,000 test swabs and 140 ventilators,” Brown said. “I’ll keep you posted on when we receive those items.”
Health Care Providers Push Shelter In Place Rules
OHSU doctors strongly suggested Friday that Brown should enact “shelter-in-place” orders that have emerged in California, New York and Illinois this week.
“Curfews and shelter-in-place orders like other cities may seem extreme, but we should be considering them at this moment,” said Dr. Renee Edwards, OHSU’s chief medical officer. “I implore all Oregonians to present a unified front in this matter and stay at home against the threat of COVID-19.”
Brown has been reticent to make such an order, instead urging citizens to remain indoors whenever possible, and to stay away from others. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee also said Friday that he doesn't believe it's time for such an extreme step.
Vacasa Announces Layoffs
The Portland-based vacation rental company Vacasa announced Friday that it is laying off what could be hundreds of employees globally, according to the Portland Business Journal.
Neither Brown nor Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says the time is right for further restrictions on movement. Though a growing number of health providers are asking for stay at home or shelter in place rules, both governors said Friday that they're not convinced.
Oregon Convention Center Becoming Homeless Shelter
Metro, the regionally elected government for Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties, will use the Oregon Convention Center as a 130-bed shelter.
The convention center has now become unused as travel and tourism are spiraling and large gatherings are banned due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
The Charles Jordan Community Center in North Portland will also be used as a temporary shelter.
Portland Rose Festival Postponed
The Portland Rose Festival has been indefinitely postponed, according to the nonprofit foundation that organizes it.
“We are continuing to cautiously plan for a 2020 Rose Festival in hopes that conditions will allow us to offer some or all of our events to the community at the appropriate time,” The Portland Rose Festival Foundation said in a statement Thursday. “It has become clear that the proper timing is not our original dates of May 22 through June 7.”
The foundation said it will work with city leaders to reschedule the festival for another date.
TriMet Sees Decreased Ridership
TriMet, the public transportation agency for the Portland metro area, announced late Thursday that it has seen a decreased ridership.
The agency is urging people to continue to spread out by at least 3 feet when they’re using public transportation.
Ridership has decreased as people have been encouraged to work from home, or have been laid off from work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“140,000 less [sic] people rode with us yesterday, compared to our weekday average from February,” TriMet tweeted Thursday. “We miss you, but thank you for not riding. You’re keeping the Portland region safer. And for those of you who still have to ride -- there’s plenty of room to spread out and social distance.”
Portland Aerial Tram Limited To Hospital Employees, Patients
The Portland Bureau of Transportation and Oregon Health & Science University announced Friday morning that OHSU’s aerial tram is temporarily restricted to only hospital employees and patients.
The rider restriction adheres to new visitor restriction measures that OHSU also enacted beginning Friday; it is temporarily not allowing any hospital visitors.
The hospital said the aerial tram will now only operate with a capacity of 20 people in each of the two cabins, down from a normal capacity of 79 people per cabin.
General public ticket sales for the tram are expected to resume once hospital visitation restrictions are lifted and the risks of the coronavirus outbreak subside, the hospital said.
Oregon DMV Offices Mostly Remain Open, Following Guidelines
Most Oregon Driver and Motor Vehicles offices remain open amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Most offices are open but following the current guidelines, including limiting the number of customers inside at any one time to 10 or fewer (fewer for small offices),” David House with the Oregon Department of Transportation said.
House said some offices may eventually need to close due to staffing shortages, something that typically happens during a regular flu season.
“The best advice is to delay your visit as long as possible and check OregonDMV.com before you go to a DMV,” House said.
Portland Building Employees Sent Home Abruptly
The Portland Building, a municipal office building in downtown Portland, was shut down suddenly Friday morning after two city employees who work in the building exhibited common symptoms of COVID-19.
The city of Portland learned of the first sick employee Thursday night. Officials decided to close two of the building’s floors, effective Friday morning.
When a second city employee said they were also experiencing similar symptoms, the city decided to shut down the building.
Only security is now allowed inside. Since Tuesday, only essential personnel who are not able to telework have been allowed inside city buildings.
It’s the second building closed by the city due to concerns about the possible presence of coronavirus in the last two days.
Earlier this week, the city learned of an employee who worked in another municipal building, located at 1900 SW Fourth avenue near Portland State University, who was experiencing symptoms.
They decided to close multiple floors in the building. The city then learned of another sick employee and shut the building down on Thursday evening.
None of the four city employees have been tested for COVID-19, according to a city spokesperson.
Portland Police Calls Down From Last Week
Portland’s Chief of Police Jami Resch held a call with local media Friday to provides updates on PPB’s response to COVID-19.
Portland Police will continue taking all calls for service, just as before the outbreak.
The main difference is the chief is pushing for more crimes to be reported online unless there’s an emergency or something that requires speaking to the police face to face.
Resch said she has not noticed any changes in staffing, and there’s been no uptick in sick leave over the last several days.
About 3% of the force is out sick. Calls for service are down by about 15% from last week. Right now, the chief said the bureau has supplies needed to protect officers.
Though the chief said they’re “monitoring” supplies of sanitizer, gloves and respirator filters.
Looking Out For COVID-19 Scams
U.S. Attorney Billy Williams said Friday that there are several fraud schemes connected to the coronavirus outbreak circulating in Oregon and throughout the country.
“Scammers have already devised methods for defrauding people in connection with COVID-19,” The U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement. “They are setting up websites, contacting people by phone and email and posting disinformation on social media platforms.”
Some examples of these scams include people selling fake at-home coronavirus test kits, selling fake cures or vaccines and creating websites claiming to sell in-demand medical supplies.
Scammers are also creating mobile apps related to tracking the spread of the virus that have malware that can compromise people’s phones and steal personal information, the office said.
Scammers can also be soliciting donations for people, groups or areas affected by the virus outbreak.
The office is urging Oregonians to make sure they verify sources of information, including double checking websites and email addresses and not clicking on links or opening attachments from unknown, unverified and unsolicited emails.
Mt. Hood Meadows Suspends Winter Operations
Mt. Hood Meadows is suspending winter operations for the rest of the season. The ski resort on Mount Hood issued a statement Friday saying this is in the public’s best interest, given the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meadows said that it could open before the end of the season, if everyone works together to help slow the spreading of the virus.
While operations are suspended, the ski area is allowing skiers and snowboarders to make their own way up the slopes to ski down — but the chairlifts will not be running.
Meadows also will keep its Nordic trails open through April 10 for cross-country skiing. But they advise that there will be no patrol or other assistance available. They will also be refunding any advance bought tickets, lessons, rentals, camps or clinics for the remainder of the season.
At the moment, the lodge will be closed and only essential personnel are reporting to ski areas this week while other team members are working from home.
The resort will also be paying seasonal team members through March 27 to help them out through these tough times.
Lack of supplies delays additional COVID-19 testing
A shortage of collection kits to perform COVID-19 tests, specifically the swabs used to gather specimens, is delaying additional testing by Quest Diagnostics.
Earlier this week, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced a new contract with Quest for 20,000 tests in Oregon.
But the lab’s first batch of tests has been delayed for lack of swabs, according to Nik Blosser, Brown’s chief of staff, who has been talking with the Trump Administration about the lack of supplies.
“The administration yesterday actually sent states a list of suppliers for swabs and said good luck,” Blosser said. “So we’re all, almost every state now, is calling these poor four suppliers to see what we can get, and that’s really the limitation.”
The governor's office reported later on Friday that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services plans to send Oregon 4,000 viral testing swabs.
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