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Oregon Governor Extends Statewide Closures For Schools, Restaurants

UPDATE (8:14 p.m. PT) – Oregon state and local health officials reported 1,239 known coronavirus cases as of Wednesday afternoon.

Health officials reported Wednesday that there have been 38 known coronavirus-related deaths in the state.

Washington surpasses 9,000 confirmed cases

Clark County Public Health said Wednesday that there are 190 known cases of the virus there. To date, 13 people in Clark County have died.

The Washington Department of Health reported 9,097 diagnosed cases of COVID-19 and 421 related deaths as of Wednesday afternoon.

Gov. Kate Brown extends school closures

Oregon public schools will not reopen again this school year, as the state works to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, Gov. Kate Brown announced Wednesday.

Brown also announced new Oregon Department of Education guidelines for graduating seniors. The rules ensure that students will graduate on time if seniors were expected to pass their courses. The guidance also asks that teachers work with students who were struggling prior to schools closing on March 12, so they can also receive diplomas.

Oregon veterans home finds new case

The Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs announced a new case of coronavirus at the Edward Allworth Veterans’ Home in Lebanon on Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases at the home to 19. Of those, 13 have recovered, three are actively sick and three have died.

Two residents of the Lebanon home tested positive on March 11 — among the first cases in the state — and the home quickly became a coronavirus hotspot. The state Department of Veterans Affairs announced three weeks ago it had tested every resident of the home.

The latest resident to contract the virus had previously tested negative for COVID-19 and was retested at the request of the home’s medical director when symptoms consistent with the coronavirus appeared.

The announcement comes less than a week after the state confirmed a third resident of the home had died and two more were positive for COVID-19.

Chief justice affirms habeas corpus during pandemic

Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Martha Walters signed an order dated April 7 ordering habeas corpus hearings an essential proceeding during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The order takes effect immediately.

Last week, in a highly unusual move, Umatilla County planned on canceling habeas hearings.

The right of “habeas corpus” — meaning “have the body” — is a constitutionally protected principle allowing inmates to challenge or modify their detention on certain bases. Suspending hearings is rare.

Umatilla County has two large state prisons and a total of more than 3,500 inmates. The petitions are a last resort for inmates who need things like medical equipment and procedures that have been denied.

Walters' order says the hearings should be conducted remotely if feasible and permitted by the law.

Gov. Kate Brown extends restaurant closures

Dine-in service at restaurants and bars in Oregon is now banned indefinitely.

Gov. Kate Brown announced Tuesday she is extending a March 17 order limiting eateries to take-out service only. That order was set to lapse on April 15.

Brown said it would be irresponsible to lift the ban while Oregon continues to grapple with the coronavirus outbreak.

It will remain in place until she lifts her order directing Oregonians to stay home.

Relief program for Seaside businesses

The city of Seaside, Oregon, earlier this week approved its Tourism Relief Program, offering $1.25 million in emergency funds for lodging properties, businesses and nonprofits, as well as the city’s water customers.

For hotels and lodging properties, the program is waiving the “Transient Room Tax” due for the quarter that ended March 31 — a 10% city tax. The city said it collected more than $1 million from lodging properties for the same quarter last year. 

“One of the things that we would love to do is help keep these businesses and lodging properties viable until the economy gets going again,” City Manager Mark Winstanley said in a statement. He said the money will come from the budget reserves of the Visitors Bureau. 

“We feel this relief package will provide some level of long-term sustenance for our community,” he continued. 

In order to qualify for the relief, lodging operators must submit paperwork to the city by the end of April. They also cannot have any outstanding room tax due. 

The program also approves up to $250,000 in emergency grant funding for some local businesses and nonprofits such as restaurants, shops and galleries, that have been operational in the city for at least a year. 

“Small businesses and nonprofits that comprise and support the thriving tourism industry in Seaside may apply for up to $4,000 each in grants,” the city said. 

Those grants can be used to keep employees on payroll, pay for sick leave or pay business obligations such as debts and rent or mortgage payments. 

Additionally, the city approved up to $175,000 in water bill reductions for residential and commercial customers. The city said approximately 3,500 customers will receive a one-time $50 bill reduction in their April bill.

<p>A closed playground at The Madeleine Elementary School in northeast Portland, March 21, 2020.</p>

Arya Surowidjojo/OPB


A closed playground at The Madeleine Elementary School in northeast Portland, March 21, 2020.

Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Meerah Powell