Live updates: Oregon offers aid so agricultural workers can quarantine

By Courtney Sherwood (OPB) and Meerah Powell (OPB)
Aug. 1, 2020 1 p.m. Updated: Aug. 1, 2020 9:36 p.m.

A relief fund will offer up to two weeks of financial assistance, regardless of immigration status.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown Saturday announced the launch of programs offering financial assistance to agricultural workers who must self-quarantine due to the coronavirus.

The Oregon Worker Quarantine Fund will provide up to two weeks of financial assistance to agricultural workers ages 18 and older, regardless of their immigration status.


The Oregon Health Authority also Saturday launched a program that allows agricultural workers who are either recovering from COVID-19 or in self-quarantine to apply to the funding through local community partners.

“This pandemic has exacerbated disparities in our systems that already existed—especially for low-income communities, rural communities, immigrants, and communities of color,” Brown said in a statement. “Oregonians working in agriculture and food processing are providing a vital service, ensuring families continue to have food on their tables and grocery store shelves during this pandemic. And yet, the nature of this work puts agricultural and food processing workers at higher risk of exposure to COVID-19.”

Related: Oregon launches coronavirus-related assistance program for agricultural workers

Court ruling could help immigrants access health care

Oregon officials are responding to a federal ruling this week that temporarily freezes Trump administration immigration policies in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Department of Homeland Security had decreed that any non-U.S. citizen or legal resident who receives government assistance such as food stamps, public housing vouchers or Medicaid could be considered a “public charge,” a label that can harm the chances of obtaining a green card.

On Wednesday, a federal judge in New York put those restrictions on hold, citing the coronavirus pandemic, and noting that people have refused to enroll in publicly funded health programs or receive treatment for COVID-19 out of fear they might put their immigration status at risk.

“The public charge rule has worsened health disparities, especially for the Latino/a/x community, at a time when they are most hard hit by the lethal coronavirus,” Oregon Health Authority Patrick Allen said Friday in a statement. “Here in Oregon many immigrant families decided not to access public benefits, even leaving their children without health insurance.”

The agency said this week’s federal injunctions will allow immigrant communities across Oregon to access critical health care.

10% of Oregon coronavirus cases are children

The Oregon Health Authority issued a report analyzing pediatric COVID-19 cases in Oregon on Friday. It found that 1,755 cases, or 10% of all diagnoses in the state, were in children under 18.

Children are far less likely to become severely ill after diagnosis, the state reported, with about 1.5% being hospitalized, compared to 9.7% of adults.

Half of all infected children were exposed by people in their household, compared to just one in five adults. Pediatric infection rates have been highest in Morrow, Jefferson and Union counties, the state reported.


Special legislative session could tackle COVID-19 workplace issues

Gov. Kate Brown will call a special legislative session for Aug. 10 to close a $1.2 billion budget gap brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Much of the session’s work is likely to focus on state finances and police reform, but the Legislature also could take up proposals for how liable businesses are when customers or employees are sickened with COVID-19. After mounting pressure in June, a work group has been looking at whether to grant liability protections against lawsuits in such cases, a concept that has strong support in the Oregon House.

House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, has also voiced support for a proposal by labor unions to grant workers’ compensation payments to people who’ve come down with COVID-19 while being required to go to work, regardless of whether there is proof they contracted the disease in the workplace.

Related: Oregon Legislature to convene special session Aug. 10 to address budget gap

Door-to-door tests find coronavirus widespread in Hermiston

Umatilla County is in the middle of one of the worst outbreaks of COVID-19 in Oregon. Since the beginning of July, the county has registered more than 17 cases per 1,000 people. But data released Friday by Oregon State University suggest the rate of coronavirus infection could actually be significantly higher in places.

A door-to-door testing initiative called TRACE (Team-based Rapid Assessment of Community-Level Coronavirus Epidemics) in Hermiston found that nearly 17% of the city’s population is infected. That’s 169 infections per 1,000 people in the city.

Project co-director Ben Dalziel calls the infection numbers “very high,” the highest yet detected by TRACE after testing in several cities around the state.

Related: Close to 17% of Hermiston residents could have COVID-19

Oregon announces 3 more deaths

COVID-19 has claimed three more lives in Oregon, bringing the pandemic’s death toll in the state to 325 health officials reported Saturday

The Oregon Health Authority also reported 330 new confirmed and presumptive cases of the coronavirus Saturday, bringing the total diagnosed with the virus to 18,817 since the start of the pandemic.

The most new cases were in Multnomah County, which reported 69 diagnoses, followed by Washington County with 43, Marion County with 40 and Umatilla County with 33.

Clark County, Washington, announces 40th death

Clark County, Washington, health officials Friday reported one more death to the coronavirus, a woman in her 70s with no underlying helath conditions. She was 40th person to die of COVID-19 in the Southwest Washington county. Officials also reported 22 new positive test results, bringing the number of Clark County residents diagnosed with the virus to 1,778.

The latest available data from the Washington Department of health shows 55,803 cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed since the pandemic began, and 1,564 people in Washington have died from the virus.