The tallest waterfall in Oregon is easily accessible from Interstate 84 and is routinely crowded with groups of hikers, amateur photographers and tourists. That made Multnomah Falls, nestled in the Columbia River Gorge, a prime spot for the spread of the coronavirus and forced officials to close it and its parking areas to the public in the spring. Now, U.S. Forest Service officials are ready to begin reopening it.
The reopening will take place in two phases, with Phase 1 in place now. Under Phase 1, visitors will be allowed to the attraction on a first-come, first-served basis and capped at 300 people between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. PT daily. Visitors must check-in and wait in a socially distanced line from the parking lot leading to the viewing platform at the bottom of the waterfall, just behind the lodge.
Phase 2, which is expected to be implemented in a few weeks, will involve an online ticketing system allowing up to 300 visitors per hour. People will need to make reservations at least one day in advance. Face coverings are required for all visitors under both phases of the reopening.
The Benson Bridge viewpoint and the trail leading to the top of Multnomah Falls will remain closed under the tiered reopening plan.
Related: Multnomah Falls reopens to the public with coronavirus rules
Oregon advises parents to catch children up on vaccines
Oregon health officials are encouraging parents to catch their children up on their vaccines after months of canceled doctors’ appointments due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Oregon Health Authority says many children and teenagers have fallen behind on their vaccine schedule as a result and officials are worried about outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases amid a global pandemic.
Oregon experienced its largest outbreak of measles in more than 20 years last August, partly due to a growing trend to not vaccinate children against the disease.
The Oregon Health Authority advises parents to call their child’s health care provider to find out if they can bring their child in for vaccinations and learn what precautions are being taken at the office to keep everyone safe from COVID-19. It notes that some providers are offering drive-up services.
Families who cannot afford to vaccinate their children due to the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic are encouraged to call 211 to learn about the free Vaccines for Children program. Children under 19 may also be eligible to receive health insurance under the Oregon Health Plan. Check out OHP.Oregon.gov to find out more.
Oregon reports 7 deaths, 258 new cases
The Oregon Health Authority reported 258 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday. The total state caseload stands at 22,022.
Multnomah, Washington, Umatilla, Marion and Clackamas counties had the lion’s share of new cases.
Oregon also reported seven additional deaths, bringing the state death toll to 375 since the start of the pandemic. The deceased ranged in age between 57 and 95 years old.
The state health authority identified two outbreaks Wednesday — one at a berry farm in Marion County and another at a health care system in Umatilla County.
Related: COVID-19 by the numbers
Oregon State moving most fall classes online
Oregon State University announced Tuesday that it will move most fall classes online.
President F. King Alexander wrote in a letter to faculty and staff that more than 90% of courses will be offered remotely to “limit the density of activity on-campus and help minimize the possible spread of COVID-19 among students and employees.”
Most in-person courses on the Corvallis campus will be those requiring lab or fieldwork. A greater percentage of in-person courses will be offered at the OSU-Cascades campus in Bend.
Residential and dining services will remain available to students who want or need to live on campus.
Pac-12 cancels fall football season
The Pac-12 Tuesday joined a growing list of college athletic conferences to cancel the upcoming fall football season. Due to concerns about the coronavirus, the league — which includes the University of Oregon, Oregon State University, the University of Washington and Washington State University — joined conferences such as the Big Ten and the Mid-American Conference in calling off the season.
The move also includes delaying the seasons for all fall sports, including men’s and women’s soccer and women’s volleyball, as well as the start of any winter sports, prior to Jan. 1, 2021.
“All of the Pac-12 presidents and chancellors understand the importance of this decision, and the disappointment it will create for our student-athletes, the coaches, support staff and all of our fans,” said Michael H. Schill, president of the University of Oregon. “Ultimately, our decision was guided by science and a deep commitment to the health and welfare of student-athletes. We certainly hope that the Pac-12 will be able to return to competition in the New Year.”
Related: Pac-12 pulls the plug on the 2020 college football season
The Associated Press contributed reporting to this story.