UPDATE (7:23 p.m. PT) – Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced Friday that Walgreens is opening one of its first coronavirus testing sites in Oregon. 

Drive-through testing will be available in Hillsboro by appointment only for patients who have completed an online health assessment and meet both federal and state eligibility for testing. 

 

  

The testing will be overseen by Walgreens pharmacists, the governor’s office said, using an Abbott ID Now testing instrument to return test results within 24 hours. 

“One step at a time, we are making progress towards the day when we can begin to reopen our communities and safely return to public life,” Brown said in a statement. “I’d like to thank Walgreens for their partnership in selecting Oregon for one of its first rapid COVID-19 testing sites in the nation.”

Testing will be available at no cost to people who are eligible, Brown’s office said. 

Social distancing reducing coronavirus spread in Oregon

New modeling released by the Oregon Health Authority Friday shows that the state’s aggressive social distancing measures are continuing to help reduce the spread of coronavirus.

The modeling estimates approximately 8,400 coronavirus infections in Oregon as of April 16. The state had confirmed 1,900 cases of COVID-19 at the time.

Current social distancing measures are estimated to have averted more than 70,000 cases and more than 1,500 hospitalizations, the report states. It said those interventions have to be maintained to decrease the number of people actively infected with the virus.

The state must also increase testing capacity “enormously” to avoid a rebound in cases if social distancing measures are relaxed, the report said.

“Our modeling continues to show that our collective efforts are working,” Dr. Dean Sidelinger, state epidemiologist, said in a statement. “And despite the very real hardships these sacrifices have cost Oregonians, we have to keep it up even as we move toward easing restrictions. We need to build on our success in limiting the spread of COVID-19.”

The Portland sign on Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall lights up an empty street Saturday, April 18, 2020, in Portland, Ore. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown banned large gatherings in March to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The Portland sign on Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall lights up an empty street Saturday, April 18, 2020, in Portland, Ore. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown banned large gatherings in March to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Bradley W. Parks/OPB

The modeling shows projections through May 28. With aggressive social distancing measures in place, including Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s stay-at-home order, the report states, the cumulative number of coronavirus cases will still rise, but at a slow rate, while the number of people actively sick with the virus will slowly decline.

If the state returns to more moderate social distancing, such as no gatherings larger than a certain number of people, both active and cumulative cases are expected to increase rapidly.

Washington to reopen construction

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced Friday some construction can resume in the state after more than a month on hiatus. The news is being welcomed in Southwest Washington.

Inslee’s giving the OK for builders to return to construction projects that are already underway, so long as workers can stay 6 feet apart and follow a new set of safety guidelines.

Workers must take COVID-19 safety training and wear employer-provided personal protective equipment like face masks, Inslee said. There must also be a person on site whose job it is to make sure those guidelines are followed.

A spokesperson said the new rules go into effect when Inslee signs the proclamation on Friday.

A commercial, mixed-use construction site sits quiet and closed-down during a work stoppage under the stay-at-home order and closure of non-essential businesses made weeks earlier during the coronavirus outbreak Friday, April 24, 2020, in Seattle. Thousands of construction workers could soon be back on sites across the state to finish existing projects after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced a plan that allows those jobs to resume as long as strict coronavirus social distancing protocols are in place.

A commercial, mixed-use construction site sits quiet and closed-down during a work stoppage under the stay-at-home order and closure of non-essential businesses made weeks earlier during the coronavirus outbreak Friday, April 24, 2020, in Seattle. Thousands of construction workers could soon be back on sites across the state to finish existing projects after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced a plan that allows those jobs to resume as long as strict coronavirus social distancing protocols are in place.

Elaine Thompson/AP

Clark County Chair Eileen Quiring said it was good news.

“This plan is designed based on safety — both the workers who are going to be working and the public who may have had contact,” she said. “I’m very happy the governor has decided to do this. It’s a very good move.”

Inslee halted construction statewide March 23. About 15,000 people in Clark County work in that sector. And, since March 1, about 5,000 jobless claims have been filed, according to data with the Washington Employment Security Department.

Clark County officials have stressed the loss of construction is also hurting their budgets. About one-third of sales tax dollars comes from the construction industry. The city of Vancouver and Clark County are both projecting to lose millions to their budgets this year because of declines in sales tax revenue.

Oregon reports 51 new coronavirus cases

The Oregon Health Authority reported 51 new coronavirus diagnoses in the state Friday. That brings Oregon’s confirmed case total to 2,177.

The agency said a case that was originally reported Thursday as a Douglas County diagnosis was later determined not to be a positive case. It was omitted from the total number of cases.

OHA Friday also reported three new coronavirus-related deaths bringing the state’s total known deaths to 86.

OHA details the new deaths as:

  • An 86-year-old man in Multnomah County who tested positive on April 14 and died April 20 at his residence. He had underlying medical conditions.
  • An 80-year-old man in Multnomah County who tested positive on April 12 and died April 19 at his residence. He had underlying medical conditions.
  • An 89-year-old man in Linn County who tested positive on March 15 and died April 22 at his residence. He had underlying medical conditions.

Washington state cases continue to climb

Clark County Public Health on Friday confirmed six new cases of coronavirus in the county. There are now 327 confirmed cases there.

The agency also announced two new coronavirus-related deaths Friday — a man and woman, both in their 80s.

To date, 19 people in Clark County are known to have died of COVID-19.

The latest available data from the Washington Department of Health show 12,977 diagnosed cases of the coronavirus and 723 related deaths.

Oregon fire marshal extends self-serve gas rule

The Office of the State Fire Marshal announced Friday an extension of the temporary self-service gas rule created to address a shortage of gas station employees amid the pandemic.

The initial self-service rule was announced March 28. It has been extended to May 9.

Self-service is not mandatory, the office said, but the option allows some gas stations to maintain operations with fewer workers. It also lets essential workers who must travel to commute without the uncertainty of finding an open gas station.

New Seasons Market to require face coverings for customers

New Seasons Market announced Friday that it will require all customers to wear face coverings in its stores starting Wednesday, April 29.

“Our staff have already been wearing facial coverings, but we feel that the best way to protect our staff, customers, partners and community is to all wear a facial covering to help reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19,” a New Seasons spokesperson said in a statement.

New Seasons said it will initially be providing free facial coverings at the door, while supplies last, with a limit of one per customer.

“Afterwards, all neighbors and visitors will need to bring and wear a facial covering inside a New Seasons Market store,” the company said.

Oregon emergency manager apologizes

The director of Oregon’s emergency preparedness agency issued an apology to staff Thursday after his office refused for weeks to alert workers about a possible coronavirus exposure.

“I want to express my apologies and sincere regret for any actions, or lack of action, that have created additional anxiety or caused you to lose confidence and trust in OEM Executive Staff,” Office of Emergency Management director Andrew Phelps wrote in an email sent shortly before 4:30 p.m. Thursday. The agency’s reading of guidance from a variety of sources, Phelps said, “clearly led to confusion on my part and a missed opportunity to provide information that should have been shared.”

The apology comes two days after the office was forced to reveal to staff that a manager in the agency was ill with a likely case of coronavirus in early April. OPB reported Thursday that the director’s office was first told of the possible exposure on April 4 but did not alert employees, citing privacy concerns.

Oregon COVID-19 Map

Addiction recovery during a crisis

Gigi Goodrich has been in addiction recovery treatment for months and was going to regular 12-step meetings when the pandemic hit. Goodrich sent “Think Out Loud” an audio postcard about her struggle to stay sober while maintaining social distancing, with her dog Bock as a constant companion.