UPDATE (3:11 p.m. PT) — The Oregon Employment Department said Wednesday it is continuing to hire more employees, open more phone lines and work on addressing its backlog of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims for self-employed, contract and gig workers.
The department has started to make some headway in its PUA Focus program, acting director David Gerstenfeld said in a media briefing. The program, launched in late June, is putting focus on processing and reviewing a backlog of approximately 70,000 PUA claims.
“For week one of Focus PUA, we estimated we could get through 5,000 applications,” Gerstenfeld said. “We were able to process 4,368 PUA applications — about 600 shy of our goal but much more than we had been processing in the week before that.”
Gerstenfeld said the goal for this week is to process 7,500 PUA applications.
“We are working hard to meet these targets,” he said.
The department does not have a specific number of PUA claims that still need to be processed, Gerstenfeld said, as the process is mostly manual, and the department is still continuously receiving new applications.
The department has gone through and processed about 99% of regular unemployment claims, Gerstenfeld said. It still has about 2,000 regular unemployment claims to be processed.
He said some regular claims may have complex issues that will need to be reviewed by adjudicators, of which the department plans to hire more.
In the past week, the department has hired about 80 additional employees, in addition to internal moves to help increase work capacity, Gerstenfeld said.
“By the end of next week, we’re also adding 150 to 200 more phone lines, which will add capacity for both regular unemployment and PUA phone lines,” Gerstenfeld said.
Oregon sets another daily record with 281 cases
The state of Oregon is on pace to reach 10,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the next week, Gov. Kate Brown warned on Wednesday, as she further emphasized why she is now requiring most Oregonians to wear a mask while inside a public space.
On Wednesday, the state recorded another new record daily high of 281 confirmed COVID-19 cases. There are currently 8,937 confirmed cases of coronavirus with more than one-quarter of those cases identified in a two-week period in June. One of the fastest-growing sectors of confirmed cases is among children younger than the age of 10.
“What happens next is up to you,” the governor said at a press conference on Wednesday. “It’s up to each of you. Do we wear face coverings? Keep a physical distance? And avoid large gatherings? … Or do we pretend this virus isn’t hiding and lurking among us? Do we pretend we are somehow immune because we haven’t got sick so far?”
The governor warned Oregonians it will be up to residents to wear a mask, wash hands, limit the size of gatherings and socially distance.
Brown’s press conference comes 100 days after she ordered businesses closed and Oregonians to stay home. The governor said the state is now at yet another crossroads.
“Your actions will determine whether our businesses across the state can stay open,” the governor said.
The Oregon Health Authority also announced it would begin reporting infections at day care centers. Willamette Week on Tuesday reported an outbreak at a Lake Oswego child care center. Children have the fastest growth rate of new infections, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.
As of Wednesday, 192 people are hospitalized with suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the state, including 24 who are on ventilators. The coronavirus has led to the hospitalization of 1,055 people statewide over the course of the pandemic.
Oregon COVID-19 Map
Jacob Fenton, The Accountability Project at the Investigative Reporting Workshop
Clark County sees spike in cases
Health officials in Clark County, Washington, reported 40 new coronavirus cases Wednesday, bringing the county’s total to 883. That’s the highest number of cases reported in a single day in the county since the pandemic started, county health officials said.
Public health officials did not report any additional deaths, with the total holding at 29 people.
Clark County Public Health is urging people to stay home for the Fourth of July weekend.
“Clark County’s case numbers are going up. This is a dangerous time for gatherings,” Alan Melnick, Clark County health officer and public health director, said in a statement. “We cannot disregard physical distancing simply because it’s a holiday weekend.”
The Washington Department of Health reported 32,824 confirmed coronavirus cases in the state and 1,332 known deaths. As of Monday the coronavirus has led to the hospitalization of 4,361 people in Washington.
Oregon mask rule goes statewide
Starting Wednesday, Oregonians across the state are required to wear face coverings while in indoor public spaces — including places like grocery and retail stores and restaurants, while not eating or drinking.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown made that decision after a surge of new coronavirus cases in the state.
“Modeling from the Oregon Health Authority shows that if we don’t take further action to reduce the spread of the disease, our hospitals could be overwhelmed by new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations within weeks,” Brown said in a statement. “The choices every single one of us make in the coming days matter.”