We have a lot we want to share with you this week as our community continues to reopen, but we felt our first words need to address what is happening throughout our city, county, state and country.
Throughout the pandemic, our City leaders have called for kindness and compassion. While those messages remain important, our actions moving forward as we listen to our community and find ways to be an even better Eugene are where we can make long lasting change. Like many communities, we saw and felt the extremes of the anger from the killing of George Floyd and the ongoing discrimination against people of color. Sunday’s peaceful protest and march drew thousands downtown. Our community’s voice was heard, and this type of protest is an important tool to make change.
The unfortunate acts of vandalism and looting that occurred Friday night are different. This is not allyship. Many people of color in our community woke up Saturday feeling less safe, and that’s not right or fair. They did not start this riot.
The curfews City of Eugene Manager Pro Tem Sarah Medary enacted in response to the destruction weren’t done lightly. It was a decision to try and keep people safe throughout Eugene. Our fellow City employees in the Eugene Police Department worked diligently throughout the weekend to protect us, as the health and safety of the community is always our top priority. We are hearing from many about the police response and whether it was too little or too much. As always, we will review and learn from our collective experience. Our City has good systems in place to ensure accountability, including an Independent Police Auditor.
Earlier last week and before Eugene’s protests, Eugene Police Chief Chris Skinner made a statement in response to the protests and killing in Minneapolis. While it was made before our own community reacted, his words still resonate.
We are thinking about all of our underrepresented communities. Lane County has increased testing for at-risk communities, including our latinX population, which recently saw an increase in positive cases through sentinel testing. We will continue to work to help vulnerable communities.
Lane County and Phase 2 Reopening
Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced Wednesday more details about when counties can expect to hear about their Phase 2 applications and what parts of society can reopen. Governor Brown said 31 counties – including Lane County – have applied to enter Phase 2, and she will release Thursday what counties can begin the next step, which would begin Friday.
Phase 2 continues the county-by-county approach to reopening. Counties can be approved to enter Phase 2 only if they have been in Phase 1 for at least 21 days and are succeeding in controlling the spread of the virus.
Counties approved to enter Phase 2 must continue to meet these Phase 1 goals:
- Declining disease prevalence;
- Having an adequate number of contact tracers, including people reflective of the communities they serve; and
- Establishing adequate testing, isolation and quarantine facilities, sufficient hospital surge capacity, and sufficient personal protective equipment supply.
Counties must also meet additional prerequisites, including:
- Demonstrating that they are able to trace new cases within 24 hours;
- Identifying the source of new cases at least 70% of the time; and
- No significant increase in cases.
Counties that enter Phase 2 could go back to Phase 1 if they slip on one or more of their public health goals. Phase 3 will not be an option for at least the next few months.
Some of the restrictions that are being eased:
Individual, social, civic and faith-based gatherings are limited to 50 people indoors and 100 outdoors. The State did say it would provide more specific information for larger venues based on square footage in the coming days.
Bars and restaurants will be able to stay open until midnight with more guidelines around physical distancing.
There is a shift from requiring to strongly recommending people remotely work from home if they can.
Places like bowling alleys, arcades and movie theaters will be allowed to reopen, while OHA is working on a plan for zoos, museums and outdoor gardens so they, too, can safely reopen.
Pools will be allowed to reopen with appropriate sanitizing and physical distancing.
Some recreational sports will be allowed, and collegiate athletes will be allowed to resume training in mid-June.
Visitation at senior living homes will still be limited.
The State’s coronavirus website will be updated with more specifics as they become available.
The State is relying on current data on testing and contact tracing in counties to determine which meet the threshold to enter the second phase. The OHA is providing an additional $11 million to counties to expand contact tracing and testing in general is being expanded to included asymptomatic cases. Counties must show a decrease in cases and an increased capacity for contact tracing and testing.
Governor Brown and her team wanted to reiterate Phase 2 will be where we live for the foreseeable future and most likely through the summer and into the fall. A vaccine is a critical part of opening more broadly.
Until then it’s upon all of us to maintain the precautions put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19. The state strongly recommends face coverings in public and fully supports local jurisdictions that want to pass ordinances around requiring face coverings.
New Testing Recommendations for People with No Symptoms
Oregon has the fourth-lowest infection rate in the country, but has recently seen a small uptick in confirmed cases. Hospitalizations continue to fall, testing capacity continues to increase, and the rate at which people are testing positive is going down. This is all welcome news, but does not mean we are out of the woods yet.
Accordingly, the state is now recommending tests for some people even if they have no symptoms. You can read more about it here from The Oregonian.
Those groups are:
- People who have had close contact with a person with a confirmed infection or with a person presumed by public health officials to be infected.
- People exposed to coronavirus in a congregate setting, such as a nursing home or prison.
- Migrant or seasonal farm workers when they arrive in Oregon.
- Oregonians who are black, African-American, Latino, Latina, Latinx, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Asian-American or Pacific Islander.
- Oregonians with a disability.
- People whose first language is not English.
Encouraging testing among some people without symptoms can help identify infections earlier and reduce the spread, particularly within groups who have been disproportionately impacted.
Eugene’s evolving response to homelessness
With Lane County Public Health and CDC guidance, our response strategies to support people experiencing homelessness are designed to lessen the need for people to move around the city. Our response is evolving, and you can read about what we are changing on our website. Over the last few months we:
- Distributed more than 70 portable restrooms and about 60 handwashing stations.
- Provided essential supplies through a month-long contract with White Bird Clinic.
- Stood up mobile outreach teams to reach out to people sheltering where they were.
- Established designated temporary shelter sites to provide spaces where small groups of people could camp in tents or vehicles with appropriate physical spacing.
In addition Lane County established two temporary respite sites where unhoused individuals received services, including a safe place to sleep, meals, showers and medical screenings. One was located in Springfield at the Memorial Building and the other was at the Lane Events Center.
We’ve seen little spread of COVID-19 among our homeless populations. Lane County Public Health has performed sentinel testing in the unhoused community with no positive cases identified.
The public health measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have taken a serious toll on many businesses and their employees in our community. Businesses are having to change how they operate to keep their workers and their customers safe.
Biz Help Team – Many businesses and nonprofits are under extreme financial stress because of the economic downturn. We have established a Business Help Team to assist employers as they seek to keep their businesses afloat by answering questions about financing options, reopening guidelines and other topics. We’ve set up an email address that goes directly to the Business Help Team: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Right-Of-Way Seating and “Streateries” – One way the City can accommodate restaurants, bars and brewpubs is to make it easy for them to use the public right-of-way. Under Oregon Health Authority guidelines, these businesses are now required to keep patrons 6 feet apart This means fewer customers in their venue, making it difficult to run a viable business. One option for many of these businesses is to use the outdoors. Some businesses can take advantage of adjacent private parking areas, but for those in denser areas — such as near the University of Oregon, downtown and the Whiteaker — they don’t have that option because they are surrounded by public right-of-way.
Last month, the City Manager signed a temporary administrative order to allow commercial entities to use the public right-of-way, which includes sidewalks, parking stalls and streets. We already had a process to allow sidewalk seating, but the temporary order simplifies the process and eliminates a fee. Claim 52 Kitchen worked with the City’s Permit Information to obtain the first of these “Streateries” permits and several other businesses have expressed interest.
We’re also working out how to use Kesey Square as a public dining area to offer outdoor seating for nearby restaurants. We’re working to be flexible, to meet the needs of different businesses as rules change and needs evolve.
Saturday Streets – We are working with the Saturday Market and the Farmers Market to allow a full market to safely operate. We’re exploring how to expand the footprint of the two markets by closing down strategic streets on Saturdays. The Farmers Market has been operational during the entire pandemic, but we want to support the Saturday Market when it re-opens this month.
Child Care and Summer Camps – One of the big challenges facing our work force is child care. Working parents have been especially challenged during the quarantine. For many working parents, they won’t be able to go back to their places of work if they don’t have a place for their kids to go.
Eugene Rec is stepping up to help fill this critical need – childcare is now available at Sheldon, Petersen Barn and Amazon community centers. Children are in small groups and physical distancing, sanitizing protocols and health checks are all part of the daily safety protocols.
We are also happy to announce summer camps will be offered this summer, which provide another critical community resource for local parents. Eugene Rec will be offering summer camps starting June 22. Summer Camp registration begins at 9 a.m. June 8 on Rec’s online registration website.
Since March, Eugeneans and residents throughout Oregon have helped flatten the curve by following important guidelines. As the state reopens, it’s important to remember the risks and to continue to do our best to protect ourselves and one another. If we all follow the established protocols, we will help save the lives of our colleagues, neighbors, friends and family members.
The City has large list of resources on its website if you want to find out more about the ways you can help do your part.