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June 3 City of Eugene Community Update – COVID-19

Posted on: June 3, 2020

June 3 City of Eugene Community Update – COVID-19

Good afternoon,

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 of 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.

Some of the restrictions that are being eased:

  • 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.

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.

Recovery Strategies

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: bizhelp@eugene-or.gov.

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.

Important Actions to Protect Ourselves and Each Other

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 list of actions to protect yourself and others on its website if you want to find out more about the ways you can help do your part.

Resources for More Information 

The City of Eugene is working with our partners at Lane County and Springfield to ensure our community has important information about local, state and federal resources to help those who have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. See a list of Community Resources for physical and mental health, food, housing, businesses, employees, schools and children, as well as information in Spanish. Also learn how you can help.

Our partners also have a significant amount of information available online. Please visit these resources for the most up to date information:  

Previous Community Update

City of Eugene Community Update – COVID-19 May 27

Posted on: May 27, 2020

May 27 City of Eugene Community Update – COVID-19

Respect. Patience. Thoughtfulness. Thank you for supporting local businesses as we all navigate reop

Good morning Eugene,

There has been slow and steady progress to safely reopen in the last two weeks. Since we entered Phase 1 of Governor Kate Brown’s reopening plan, local businesses are starting to reopen under new circumstances and community members are able to gather in small groups with physical distancing.

Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis said last week in a speech that working together has helped us get this far, and it will help us continue down a path of progress.

“Please understand that this is a team effort,” Vinis said. “We are all in this together and have a responsibility to one another.”

We are encouraged to see businesses open their closed doors with provisions in place for physical distancing. The return of childcare to our Rec centers and the offering of summer camps is a positive sign, too.  

As we return to public places we should be mindful of protocols in place to help limit the spread of COVID-19. We want to thank everyone for being safe over Memorial Day Weekend and also remind people that while businesses and restaurants are starting to open, we aren’t out of the woods yet and it’s only through constant vigilance that we can move toward Phase 2.

Local Businesses Update

An anecdote from a local business owner

Since the beginning of the pandemic the City and its partners have worked closely with local business owners. The following is just one example of what we’re hearing in the community about the challenges people and businesses are facing.

Falling Sky owner Rob Cohen reopened a part of his business in early May, but he and other Eugene brewpub and restaurant owners face a challenging future.

After being shut down for seven weeks, Cohen’s Falling Sky Delicatessen, 790 Blair Blvd., reopened on May 1 for takeout and delivery business only. Falling Sky Brewpub on Oak Alley remains closed, as does Falling Sky Pizzeria in the University of Oregon’s Erb Memorial Union.

Cohen says owning a business such as his during the COVID-19 pandemic is “perilous.”

“It’s like walking in slow motion, blindfolded, down a plank in a windstorm without knowing if there is anything on the other side,” he said. “Without a (COVID-19) vaccine very soon, the short-term outlook for brewpubs and restaurants like us seems very bleak.”

The March shutdown threw 49 Falling Sky employees out of work. Reopening the deli restored 17 jobs.

The state’s reopening guidelines for dine-in service require social distancing and other COVID-19 safety measures. But Cohen said he is not ready to offer that option for the following reasons: He worries about the risk of infection for staff and customers; his employees would have to enforce social distancing, which could be a problem with transients who often attempt to use the deli’s bathroom; and it’s unknown if there would be enough demand for dine-in service to cover the cost of added employees.

Cohen was able to reopen the deli with financial help from the U.S. Small Business Administration – a $10,000 grant and a Paycheck Protection Program loan – plus flexibility from vendors, landlords and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

Falling Sky received the Paycheck Protection Program loan with help from Summit Bank, which has been “amazing to work with throughout all of this,” Cohen said. “It has reaffirmed my belief in local banking.”

We’re here to help local businesses

The City is exploring options to provide businesses with access and use of outdoor space surroundingThe City of Eugene has created a specialized team to help support local businesses as Lane County continues Phase 1 of the Governor’s Reopening Oregon plan. Learn about the many ways the City is supporting local businesses and how we can help.

For businesses that may need additional space to meet physical distancing requirements, this could include access and use of outdoor space surrounding their premises. For example, a restaurant can offer seating on the adjacent sidewalk. The City is actively working to streamline that process, while exploring options to convert on-street parking spaces to seating, an idea called a ‘streatery’.

Each situation is unique and comes with opportunities and challenges, which the City will be working through as we reopen together. Local businesses can email the team directly at bizhelp@eugene-or.gov.

Eugene Rec announces registration date for youth summer camps

We are looking forward to helping make your summer the best it can be. We are excited to announce Eugene Rec will be offering summer camps starting June 22. Summer Camp registration will begin at 9 a.m. June 8 and you can go to Rec’s online registration portal to set up an account, and registration will also be available over the phone or in person Amazon, Sheldon or Petersen Barn community centers. Look for more information coming your way by the end of May. We are hard at work planning for camp modifications to keep your kids safe and healthy including physical distancing, mask wearing and diligent sanitizing. Because these safety measures will include having smaller groups of campers, we appreciate your understanding that we expect enrollment capacity to be limited.

Childcare programs are also now running at Sheldon, Amazon and Petersen Barn community centers. Call 541-682-5312 for information and registration for child care.

Pools currently remain closed during Phase 1 of Lane County’s reopening. We are working on how we might safely begin swimming lessons and lap swimming at Amazon Pool during Phase 2. Sheldon Pool will remain closed, as current guidelines do not allow indoor pools to operate during Phase 2. Echo Hollow Pool will remain closed until renovations are complete later this year.

Facility rentals, fitness classes and other Rec programming will gradually begin to restart; stay tuned for more information. We plan for the limited and gradual reopening of all our community centers after the start of Phase 2 except for Campbell, which is still undergoing renovations.

We have missed recreating with you and are excited to begin welcoming you back! We will keep you posted on our reopening news on our website and through future emails.

When do we move into Phase 2?

After 21 days in Phase 1, counties continuing to meet the prerequisites MAY be able to enter Phase 2. Lane County’s ability to progress to Phase 2 relies on all of us working together and following all safety guidelines outlined for our gradual reopening. 

The County entered Phase 1 on May 15, so the earliest it could be allowed to move into Phase 2 would be June 5. Stay tuned for more information next week about the process.

Learn More About Reopening Oregon

Previous Community Update

To Wear Or Not To Wear A Mask?

To wear, or not to wear a mask, that is the question…and a burning one because without clear, unequivocal instructions we feel lost. Don’t you feel utterly confused when our commander in chief tells us to wear masks but refuses to follow his own lead?

As a surgeon, I spent half of my professional life wearing surgical masks. You get used to it pretty quickly. Surgical crews wear these masks to protect patients from all kind of bugs coming from our mouths with each uttered word, breath, cough, or sneeze. This situation is simple and straightforward. 

The current development, on the other hand, presents many more challenges and unknowns. Challenges that most of us, myself included, never experienced before. To whom should we listen? Medical professionals like Dr. Fauci or self-serving politicians? For me, the answer is obvious:medical  professionals. 

The medical professionals are finally in complete agreement. Everyone should wear a mask in public spaces and practice social distancing – there are no ifs, ands, or buts about it! 

Here’s the thing, when you have a full blown disease, the course of action is clear. Isolate yourself at home and go to a hospital if your condition deteriorates. However, the majority of people infected with COVID-19 have very mild, indistinct symptoms. What should they do?

Take the future king of Great Britain for example. Prince Charles strictly obeys the doctors orders. “Having recently gone through the process of contracting this coronavirus, luckily with relatively mild symptoms, I now find myself on the other side of the illness but still in no less a state of social distance and general isolation,” he said. 

Some people don’t experience any symptoms at all, and Typhoid Mary, the obstinate cook, immediately comes to mind. It is believed she had infected 51 people with typhoid fever (3 of whom died) because she refused to acknowledge she had the disease and didn’t cooperate with medical authorities. 

Mary became the first individual in the United States identified as an asymptomatic (silent) carrier of the disease in the early 20th century, and she was compulsorily quarantined for 16 years.

Since there is a dire shortage of COVID-19 tests in the United States, everyone should act as if they are silent carriers and take necessary precautions: social distancing, wearing a mask, and religiously washing hands. 

“CDC recommends washing hands with soap and water whenever possible because handwashing reduces the amounts of all types of germs and chemicals on hands. But if soap and water are not available, using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can help you avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.”

The virus can linger on surfaces for up to:

72 hours – plastics 

48 hours – steel 

24 hours – cardboard  

Also, the virus can be detected in the air for up to 3 hours.

Granted, it is tough to follow all the above mentioned precautions, but we have no other choice if we want to stop the spread of the disease faster and avoid many unnecessary infections and deaths. Please, for the sake of your health, the health of your loved ones, and everyone in our community, always wear a mask when out in public.

Best,

Alex

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