News Update for 5/15/20

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Fri, 05/15/2020 - 4:00pm

The Oregon Department of Corrections will close Oregon’s death row.  The Oregonian reported yesterday that the 27 men there will be moved to other housing in the prison system.  The move has been under consideration by prison officials since a reform group in 2016 recommended the unit be emptied to lessen the potential psychological harms associated with segregated prison housing.  The men will be moved to the general population or “special housing” somewhere in the state’s prison system. Officials say that’s because they are a danger to others or they themselves are vulnerable because of the crimes they committed.


Authorities report an incarcerated youth at MacLaren Correctional Facility in Woodburn has tested positive for the coronavirus.  The person was asymptomatic but has been moved to medical isolation, in the first positive test of a youth in the agency’s custody.

The Oregonian reports a dozen McLaren prisoners volunteered to take a COVID-19 test, after an employee with whom they had contact tested positive for the virus and was quarantined.  Staff at MacLaren have been notified of the positive test, and officials say they are tracking everyone who had close contacts with the youth.

The Oregon Youth Authority said it is strongly encouraging all staff to get tested for the virus and is again offering voluntary testing to youths who previously declined.  Any staff member who had close contact with the youth who tested positive must wear a surgical mask and medical check twice a shift, officials said.


Oregon Gov. Kate Brown yesterday gave the green light to most of the state to reopen restaurants, bars, hair salons and many other businesses. She says though that any major spike in covid cases will trigger a shutdown.

Three Portland-area counties did not apply for reopening, including Multnomah County. Just over half the state’s population live in those counties that either didn’t submit, or were denied, applications to reopen.

The new rules also allow retail stores across the state to open as long as they’re not in shopping malls or shopping centers.  They must also limit customers to maintain at least six feet of distance, frequently sanitize work areas, and require all employees to wear masks.

Brown said yesterday she hopes schools in the entire state can reopen in the fall.

An additional 67 people — 33 of them in Marion County — tested positive for COVID-19 in the state. In total 137 people have died in Oregon from confirmed Covid-19 infection so far.


Meanwhile, two motel owners in Pacific City are citing their Constitutional rights to remain open during the Coronavirus pandemic,  in a lawsuit against Tillamook County.  The Anchorage Motel and The Pacific City Inn argue that the county's March resolution shutting overnight lodging violates their Fifth Amendment protections against the “taking of property without just compensation.” The suit was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court.


Continuing with pandemic news. Lawmakers in Texas and Missouri are fighting to establish the danger of Coronavirus infection as grounds to apply for a mail-in ballot.

A state appeals court in Texas yesterday upheld a temporary order that could expand the number of voters who qualify for mail-in ballots because of the pandemic. That move would shutdown Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's effort to have the ruling put on hold while he appeals it.

In a 2-1 split along party lines, the Court of Appeals affirmed that susceptibility to the coronavirus counts as a disability under state election law, and is a legally valid reason for voters to request absentee ballots. 

Paxton has been fighting that ruling and had argued that his pending appeal meant the lower court’s ruling was not in effect.

Also the Missouri House of Representatives on Wednesday moved to ensure voters can cast absentee ballots this year if they're worried about in-person voting during the pandemic.

They approved an amendment to another election-related bill -- but voters would still need to get their absentee ballots notarized.


And in Portland, the Kroger corporation is ending its $2 hourly hazard pay bonus paid since late March to its front-line workers at Fred Meyer during the pandemic.

Organizers with UFCW local 555, say the bonus wage will only be paid through Saturday, May 16, which corporate officials confirmed.

The union started a petition asking Kroger to extend the bonus pay until Gov. Kate Brown ends the state of emergency order for Oregon. 

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