Closures, cancellations follow virus news

By Sean C. Morgan
Lebanon Local
After the detection of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Lebanon Wednesday, March 11, things started happening – fast.
By Thursday evening, the city had announced it was taking “precautionary measures” at its facilities, including closures to the public and cancellation of all events at City Hall, the Senior Center, Lebanon Public Library and Lebanon Municipal Court.
Interim City Manager Ron Whitlach said in a statement earlier Thursday: “Your health and safety are of the utmost importance to us, so we are taking extra precautionary measures at our city facilities.”
At that point, the Lebanon Public Library would remain open during normal operating hours, but all programs and events were canceled, effective immediately, until further notice, he said.
Also, all City of Lebanon meetings have been canceled until further notice, including all boards and commissions.
At 5 p.m. Thursday, the city issued the closure statement for the library and City Hall.
Older adults, especially those with underlying health conditions, are at a far higher risk than the younger population, Whitlach said. Given this information and the recommendation to minimize human-to-human contact, the Lebanon Senior Center is canceling all events, classes and programming and closing doors to the public, effective immediately, until further notice.
The Cascades West Council of Governments will continue to operate its Meals-on-Wheels (MOW) program at the Senior Center, but the congregate meal site will not be open. For questions specific to the MOW program, call (541) 924-8455.
“Those are key places, our key public facilities (where) we could see some of those issues, so we’re on top of it,” Whitlach told the City Council during its regular meeting Wednesday evening. “We’re kind of following what Linn County Health recommends and trying to keep everybody calm.”
At this point, the city will continue to look for guidance from the Linn County Health Department, said Mayor Paul Aziz following the OHA’s announcement Wednesday evening following the regular City Council meeting.
“It’s one of those things, I don’t want to panic, overreact,” said Aziz, a former police officer, but rather follow common sense and make sure everybody is kept as safe as they can be.
The council discussed how to respond to the coronavirus and how it would function.
In a disaster situation, the council would normally go to the emergency operations center, but this is different, Aziz said. Now that the councilors all have iPads and Internet connections, they can all communicate electronically if they need to meet. He suggested conferring with the city attorney about how that would conform to legal public meeting requirements.
“I’m hoping that it doesn’t come to that and (that) everybody is washing their hands, and trying to stay away from people is probably the best way,” Aziz said.
Aziz said the library and Senior Center were probably the most likely to be affected.
Those would be closed first, Whitlach said, but the city needs to continue making water and operating the sewer system, police and operate the bus system. Public Works will be critical to a degree, but the city can get by with a small crew.
Meanwhile, after both East Linn Christian and Sand Ridge Charter School had announced they were closing, Gov. Kate Brown ordered all public schools closed from to close from Monday, March 16 through Tuesday, March 31 because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Supt. Bo Yates announced Thursday night that Lebanon schools were closing Friday.
Brown said in a news release issued Thursday evening: “I have heard from superintendents, school board members, teachers, parents, and students that it has now become impossible to functionally operate schools due to workforce issues and student absences.”
Brown issued the following directives:
n School districts are directed to develop plans for returning to school that accommodate ongoing impacts of coronavirus. Staff should utilize the final two days of March to finalize plans for operating schools under updated measures, with students expected to return on Wednesday, April 1.
♦ Districts are tasked with developing plans to continue nutrition services during the closure.
♦ The Oregon Department of Education will examine the impact the closure will have on instructional time.
♦ School districts will ensure adequate cleaning supplies for increased cleaning protocols following the closure.
♦ The Early Learning Division will support child care programs and will work to identify resources to support child care needs for our most vulnerable families, as well as health care professionals and first responders.
At their meeting Thursday, School Board members discussed the district’s response to the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak.
The district itself is doing what it can to minimize exposure, Yates said. “We’re looking at how we can do our best to sanitize the schools, keep things as clean as possible. Just trying to follow the guidelines as they’re being recommended to us.”
The district had canceled events, Yates said, but schools remained open Thursday following the guidance from the state.
The outbreak affected attendance Thursday, Yates said. Average attendance this year is in the 92 percent to 93 percent range in all schools except the high school. Schools across the district had attendance rates in the 80s.
Pioneer Elementary, which neighbors the Oregon Veterans Home where two residents tested positive Wednesday, had an attendance rate of 75 percent Thursday. The high school averages 89 percent this year. On Thursday, it had an attendance rate of 76 percent.
Shortly after the board meeting, the district announced the school closure beginning Friday.
At this point, school and all field trips and all other activites are canceled until further notice, according to Supt. Bo Yates. Musical performances are canceled or postponed. The Disneyland trip for the band is canceled.
Western University College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific (COMP-Northwest) in Lebanon notified students not to come to campus Wednesday, transitioning to online-only delivery of classes and lectures.
“The health and safety of our students, faculty, staff, and all those in the communities we serve are of paramount concern to the University,” said Dr. Daniel R. Wilson, president of WesternU.
“WesternU was early to begin preparations to deal with the coronavirus, and we have remained as proactive as possible about staying ahead of the COVID-19 curve to serve each other, our patients, and our communities.
“The decision to begin remote delivery of curriculum, and to put measures in place to reduce the physical presence of students and employees as necessary, are prudent next steps in this public health effort.”
For more information on how to minimize exposure, follow guidelines, at www.oregon.gov/oha/pages/index.aspx.
Local churches that have posted closures this weekend inclde Valley Life, Lebanon Foursquare Church, Lebanon Calvary Chapel, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and Lebanon First Baptist.