Lebanon lives with COVID-19

Local residents face challenges with energy and creativity

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local

Since Gov. Kate Brown declared a state of emergency on March 8 due to COVID-19, the face of “life as we know it” in Lebanon has changed, and not just because most of those faces are covered in homemade masks.
The first known case in the city came out of the Lebanon Veterans Home, which to date has 21 positive results from residents, and six deaths related to the illness.
As a high-profile location, the illnesses at the facility drew much attention, inducing waves of food deliveries from local organizations, and letters and video messages of love from across the nation.
To date, Linn County has reported 54 positive cases out of 1,217 tested, and four are reported as having died as a result of COVID-19.
Dr. Rob Richardson at the Edward C. Allworth Veterans Home began using hydroxychloroquine, a drug used to treat malaria, and an antibiotic to help the veterans fight the illness. The drug has since been approved for use in hospitals and long-term care facilities to help treat confirmed cases of COVID-19.

On March 23, Brown ordered a shelter-in-place restriction and told “non-essential” businesses to shut down, forcing such places as dine-in restaurants, bars, dog groomers, gyms, theaters and beauty salons to shut their doors.
Some of Lebanon’s non-essential businesses found a way to continue functioning by offering curbside pick up and deliveries. One of the more unusual cases is that of pot shops.
The OLCC temporarily lifted a restriction on pot shops, allowing curbside pick up within 150 feet of the store.
“It’s pretty cool that they allow that, to keep people outside and do social distancing,” said Clinton Gregg, a budtender at Modern Forest.
The decision made through OLCC is to encourage social distancing and help people continue making a living during this time, said Paul Rosenbaum, OLCC commission chair, as reported at ktvz.com.
Just around the corner from Modern Forest is a fabric store that altered its way of business to continue generating revenue.
“If pot stores can stay open for mental health, the quilt shops are kind of therapeutic for our customers,” said Gary Lammert, owner/operator of Finally Together Quilt Shop.
Lammert stays open by letting his customers make an appointment to shop. Only two or three customers are allowed in his store every hour, he said.
Much of his business caters to quilters, but Lammert said he’s seen an increase in customers who are making masks.
“We’ve had a lot of people coming in for masks, and some just because of the cabin fever, needing to have their ‘fix’ a little bit,” he said.
Though people are making personalized masks for themselves, many are also answering the call for needs in hospital and care facilities, who will use them as added or last-resort protection.
While protection from germs generated a fad for mask-making, another unexpected concern for protection came to light. Elizabeth Lathrop, an employee at Lebanon Indoor Shooting Range, saw a drastic uptick in sales at the gun shop.
“When (COVID) first happened, it was ridiculous in here. Oh my god, three thousand people (statewide) waiting in line in the cue for background checks and stuff,” Lathrop said.
For perspective, she said there are typically about 50 people waiting on background checks on a good day. The Shooting Range sells guns and ammunition, and has a separate entrance available 24/7 for members to use the firing range.
“People went crazy buying firearms when it first happened. I sold more firearms to 70-plus-year-old people who’ve never owned a firearm before in their life in that first couple of weeks.”
Fear drives people, she noted, and when store shelves start going empty, people start feeling a need for home protection.
On a lighter note, though, Lathrop noticed more families spending time together and learning proper firearm safety.
“It’s a great outlet, and I’m seeing much more interaction between parents and children,” she said.
With the weather getting warmer, some adults are taking advantage of quarantine days to complete home projects.
Summit Ace Home & Garden hardware store and lumber yard stays open by taking orders over the phone and delivering outside the doors.
“I don’t think that we necessarily have more business; it just seems like we’re busier because we have to take everything on the phone and walk everything out,” said Brittney Tucker, an employee at Ace.
“I think people are painting a lot more and gardening a lot; a lot of home projects. There’s definitely a lot more people buying seeds to start their own garden.”
Cleta Foster stopped by Ace to buy some tools for a house she has on the market. She was ready to move up to Washington when COVID changed her plans.
“I had my house for sale and was supposed to close on the 30th, and the people lost their job, so they canceled out,” Foster said.

Schools have been closed since March 13, and will remain closed the rest of the school year, per an order by the governor, leaving high school seniors without prom or graduation.
In response, Lebanon High School committed to light up Heath Stadium every Friday night to recognize the class of 2020, and parents are still planning a postponed grad party to send their seniors into the future.
“This is something the seniors look forward to every year,” said Wendy Eilers, parent of a senior. “It’s a chance to see their classmates, some possibly for the last time. This year more than ever, with the school closure, this will be so important to them.”
Meanwhile, administrators and parents are scrambling to keep Lebanon’s students caught up on schoolwork. The Lebanon Community School District loaned Chromebooks to assist students with online education for the remainder of the year.
“It will be nice at least to get them back up in doing some type of work,” said parent Morgan Irwin. “My kids are bored. I’m bored at having my kids at home.”
In fact, she admitted her kids are driving her nuts.
“They’re irritating me, and I’m really done with them at home. I think everybody feels that way,” Irwin said.
Serenity Sanders, 9, has been using the Chromebook to stay on top of homework to get her through the end of third grade.
“I’m the smartest one in class because I finished all my multiplication and division before anyone else,” she said. “I have so much time to finish them.”
Serenity was sad when she found out she couldn’t go back to school, said Kathee Sanders, her mom. She loves school and her teacher.
During some down time, the pair went to an empty parking lot to get out of the house. Serenity took her scooter and bicycle, along with some sidewalk chalk, and spent the day learning how to ride her bike without training wheels.
“It’s really good because I have a lot of space to get all my energy out,” Serenity said about the parking lot.
Her mom sat in her car and played Pokemon with a friend.
The game was expanded so players could reach spots at double the distance, and eggs take half the time to hatch, said Ryan Freasier. Players were also given free incense, which attracts Pokemon so they can play from home.
“They made it to where we can social distance and stay home and stay safe, and still be able to play the game and have fun,” Freasier said.

Personal health
Many residents of the community are finding ways to stay entertained and learn new skills during the quarantine.
Nancy Pance posted a lip sync dance video of herself on a popular Facebook group called Quarantine Karaoke. The Knebel family made and donated more than 1,000 face masks. Debra Curry hosted an outdoor party, while maintaining a proper social distance with her friends. Jody Stock tossed a football outside with his daughter, Sophia Stock, who can’t hang out with her friends right now.
But others are concerned about the more silent community, the ones who keep their fears to themselves.
Andrea Holmquist, foster family support coordinator for Every Child in Linn and Benton counties, said there’s a concern for children who are at home with abusive families.
“I know for a fact that at the call center they are getting 50 percent less calls now, which means things aren’t being reported,” Holmquist said. “Everybody’s got heavy hearts right now, wondering about what’s happening out there. The case workers are feeling it. They’re all worried about children in their community.”
Dave Butler, president of Lebanon Area Mental Health Alliance, has “very strong concerns” about how COVID may increase the local suicide rate.
“With a lot of people being laid off and quarantined, depression can set in; that is when some start having the thoughts of suicide,” he said.
Butler, an advocate for suicide awareness, also worries about the homeless population who, he said, are two times more likely to take their lives than a person who lives in a home.
“Right now, there are no public restrooms open in the city of Lebanon. There is no place for the homeless to wash their hands, which is what the medical professionals are saying is the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. They have no place where they can do personal hygiene, or use the restroom.”

As soon as the schools closed down, Becky and Mike Van Atta, of Enliven Foundation, immediately thought about the kids who might’ve relied on meals at school.
“I can’t stand the thought of a child not eating,” Becky said.
The pair started a Facebook group called Peanut Butter Jelly Time to reach out to the community.
“Peanut Butter Jelly Time was just a route to get the word out that we’re giving out peanut butter jelly sandwiches. We did some peanut butter jelly sandwiches for the kids, and then the next weekend we partnered with Be Undivided and gathered food baskets for the families. Then the school district got their feet under them and started making a plan to hand out food at all the different schools and making sure the kids who needed food could get it.”
Then Van Atta started realizing some families are not mobile to pick up food, and she thought about dinners and about people losing their jobs because of the pandemic. She thought about a mother of five who had a job and was doing well enough to see a decrease in SNAP benefits, but then lost her job when COVID hit.
“Now she doesn’t have enough income coming in from her job to buy food, she doesn’t have enough SNAP benefits to buy food, and so she’s kind of stuck in this situation,” Becky said.
As founder of Enliven, she joined with Dala’s Blue Angels, Be Undivided and Lebanon Community School District to fill needs like that.
“We’re just all partnering together to make sure that the families who need food are getting food,” she said.
For Easter, Van Atta received 15 turkeys and hams from employees of Republic Services, who themselves received the food from their employer for the holiday.
She supplemented it with side dishes and 20 additional donations from Safeway and the community, so Easter dinner could be enjoyed by those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it.
“In a crisis situation like this, even if it’s just what they get from it is that ‘the community does care about me and is there for me,’ that’s enough. We just want people to know that we care and that we’re here for them.”