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Coronavirus impacts all facets of life on the Mountain posted on 04/01/2020

Restaurants, businesses and organizations throughout the community mirrored life around the world when they shuttered their doors last month as COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, became a pandemic. Oregon Governor Kate Brown issued an executive order on Monday, March 23, closing non-essential businesses, prohibiting large gatherings and limiting social contact between people.

“It is essential to the health, safety, and welfare of the State of Oregon during the ongoing state of emergency that, to the maximum extent possible, individuals stay at home or at their place of residence, consistent with the directives set forth in my Executive Orders and guidance issued by the Oregon Health Authority,” Brown said in a statement.

Some impacted aspects of Mountain life include the closures of schools, parks, playgrounds, ball fields and sports courts in the Oregon Trail School District until at least Tuesday, April 28, closure of the Bureau of Land Management’s developed recreation facilities (including Wildwood) and the closure of all campgrounds, day-use sites, trailheads, Sno-Parks, fire lookouts, OHV areas, ski areas (and ski area parking lots) and other developed recreation sites in the Mt. Hood National Forest (MHNF) through at least Friday, May 8.

Heather Ibsen, Acting Public Affairs Officer for the MHNF, noted in an email to the Mountain Times that while developed trailheads are included in the closures, trails are not. But she added that people are encouraged not to head to the forest to recreate.

“Across the region, we are asking people to please delay travel to outdoor destinations as much as possible,” she wrote. “We’ll still be here when it’s much safer for all of us. Time outdoors is important for mental and physical health, but for right now, please explore your neighborhood and follow the (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines on social distancing.”

MHNF offices are conducting public business by phone, email or web-based transactions. Latest updates and information can be found online: www.fs.usda.gov/mthood.

The impact of the closures was evident everywhere, not just in the signs in the windows of businesses, but in the number of newly unemployed people. During the week of March 15, the Oregon Employment Department (OED) received more than 76,500 initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits, and during the first three days of the week of March 22, initial claims have been tracking at record levels again.

OED had received just 4,900 initial claims filed during the week of March 8.

In response to the pandemic, OED enacted temporary rules to give more flexibility in providing unemployment benefits to COVID-19 affected workers, including for employees whose employer stops operation for a short period of time, such as cleaning following a coronavirus exposure or by government requirement.

Workers can also get unemployment benefits and do not need to seek work with other employers if their place of employment will resume operations. To receive benefits, affected workers must still be able to work, stay in contact with their employer and be available to work when called back. Information for filing an online claim and a full resource guide with questions and answers about specific COVID-19 coronavirus-related situations and unemployment benefits is available at Oregon.gov/employ.

In another effort to help Oregonians maintain social distancing and avoid the coronavirus, people who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits can now purchase groceries online from Walmart and Amazon. People may be eligible for SNAP if their work hours are reduced or they lose your job. For more information, visit OHP.Oregon.Gov or https://www.oregon.gov/DHS/Offices/Pages/Self-Sufficiency.aspx.

Taxpayers will get an extended amount of time to file both state and federal tax returns, with the date moving from April 15 to July 15 (for more information, to check the status of a refund, to make payments or get forms, visit www.oregon.gov/dor/), while the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services issued a temporary emergency order requiring all insurance companies to extend grace periods for premium payments, postpone policy cancellations and non-renewals and extend deadlines for reporting claims.

In support of COVID-19 response, the Oregon Office of Emergency Management and the State Emergency Coordination Center have established a webpage where Oregonians can submit requests to donate services or supplies, volunteer to support or to engage in a business relationship with the state at https://oregon-coronavirus-geo.hub.arcgis.com/. The biggest need right now is for Personal Protective Equipment, such as masks, gloves, and gowns.

The City of Sandy offers resources and information on the pandemic, including links to local and national organizations, area closures and ways to access essential services at https://www.ci.sandy.or.us/COVID-19Information.

Mountain residents can also find help through Neighborhood Missions, a community outreach program sponsored by Hoodland Lutheran Church that provides assistance for those in need. For more information on Neighborhood Missions, visit http://hoodlandlutheranchurch.org/neighborhoodmissions or call 503-622-9213.

By Garth Guibord/MT

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