May 2020

Oregon and our country face the greatest crisis of our lifetimes – the Covid-19 virus and a shattered economy with massive loss of jobs. To win this fight we have to work together. I’m running for state senate because I’m fed up with partisan bickering and rural Oregon often getting shortchanged. Everywhere I go, I talk to people who’ve lost their jobs and their health coverage. People also tell me their fears about the climate crisis, recurring wildland fires and declining wells as ground water dries up. I want to hear your concerns and the issues on your mind. Please read this first newsletter and send me your questions. I want to bring your concerns and issues to the senate in Salem. I chose to focus this edition on providing information about assistance programs, and safety measures we should take during this time of crisis. While I have a background as a public health educator and administrator, this is not medical advice. Please consult a healthcare professional for more information.

A note about me: In addition to being a 5th generation Oregon farmer, I was a hospital executive, clinic founder, social work supervisor and a four term elected financial trustee. I’m a licensed Emergency Medical Responder. I’m also an officer in the Fruitdale Grange in Grants Pass and a volunteer in the Josephine County Library.

Resources for surviving job loss

Unemployment and Small Business Assistance to retain employees

On Friday, March 29 the CARES act was signed into law, which expanded Unemployment Insurance benefits. Unemployment Insurance claims can only be filed using our online system or by calling 1-877-FILE-4-UI. They encourage everyone who can to file online to do so, and help keep wait times down on the phone. Click on this link for more information.

(If you are reading this outside of Oregon, there is a similar office in every state in the country.)

Additionally, two stimulus laws were passed to assist small businesses in maintaining employees. Click here for more information.

Food and Nutrition

Food pantries, pick-up sites and delivery options:

Oregon Food Bank’s network of 1,400+ partner pantries and food assistance sites are open across Oregon and Southwest Washington. Many offer drive/walk-up or direct delivery options. Visit The Oregon Food Bank website for local locations, or call 2-1-1 for help.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP):

SNAP offers food benefits to eligible, low-income individuals and families. Find out if you are eligible and how to apply for food benefits by clicking this link.

WIC (Women Infant and Children Special Supplemental Nutrition Program):

WIC offers healthy food and nutrition and breastfeeding support for families with kids under age 5 and for pregnant women. Go to the WIC website and click the WIC Interest Form button. You can also call 2-1-1 and ask to speak with a maternal and child health specialist. New participants are welcome!

Summer Meals for Students:

During school closures, free meals are available at schools and other community locations to all children ages 1 to 18 to pick up “grab and go” style. To receive a meal, a child does not have to attend that specific school. No application is required to access meals. Find your local meal sites online by visiting or by calling your local school district or 2-1-1

Utility Assistance

Many are struggling with businesses closed and people out of work.

If you need help with your electric bill, help is available from the Oregon Energy Fund. It provides funds for energy assistance to more than 30 partner agencies and nonprofits in Oregon.

Visit this website and enter your county or zip code to find out who has energy assistance in your area and how to contact them. (Note that the office does not provide direct assistance but connects people in need with available local resources.)

Eviction Moratorium

On March 22, Governor Brown issued Executive Order 20-11, placing a temporary moratorium on residential evictions for nonpayment in light of the public health emergency caused by the spread of coronavirus in Oregon. The order was set to be effective for 90 days.

Recognizing that landlords and property owners face their own costs if tenants are not able to pay rent, the Governor and her Coronavirus Economic Advisory Council are engaging lenders to find potential solutions and are exploring various state and federal policy options that might be available to provide assistance to borrowers or other options for relief. Oregon Housing and Community Services and the Department of Consumer and Business Services are also pursuing relief options at the direction of the Governor.

Healthcare

If you have lost your health care coverage, the Oregon Health Plan (OHP) provides health care for most Oregonians, including working families, children, pregnant women, single adults and seniors. Apply for OHP today. If you already have OHP, refer to the OHP handbook to learn about your benefits.

Staying Safe

Simple actions to take, from the CDC website:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Practice social distancing by putting 6-10 feet of space between yourself and others
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Wear a face mask in public

Q: What is social distancing and why is it so important? And how does “flattening the curve” work?

This article from the Johns Hopkins University website offers a great explanation:

Social distancing is a public health practice that aims to prevent sick people from coming in close contact with healthy people in order to reduce opportunities for disease transmission. It can include large-scale measures like canceling group events or closing public spaces, as well as individual decisions such as avoiding crowds.

With COVID-19, the goal of social distancing right now is to slow down the outbreak in order to reduce the chance of infection among high-risk populations and to reduce the burden on health care systems and workers. Experts describe this as “flattening the curve,” which generally refers to the potential success of social distancing measures to prevent surges in illness that could overwhelm health care systems.

The goal of social distancing in the U.S. should be to lower the pace and extent of spread of COVID-19 in any given city or community. If that can happen, then there will be less people with disease, and less people needing hospitalization and ventilators at any one time.

Q: How do I practice social distancing?

The CDC defines social distancing as it applies to Covid-19 as:

Remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible.

This means … no hugs, no handshakes.

It’s particularly important—and perhaps obvious—to maintain that same 6-foot distance from anyone who is demonstrating signs of illness, including coughing, sneezing, or fever.

Along with physical distance, proper hand-washing is important for protecting not only yourself but others around you—because the virus can be spread even without symptoms.

“Don’t wait for evidence that there’s circulation [of COVID-19] in your community,” says Rivers. “Go ahead and step up that hand-washing right now because it really does help to reduce transmission.”

Click here for the complete article.

Q: How can I make my house safer and be safe at home?

A: It is recommended to do a thorough cleaning using at least 60% isopropyl alcohol in a spray bottle. (Vodka or other alcohols must be at least 60% alcohol or 120-proof to kill the virus.) Swab all “high-touch surfaces,” which means door knobs, light switches, phones & laptops, faucet handles, knobs, latches, toilets, taps, steering wheels — anything you touch frequently. The cleaner your house, car, appliances, and air, the less those surfaces will host the virus and re-infect you or your loved ones.

Click here for more information from the CDC regarding cleaning and disinfecting your home.

Q: What if I have to leave home to get groceries?

A: I suggest setting up a decontamination area ahead of time with a table, paper towels, a spray bottle of 60+% alcohol and wet wipes or soap & water. We have a system like this in our garage where all packages, mail, groceries, etc. are staged and treated before bringing them in the house. They either stay there for 24-72 hours, or get swabbed down with alcohol if we need to bring them in the house right away for refrigeration. Rinse vegetables in running water. However, if you’re going to let things sit instead of sanitizing them, it’s important to understand that the virus can last longer on some surfaces than others. (The CDC article linked above explains this.)

When you leave your home, have disposable gloves and a face mask ready to put on when you arrive at the store and exit your vehicle. Limit contact with people and avoid crowded places. When you return to your car, remove and properly dispose of the contaminated gloves before entering your vehicle again. This should be done for each store/shop you go to. Upon returning home, deposit all the items you purchased on the decontamination table, wipe down any items you touched while you were wearing your gloves (keys, door handles, ATM/credit cards, phone etc.) and wash your hands. Next, sanitize anything you have to bring into the house right away. Wash your hands again. When you are done disinfecting your items, remove your clothes, wash them, and take a shower. This may seem like a lot of steps, because it is. We do this in my house and it is a lot of work. But COVID-19 is an enemy like we have never faced before in this country. It’s highly contagious and the droplets through which it spreads can survive on many surfaces, and even our own bodies. We have to change a lot of our habits for a while in order to get through this.

Q: Can people come over to visit?

A: This is a tough question. The safest answer is not to allow any visitors at all. One of the reasons this disease has spread so rapidly is that many people are asymptomatic and don’t know they have it. It can take up to two weeks before some begin showing symptoms. Your friend might feel fine, but they could already have the virus. The person who gave it to them a week ago might not even know they have it yet. But the whole time, that chain of infection is growing. This virus is a sleeper missile. We have to act vigilantly, even when we can’t see it.

If you have to meet with someone else, observing good social distancing can reduce your risk of infection. Meet outside, instead of in your home or an enclosed space. Be sure to maintain at least six feet between each other. No handshakes, no hugs, no pats on the back. It feels weird. It is weird. It feels unnecessary. But it’s the best tool we have right now to flatten the curve.

If a loved one now wants to move in with you and quarantine with you, this can be the hardest situation. The safest way to do this is to have them quarantine for two weeks before they joining the rest of the household. At my house we’ve converted our camper trailer into a quarantine zone. My son and his girlfriend came up to stay with us and “camped” in the trailer for two weeks to be sure they didn’t develop symptoms before integrating into the main house. They actually loved it, and thought it was fun. We brought them food but we didn’t take anything from them while they were in “quarantine”.

Q: How long are we going to have to keep doing all this?

A: The short answer is that nobody knows. It is important to be honest about the dangers around us so we can keep each other as safe as possible. We should listen to our public health officials and follow their recommendations. As long as the infection rate is still high or rising, we will have to keep social distancing. If the curve is flattened and begins to decline, we may see the rules relaxed, but if it starts to come back, we can expect more Stay Home Orders. It may take a year or more to beat this disease. On Friday, May 3rd, Governor Kate Brown announced Exec. Order 20-24, extending the state of emergency order to July 6th with an outline of conditions that must be in place before re-opening of the Oregon economy.

I believe the best source of information and updates about the COVID-19 virus can be found on the CDC website. They have articles on many aspects of the COVID crisis.

Q: Are there alternatives to going out for groceries or supplies?

A: Yes – some deliver to your door, and others have a drop point in each community, where items are kept in refrigerated trucks. Grocery pick-up and delivery options include Azure Standard, a family owned local supplier of natural and organic groceries and sundries, and Instacart for grocery store deliveries from major stores like Fred Meyer and Albertsons. Amazon is also an option, but it tends to be more expensive and I prefer purchasing locally whenever possible. We also use a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) provider, which supplies us with a mixed box of seasonal fruits and vegetables. These options help to avoid shopping in stores that tend to have larger crowds.

Q: How do I talk to my relatives and neighbors about this?

A: Be patient. This is a hard change to make for all of us, some more than others. Answer their questions or point them to official websites like the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) or this newsletter. Re-assure them that you care about their safety and we all need to safeguard each other. Make sure they know it’s okay to call you any time if they are feeling scared or need help. Loneliness is painful and elders may feel especially isolated. Keep calling them.

Q: I don’t have face masks or alcohol. What can I do?

A: You do not have to have alcohol to sanitize your hands. Washing with soap and water is just as effective. If you do not have a mask, they are easy to make, and there are great tutorials on YouTube for making them at home. Using a bandana is better than nothing at all.

If you have a question that you think I should address, please send me an email and I’ll do my best to address it. Thank you for reading this. Please invite others to read it if you think it might help them on my Jerry Allen for Senate Facebook page and at jerryallenforsenate.com, and to watch my Facebook Live Town Hall forums coming soon.

Be Safe and Stay Strong – We Are In This Together!

Jerry Allen