GROCERS PONDER PRIVATE-LABEL BOOZE: In 2021, Oregon grocers are considering asking the Legislature to let them sell private-label hard liquor, as Costco does with its Kirkland brand in other states. The Northwest Grocery Association tried in 2014 and 2016 to privatize the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, but neither effort got very far. Association members hoped to achieve in-store sales in Oregon as Washington grocers did with a 2011 privatization measure mostly paid for by Costco. Dan Floyd, a spokesman for the grocers, says his group is talking with lawmakers about what might work. The OLCC and its allies in liquor distribution and local government are unlikely to support such a move. The commission is separately seeking to build a new $65 million warehouse, and received an early Christmas gift from Gov. Kate Brown: a proposal to add 25 cents in taxes to the price of each bottle of hard spirits.
PEDIATRICIAN RALLIES SUPPORT AFTER LICENSE SUSPENDED: Dr. Paul Thomas, an Ivy League-educated pediatrician with a Beaverton practice who is prominent in the national anti-vaccine movement, had his license suspended on emergency basis by the Oregon Medical Board on Dec. 3 after the state reviewed evidence he had dissuaded parents from fully vaccinating their children. Thomas was the subject of a WW cover story ("Alt-Vaxx," March 20, 2019), in which parents alleged he had discouraged them from consenting to the typical course of immunizations for their kids. But the medical board also reviewed troubling new allegations that Thomas appeared to push parents not to accept vaccines, including for the rotavirus, and that several of his unvaccinated patients were hospitalized after not getting the vaccine. Thomas responded to suspension of his license with an email to supporters Dec. 7 soliciting donations: "I (Dr. Paul) need a war chest to continue the multiple battles before me, which at this time include the medical board who can take my license."
POLICE BUREAU REVEALS COVID NUMBERS FOR FIRST TIME: Fifteen members of the Portland Police Bureau—mostly sworn officers—have tested positive for COVID-19 since spring, and 40 have been quarantined, according to bureau spokesman Sgt. Brad Yakots. The most recent positive case was announced Dec. 4, Yakots says, and 16 PPB members are currently quarantining. This is the first time since the pandemic began that the bureau publicly reported total COVID numbers among staff, following an inquiry by WW. The cases haven't shown up in the Oregon Health Authority's weekly COVID report, which tracks workplace outbreaks of five employees or more, because the cases occurred at different Police Bureau facilities and happened several weeks apart, according to various spokespeople for the city and county. Yakots says there is no evidence of PPB employees are spreading the virus to one another: "We are comfortable saying we have not had a member who had tested positive for COVID infect another member."
OREGON LAWMAKERS SEEK TO PROTECT SCHOOLS FROM COVID LAWSUITS: A new bill concept prepared for the Oregon Legislature's 2021 session, or for a special session, seeks to shield school districts from COVID-19-related lawsuits. Legislative Concept 2330, headed by Reps. Karin Power (D-Milwaukie) and Janeen Sollman (D-Hillsboro), states that "a person may not bring a claim for damages related to COVID-19 infection suffered as a result of acts or omissions performed by a school district" while operating an education program and when the district is acting in compliance with COVID-19 emergency rules. The shield would not apply to "reckless, wanton or intentional misconduct." Power tells WW: "This is both an incentive for schools to really double down when they reopen and make sure they are being as safe as they can, and a way to limit their liability for third parties who are using those grounds."
HILOS WINS PITCHFESTNW: A zero-waste, 3D-printed shoe company is the winner of this year's PitchfestNW. On Dec. 4, a panel of judges selected the Portland company, co-founded by Elias Stahl and Gaia Giladi, from a field of 60 startups in the competition at TechfestNW, sponsored by WW. Hilos makes personalized shoes remotely tailored to customers' measurements. They require keeping no inventory until an order is placed and can be disassembled and recycled. Giladi says the most revolutionary part of Hilos' product is the willingness to combine tech and fashion in footwear. "If a man is making tech products," she asks, "why would he think to make a high heel more comfortable?"