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Murmurs: Oregon Governor Requires Vaccines and Masks

In other news: Concert that sparked clash lacked city permit.

OREGON GOVERNOR REQUIRES VACCINES AND MASKS: With health officials projecting record hospitalizations from the Delta variant of the coronavirus, Gov. Kate Brown said Aug. 10 she would mandate vaccinations for all state employees and require mask wearing indoors. The vaccine requirement will cover employees of all state agencies—including those working for the State Treasury, the Bureau of Labor and Industries, and the Department of Justice, which are run by other elected officials. Her order follows a similar vaccine mandate announced this week by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. Multnomah County announced a mask mandate on Aug. 9, and Brown says she followed suit after seeing projections that the state could see a shortfall of 500 staffed hospital beds by September. “Oregon is facing a spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations—consisting overwhelmingly of unvaccinated individuals—that is quickly exceeding the darkest days of our winter surge,” Brown said in a statement. “If our hospitals run out of staffed beds, all Oregonians will be at risk.” Oregon’s seven-day new case average is now above 1,000, a figure not seen since January.

CONCERT THAT SPARKED CLASH LACKED CITY PERMIT: The worship concert held at the Tom McCall Waterfront Park on Aug. 8 that eventually descended into nighttime violence between left-wing and right-wing protesters did not obtain a permit from the city. That’s according to the two bureaus who would be responsible for approving such permits, Portland Parks & Recreation and the Portland Bureau of Transportation. The concert was led by evangelical Christian singer Sean Feucht, who held a similar, unmasked concert last year during the pandemic—also not permitted, say city officials. Some of the men who volunteered as security guards for Sunday’s concert then roamed the streets downtown, engaging in a running battle of mace, fireworks and pepper balls with leftist foes. Portland Police Bureau spokesman Lt. Greg Pashley said the bureau “may have authority to enforce non-permitted events” but that " I am not aware that the Police Bureau has ever done that.” Pashley said resources were unavailable because of a homicide in Southeast and a robbery in Old Town: “There were not resources to address many other things going on during a period of hours, including whether or not an event had been permitted.” Feucht did not respond to WW’s questions.

WILLAMETTE RIVER ALGAE BLOOM NOT TOXIC TO HUMANS: Most of the Willamette River that runs through Portland is now poisonous to dogs. Due to toxic algae blooms, local health officials are now warning Portlanders to keep their pets out of the Willamette River from Ross Island to the Sauvie Island Bridge, a 14-mile stretch that includes most of the city’s waterfront. The blooms get worse with high temperatures. But even with this week’s heat wave, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality says it’s unlikely the blooms will become dangerous enough that humans will have to stay out of the water too. The Oregon Health Authority says some toxins produced by algae blooms become harmful to humans when they exceed eight parts per billion. Right now, the levels in the Willamette are about 1.8 parts per billion. “Typically, the lower Willamette blooms don’t produce a lot of toxins,” says Lauren Wirtis, a spokeswoman for DEQ, which tests for harmful algae bloom levels. “But that doesn’t mean we’re not monitoring the situation closely.”

WHEELER RECALL GATHERS LESS THAN 6,000 SIGNATURES: The Total Recall PAC seeking to recall Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler says it has collected fewer than 6,000 signatures. That’s a low number: The campaign is a third of the way through its allotted 90-day signature-collecting window, and is only one-eleventh of the way to its 65,000 signature goal (it needs 47,788 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot). Campaign spokeswoman Audrey Caines blamed the Delta variant, extreme heat and “the resulting changes to foot traffic patterns in the city.” Caines says the heat wave forecasted this week will prevent paid signature gatherers from working and “any time lost to extreme weather and public health events would have to be made up with more volunteer signature gatherers.” Although Caines says the campaign’s 350 volunteers remain committed, the campaign will face an uphill climb to meet its goal of collecting 20,000 signatures in the next two weeks.