5 Stories to Watch This Week, September 20-27
Fall officially starts this week in Portland, and the light is disappearing at an alarming pace. (We do hear that the swifts, pictured above, are still doing their thing up at Chapman School, and if you haven’t made it out there yet, this week should be peak swift.) For those who prefer their light to come from the reflected glow of the handy rectangle in their palm, we have you covered with our rundown of what everyone will be talking about this week.
Need a boost?
You may have heard that the federal Food and Drug Administration is recommending that those over 65 or who are at especially high risk of developing Covid and received the Pfizer vaccine (we’re all still calling it that, right? Not Comirnaty, which sounds like the world’s most generic medical name ever?) should get a booster shot. But not so fast, says the Oregon Health Authority. First, their recommendations need to get sign-off from the Centers for Disease Control, which is expected to provide more insight into who, exactly, qualifies as high risk. That step is expected by Wednesday or Thursday of this week. On Friday, the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup—the fancy name for the panel of scientists convened by California, Nevada, Washington, and Oregon when all four states were suspicious of scientific recommendations coming down from the Trump administration—will meet to review the CDC’s decision. Only after that can Oregonians who meet the qualifications start lining up for their boosters. If you are dying to get a needle in your arm and simply cannot wait for any of this to transpire, may we suggest the flu shot?
To the Maps!
Whilst we await the federal decision on booster shots, let’s all tune in to the Monday proceedings at the Oregon Capitol, where state legislators will be meeting in a one day special session to make one last ditch attempt at agreeing upon maps that delineate political district boundaries for the next 10 years. It’s a pretty arcane yet wildly important process, and suffice to say that the Democratic version of what the map should look like is quite different than the one envisaged by the GOP’s. We’re not big into gambling, but if we had to place a bet, it would be on a deadlocked process and court challenges ahead. Whee!
Pour Me a Quarantini
And while you’re at it, pour one out for the Oregon schoolchildren who are stuck at home for the next week and change, thanks to quarantine rules and a lack of contact tracing at local schools. The most significant example of this comes courtesy of Reynolds High School, the second largest in the state, with about 2700 students, which is shut down this entire week after four students tested positive for Covid-19. Yes, you read that right: four. The problem, sources tell us, is that the school had inconsistent contact tracing in place, without regular seating assignments in class, at lunch or on the bus, making it virtually impossible to know who had come into contact with the infected students. Thus far, in-school transmission of Covid-19 does not appear to be causing significant outbreaks in Oregon, but given the bumpy transition into the new school year, it’s safe to say that the Reynolds closure probably won’t be the last.
What Have We Learned?
Over at City Hall, Mayor Wheeler and Company are perhaps bracing for this Wednesday’s public unveiling of a citizen review board’s report on the use of crowd control and shows of force by the Portland Police Bureau during Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020. The unsparing report—which you can preview here—contains a number of very clear recommendations, including a permanent ban on the use of CS gas and other chemical weapons as a method of crowd control, and a consideration of an “out of sight” response strategy, which questions why a large, visible police presence is needed at protest events. These are sticks, but there are also carrots in the recommendations, including a bump in “officer wellness training” for the entire police force.
Clean and Safe?
Sticking with City Hall for a minute, on Thursday the city council has two hours blocked off to review the plan for a $25 million, 5-year commitment to Downtown Portland Clean & Safe, which is funded by the Portland Business Alliance. If you’ve spent any time downtown, you’ve seen its cleaners out on city streets, picking up trash. But the program also includes armed security guards, who’ve drawn fire from activists in the past for their interactions with houseless people. The next iteration will include some proposed changes, as outlined here by The Oregonian, including the addition of mental health outreach workers.