No Rhododendron Festival for 2020; School Switches Gears; Services Still Ongoing; Keep Your OHP; New Cases of COVID-19

No Rhododendron Festival for 2020

The Florence Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors along with the City of Florence and Executive Director Bettina Hannigan met on Monday to discuss the fate of the 113th Rhododendron Festival.  Hannigan says that with the event only 6 weeks away, there was no guarantee that this pandemic would be behind us.

“We just looked at it and thought you know in six weeks, it’s just too close to this virus epidemic to really feel good about inviting 35,000 people to town.”

Several members of the board had wanted to move the event to a later date in the summer.  Chamber board member, Dan Lofy, of Lofy Construction said a postponement would mean that there is hope, and “right now we all need hope.”   But Hannigan said there were too many moving parts, including having to reschedule the carnival, the vendor fair, and putting together volunteers for the parade.  She said the decision was very difficult especially since Florence thrives on a tourist driven economy.  Tourism for the Florence area amounts to 147 million dollars for the community each year.

School Switches Gears

Headlines in the Register Guard are warning that there might not be any more school this year for Oregon students, which educators say is a possibility, but Siuslaw School superintendent, Andy Grzeskowiak stopped short of saying that.  He is hopeful that school could resume.

“Realistically, I would say June 1st is the earliest. Just because we’ve got the new ideas coming from the state for distance learning for all and really were supposed to have a plan up and running by April 13th.

Grzeskowiak believes that they will be able to roll out the Distance Learning Plan before that date.  He says that there are still some logistics to be worked out.  One of the issues is students, some of whom are in rural areas, that may not have access to internet.  The plan at this point is to hand deliver lessons to those students.

Services Still Ongoing

The City of Florence, according to city manager Erin Reynolds, is still working to provide services.  Reynolds says departments like Planning and Building are working within the guidelines set down by Governor Brown, but Reynolds says that part of the governor’s plan was to keep the state moving as best it could and that includes moving forward with confronting issues like housing.  Inspections are still being done onsite with respect to social distancing regulations.  She says though that most of the work is being done virtually.

Keep Your OHP

The Oregon Health Authority says that federal centers for Medicare and Medicaid have removed barriers for Oregonians to qualify for, enroll in, and stay enrolled in the Oregon Health Plan.  Some of the regulation changes include protection for those currently enrolled that were in danger of losing coverage due to unemployment.  Individuals enrolling now will not have to provide proof of income, and federal stimulus payments or increased unemployment payments will not affect eligibility.

New Cases of COVID-19

The number of COVID-19 cases grows to 690 in the state of Oregon, and two more deaths have been reported as well.  Cases increased by 84 yesterday.  The two latest casualities of the virus are a 90 year old Yamhill County man who tested positive on March 25th and an 88 year old Benton County woman who tested positive on March 26th. both had underlying health conditions.  13,826 Oregonians have been tested to date.  13,136 tests have come back negative.  Lane County has had 16 confirmed cases.