New Florence Area COVID-19 Case; Pendergrass Sentenced; School Reopening Issues; Festval of Trees

New Florence Area COVID-19 Case

Lane County Public Health has added one more COVID-19 case to the 97439 zip code.  The Florence area now has 31 known cases to date.  Restrictions relating to privacy prevents Lane County from further giving details on the case.  This is the 6th new case in the last 2 weeks.  The county also added 40 total cases in yesterday’s report bringing the total to 2,222 since the beginning of the pandemic.  There are also 10 individuals currently hospitalized due to the coronavirus and one new death has been reported bringing that total to 27.  While Lane County totals continue to rise, the state experienced a slight decrease in cases over last week.  In all there was a 4% decline in cases.  The largest age group currently showing significant weekly numbers is the 20-49 group that represents 39% of Oregon’s population.  Yesterday, statewide, there were 331 new cases reported.

Pendergrass Sentenced

The man who started the Sweet Creek Milespost 2 fire,  44-year-old Elias Pendergrass, of Mapleton was sentenced on Wednesday after pleading guilty to first-degree arson. Pendergrass will serve 10 years in prison.  The district attorney’s office said Pendergrass must also complete three years of post-prison supervision after his release. He will also have to pay restitution, with the amount to be determined in the next six months. The Sweet Creek Fire sparked an evacuation notice in late August and grew to hundreds of acres before it was contained.

School Reopening Issues

The Governor’s council on Healthy Schools Reopening met in Salem yesterday to review the steps necessary to get kids back in the classroom.  According to their report only 2 counties currently meet the Oregon metrics for in person instruction, however, Oregon as a whole has exceeded the 5% positivity rate of COVID-19 and puts in-class study in jeopardy.  Before the increase in cases 20 counties were eligible to return to in-person instruction.  Governor Kate Brown said in order to get kids back into the classroom there needs to be a concerted effort, community wide, to drive down COVID-19 case rates.  Brown says the simplest way to do that is to wear protective face coverings, wash hands, continue to physically distance, and forgo large social gatherings.  The council also reviewed the current comprehensive distance learning efforts and determined that there was inequity in the program and that many students were working on their own due to parents that needed to be at work and unable to assist.  On top of that, there is the issue of reliable internet for rural areas.

Festval of Trees

The Oregon Coast Military Museum is gearing up for its annual Festival of Trees.  Board Member Kurt Vander Bogart says they are currently looking for tree sponsors and tree designers to add to the number of trees that will be available during the new online auction that will be happening in November.  Due to the coronavirus pandemic the OCMM is going to a virtual sale of the trees.  They are currently lining up businesses around town to host the trees for people to be able to see and then go online to bid.  There will also be some trees displayed at the museum on Kingwood.  The live, online auction will be on Saturday, November 28th at 5 pm.  Details on how to participate in the event will be forthcoming.  Vander Bogart says this is an important fund raiser for the museum.

“This is the biggest fundraiser we have and it’s really for, believe it or not it’s for operating expenses.  I mean we have the same issues a lot of other businesses have, we have rent, we have leases, we have utilities to pay and we always want to try and upgrade the museum as best as possible.”

If you would like to volunteer or design a tree you can contact the Oregon Coast Military Museum by visiting