Rhododendron Festival Suspended; COVID-19 Cases Easing; Vaccine Distribution; School Board Meeting; Feds Uphold State’s Findings

Rhododendron Festival Suspended

The Florence Area Chamber of Commerce has decided that the 114th Rhododendron Festival should be suspended.  Just two weeks after it announced that the annual Rhody Court would not happen the board has made the decision that there are too many variables with the current state of the pandemic and constant revisions of restrictions offered by the state.  President and CEO of the Chamber Bettina Hannigan says that while the chamber still encourages tourism with social distancing, the Festival is different.

“Ultimately we can’t have people gathering in groups, during the Rhody Fest we usually have between 25 and 30 thousand people come to town.  How are we going to do that?”

Hannigan says that no one wanted to cancel the long running festival .

“This is not an easy decision and it certainly wasn’t easy for the board either, but I think it really wasn’t even our decision.”

She says what it came down to was compliance and that there was no way to safely move forward.  Hannigan says they deliberately used the word suspend to leave the door open to do something if the situation changes enough.  Worries about the vaccine rollout and virus variants as it pertains to potential herd immunity were also a consideration in their decision.  the Rhododendron festival is responsible for generating about 147 million dollars.

COVID-19 Cases Easing

Another case of the Coronavirus has shown up in Florence as the number increases to 153, and although the numbers are making small increases in the community the countywide number is showing signs of easing.  Lane County Public Health only recorded 25 new cases yesterday as the total inches up toward 10 thousand cases.  Lane County Public Health liaison Jason Davis during his Tuesday briefing related the good news

“Again this is a trend we have been seeing for some time, case numbers sharply dropping off.”

Currently Lane County remains in the Extreme Category for risk, but if the numbers continue to trend downward over the next two weeks, Lane County would be eligible for a risk assessment change to High or even Moderate if the numbers drop low enough.

Vaccine Distribution

There is also good news for 80+ individuals who are awaiting the vaccine.  Davis says that the county has appropriated about 5500 doses of the vaccine by using the states allocated amount and combining it with existing doses in the county’s storage.  Davis says there are about 15 thousand individuals in that age category of which a “large chunk” have already received vaccines due to their residency in long term care facilities.  According to Davis about 6600 individuals have signed up online to receive their vaccine and he believes a large portion of those individuals will be able to be vaccinated this week.

School Board Meeting

The Siuslaw School Board of Directors will hold a meeting this evening at 6:30 following a special work session.  Part of this evening’s conversation will be an explanatory statement from  superintendent Andy Grzeskowiak  on the regulations enacted for High School Graduation.  The board will also look to appoint a member of their budget committee.  After the regular meeting they will meet in executive session for a performance review.

Feds Uphold State’s Findings

Federal authorities on Monday upheld the state of Oregon’s finding that a major West Coast liquified natural gas pipeline and export terminal proposed in Coos Bay is not consistent with its coastal zone management plans. The Oregonian/OregonLive reports Jordan Cove’s Canadian backers, Pembina Pipeline Corp., had appealed the state’s finding to the U.S. Commerce Department. The company hoped the Trump Administration would override the state’s federally delegated authority to determine if projects are consistent with the Coastal Zone Management Act. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declined to do so, saying the company had failed to show that the project is consistent with the law. Pembina did not immediately respond to a request for comment.