COVID-19 Number and Pandemic Review of 2021
As we take a look back on 2021 no single story has impacted the Siuslaw region more than the COVID-19 Pandemic. Even as yesterday’s numbers from Lane County show another 10 cases for the Florence area for a total of 897 all-time cases. Some have lost loved ones and some have had to be hospitalized. it has continued to build and will likely continue well into the new year. The pandemic has affected many of the aspects of daily life that have been taken for granted. From how we shop and the effects of mask mandates, to the cancellation of popular and long running traditions like the Rhododendron festival. This past year businesses have been fined for refusing to support mandates, businesses have closed due to staffing shortages, schools were able to reopen u nder strict guidelines, but COVID-19 still managed to infect students and staff and even cause the cancellation of some sporting events. Late spring and early summer saw numbers begin to wane as the vaccines began to take hold in the community only to see new strains and a lax in restrictions bring it back with a vengeance. Businesses began to mandate vaccinations specifically in the health care field and suddenly push back led to a shortage in staffing. Residents began to see the strain as the Bi-mart pharmacy, for financial reasons, shut its doors and staffing at Rite-Aid caused the sporadic closing of its pharmacy leaving 3 remaining pharmacies to handle the entire area. Customers struggled to get their prescriptions filled and the problem is ongoing even today. These are only a few things that the pandemic brought in 2021.
2021 Review Cont…
Another top story for 2021 was the fight for and against the Western Lane Ambulance District Levy. In March of 2021 we began to hear opposition to the tax that funds the ambulance district. A small group of individuals were pushing for privatization of the ambulance and EMS service touting that it would save the taxpayers money and even improve service. In early June Western Lane Fire and EMS Authority went to the people to ask how they felt about it through a phone survey. Chief Michael Schick:
“We want to know what the public feels about this—what the citizens feel—and we don’t really have a good idea.”
Both sides stated their case through the Siuslaw News and on Coast Radio’s Our Town, but in the end the voters approved the Levy extension opting for the known rather than change.
DeFazio Announces Plan to Retire
U.S. Congressman Peter DeFazio announced that he would not be seeking re-election to the U.S. House. On December first of this year DeFazio said it was time to focus on health and family and pass the torch to the next generation. At the end of his term he will have served 36 years. Defazio was not the only long-time political figure to decide to move on in 2021. Earlier this month Lane County Commissioner Jay Bozievich said that when his term was finished he was done and going to retire. Bozievich will have served 12 years.
Dairy Queen Burns
One of florence’s favorite spots was lost this past year, but not to the pandemic. On the morning of August 8 siuslaw Valley Fire and Rescue was called out at 1:30 to a fire at Dairy Queen on Highway 101. The building was already engulfed when firefighters arrived. Fire Marshall Tony Miller:
“They gave a really good size-up and said there was fire coming from the ceiling already, or come out the roof, and so they just went to work.”
The area around the building has since been fenced, and the owners have said they plan to rebuild, but to date there has not been any work done.
Mapleton Water Issues
Florence was not alone in news this past year, Mapleton saw a major water crisis as they were still experiencing pumping problems stemming from the 2020 fire and the damage to their water system. In March residents were hit with high water bills with some residential customers seeing totals in the thousands resulting from improper water meter reading and then in November as the result of storms the pumping station that took water from Berkshire Creek failed. Water Board President Millie Rochon:
“Right now we are not able to filter any water, basically because of mother nature. Berkshire Creek, that feeds our water plant, is so filled with leaves and turbidity just the mud, the wind, everything has stormed it up and we’re having trouble filtering the water to fill the tanks.”
During the outage, companies like Bi-Mart and Fred Meyers provided drinking water for residents as well as contributions from Lane County. After about a week water was restored to the area.
Those are just some of the major stories to make headlines this past year, but certainly not all of them.