Happy Thanksgiving to you, your family, and your friends. I hope this finds you maintaining health, hope and perhaps even finding some bright spots in these most challenging times. This has been a hard year, without exception, for all. It is my intention, as a lawmaker, to maintain my personal optimism while focusing unflinchingly on what I can do to help Oregonians have the opportunity for a better 2021.
To that end, please join me, Senator Steiner Hayward and Representative Helm on December 8 at 5:30pm for our next Virtual Town Hall where we will review our priorities for the 2021 legislative session. I am so grateful for the ongoing input I am getting from many of you and I would be delighted If you would attend our Zoom Town Hall -- please RSVP below.
As always, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office if you need assistance with a state agency or would like to share your thoughts about the issues important to you. My email is Rep.MaxineDexter@OregonLegislature.gov and my team will get back to you as soon as we can.
This year Thanksgiving is going to look very different for all of us. May love and community embrace each of you while you perhaps learn to celebrate in new, and likely, more intimate ways. I cannot say emphatically enough how important it is to minimize person-to-person indoor contact with people outside of your household to reduce spread of the virus. As someone who has seen up close how devastating this disease can be, I am confident we all want to protect our loved ones as much as possible. In this time of uncertainty, there are many other ways to maintain connection. Cross-country Zoom calls to give thanks with those we love, making yummy food at home to then drop off on the porches of people we cannot share a table with, and having socially distanced Thanksgiving potlucks in the streets with neighbors will all be happening and much, much more. May you find the strength to rise above the challenges this holiday season and perhaps even find unexpected joy in new ways to celebrate.
My heart is with you. I am inspired by your resilience and dedication to the support of your community. From my family to yours, we wish you a happy and safe Thanksgiving.
Finally, I invite you to join me in acknowledging our indigenous communities. This can be a time of trauma for many of our native neighbors who have called this land home long before many of our ancestors arrived here. The Thrillist has put together a great piece on how to support indigenous communities this Thanksgiving. While it is a couple of years old, I also highly recommend this piece by OPB exploring an oral history of Oregon’s native population.
Click the picture above to view the most up to date COVID-19 data.
As many of you know, Oregon has seen a recent surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. This led to Governor Brown issuing a statewide two-week freeze to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, ending on December 3rd. I applaud the Governor for making hard but crucial decisions to save lives. The Governor’s two-week freeze measures include:
Limiting social get-togethers (indoors and outdoors) to no more than six people, total, from no more than two households.
Limiting faith-based organizations to a maximum of 25 people indoors or 50 people outdoors.
Limiting eating and drinking establishments to take-out and delivery only.
Closing gyms and fitness organizations.
Closing indoor recreational facilities, museums, indoor entertainment activities, and indoor pools and sports courts.
Closing zoos, gardens, aquariums, outdoor entertainment activities, and outdoor pools.
Limiting grocery stores and pharmacies to a maximum of 75% capacity and encouraging curbside pickup.
Limiting retail stores and retail malls (indoor and outdoor) to a maximum of 75% capacity and encouraging curbside pickup.
Closing venues (that host or facilitate indoor or outdoor events).
Requiring all businesses to mandate work-from-home to the greatest extent possible and closing offices to the public.
Prohibiting indoor visiting in long-term care facilities (outdoor visitation permitted for supporting quality of life).
These types of measures are the last thing any leader wants to have to implement, and we must, to protect our community. I will be working closely with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support Oregonians and local businesses as we continue to navigate through this public health crisis.
Upon the conclusion of the freeze, the Governor’s updated metrics will be in effect. After December 3rd, the state will begin to use a new health and safety framework that uses four different risk levels for counties based on their level of COVID-19 spread: Extreme Risk, High Risk, Moderate Risk, and Lower Risk. Here is where you can see what risk level your county falls into, and what the guidance is for activities under that risk level. As of 11/25, both Multnomah and Washington Counties are at extreme risk of COVID-19 spread. You can view what each risk category means here.
Going into this holiday season, I will reiterate the recommendations of the CDC. Again, please refrain from in-person Thanksgiving celebrations this year. However, just because we cannot be in the same room for the upcoming holiday, doesn’t mean we still can’t be together. Here is a great piece with tips on how to host a virtual Thanksgiving this year.
On Sunday, 11/22, The Oregonian published an opinion piece I co-wrote with my medical professional colleagues in the legislature, including Rep. Rachel Prusak, Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, Rep-Elect Lisa Reynolds, Rep-Elect Dacia Grayber, and Rep. Sheri Schouten to address the rising COVID-19 cases in the state.
On Monday I was a guest of OBP’s Think Out Loud radio show/podcast. We talked about COVID-19, my experiences in the ICU, as well as the perspective I bring as a critical care physician in the legislature. If you weren’t able to listen live, you can listen online with the link below.
Many of you have reached out to my office about reopening schools and I want to say first and foremost that as a mother of two teenagers, I understand what many of you are going through and also want to see schools reopen as safely and quickly as possible.
New metrics have been released by the Oregon Department of Education and the Oregon Health Authority with regard to the reopening of our schools. You can read the guidelines here. These are the highlights courtesy of State Rep. Rachel Prusak:
Adjusts measurement period--county metrics will now be measured for one, 2-week period instead of three, 1-week periods.
Removes statewide positivity metric--county positivity rates, not statewide rates, will now be used to determine whether or not schools can reopen.
Exemption for elementary schools now extends to K-6--under previous metrics, only K-3 students were allowed to return to school first, meaning that elementary schools were able to open in some districts but students in 4th, 5th, and 6th grade could not go back to the classroom. Now, OHA and ODE have determined that students in grades K-6 can return to school if strict protocols are followed.
Final decisions are left to local officials--ODE and OHA will advise and confirm with school districts when their county has satisfied the metrics required to return to in-person learning, but final decisions about returning to the classroom will be left to school districts and local health authorities.
My perspective on school reopening
After looking at the impacts of school openings across our country and our Canadian neighbors, I believe we should make reopening schools a top priority. Our children, universally, have been deeply impacted by this pandemic, and once again is harder on already marginalized communities. Those children without access to high-speed internet, those with disabilities and mental illness, and those who do not speak English as their first language are all enduring greater harm and suffering. We must ensure the safety of students and staff to our best abilities and apply the evolving data and science to prioritize school openings above other priorities. I believe this can be done and I will be working with my colleagues and Governor Brown to maintain focus on our students.
If you are in need of back-to-school related resources, Family Forward Oregon has compiled a comprehensive list, you can view them here.
Beaverton School District has also compiled a family toolkit which can be viewed here.
Portland Public Schools has also compiled a list of resources which can be viewed here.
Our Beaverton and Portland Public Schools are taking this challenge very seriously and are working tirelessly to try to make a plan for reopening that works to serve the most needy students first.
Department of Corrections Work
Over the last several months I have had the honor of working alongside several of my legislative colleagues to address the plight of our adults in custody as well as the challenges faced by corrections workers in the face of COVID 19 within our Oregon State Department of Corrections (DOC). In late September I was able to visit the Oregon State Penitentiary with Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward to observe health and safety protocols and meet with a few adults in custody as well as corrections management in light of COVID19 and the impact of the wildfires on their populations. I believe the values of a society can be, in part, measured by how we treat those who have made mistakes. I am dedicated to being guided by compassion and will continue to advocate for interventions to improve the safety and health for our adults in custody and the workers in our correctional institutions.
As COVID-19 continues to impact our community, our local businesses are among those hit the hardest. I want to use my platform to support our struggling local businesses. If you own or know someone who owns a small business in House District 33, fill out this form to possibly be highlighted in a future newsletter and/or social media post.
With restaurants being hit particularly hard by the two-week freeze issued by Governor Brown, if you are able, please support your local favorites by ordering take out, delivery, or even purchasing gift cards.
Housing assistance: Community Action helps pay rent and help to get people in need of housing. (https://caowash.org)
Housing assistance: Salvation Army Female Emergency Shelter serves women in the community who are experiencing homelessness. (https://safes.salvationarmy.org)
Housing assistance, utility assistance, food assistance: United Way of the Columbia-Willamette provides access to critical services like housing assistance and utility assistance and access to food. (https://www.unitedway-pdx.org)
Food assistance, water bill assistance, and grants, utility assistance: Care To Share coordinates assistance to families and individuals who seek emergency food and other basic necessities. (http://www.caretosharehelp.org)
Food assistance, housing assistance, utility assistance, disability assistance: Department of County Human Services ensures that everyone can reach their potential and contribute to communities. (https://multco.us/dchs)
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