This has been a challenging summer in so many aspects - the wildfires again raging in Lane County, the surge in COVID-19 cases just as Oregon lifted most restrictions - but it has also had many positive moments. From the promise of a national infrastructure package to state dollars to help the McKenzie community rebuild after last year's Holiday Farm fire, I'm thankful to see both the federal and state government looking to the future.
Fighting Wildfires in East Lane
2021 has been another summer of devastating, destructive wildfires, with the Middle Fork Complex fires near Oakridge expanding to 8,862 acres this week. The Kwis Fire, which is the closest to Oakridge at just two miles away, is at 1,083 acres. More than 800 personnel are devoted to fighting the fires. Triple-digit temperatures have created even drier conditions, making it easier for fires to spread. I am diligently following updates on the fires, and I’m in touch daily with incident command and the mayors of Lowell and Oakridge. I am so grateful to all our first responders for battling these fires and keeping people out of harm’s way.
The Middle Fork Complex Facebook page is a good resource for fire updates, and an evacuation map is available on the county website. Now is also the time to make sure you’re signed up for Lane County’s emergency alert system. Sign up here to receive emergency notifications via email, text, or voice call. Another easy way to subscribe is by texting your ZIP code to 38276.
Many communities on the McKenzie are still recovering from last year’s fires. I’m glad to see state dollars aiding in recovery from the Holiday Farm Fire. I recently joined Governor Kate Brown in Blue River for an announcement of $1.4 million for the Blue River Community Library’s replacement and $15 million to help rebuild water and wastewater infrastructure. There is still a long way to go, but these investments will provide a great foothold to build the community back.
Additionally, after long hours of hard conversations, letters, and advocacy, the FEMA Housing Mission is now partnering with the U.S. Basketball Academy to provide 17 spaces for temporary housing units for people who lost homes in the fire. For folks who were displaced by the fire and have been eager to return to help the community rebuild, this is much-needed assistance.
COVID Update: A New Mask Mandate
In response to rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, the Oregon Health Authority announced Wednesday that indoor mask use will be mandatory starting Friday, August 13.
Oregon is seeing a record number of hospitalizations - more, in fact, than during any of the pandemic's peaks in 2020. Worryingly, younger people represent a growing percentage of people whose cases are severe enough to require hospitalization. Nearly all cases are caused by the more contagious delta variant of COVID.
Nearly all of those hospitalized are unvaccinated, making it even more crucial to get your vaccine if you haven't already. Visit covidvaccine.oregon.gov to find a vaccine provider near you. Additionally, Lane County Public Health is now offering a $50 gift card for each dose to anyone age 12 or older who gets vaccinated at a county clinic. You can find a list of LCPH clinics here.
On Tuesday's Board of Commissioners meeting, we voted unanimously to issue an Emergency Public Health Advisory calling for all individuals, businesses and employers to take immediate protective health measures like masks and social distancing in indoor shared spaces, regardless of current vaccination status.
After a year and a half of the pandemic, I know the idea of returning to a mask mandate may be wearying. But we have to do everything we can to protect our fellow community members and get this pandemic under control.
A Visit from Transportation Secretary Buttigieg
I was proud to be on hand when Congressman Peter DeFazio welcomed U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg to Oregon in July. It was an honor to meet him and welcome him to Lane County. The INVEST in America Act, a bipartisan transportation and infrastructure bill currently moving through Congress, will bring much-needed investment in our roads, bridges, and rail as well as good-paying jobs. There are funds for rural transit, drinking water infrastructure, and comprehensive plans to address climate change. "We need a transformational investment in infrastructure to last a generation," Secretary Buttigieg said during his stop in Lane County – and I agree.
The infrastructure bill includes $65 billion to help close the rural-urban digital divide, a disparity that deeply affects East Lane residents. It became all the more pronounced during the pandemic: Without reliable and fast internet access, students can’t learn online and business owners have to drive into Eugene just to complete basic online tasks like processing invoices. Passing the INVEST act means not only an investment in our physical infrastructure, but in digital infrastructure - and in the people of East Lane County who depend on both.
Please stay safe - and cool - out there.
Your Support Makes a Difference Four years have gone by quickly - and I'm ready to represent East Lane County for another four. The second half of 2021 is the time to gear up for the 2022 election. Early contributions make all the difference, and your donation will help me get my campaign off to a strong start. I appreciate your support!