Humpday News Roundup: Good Risks, Airports & Three Parents

The latest recap of the news you may have missed… we’re assuming by accident.   

Benton County in High Risk!  

Finally! Benton County has moved down from Extreme to High Risk on the Governor’s scale. This means more things will be opened, and it allows for some indoor dining. Of course, the counties around Benton are moving to Moderate Risk – as is Multnomah County which is a head scratcher – but let’s be glass-half-full folks and keep toeing the line toward the end goal of everyone being well.  

FEMA Coming Through   

Benton County will use a $3.1 million loan from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to support mass vaccination clinics. Benton has one of the highest vaccination rates per capita, and these funds will keep that moving forward in spite of the fact that the county will not be getting more vaccines than usual. Benton County will be partnering with Linn and Lincoln counties to operate the clinics  

 OSU and Agent Orange  

The Bijou Theatre in Lincoln City is offering Oregonians another chance to see “The People vs Agent Orange” virtually until March 18. This documentary takes a harder look at the part Oregon State University forestry professors played in creating a new market for this destructive chemical we once thought was gone. The theatre is also offering for virtual consumption “Test Pattern” – about institutional racism, “Two of Us” – a love story in times of restriction, and “Escher” – a journey into infinity. There are other offerings as well, and we hope you support this local theatre.  

The Eugene Airport is Open  

As the COVID-19 pandemic begins to get a little better, the airport in Eugene is seeing more activity. As of now, local air travel is down approximately 51% from 2019 in Eugene, and down 45% nationally. Still be safe, though! Wear masks and keep socially distanced.  

In More Airport News…  

American Airlines has begun a non-stop flight from Eugene to Dallas-Fort Worth beginning March 4. So, yes, there’s a new place to get outta town to.    

And Even More Airport News…  

Southwest Air should begin to operate out of Eugene by the second half of 2021. This will make going places like Las Vegas or Bozeman much easier for all.  

 DEQ Issues a Fine & Homework  

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality gave J.H. Baxter & Co. a $223,440 fine for hazardous waste and water quality violations. Unpermitted treatment of hazardous waste generated the majority of the fine – $ 178,905. A smaller part of the fine – $14,735 in total – came due to untreated storm water which eventually flowed into Amazon Creek during two storms in 2019. Baxter not only gets to pay the fine, but they have to put together plans that will help them understand how to not do this in the future.   

The Wildfires Were Bad in Yet Another Way  

Everyone remembers the wildfires of 2020 as the terrible things that destroyed multiple buildings and devastated many small towns throughout Oregon. Those of us in Corvallis can also remember the horrendous air quality from the fires. New research has found that those tiny particles of wildfire smoke can be more toxic than your average pollution – in fact, they are more toxic than any other source material found in our air. The study saw hospital admissions for breathing problems increase up to 10 times normal when wildfire particles were added to pollution in Southern California. What this means in Oregon is that not only will our wildfires cause health issues, but the prescribed burning to decrease what fuels wildfires will be equally harmful.  

Oregon Wants You to be Safe  

The state of Oregon is encouraging everyone to take a break from work on May 12 and think about their workplace safety. It will give all of us a chance to stop what we’re doing, stand up, look around our offices – wherever they may be – and see if there’s a way to be safer there. You can check out the state’s web presence and maybe even win a prize. So sign up here! At The Advocate, we’ll take the day off from hiking, look at our desks in the far, crowded corner of the living room, sigh twice, and make sure the fire extinguishers in the kitchen are in good condition.  

Oregon Restaurants & Bars are Hurting  

We all miss restaurants more than we thought we would. More than a year of constantly having to shop, cook, and do dishes is enough for anyone to want to run to Elmer’s for a German pancake. But this pandemic has been particularly hard on these businesses. In December of 2019, there were 211,000 jobs in the leisure and hospitality industry in Oregon. In December of 2020, there were 129,400 – a decrease of almost 39%.  In food service and bars alone, 55,000 jobs were lost statewide – mostly in smaller “mom and pop” places.   

Brown Says ‘Go Back To School’  

On March 5, Governor Kate Brown issued an executive order that requires all public schools to offer universal access to in-person instruction on or before March 29 for grades K-5, and April 19 for grades 6-12. Brown claims that the science says the children should be safe if they respect the new rules. So let’s all cross our fingers, slaps some masks on those little faces, and hope things work for kids going back into classrooms.   

Oregon Senate Finally Looks at ‘Gay Panic’ Issue  

If the Oregon Legislature does its job, there will no longer be the “gay panic” defense in our state. No longer will people be able to say they were “temporarily crazy” because they discovered someone else was LGBT-or-Q. Sen. Katie Lieber was one of eight lead sponsors of Senate Bill 704, and wants to better protect members of a community that has been discriminated against and had violence enacted upon them for who they are. The defense was first used in the 1950’s, and has since been outlawed in 12 states and D.C. So Oregon is playing catch-up on this one. We certainly hope the senate gets this right.  

Protect Your Local Weed Biz  

Over the course of one year, cannabis sellers in Portland reported $583,000 in cash and product stolen. In an article by Willamette Week, they recount the story of Michael Arthur, a man working in a weed shop. Arthur had seen his shop being scoped out by four young men, and told his friends that if he got shot, they would be the ones who did it. He was shot, and died… for a few jars of pot and a nearly empty tip jar. By March 3 of 2021, dispensaries in Portland had been robbed or burglarized 103 times – that’s over 11 per week. Court records show that most of these robberies are committed by teens. The biggest issue here is, of course, the fact that weed stores almost exclusively take cash. Maybe it’s time to push our lawmakers toward allowing these businesses – which have taken care of us through the pandemic and given us a great source of tax revenue – to get bank accounts already.  

Oprah & Meghan & Harry Chatted  

The world went nuts over Oprah Winfrey interviewing Harry and Meghan a year after the two royals left the “family biz” – which includes… well, we’re not really sure. Anyway, it seemed that the usual issues of race were the basis of the royal defection. Meghan was a biracial, American actor and Harry was a very, very white prince (I mean, we’re talking red hair and the whole nine yards here). Harry’s very, very white and royals were worried that any children the two had would be Black. Luckily, America is taking the ex-royals’ side on this one. And at The Advocate? We stand with Meghan!  

Texas Lifts ALL COVID Restrictions  

Just a few short days after Texas nearly froze so solid is fell off the bottom half of the continent, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has decided to lift all COVID restrictions. He did the same last April after two weeks of Texans staying inside, thinking he saw “glimmers” of the worst the coronavirus could offer already past. Those “glimmers” have Texas at over 12% positivity rate – three times higher than the national average. Abbott does say he regrets allowing bars to reopen at 50% capacity in May of 2020, and it can be assumed he regrets the 31,007 new cases on Jan. 5 of 2021, and he did agree with the idea of a mask mandate last July. We suppose the rest of the country will have to watch Texas now to see if lifting all restrictions is really the thing to do before the vaccination process has been completed.  

In More News of Lapsed Restrictions…  

Florida is currently opening its doors for a bike rally which expects 300,000 people over 10 days. Daytona Beach Bike Week is a go, although to a smaller than usual crowd – they normally see about 400,000 to 500,000 people. Much like what’s happening in Texas, this state seems to be placing economy over lives.   

Spaceship Whistleblower Remembered  

Those of us who remember the Challenger Disaster may not know the name of one man who might have averted it. He was Allan McDonald and he was the guy who had to either sign off on the dotted line to send two rockets full of explosive fuel into space when they weren’t safe, or sign off on them being held back. He chose to not let the rockets fly. Unfortunately, someone overturned his decision. By standing up and telling his side of the story, he changed the way the rockets were made, saving future lives. McDonald passed away at the age of 83. RIP.  

Love Knows No Limits  

We’re ending this week’s roundup with a story about love and family that is uniquely geared to make a person feel hopeful for the future of humans. It’s the tale of three men who are in a loving and committed relationship, and have had two children. This story is remarkable because the judicial system in California listened to them and respected that, while their lifestyle as a throuple might differ from what we’ve been told is “correct,” there is nothing wrong with three people legally making a family. Their daughter and son now have the security of three dads who are legally there for them.  

By Sally K Lehman