COVID-19 numbers decline in county, but third veteran dies

Sean C. Morgan

The total number of positive COVID-19 tests statewide increased to 1,132 as of Monday morning from 606 one week earlier, March 30, and 191 two weeks earlier on March 23.

The Oregon Health Authority reported 64 new cases and two deaths Monday. That included one new case in Linn County, bringing the total to 42, an increase of seven since March 30.

In the past week in Oregon, the largest single-day increase in positive tests for COVID-19 was 100 on Saturday.

According to the OHA, 404 persons are hospitalized with COVID-19, while 623 are not. Status is unknown in 105 cases. Oregon has tested 21,801 persons, with 20,669 testing negative.

To date, the OHA has reported two deaths in Linn County, both at the Oregon Veterans’ Home in Lebanon.

However, the Oregon Veterans’ Home announced Saturday in on Facebook that a third resident had died. That resident was diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 22 and had underlying medical conditions.

“It is with heavy hearts that we make both of these announcements,” said Kelly Fitzpatrick, director of the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs. “This resident proudly served our nation and was also a beloved member of our Lebanon community. We offer our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones.

“The staff is doing everything in their power to stop the spread of coronavirus and keep our community safe.

All possible resources are being made available to support them in their critical work, and we can continue to do everything possible to protect the honored residents in our care and prevent the further spread or reintroduction of this potentially deadly virus.”

Lockdown protocals remain in place at the facility.

The home also announced Saturday two new positive tests for COVID-19. All affected families have been notified.

The OHA reported that 13 persons at the Veterans’ Home had recovered. To date, the home had experienced a total of 18 positive cases and three deaths related to COVID-19.

New projections from health researchers show there is “strong evidence that measures currently in place in Oregon are reducing transmission,” but these measures need to be maintained to reduce the number of COVID-19 infections in Oregon.

During a virtual press briefing on April 2, Oregon Office of Emergency Management director Andrew Phelps, along with epidemiology and immunization specialist Dr. Dean Sidelinger of Oregon Health Authority, discussed projections of the disease’s spread in the state. Go to to view video from the briefing.

“By staying home, Oregonians are doing their part to flatten the curve,” said Andrew Phelps.

“When Oregonians stay home, we limit contact with sick people, protect first responders and frontline workers, preserving hospital space, and extend the life of the state’s supply of personal protection equipment, such as masks and gloves.”

City of Sweet Home

“Our contacts confirm there is not a case they’re aware of in Sweet Home,” said City Manager Ray Towry.

The City Council will meet at its regular time, 6:30 p.m. on April 14. At this point, a maximum of four members of the public may attend in person. Seats will be spread out to meet social distancing guidelines.

Other members of the public may attend using Microsoft Teams, a video conferencing application. Details to connect will be available on the city website on the agenda. Public comments may be typed, and the council will likely allow time for verbal comment.

Towry said he expects three to four councilors to attend physically, while the others will attend using Zoom.

City staff members are planning to begin wearing masks when working near the public, Towry said. As of Monday they were working out the details to supply and manage the use of masks.

Unemployment Spikes

Due to Gov. Brown’s executive order, many businesses have shut down, and many Oregonians have been laid off.

As part of his monthly report on economic indicators, Mid-Valley Workforce Analyst and Economist Michael Doughty of the Oregon Employment Department reported that unemployment claims spiked from the week starting March 8 compared to the week starting March 22.

Normally, the data do not vary enough on a weekly basis to give any insights into current economic events, he said. “The impact of COVID-19 has been so dramatic, that the magnitude of change now occurring in weekly initial unemployment claims provides a rough idea of changes in employment.”

For the week beginning March 22, the state had 92,700 initial unemployment claims, Doughty said. “That’s more than eighteen times the initial claims for the week starting March 8. Keep in mind, this data does not represent a precise picture of employment, but only the scale of those seeking relief from lost jobs.”

During the week of March 15-21, the Oregon Employment Department processed around 22,800 Unemployment Insurance claims, four times more than the 4,900 processed the week prior.

The unemployment rate in Linn County was at 3.9 percent in February, down from 4.1 percent in January.

Air Quality Concerns

During the past week, state agencies, including the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the Oregon Department of Forestry, the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office, Oregon Department of Agriculture and Oregon Health Authority, asked Oregonians to voluntarily refrain from outdoor burning, to weigh possible effects on the wider community before choosing to burn.

Their concern is that smoke from fires can cause upper respiratory symptoms, which could be incorrectly attributed to COVID-19 and lead to unnecessary testing or self-isolation.

Smoke can increase the risk of contracting infectious respiratory diseases, the agencies said, and there is a shortage of personal protective equipment to reduce exposure at this time. Also, first responders and emergency services are operating at a reduced capacity and have limited resources to respond to out-of-control burns.

Beware the Scammers

Physical illness, economic problems and social stress are not the only problems presented by COVID-19.

State and federal officials are warning against coronavirus-related scams.

Unexpected phone calls are also a good indication that a scammer is on the other end. Two clues are that it’s (1) a phone call or text and (2) the caller wants your personal information. Government agencies that want to do business with you will do so by mail.

The Internal Revenue Service will begin to distribute COVID-19 Economic Impact Payments in a matter of weeks and is warning recipients to be wary of scammers.

For most Americans, this will be a direct deposit into their bank accounts. For the unbanked, elderly or other groups that have traditionally received tax refunds via paper check, they will receive their economic impact payments in that manner.

An aggressive and sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, has been making the rounds throughout the country.

Callers claim to be employees of the IRS, but are not. Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. Or, victims may be told they have a refund due to try to trick them into sharing private information.

Scammers may use two particular strategies to try to steal your money:

They may try to get you to sign over your check to them. With COVID-19 scams, they may urge you to pay a fake “debt” with your economic impact check. For those who receive an actual check, they may ask you to endorse it and forward to them for “payment of past debts.”

They may use this as an opportunity to get you to “verify” your filing information in order to receive your money, using your personal information to file false tax returns in an identity theft scheme.

Between these two schemes, everyone receiving an economic impact payment is at risk.

“Taxpayers should be extra vigilant for unsolicited phone calls or emails concerning their economic impact payments,” said Justin Campbell, special agent in charge of the Seattle Field Office for IRS-CI.

“The IRS will not call or email you about your payment. IRS-Criminal Investigation is stepping up our efforts in coordination with the Department of Justice to aggressively investigate anyone that seeks to defraud our community members during this crisis.”

The IRS will deposit your economic impact payment into the direct deposit account your previously provide on your tax return (or, in the alternative, send you a paper check).

The IRS will not call and ask you to verify your payment details. Do not give out your bank account, debit account, or PayPal account information – even if someone claims it is necessary to get your economic impact payment. Beware of this scam.

If you receive a call, do not engage with scammers or thieves. Just hang up. If you receive texts or emails claiming that you can get your money faster by sending personal information or clicking on links, delete them. Do not click on any links in those emails.

Reports are also swirling about bogus checks. If you receive a “check” in the mail now, it’s fraud – it will take the Treasury Department a few weeks to distribute the payments. If you receive a “check” for an odd amount (especially one with cents), or a check that requires that you verify the check online or by calling a number, it’s fraud.

“We are aware of instances of consumer fraud stemming from the COVID-19 public health emergency. While Americans work to protect themselves and their loved ones from the threat of COVID-19, some individuals are actively trying to profit off of this emergency,” said U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams. “If you or someone you know believe you’ve been the target or victim of an outbreak-related fraud scheme, please contact law enforcement immediately.”

Surge in Email, Phishing and Malware Schemes

Scam emails are designed to trick taxpayers into thinking these are official communications from the IRS, tax industry professionals or tax software companies.

These phishing emails ask taxpayers about a wide range of topics – related to refunds, filing status, ordering transcripts, and verifying PIN information – in order to steal your personal information or file tax returns.

When people click on links from these phishing emails, they are taken to sites designed to imitate an official-looking website, such as

The sites may also carry malware, which can infect people’s computers to steal their files or record their keystrokes.

Also be aware of email phishing scams that appear to be from the IRS and include a link to a bogus web site intended to mirror the official IRS web site. These emails contain the direction “you are to update your IRS e-file immediately.” The emails mention and IRSgov (without a dot between “IRS” and “gov”). Don’t get scammed. These emails are not from the IRS.

For more information, visit or

The Oregon Division of Financial Regulation is also warning about scams.

– Scam No. 1: Avoid scams claiming to have a top-secret vaccine or miracle cure, or claiming to offer government assistance or economic relief. These false claims are scams intended to scare people into sharing their personal information.

Do not open emails, click links, or open attachments from anyone you do not know

Do not share your personal or financial information with anyone you do not know

– Scam No. 2: Avoid scams requiring downloads to view coronavirus maps. This is an attempt to get people to download malware onto their device.

No download is required. These maps are available from Johns Hopkins University at

– Scam No. 3: Avoid scams using the market downturn to convince people to invest in a product with a guaranteed or very high return, including investments tied to COVID-19, such as medical supplies, vaccines, and other treatments. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Ask three questions before making any investment:

– Is it being offered with little or no risk?

– Is there a sense of urgency or limited availability?

– Is the person or the investment registered?

“We are fortunate to have some great companies doing all they can to help consumers right now,” said Andrew Stolfi, administrator of the Division of Financial Regulation.

“We want all Oregonians to make sure they are relying only on trusted sources for the information they need to keep their families safe and healthy during this outbreak.”

If you believe you have been a victim of a COVID-19 scam, visit to report it to the U.S. Department of Justice.

If you have a question or concern about an investment product or advisor, contact the Division of Financial Regulation advocates at 888-877-4894 (toll-free) or email [email protected].

The Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration is warning of people showing up at job sites pretending to be division compliance officers. The fraudsters then attempt to issue thousands of dollars in fines and demand immediate cash payment.

Compliance officers present their credentials at the beginning of an inspection. The normal citation process takes at least two weeks, and there is never a demand for immediate cash payment of a proposed fine.