Update: City shuts down some operations, chamber banquet postponed

The Sweet Home Chamber of Commerce announced Thursday morning that its awards banquet, scheduled for Saturday, March 14, will be postponed indefinitely, due to concerns about local instances of the coronavirus.

Shortly before that, the City of Sweet Home announced it was shutting down some operations to the public, and the Sweet Home School District announced that it is beginning to cancel events.

The city has closed the library until further notice and postponed its regular opening times at City Hall and Municipal Court to allow for training. Regular business hours were scheduled to resume at 10 a.m., a city statement said.

City officials were reportedly meeting after the statement was posted.

Public Works is closed, but still “fully operational.” The Police Department remains open to the public during normal business hours.

“Our focus is on the safety and well-being of our community members and employees,” the city said in a statement. “We will strive to help keep people informed on issues related to prevention, warnings and changes to city operations.

“With two confirmed COVID-19 cases within Linn County, the City of Sweet Home is activating our TIER II response plan. Tier II includes efforts to decrease human-to-human contact. While current reports indicate the majority of the population will be relatively unaffected, those over the age of 60 are at an increased risk if they contract the virus.”

Chamber President George Medellin said officials were pondering their options when the city made its move.

He said the banquet will be rescheduled “once this thing dies down.”

“I have no idea,” he said of when that might be. “We will see what happens on the city and state level. We will try to schedule it with enough notice so we can have as many people there as possible.”

Two presumptive cases of COVID-19 have been detected at the Oregon Veterans Home in Lebanon, the Oregon Health Authority announced Wednesday evening, March 11.

Gov. Kate Brown on Wednesday night announced a four-week statewide ban on public gatherings, which includes sporting and entertainment events, religious gatherings, lectures and others. Brown said public schools should remain open, but that “non-essential” events such as competitions, parent group meeting and others should be canceled.

“Schools will remain open to provide essential services for students,” said schools Supt. Tom Yahraes in a statement. Following the governor’s guidance, the district has proactively started suspending events.

Suspension of non-essential school-based activities and after-school activities begins, Friday, March 13, Yahraes said, and it will remain in effect until further notice. This includes suspension of all assemblies, group parent meetings, off-campus field trips and events.

Athletic practices will continue until the district receives further guidance, Yahraes said. The Oregon School Activities Association will have updates soon about spring activities and contests scheduled to begin next week.

The University of Oregon, Oregon State University and Portland State University all have canceled in-person final exams and are starting the spring quarter in two weeks with online classes only. COMP-Northwest medical school is also only holding classes online.

“Nobody is immune to this virus. It can touch everyone,” Brown said. “We can’t let fear and anxiety stigmatize people. We are seeing cases across multiple counties and age groups and in people exposed through different circumstances. It’s time for us all to do what we can to slow its spread and take care of one another.”