Corrections workers 50% vaccinated as mandate deadline nears

PORTLAND (AP) — Officials said on Wednesday, Oct. 13 that around 50% of the roughly 4,500 employees at the Oregon Department of Corrections are vaccinated against COVID-19.

The DOC has approved exemptions for nearly 16% of its workforce, or 713 employees, which corrections officials said were mostly for religious reasons, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.

The reported vaccination rate comes just before an executive order signed by Gov. Kate Brown goes into place Oct. 18, which requires some state employees to either be fully vaccinated, request an exemption, or risk losing employment.

Correctional officers were among the earliest groups in the state to get access to COVID-19 vaccines because they work in settings where the coronavirus can spread easily.

While several unions for state employees have bargained later dates on vaccinations, DOC spokeswoman Jennifer Black said next week’s deadline still applies to many Oregon Department of Corrections employees.

Corrections officials said that, in contrast, 80% of the adults in custody across the prison system are now vaccinated.

During the worst of the pandemic, Oregon’s prisons regularly had some of the largest outbreaks. Records show 44 people in custody and three staff died from COVID-19.

September marks new peak of Oregon COVID-19 deaths

PORTLAND (AP) — At least 610 Oregonians died from COVID-19 complications in September, marking the highest fatality count of any month of the pandemic.

The death tally increased Wednesday, Oct. 13 as the Oregon Health Authority announced 1,278 cases and 33 more fatalities connected to COVID-19, including 15 deaths in September, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

State data shows that pushed last month’s total beyond the prior record of 606 deaths set in December.

The highly transmissible delta variant drove a summer COVID-19 surge in people who were mostly unvaccinated. Oregon’s deadliest span from 2020 occurred before vaccines were widely available.

Deaths have slowed in October but remain on pace to be at least the sixth highest of the pandemic.

Since the pandemic began, Oregon has reported 346,480 confirmed or presumed infections and 4,117 deaths, among the lowest per capita numbers in the nation.

The death tally grew Wednesday as the Oregon Health Authority announced 1,278 cases and 33 new fatalities connected to COVID-19, including 15 deaths that occurred in September. That pushed last month’s total past the previous record of 606 deaths set in December, according to state data.

Man charged with hate crime in road rage incident

BEND (AP) — A Bend man is facing a hate crime charge for an alleged road-rage incident in which he is accused of threatening a Black man with a knife, smashing his car window, slashing his tire and using a racial slur.

Christopher King, 34, appeared in Deschutes County Circuit Court Tuesday, Oct. 12, The Bulletin reported. The state alleges the incident happened June 29, when King and alleged victim Isaiah Evans were driving vehicles in Deschutes County.

District Attorney John Hummel said King became upset over Evans’ driving, hit Evans’ car with his, pulled over and approached with a knife.

King’s lawyer Kelly Monaghan said he is maintaining his innocence.

The incident was investigated by Bend Police, and in August, a grand jury charged King with bias crime, unlawful use of a weapon, first-degree criminal mischief, failure to perform the duties of a driver and menacing.

A plea hearing in King’s case is scheduled for Nov. 16.

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