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Newport city councilors trying to get the town back open – even if only a little bit at a time

Newport City Council “live” from their homes!
Social distancing in action!

Newport City Councilors went round and round Monday afternoon and evening on how to begin partial re-opening of city assets like parks, recreation facilities and playing fields.  To be sure…everything is still a bit up in the air as all cities and counties await Governor Brown’s decision on when to begin re-opening the state.  Right up front, some areas will likely open up first under the direction of the state – probably in the rural areas of Oregon.  The major metropolitan areas will likely follow right behind them. It’s all about the Covid-19 virus and how it’s still lingering and infecting thousands of Americans.

Here on the coast, before any area can “loosen up” and let people outside, there would have to be a significant and consistent drop in new virus cases. Once that’s established, under guidance from Salem, Newport City Hall would partially re-open during what’s called Phases 1, 2 & 3…

* Those going to City Hall would have to comply with social distancing (6+ feet) with tightly regulated movements by visitors.
* At the Newport Airport, social distancing will be required (6+ feet). Any special events at the airport would have to wait for Phase 2 (to be determined).
* Public access to Fire-Rescue Stations would be open in Phase 1 with social distancing required and some modifications to public movements within the stations.
* At the Newport Library, library patrons will be able to order reading materials by email and phone calls and then wait outside the library’s front door and pickup up what they checked out via email or phone call.  Phase 2 for the library allows patrons to enter the library and will probably be directed int one direction of travel so no one is too close to other patrons. There will be signs to clearly direct patrons so they’re all moving in one direction so they don’t walk back “up stream” and get too close to each other –  maintaining social distancing.

* The city’s Recreation Center would open during Phase 2 with social distanceong requirements.  City sponsored rganized sports that will have to wait until Phase 3
* For the Aquatic Center – Phase 2 will require social distancing along with complying with interior pedestrian pathways. Any highly organized events will have to wait until the start of Phase 3.
* For the Parks and Recreation Department’s operations at the 60+ Center, that will be delayed in Phase 3.
* City parking lots will reopen in Phase 1.
* Parks, trails and city owned undeveloped areas will be subject to social distancing with accompanied signage.
* Skateparks, dog sports playgrounds and sports fields will open in Phase 2 with social distancing and signage.
* City Public Works facilities will open in Phase 1 requiring social distancing…not that those facilities are much of a public draw.
* The PAC and the VAC will be opened on a limited basis with small events in Phase 2 and larger events in Phase 3.
* Special events like Farmers Markets will not open until Phase 3. There was talk among city councilors that they would like to see our local and regional farming operations be able to enlist the help of the city to schedule early season fresh fruit and vegetable deliveries at various locations so public crowding does not occur. For larger events, they’ll have to wait for Phase 3 and comply with social distancing at the regular Farmers Market.
* For other events like the 4th of July Fireworks, it appears that the 4th of July is a little too early based on the virus invasion. So the 4th of July Fireworks may be re-scheduled for much later in the summer, maybe even in the fall. There’s no guarantee how all that will work out.
* Meetings of the Newport City Council, Planning Commission and other advisory committees will resume in Phase 2 with social distancing.
* A Newport Town Hall meeting is planned but no date has been mentioned – but it’s likely to be late in the summer or fall.
* Newport Police Chief Jason Malloy told the City Council that they’ll try to keep as many people out of jail as possible due to the tight quarters in jail cells. Visitors to the facility will have to honor requirements for social distancing.
* Newport, like all other tourist towns with vacation rentals, will have to watch out for VRD owners who are renting their dwellings despite a state command not to rent any vacation rentals except for those whose stays are more than 30 days.
*Parks, beaches and the Bayfront will be difficult to police as they try to enforce social distancing. Generally walking by oneself and/or riding a bike is quite OK.
* Lincoln County Food Share, Grace Wins Haven, Salvation Army and others are stepping in to help with food distribution for those whose cash is running low – or already run out. Call the Salvation Army at 265-6814 for more information on food and distribution of clothes, personal care items, diapers and how to generally help the Salvation Army help others.

As mentioned above the Covid-19 timeline is very much dependent on whether social distancing and mask wearing are practiced by locals and visitors. In later phases restaurants will be allowed limited seating inside. Hair dressers and barbers will be allowed to re-open along with parks, recreation and outdoor activities – with social distancing at the top of the priority list.

If the Covid-19 pandemic continues to taper off, either after the winter-spring period, or at the beginning of fall, gatherings of 10 or less, larger than 50 or even more than that could be allowed – again depending on the number of new and lingering virus carriers.

The city councilors also learned that virus testing is increasing across the country which will help communities big and small competently estimate whether things are getting better or worse – and then back-adjust if necessary. It may not be a straight line back to what we consider to be “normal.”

And of course, depending on the pandemic’s unpredictable behavior, everyone must pay close attention to CDC and Covid-19 reports. They can gyrate up and down early and often. So heads-up out there. And remember, Governor Kate Brown and her top department heads will be watching everything very carefully to take advantage of quicker-than-expected improvements – or – fall back on defense to slow the virus’ progress, if not turn it around completely which ia the prime directive.

Oregon residents are in for a very interesting, if not a fully difficult year ahead of us. Federal funds from Washington DC will be priorities 1 through 10 for most states.

 In other council action, councilors gave the city the green light to invite local businesses to apply collectively, from a million dollar fund to get the city’s retail sector back on its feet.  Being closed for a number of months has had varying bad effects on businesses in Newport.  The city council approved taking some of those banked redevelopment funds, gathered over many years, and spreading them around where it’s most needed to get businesses back in the black – getting rid of the “Morbid Covid-19.”

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