4A | WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2022 Broadband Continued from Page 1A At the bill’s ﬁrst public hearing Wednesday, Rep. Pam Marsh, D-South- ern Jackson County, one of the bill’s chief sponsors, said the coronavirus pandemic has shown that broadband access is critical for the emotional, so- cial, economic and physical health of Oregonians. “Individuals and families who lacked access to broadband over the past al- most two years missed out on public ap- pointments, remote work opportuni- ties, online learning, digital grocery de- liveries, live-streamed religious services and much more,” she said. Planning for funding In November, President Joe Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which allocated $65 bil- lion for broadband expansion nation- wide. Oregon will receive at least $100 million of that, with the potential for more based on need. An additional $100 million is antici- pated from the American Rescue Plan Act. Marsh called the investments “once- in-a-generation” and said the state needs to be prepared to utilize the mon- ey when it arrives. | APPEAL TRIBUNE The bill is an omnibus package with ﬁve key components: h Updates the membership and au- thority of the Oregon Broadband Advi- sory Council and provides oversight and recommendations to implement broad- band goals. h Sets a strategic framework for uti- lizing state and federal broadband in- vestment. h Creates criteria for Oregon to work with providers to collect information and develop statewide maps for deter- mining eligibility for funds and to con- ﬁrm the allocation. h Establishes the Connecting Oregon Libraries Fund and allocates funds for the purpose of providing matching funds for federal money received by the State Library. h Requires the Public Utilities Com- mission to study the feasibility of ex- panding the Oregon Telephone Assis- tance Program, which lowers the monthly cost of phone or broadband services for low-income individuals. Efforts to date Broadband access has been a topic of concern for lawmakers for some time. The Oregon Broadband Oﬃce was es- tablished in 2018 to develop broadband investments, deploy strategies to reach underserved areas and advocate for pol- icies that would expand broadband availability. In the early months of the pandemic, the state allocated funds to expand broadband access and created the Broadband Fund in special session to support those eﬀorts. Despite those recent actions, signiﬁ- cant gaps in broadband access remain. An analysis by USA Today and the Stateman Journal in July showed that while broadband is available to resi- dents, fewer have actual high-speed ac- cess. According to a Federal Communica- tions Commission study, in about half of Oregon’s counties, broadband access is available to at least 86% of residents. Yet also in about half of the state’s counties, according to Microsoft, no more than 49% of households have high-speed ac- cess, a USA TODAY analysis shows. Poorer counties tended to have less access. Another of the bill’s chief sponsors, Rep. Mark Owens, R-Crane, said the need for broadband access in rural com- munities was becoming more apparent even before the pandemic. Now, Owens said, it’s clear broadband is one of the three critical components to ensuring rural communities are viable into the fu- ture. “In order to have any type of sustain- able growth in our rural or frontier com- munities, we have to have good schools, good medical and broadband,” he said. “Without broadband, we’re not going to have any type of sustained growth.” Broadband is particularly important for augmenting rural economies, he said, allowing communities to become less reliant on agriculture and natural resources. While the bill does have substantial support, the biggest concern from some is the collection of data for the creation of the broadband access map. Beth Cooley, assistant vice president of state legislative aﬀairs at CTIA, told lawmakers Wednesday that while the trade association supports the goals of HB 4092, they oppose the bill in its cur- rent form. CTIA is a trade association that rep- resents the wireless communications industry in the United States. The organization’s concern is that the bill’s text is not aligned with the drafter’s stated intent to keep broadband access data private. Cooley requested an amendment that would specify the maps are only provided upon applica- tion of a broadband grant. “HB 4092 reads as a broad, sweeping data collection mandate on the entire broadband ecosystem, including wire- less, outside of the broadband grant process,” she said. USA Today contributed to this report. Reporter Connor Radnovich covers the Oregon Legislature and state gov- ernment. Contact him at email@example.com or 503-399-6864, or follow him on Twitter at @CDRadnovich. Outbreaks Continued from Page 1A Cochran has spent a fair share of the pandemic with her children and at her timeshare on the coast in an eﬀort to stay away from her home of Capital Manor – and safe from COVID-19. Capital Manor is one of dozens of Oregon facilities that primarily care for older adults that have seen repeated outbreaks of COVID-19 in the past two years. As of Jan. 12, approximately 170 facilities had reported three or more outbreaks. COVID-19 was ﬁrst reported at Cap- ital Manor in March 2020, according to state records. The facility reported its ﬁrst CO- VID-19 outbreak – which the state de- ﬁnes as three or more cases, or at least one person dying – about four months later, according to the Oregon Health Authority. It would be the ﬁrst of seven out- breaks the community has seen. With 480 residents, Capital Manor is “far more likely to have several cases than another place with 60 residents,” David Lewis, executive director of Cap- ital Manor, said in an email to the Statesman Journal. Lewis said that between March 2020 and early this January, 9% of Capital Manor residents have contracted CO- VID-19. He said other neighboring facil- ities have had higher rates of COVID-19. “When Capital Manor has 10 times the census of many of the places to which we are being compared, of course, we would have more incidents of three cases,” he said. Lack of urgency stopping spread in facilities When a care facility reports a case of COVID-19, that triggers a state process called an “executive order.” Notices are posted publicly on the facility building and the state’s website. The orders required facilities to stop accepting new residents without writ- ten approval from DHS. The orders also required facilities to separate residents with COVID-19 and conduct testing of residents and staﬀ. The orders, however, do not require documentation of how facilities “mon- itor and document” infection control practices, state auditors found in March 2021. The head of the state’s program for Safety, Oversight and Quality in care homes, Jack Honey, told auditors in late 2020 that the process was not meant to be punitive. Honey told auditors, according to their notes, that “they don’t want to pe- nalize a facility for reporting.” Back in the fall of 2020, a few days before Thanksgiving, Fred Steele, the state’s oﬃcial advocate for long-term care residents, sat at his dining room ta- ble writing a letter to Gov. Kate Brown and state agency heads. In the letter, dated Nov. 24, 2020, Steele implored leaders to take stricter action to contain the virus and stop the spread in care facilities. Looking back a year later, he said, maybe his letter was “too late.” Steele said he asked for more “urgen- cy” from state leaders, whom he feels by that time had turned their focus toward distributing COVID-19 vaccines. He said he recognizes that shift might have con- tributed to what felt like a “lack of re- sponse.” But Steele said he believes the state could, and should have, done more to slow the spread of the virus. He sent his letter before a massive surge of CO- VID-19 hit care homes in late 2020, and long before the delta and omicron vari- ants took hold. Norma Cochran looks through old photographs of her husband, Bob, who lived in the memory care unit at Capital Manor in West Salem. ABIGAIL DOLLINS / STATESMAN JOURNAL “But I still recognize too, that more people died in long-term care from COVID than needed to, because there wasn’t additional enforcement, there wasn’t additional responses that needed to occur at that point in time.” Fred Steele State’s official advocate for long-term care residents “But I still recognize too, that more people died in long-term care from CO- VID than needed to, because there wasn’t additional enforcement, there wasn’t additional responses that need- ed to occur at that point in time,” Steele said. Wanting more info to ensure safe environment Cochran was concerned because, she said, the facility didn’t inform her or other residents where the cases were lo- cated. She didn’t want to know who the person was – she just wanted to know on what ﬂoor, or in what part of the complex, they were. “I wanted to be able to avoid the area,” said Cochran, who lives in an area for people who live independently. “And they wouldn’t tell us that, because of conﬁdentiality, which to me, is not com- mon sense. And I wondered if they real- ly understood it.” Lewis said the information was not shared “to protect the health informa- tion privacy of all residents and staﬀ.” All staﬀ who test positive “are re- moved from working during their isola- tion time,” Lewis said, and residents are isolated in their living units so “there is no location to avoid.” “If the residents follow the safety protocols in place, they are protected,” he said. “We do not want residents to feel safe or avoid certain places while being less safe in others. No one know (s) who might be carrying undiagnosed COVID.” When the pandemic took hold, Coch- ran’s children would study state reports on cases and outbreaks. The state’s health department has been publishing outbreak data for the entire Capital Manor campus during the pandemic. The state doesn’t regulate indepen- dent senior living communities, but at Capital Manor, some workers are shared between independent living and other areas that do face state regulation. “Depending on the state require- ments at a given time, masks and face shields were required when any worker was in the licensed areas,” Lewis said. “Workers are screened for COVID-19, are required to wash hands frequently, and to always wear a mask (unless in an of- ﬁce privately or actively eating or drink- ing).” Residents shared common areas dur- ing the pandemic when the state al- lowed it, Lewis said. Cochran started visiting more often in Portland in April 2020, said her daughter, Claire Martin. Martin and her brother and sister live together in Portland, and Cochran’s vis- its with them started getting longer that fall. She moved in with them in early No- vember 2020, Martin said. “My children and I decided it would be safer in an environment that was more controlled,” Cochran said. Cochran stayed until mid-February 2021, but she still visits and stays in Portland often. She also spends time on the coast, where she has a timeshare. ‘I don’t see an end to it for a while’ Cochran was born in 1933, the same year that Franklin Delano Roosevelt, partially paralyzed by polio, was sworn in as president of the United States. It wouldn’t be until the mid-1950s be- fore a safe and eﬀective polio vaccine was developed. “It was a mystery disease,” Cochran said. “Polio was really terrible. They closed down the swimming pools – I was a swimmer. And movies. You didn’t go anywhere. It was a very frightening thing.” Now that Cochran is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, including a booster shot, she’s been back playing mahjong and going to her study club. Cochran and some neighbors like to have a cocktail in the evenings, and she’s a frequent visitor to the communi- ty’s ﬁber arts room, where she’s been making colorful little stuﬀed elephants for kids in the Head Start program. But she said she’s still not going to the movies or eating inside at busy res- taurants. “How long is this going to last?” Cochran asked. “I don’t see an end to it for a while.” She wishes people would wash their hands, avoid crowds and get vaccinat- ed. Asked in late November whether she was frustrated by the length of the pan- demic, she said yes – but was in good spirits. “I think I have more knowledge about what happens, and it’s a little frighten- ing too, certainly,” Cochran said, “But I’m in a good stage of life because I don’t mind staying in. I’ve got lots of things I do here. And it really hasn’t been a big hardship.” In early January, Cochran had to quarantine for a week because she was exposed to COVID-19. Her daughter brought a rapid test down to Salem, and she tested negative. Cochran missed taking walks out- side, but took a practical approach to being stuck indoors. “Since I’m stuck at home, I decided to try to get my taxes in order as far as I can at this time,” Cochran said. “And I hate doing that. So this is a good time to get that going.” Claire Withycombe is a reporter at the Statesman Journal. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, 503-910-3821 or follow on Twitter @kcwithycombe.