Virus negatively impacts broad range of local businesses
While the primarily concern of most Newberg-area residents is staying healthy amid the threat from the COVID-19 virus, the tangential threat to business and workers' livelihoods places a close second.
The March 16 announcement by Gov. Kate Brown that restaurants could only offer takeout food and drink services hit the region hard, especially to those restaurants that offered neither take-out nor drive-through service previously. But it wasn't only restaurants that suffered from the edict. Everything from gyms and hair salons to banks have been forced to close their doors as the state attempts to fight an all-out outbreak of the disease.
Of course, it wasn't Brown's decision alone to institute what some have characterized as Draconian measures to keep people safe. Many owners of restaurants and industries that supply restaurants called for the shut-down in the weeks leading up to the governor's proclamation. Included locally was Christian DeBenedetti, founder and head brewer of Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery in Newberg, as well as local wineries Stoller Family Estate and Chehalem Winery.
Once the state government's edict was handed down, hometown favorite restaurants like Jem 100 began instituting measures soon after. On March 16, the Main Street eatery began taking only call- and walk-in orders, but closing its dining room to the public.
On a larger scale, the Vancouver-based Burgerville chain of restaurants, which has a location in Newberg, was one of the first fast-food purveyors to take action, in fact closing its dining rooms to the public before Brown's announcement.
"Temporarily closing in-store seating is our way of practicing social distancing," Burgerville CEO Jill Taylor said in a prepared statement. "Our focus is on keeping our grills hot, shakes cold and fryers ready for drive-thru and delivery."
The restaurant is experiencing brisk business at its Portland Road location, one of 41 stores in the Northwest. Panda Express, which sits kitty-corner across Portland and Elliott roads from Burgerville, has adopted a similar model at its hundreds of locations throughout the west and has also experienced a steady stream of customers.
Excell Fitness closed its doors to its hundreds of members on March 18, originally planning to reopen on April 1. Although the doors remain closed the popular gym has directed people to myriad online "live" classes and videos that demonstrate workouts and techniques. The business took the unusual step of returning membership dues during the shutdown, only to be surprised by members' response
"That is very sweet," said member Kathy Cantrell on Facebook. "I am happy to continue to pay my dues as I love this gym and want to support it as much as possible."
The response caught owner David Faxon off guard.
"Wow! We are deeply touched by all of you who have offered to continue paying your dues to help us out," he said on Facebook. "Those of you who know me know that I am not often at a loss for words (but) my vocabulary fails me. I cannot express how much your generosity means to us."
Heritage Bank's new location in Newberg near the corner of Highway 99W and Brutscher Street closed its doors and limited in-person contacts to its drive-through as well.
"Our number one priority is the health and safety of our customers and employees," the bank said in a prepared statement in early March. "We are actively monitoring updates regarding the coronavirus disease … and we are taking the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and local state agencies seriously."
"We know the virus in in our communities," Brown said when she ordered the closures. "The only thing we know to do is slow the transmission. You can be contagious even if you are asymptomatic. Following the guidelines on social distancing is a matter of life and death for others."
Department of Revenue offices switching to appointment only to fight virus
The Oregon Department of Revenue announced last week that it will close its regional offices to the general public until further notice and accept payments and render services by appointment only. ODR officials are encouraging the public to use its online resources at www.oregon.gov/dor whenever possible to obtain tax forms, calculate a kicker amount, check the status of a refund or make tax payments. The public can also keep abreast of developments and the virus' impacts on taxes at www.oregon.gov/dor/Pages/COVID19.aspx.
State issues grace period on insurance deadlines
The Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services has issued a temporary emergency order in response to the COVID-19 outbreak that requires all insurance companies to extend grace periods for premium payments, postpone policy cancellations and non-renewals, and extend deadlines for reporting claims.
The order came about after widespread business closures, job losses and social distancing measures ordered by the state.
The disruption, according to a release from the ODCBS, has hindered some Oregonians' ability to pay insurance premiums, report claims and communicate with their insurance carriers.
"During this crisis, we must all do our best to help Oregonians focus on staying healthy, care for their families and prevent the spread of the coronavirus," insurance commissioner Andrew Stolfi said. "Many of our insurers have already stepped up and done the right thing. This order will ensure every Oregonian who needs it has relief from these insurance policy terms, giving them a measure of security and stability."
The order will remain in force until April 23, the release said, and could be extended at the discretion of the agency.
For more information, contact the ODCBS advocacy team at 888-877-4894 or visit www.dfr.oregon.gov.
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