Letter from the Editor: Were changing the cadence of our coronavirus coverage – OregonLive

A once in a lifetime pandemic. Portland protests that stretched from late May 2020 to November, and beyond. The unprecedented Oregon wildfire season. A run of extreme heat we hope will never be repeated (but fear will be).

The Oregonian/OregonLives newsroom has spent the past 16 months covering all of that and more. It has been a sometimes exhilarating and often exhausting experience. To those journalists who ventured out last week in 100-plus degree weather to cover the news, the hardy band of photographers and reporters who turned out night after night for protests, the ones who headed toward the fire lines, I salute you.

On Friday, Feb. 28, 2020, reporter Fedor Zarkhin published the news of Oregons first reported coronavirus case. Shortly thereafter, The Oregonian/OregonLives newsroom reorganized around virus coverage to ensure as many angles as possible were covered. As we were soon to find out, the COVID-19 outbreak would touch nearly every aspect of our lives.

Now, as vaccinations abound and coronavirus cases drop, I wanted to let readers know about some changes in our pandemic coverage. One of the mainstays has been a daily post listing new cases, deaths and hospitalizations.

As of this coming week, we will post the numbers weekly instead of daily. Thats in recognition that the case numbers have dropped significantly in the past few months, as vaccines rolled out, and it allows us to free our journalists to do deeper reporting.

The editor who organized and led much of our COVID-19 coverage, Brad Schmidt, says, This past week marked a clear turning point in the pandemic across several fronts.

First, he said, Oregon saw average new cases drop below 200 a day, the lowest point since September.

Second, Schmidt says, Gov. Kate Brown has lifted nearly all coronavirus restrictions. And third, the Oregon Health Authority announced it would discontinue holiday and weekend reporting of several key data points. The state instead will release that information on the next business day.

Going forward, our weekly update will include new cases, deaths, and other key statistics. That weekly story will publish online Mondays or, in the event of holidays, the following business day.

For readers who want to stay up on the latest numbers, The Oregonian/OregonLive will continue to update data online every day the Oregon Health Authority releases new stats.

That means you can continue visiting https://projects.oregonlive.com/coronavirus/ to see up-to-date figures on cases, deaths, hospitalizations, vaccinations and more. Data analysts Mark Friesen and Dave Cansler have worked behind the scenes to add features to that page, including a section devoted to county-level data.

Our coronavirus newsletter, which has been delivered five days a week, will move to twice weekly.

What wont change: Our commitment to delivering thorough, accurate news about COVID-19 and its many effects.

Zarkhin and reporter Aimee Green will continue to look for in-depth stories related to the pandemic. Schmidt says that will include examining virus variants, efforts to improve vaccination rates among Black, Indigenous and people of color populations, and progress on vaccinations for children younger than 12.

Education reporter Eder Campuzano will track plans to reopen schools safely and issues that arise there for parents, students and teachers.

Business reporter Mike Rogoway will keep an eye on Oregons Employment Department. The department generated lots of news over the months as it struggled with antiquated computer systems, COVID-10 outbreaks in call centers and unprecedented demand due to layoffs.

In fact, The Oregonian/OregonLive is currently pressing the state to release how much taxpayer money was lost to unemployment fraud in Oregon during the pandemic.

The amount could be significant. The Associated Press reported earlier this year that California alone estimated it sent out $11 billion in fraudulent payments. Washington state was also hard hit, estimating $650 million in losses in 2020, though it has worked to recover $370 million.

Oregon has released limited information on its losses, arguing that releasing more would make the system vulnerable to additional fraud.

The Oregonian/OregonLive also remains committed to other pandemic-related business news. Jamie Goldberg has spent months reporting on workplace issues, payroll help for businesses large and small and landlord-tenant relief. She will continue on these subjects, while also assuming some editing duties.

Goldberg and Rogoway also are following the recovery of downtown Portland. Read our work on that project at oregonlive.com/downtown.

Thanks to our subscribers for supporting all of this important public service journalism.

The Mutts comic is going on sabbatical starting July 5, 2021.

Comics fans: Mutts will be replaced temporarily by Curtis on the comics pages. The creator of Mutts, Patrick McDonnell, is taking a six-month sabbatical to work on another project. That gives us the opportunity to give readers a glimpse at a fresh strip. Let me know what you think of Curtis, which starts Monday. The creator of the strip, Ray Billingsley, bases the comic on his own childhood. Its described as humorous, thought-provoking (with) bursts of pure zany fantasy.

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Letter from the Editor: Were changing the cadence of our coronavirus coverage - OregonLive

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