Thursday, September 24, 2020
Sept. 24, 2020

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In Our View: Cheers & Jeers: Ups, downs in great outdoors

The Columbian

Cheers: To the great outdoors. The clouds are starting to lift on some shutdown restrictions, and people are taking advantage. After being cooped up for months because of the coronavirus pandemic, local residents visited parks and rivers this week to take advantage of hot, sunny days. Meanwhile, most trails and day-use areas in Mount Hood National Forest have reopened after being closed for two months.

The closures have been necessary — even when they are not strictly enforced; shutting down recreation areas reinforces the importance of stay-at-home orders as officials try to stem the spread of COVID-19. Now that some of those restrictions are loosening, common sense remains imperative. As Magan Reed of Clark County Public Works said: “Things like social distancing are still absolutely required in a park. If you show up to a park, and there’s too many people there, we ask you to go home and try another time.”

Jeers: Also to the great outdoors. While a desire to get outside is understandable, a few too many people were eager to climb Mount Hood over Memorial Day weekend. Mark Morford of Portland Mountain Rescue said, “It looked like a conga line going up Hogsback. … What a circus.” In addition to social distancing, safety precautions are necessary when hiking or mountain climbing or recreating on the river.

“People knock stuff down, including on each other. Every year somebody gets hurt just because of that,” he said. “The mountain just can’t handle as many people as are up there.” We wouldn’t want anybody who followed stay-at-home orders to be injured when they return to the outdoors.

Cheers: To recouping losses. State officials say they have recovered about $300 million paid out in fraudulent unemployment benefits. The scope of the fraud, believed to be spearheaded by a Nigerian group, remains unclear.

Employment Security Division Commissioner Suzi LeVine said state officials collaborated with federal law enforcement and financial institutions in recovering the money. Ideally, federal officials also will be able to identify individuals and bring criminal charges in relation to the scheme.

Jeers: To eschewing vaccines. The state Department of Health reports a significant decline in the number of children being vaccinated. Childhood vaccines dropped about 30 percent in March and 40 percent in April when compared with the previous five years, with some parents apparently reluctant to visit medical facilities during the pandemic. That means fewer children are protected against diseases such as measles and pertussis (whooping cough).

“Decreasing vaccinations increases the risk that we could see an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease,” said State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy. Childhood vaccines typically are administered on a schedule to ensure maximum effectiveness, and medical facilities have adopted strict measures to help keep patients safe. Children should receive vaccines as recommended.

Cheers: To accessibility. Behind a $2.5 million investment from Microsoft, the University of Washington has established a center to enhance technology accessibility for people with disabilities.

“This is the next step in a longstanding journey to empower people with disabilities with accessibility and technology advancements,” Microsoft President Brad Smith said of the Center for Research and Education on Accessible Technology and Experiences. The research conducted at the center could lead to advancements that make technology more available for all.