News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

COVID drops coal in Sisters’ stocking

The coronavirus pandemic just put a big lump of coal in Sisters’ Christmas stocking.

In the face of surging caseloads and hospitalizations across Oregon and Deschutes County, Sisters Area Chamber of Commerce has announced that they are canceling their traditional holiday activities in Sisters Country. That means no Community Christmas Tree Lighting, no Christmas Parade, and no visits with Santa.

That announcement came as Governor Kate Brown on Friday, November 13, announced a “two-week freeze” enacting renewed restrictions focused on limiting the spread of the coronavirus (see sidebar for list of restrictions).

Freeze measures will be in place from November 18 through December 2 through the entire state. Some “hot spot” counties, such as Multnomah County, will be under the freeze for longer periods.

“Maybe we thought the fight was over, but it’s not,” said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the state epidemiologist, at Friday’s press conference. “This is likely the most dangerous time in Oregon.”

According to the Associated Press, ‘The percent of people testing positive was nearly 12 percent statewide, more than double what it was in the summer, according to Oregon Health Authority data.”

The most recent data shows that Sisters has seen 51 confirmed cases (cumulative), after holding at 35 for many weeks. Deschutes County is facing the sharpest increase in cases since the beginning of the pandemic, according to Deschutes County Health Services Director Dr. George Conway, who addressed the Bend City Council last Thursday.

“I think we all regard this as alarming,” Conway said.

As of last Friday, St. Charles Health System reported 14 COVID-19 patients, three of them in the ICU with two on a ventilator.

Last week, St. Charles CEO Joe Sluka stated that, “It appears we have officially hit a third wave. But unlike the last two, we never reset back to zero hospitalized patients. Our number of inpatients has held steady in recent weeks until last Friday (November 6) when it essentially doubled overnight.”

Sluka expressed concern that a potential spike associated with holiday gatherings could push the limits of the hospital’s capacity.

Dr. Joe Bachtold of St. Charles Health System told The Nugget that, “We’re seeing that the lion’s share of new cases are from people getting together in small groups — 10 or less.”

He said that, like other areas in the country, folks in Sisters are experiencing “COVID-fatigue.”

“People are letting their guard down,” he said. “We’re learning to live with COVID, but it doesn’t mean we can change our behavior. That’s going to be really important. We’re all tired of it. I get it.”

Dr. Bachtold noted that concerns over COVID-19 have led to an increase in doctor visits from people exhibiting symptoms that turn out to be regular seasonal illness.

“We’re mostly seeing people with early cold symptoms — the seasonal cold,” he said. “The lion’s share of those people are negative (when tested for COVID-19). They are calling to be evaluated when otherwise they wouldn’t have. If it was last year, they would not have darkened our door.”

But it is 2020 and Sisters continues to live in the shadow of a global pandemic that does not appear to be poised to ease any time soon.

Author Bio

Jim Cornelius, Editor in Chief

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Jim Cornelius is editor in chief of The Nugget and author of “Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans.” A history buff, he explores frontier history across three centuries and several continents on his podcast, The Frontier Partisans. For more information visit


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