August 19, 2021

Dear friends and neighbors,

This past weekend, our region — known for its pleasant, if not flat-out gorgeous and inviting, summer weather — endured its third dangerous heat wave of the year. Once exceedingly rare, we are beginning to see the consequences of human-caused climate change reflected in extreme heat events that occur more frequently and intensely, and last longer.

The work of responding to the impacts of severe or extreme weather caused by the climate crisis is a responsibility shared by Multnomah County, our partners and the community. And we are committed to using the full capability of the County to being leaders in this collective effort. This means leading long-term and big-picture efforts like reducing the use of fossil fuels and carbon emissions.

And it also means taking steps to ensure that our community members have what they need to be safe during periods of extreme heat. Just over a month and a half ago, Multnomah County experienced three consecutive days of record-breaking heat that none of us — and relatively few people on this planet — had ever physically experienced. It was an historic and unprecedented heat event that, despite outreach from the County, our partners and volunteers, resulted in the tragic heat-related deaths of too many people. We owed it to our community to swiftly investigate what worked, what didn’t and how we can improve our response going forward.

Multnomah County produces an After Action Report in the wake of every large emergency to gather lessons and determine the changes we need to make to be better prepared for the next crisis, but that process often takes several months. I directed our departments to expedite this critical assessment and develop a preliminary set of findings. What resulted is a candid and clear-eyed examination of every phase and level of our response, and an accounting of the tangible steps we can, and must, take when we respond to extreme heat events.

We released the report yesterday, but we actually implemented many of the necessary, potentially life-saving changes documented in the report during the two heat waves we experienced since June’s extreme heat event. Among these new steps were the states of emergency that both I and the mayor of Portland declared to allow maximum flexibility in staffing and spending; emergency alerts that notified residents of the dangerous conditions; the opening of an additional cooling center in Southeast Portland; and ensuring that TriMet would allow anyone to take public transit to a cooling resource, regardless of their ability to pay.

And as with any emergency, Multnomah County does not — and cannot — act alone. I am profoundly grateful to everyone in our community who has taken the time, energy or resources to care for their neighbors during this summer’s multiple heat waves, whether it was through distributing water and cooling supplies to neighbors experiencing homelessness, sharing information about cooling resources, volunteering at a Cooling Center, or simply checking in on their neighbors. 

Multnomah County will continue to bring together and leverage the combined strength of our organization, our residents and our partners to build a community that is safe, equitable and climate resilient. Our shared future depends on it. 

Other notable news and resources

Masks required in indoor, public spaces: On Aug. 9, in response to the surge in COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant and the growing strain on our regional healthcare systems and hospitals, I issued an executive rule requiring face coverings or masks in all public, indoor spaces in Multnomah County. However, the next day, Gov. Kate Brown announced a statewide indoor mask mandate. To assure consistency and to avoid confusion, the County will follow the statewide mandate, which went into effect last Friday, Aug. 13. Learn more about the mask mandate and find answers to frequently asked questions.

Please get vaccinated! Vaccines are safe, free and effective. While vaccines are neither a guarantee against sickness or a cure for COVID-19, the data shows that they are overwhelmingly successful at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death. 

Multnomah County continues to host regularly scheduled COVID-19 vaccine clinics Tuesday through Saturday. While the County’s vaccine clinics focus on reaching people who are Black, Indigenous, Latino, Pacific Islander, Asian, or other people of color, immigrants, refugees, and people without health insurance or a regular healthcare provider, everyone is welcome and no one will be turned away. Gift cards are also available for everyone 12 years or older who gets a COVID-19 vaccine at a Multnomah County Health Department vaccine clinic. 

If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, please visit our Vaccination Clinic webpage to find a time and location that works for you. You can also find other vaccine providers in Oregon here.

Eviction protectionsIf you receive a notice of eviction for nonpayment, call 2-1-1 immediately to get directly connected to information and resources about rapid-payment rent assistance that can help you avoid eviction.

If you owe rent or are concerned that you won’t be able to pay next month’s rent, visit multco.us/rentrelief to learn about applying for help, your rights, current eviction protections and other legal resources.

Please stay safe and stay healthy,

Deborah Kafoury
Multnomah County Chair

Opportunities to use your voice

Oregon Historical Society Levy Oversight Committee: In May 2021 Multnomah County voters approved the renewal of a five-year levy to support the Oregon Historical Society and the four east Multnomah County historical societies: the Gresham, Troutdale and Crown Point Country historical societies, and the East County Historical Organization. The measure also created an independent community oversight committee that will be charged with reviewing all levy expenditures to ensure that funds are spent as approved by voters. The committee will also advise and support OHS in ensuring that its board, partnerships, staff, exhibits and programs represent Multnomah County’s diverse communities. 

Learn more about the OHS Levy Oversight Committee and submit an online application by August 23 at 9 a.m. 

You can also nominate someone to serve on the Levy Oversight Committee. Send an email to mult.chair@multco.us with the nominee’s contact information and my office will invite them to participate in an informal information session to gauge their level of interest. 

Redistricting feedback: Redistricting is the process of redrawing established County Commissioner district boundaries to account for changes in population following the U.S. Census, which occurs every 10 years. At that time, the Multnomah County Auditor assesses the populations in each district to help ensure each person in the county receives equal representation. (Learn more about how redistricting works.)

Given the population growth of Multnomah County in the last few years, we expect commissioner districts to change. In light of this, the Auditor would like to hear from county residents on what you like and don’t like about your (and other) district boundaries and how they might better reflect the communities within each district. Visit this questionnaire page to learn how you can submit feedback to the Auditor and help her make decisions during the redistricting process that support community connections.