Home December 2020 Newberg university, Salem mission grapple with recent COVID spikes

Newberg university, Salem mission grapple with recent COVID spikes


Both Union Gospel Mission of Salem and George Fox University in Newberg responded quickly to combat COVID-19 outbreaks last month.

As reported Nov. 9 by the Statesman Journal newspaper of Salem, the Union Gospel Mission’s men’s shelter, mission store and donation warehouse temporarily closed their doors for about 10 days because of COVID.  Nine men who tested positive and 60 more who were exposed were asked to stay at the mission, although they could not be barred from leaving.  Three or four who had tested positive did eventually leave and no new clients were allowed in.

The outbreak began with one client testing positive the week of October 27 and who was then quarantined.  On Nov. 5, the shelter had eight more postiive tests.  A worker at the mission store also tested positive.

The mission’s Simonka Place women’s shelter was not affected and remained open.  The men’s shelter, store and donation warehouse were fully sanitized.

The mission continued to serve guests and clients on a limited basis, not allowing new intakes and offering curbside food service and cold weather items.

After no new cases or symptoms of COVID were detected, the mission was cleared on Nov. 19 to again accept guest intakes at the men’s shelter, although new protocols were put in the place for the safety of staff and guests.  New entrants to the shelter must accept a COVID test resulting in a negative outcome. To-go meals and masks are still available to those who decline a test and cannot enter the building.

The mission store and donation center reopened Nov. 16 after all personnel tested negative.

In late November, the mission was monitoring potential COVID cases among guests at the women’s shelter and was working with local health officials to safely quarantine and isolate individuals as they awaited their test results.

After going 10 weeks without a single COVID-19 case among on-campus residential students, George Fox saw its first on-campus cases in the final month of its fall semester as Oregon’s record spike in cases came to campus.

In the first five days of November, the university saw seven COVID-19 positive tests among Newberg residential undergraduate students. Staff traced the source of nearly all cases to off-campus events, either social gatherings or family gatherings. In the next seven days, two more residential students had positive tests.

The university promptly placed students who had been in close contact into quarantine as a preventative measure to prevent further spread. They were delivered meals and were checked on daily. Close-contact students living off campus also were told to quarantine and were assigned a university care manager who maintained daily contact. As of Nov. 19, the university had reported a semester total of 17 total positive tests among on-campus students.

George Fox conducts testing on campus of students with symptoms and most close contacts of positive cases. The university also conducted surveillance testing of up to 200 students a week for those who had no symptoms. and isolated individuals as they awaited their test results.