All blog posts created by Communications Office
  • Mercy Corps and Medical Teams International Provide Ebola Status Report to Sen. Wyden

    Oregon-based groups describe their work fighting Ebola; offer perspective on the threat the disease poses

    With the swirl of uncertainty, anxiety and saturation news coverage surrounding Ebola, Sen. Wyden decided to seek out experts to learn more about the disease and the efforts underway to combat it both here and overseas.

    Ron didn’t have to go very far. The Portland area is home to Mercy Corps and Medical Teams International – two world-class organizations that are on the frontlines in the battle against Ebola in West Africa.

    On Thursday he met in Portland with Craig Redmond, senior vice president of Programs at Mercy Corps and Joe DiCarlo, vice president of programs at Medical Teams International.

    Both these organizations have staff on the ground in West Africa doing difficult and heroic work under very tough conditions. The work they and others are doing in this battle cannot be praised and recognized enough.

    It also means Redmond and DiCarlo have valuable first-hand knowledge of what’s working and what’s not as we battle the disease. They know what changes are needed and most importantly, they can offer clear-headed suggestions for how to talk about this serious public health threat.

    What they told Sen. Wyden only reinforced some important points:

    • Ebola is dangerous but the likelihood of people in everyday life in the United States becoming infected is miniscule since the only way to contract Ebola is by coming into direct contact with body fluids of an infected person. The recent cases in Texas have highlighted changes in hospital protocol, education and infection control that should add additional protections and assurance that the disease is being contained.

    • And while we must be vigilant and fully prepared, people living in Oregon need to keep in mind some absolute facts: There are no direct flights to or from countries affected by the outbreak, which adds additional layers of security from the disease.

    • The federal government is providing more robust screening of passengers from countries affected by Ebola. In the very unlikely event that Ebola reaches Oregon, state and local health departments have been working closely with the CDC to establish effective quarantine and isolation procedures.

    A key challenge for Mercy Corps and Medical Teams International is training community health workers in the affected countries with a special focus on prevention and getting vital health information on the ground to trusted community leaders.

    Both organizations also stressed the need to make sure badly needed supplies are not held up by Liberian officials in Liberian ports. As Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Wyden told officials he would follow up to see what steps must be taken to loosen that bottleneck.

    Solving the bottleneck is important here because, while the cases in the United States are an alarming wake-up call, health officials - including one from Mercy Corps and Medical Teams International - agree that the way to end the epidemic and protect us all is by extinguishing it at the source in West Africa.

    Mercy Corps, for example, is providing crucial assistance in helping educate people in Liberia about the best ways to respond to Ebola and protect themselves. Public health experts agree that this is essential to breaking the chain of infection.

    Medical Teams International, meanwhile, is providing medical supplies and training for community health workers to help prevent the spread of the virus. This is equally crucial to stopping the chain of infection and to stabilize the populations in West Africa as much as possible until the full weight of the international response is in place.

    After the briefing, Sen. Wyden met with a standing-room only gathering of about 125 workers from both organizations, fielding questions for nearly an hour.

    He told the gathering that he was there to “listen and learn” in a non-politicized setting.

    And he praised both Oregon-based groups for their heroic work and the stellar reputations that both carry worldwide.

    "Your organizations are both synonymous with trust," Wyden said. “All of you in your program make us so proud because this is a chance for Oregonians to help and for Oregonians to send a message about what our values are all about.

    Asked about the potential that a downturn in the stock market might spark economic uncertainty, Sen. Wyden said to loud applause that he will preserve the charitable deduction - crucial to organizations like Mercy Corps and Medical Teams International - as part of tax reform.

    It is not a loophole,” he said. “It is a lifeline.

  • Working for Oregon: Spotlight on Health care, Trade & Taxes

    Traveling throughout Oregon during August, Ron talked with folks about his new role as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and what it means for Oregon. As chair, he can focus even more on crafting policies to create a strong and diverse economy that will generate good-paying jobs, which give all Americans a fair shot at success. In Oregon this means policies that create economic conditions that encourage higher wages and new jobs in fields like technology and trade. Technology is vital to Oregon’s economy --  the tech sector employs more than 60,000 people in the state.  At TechFestNW, Ron outlined the economic impact that NSA mass surveillance has had on the tech industry and the need to create new privacy protections for consumers and businesses. 

    One of the most important tools for creating conditions that will grow Oregon’s economy with good-paying jobs, and to expand the middle-class is the tax code. In Talent, Ron heard from employees and owners at Brammo – makers of cutting-edge electric motorcycles –on how tax credits for electric vehicles and research and development are allowing them to expand and hire more Oregonians.

    Brammo’s leaders also said it is crucial to pry open new markets in Asia and Europe to continue expanding their southern Oregon business. Wyden is working to bulldoze barriers to Oregon products overseas and help companies like Brammo thrive.

    In Portland, Ron visited Albina Head Start’s newest facility where New Market Tax Credits will allow this fantastic program to continue providing its early childhood education services to low-income families.

    Better care for Oregon’s Seniors

    Ron also visited Central Oregon to hear from health care leaders and consumers about their difficulties with the current Medicare system. Their comments at the Bend forum dovetailed with Ron’s bill to improve the Medicare system for recipients with multiple chronic conditions, such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes or Alzheimer’s disease. The bipartisan “Better Care, Lower Cost Act of 2014” would help Medicare recipients, especially in rural areas, get better coordinated care while reducing expenses in the Medicare system.

    Protecting communities from oil trains

    Ongoing concerns over oil train safety prompted Ron and Senator Merkley to meet with first responders and others in the Willamette Valley who’d be responsible if there were an accident involving the transportation of oil. At the forum in Eugene, both senators heard local officials express worries about  thousands of gallons of flammable oil moving through Oregon communities without any notice from railroads. And both senators pledged they would fight for transparency in new federal rules, to ensure local fire departments and first responders have the information they need to keep communities as safe as possible.

  • School Libraries, Summer Lunch, Summer Learning

    Hunger doesn’t take the summer off and learning shouldn’t either. That’s why over the Fourth of July week Ron visited summer learning sites in Oregon. OregonASK (Oregon Afterschool Network), National Summer Learning Association, and their partners work with local schools to provide lunch and access to books and activities to Oregon kids in the summer. Low-income students more likely to experience the “summer slide” since they often lack the opportunities to keep learning over the summer.

    Ron stopped by three of the twenty-six School Libraries, Summer Lunch, Summer Learning sites. The first was Nellie Muir Elementary School in Woodburn where he read to students participating in the program. He also answered their questions including what it means to be a senator and what he does for Oregon.

    At Grant School in Salem and Guy Lee Park in Springfield, Senator Wyden helped to serve lunch, read with students and participated in a roundtable of Oregon educators and officials to discuss how to provide more kids with access to Summer Lunch, Summer Learning programs.

    During the week Ron also held his annual Curry and Coos County town halls, stopped at Ninkasi Brewing on the way, and marched in one of the best parades in Oregon – the Fourth of July parade in Ashland.

    After visiting the summer learning sites, Ron vowed to help efforts like these that make sure no kid goes hungry or experiences learning loss just because school’s out for the summer.