Why did an Oregon health official dressed like a clown read off the coronavirus death toll?

A video in which Oregon Health Authority officials dressed in costume give COVID-19 information is getting national attention, almost two weeks after it was initially posted.

The reason? A screenshot of the video showing an official in sad clown makeup reading off the daily virus death toll was shared widely on social media after it was tweeted by an Oregonian/OregonLive reporter, Samantha Swindler.

The story has been covered by Fox News, The Independent, TMZ and others.

Dr. Claire Poché, a public health physician with the Oregon Health Authority, kicked off the Halloween safety video by removing her surgical mask to reveal a full face of clown make-up, somewhat reminiscent of the Joker, one of Batman’s creepiest rivals.

“As of today, there have been 38,160 cases of COVID-19 in Oregon, with 390 new cases being reported today,” Poché said. “Sadly, we are also reporting three deaths today, bringing the statewide total for COVID-19 related deaths to 608.”

The optics aren’t ideal, especially as Oregon, like many states, deals with surging coronavirus cases.

Robb Cowie, communications director for the Oregon Health Authority, said the agency regretted how that part of the video was handled.

“We regret that, earlier this month, three tragic COVID-19 deaths were announced during a Facebook Live event focused on preventing the spread of COVID-19 during Halloween celebrations,” Cowie said in a statement.

“We mourn every person who has died from COVID-19 and we acknowledge the pain and loss their passing has left in the lives of their loved ones,” he said. “We’ll continue to do everything we can to warn Oregonians about the risks of COVID-19 and the steps they can take to protect themselves and the people around them.”

The rest of the video was a little less dark.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is reshaping how Oregonians celebrate holidays, and that includes Halloween but it doesn’t mean Halloween can’t still be spooky and fun this year,” Dr. Shimi Sharief, a health adviser to the Oregon Health Authority, said later while dressed in a fuzzy animal onesie.

Sharief and Poché offered plenty of trick-or-treating alternatives and did an informative question-and-answer session, which included an explanation about why trick-or-treating is riskier than going through a drive-thru.

“Although outdoor activities are generally less risky than indoor activities,” Poché said, “trick-or-treating is high risk because kids tend to get excited, which can lead to crowding people who aren’t members of their household.”

It isn’t until seven minutes in that either doctor acknowledges they are wearing costumes, and they never discuss the decision to wear them.

Poché refers to herself as a clown obliquely about 12 and a half minutes into the video

“As for me, we clowns kind of took a backseat to Halloween,” she said. “We were kind of relegated to birthday parties for several years. There were some bad actors who dressed up as clowns back in Halloween, I don’t know, maybe it was 2015, but I’m hoping to bring us back as the fun-loving, and happy clowns that we

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Oregon could become 1st US state to decriminalize hard drugs

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — In what would be a first in the U.S., possession of small amounts of heroin, cocaine, LSD and other hard drugs could be decriminalized in Oregon under a ballot measure that voters are deciding on in Tuesday’s election.

Measure 110 is one of the most watched initiatives in Oregon because it would drastically change how the state’s justice system treats people caught with amounts for their personal use.

Instead of being arrested, going to trial and facing possible jail time, the users would have the option of paying $100 fines or attending new, free addiction recovery centers.


The centers would be funded by tax revenue from retail marijuana sales in the state that was the country’s first to decriminalize marijuana possession.

It may sound like a radical concept even in one of the most progressive U.S. states — but countries including Portugal, the Netherlands and Switzerland have already decriminalized possession of small amounts of hard drugs, according to the United Nations.

Portugal’s 2000 decriminalization brought no surge in drug use. Drug deaths fell while the number of people treated for drug addiction in the country rose 20% from 2001 to 2008 and then stabilized, Portuguese officials have said.

The U.N. Chief Executives Board for Coordination, chaired by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, is also advocating a different approach.

In a 2019 report, the board announced its commitment to “promote alternatives to conviction and punishment in appropriate cases, including the decriminalization of drug possession for personal use.”

Doing so would also “address prison overcrowding and overincarceration by people accused of drug crimes,” said the board, which is made up of the leaders of all U.N. agencies, funds and other bodies.

Oregon’s measure is backed by the Oregon Nurses Association, the Oregon chapter of the American College of Physicians and the Oregon Academy of Family Physicians.

“Punishing people for drug use and addiction is costly and hasn’t worked. More drug treatment, not punishment, is a better approach,” the groups said in a statement.

Opponents include two dozen district attorneys who urged a no vote, saying the measure “recklessly decriminalizes possession of the most dangerous types of drugs (and) will lead to an increase in acceptability of dangerous drugs.”

Three other district attorneys back the measure, including the top prosecutor in Oregon’s most populous county, which includes Portland, the state’s largest city.

“Misguided drug laws have created deep disparities in the justice system,” said Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt. “Arresting people with addictions is a cruel punishment because it slaps them with a lifelong criminal record that can ruin lives.”

Jimmy Jones, executive director of Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action, a group that helps homeless people, said arresting people who are using but not dealing hard drugs makes life extremely difficult for them.

“Every time that this happens, not only does that individual enter the criminal justice system but it makes it very difficult for us, on the back end, to house any of these folks because a lot of landlords

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2 drug measures on Oregon ballot

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — War veterans with PTSD, terminally ill patients and others suffering from anxiety are backing a ballot measure that would legalize controlled, therapeutic use in Oregon of psilocybin mushrooms, which they say has helped them immeasurably.

“After chemo failed, I went to a pretty dark place,” said Mara McGraw, a Portland woman who has terminal cancer. “I was feeling hopeless about treatment and about the future.”

Then she tried the psychedelic mushroom, more commonly known as “magic mushrooms,” with a trained facilitator standing by.


“It was a very safe and nurturing experience for me. I immediately felt a release from the fear,” McGraw told a video news conference.

On the national level, a clinical trial of psilocybin is underway to test its potential antidepressant properties, the U.S. government’s National Library of Medicine says. Backers of Measure 109 say the state, which was the first in the nation to decriminalize marijuana, should lead the way in legalizing therapeutic, regulated use of psilocybin, often referred to as magic mushrooms.

A second Oregon ballot question, Measure 110, would decriminalize possession of small amounts of heroin, cocaine, LSD, oxycodone and some other drugs. Its backers say drug addiction is a health issue and should not cause people to be imprisoned and saddled with criminal records. If Oregon voters approve Measure 110, the state would be the first to decriminalize those drugs.

The psilocybin initiative, however, is about overcoming depression, supporters say.

“An estimated 1 in every 5 adults in Oregon is coping with a mental health condition,” 20 doctors and other health care workers wrote in the voters pamphlet. “We support Measure 109 because it provides a new treatment for many that might break through where others fall short.”

It would require the Oregon Health Authority to allow licensed, regulated production and possession of psilocybin exclusively for administration by licensed facilitators to clients. There would be a two-year development period for the program.

The only argument in opposition in the pamphlet came from the Oregon Psychiatric Physicians Association and the American Psychiatric Association.

“We believe that science does not yet indicate that psilocybin is a safe medical treatment for mental health conditions,” the groups said.

But several military veterans believe psilocybin therapy is a life-saver, especially when suicide among veterans is so high. Some 20 veterans die by suicide each day in the U.S., about 1.5 times higher than those who have not served in the military.

Chad Kuske said he developed post-traumatic stress disorder after serving as a Navy SEAL for 18 years with 12 combat deployments,

“I was really suffering from stress, anxiety, depression. I was angry all the time,” Kuske said. Then a former member of his team visited Kuske in Portland on his way to a psilocybin therapy session. Through his friend, Kuske also signed up for one.

“I’m very fortunate that that I was able to find this therapy, administered by people who care and who really had my best interests in mind and do it

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2 drug legalization measures on Oregon ballot

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — War veterans with PTSD, terminally ill patients and others suffering from anxiety are backing a ballot measure that would legalize controlled, therapeutic use in Oregon of psilocybin mushrooms, which they say has helped them immeasurably.

“After chemo failed, I went to a pretty dark place,” said Mara McGraw, a Portland woman who has terminal cancer. “I was feeling hopeless about treatment and about the future.”

Then she tried the psychedelic mushroom, more commonly known as “magic mushrooms,” with a trained facilitator standing by.


“It was a very safe and nurturing experience for me. I immediately felt a release from the fear,” McGraw told a video news conference.

On the national level, a clinical trial of psilocybin is underway to test its potential antidepressant properties, the U.S. government’s National Library of Medicine says. Backers of Measure 109 say the state, which was the first in the nation to decriminalize marijuana, should lead the way in legalizing therapeutic, regulated use of psilocybin, often referred to as magic mushrooms.

A second Oregon ballot question, Measure 110, would decriminalize possession of small amounts of heroin, cocaine, LSD, oxycodone and some other drugs. Its backers say drug addiction is a health issue and should not cause people to be imprisoned and saddled with criminal records. If Oregon voters approve Measure 110, the state would be the first to decriminalize those drugs.

The psilocybin initiative, however, is about overcoming depression, supporters say.

“An estimated 1 in every 5 adults in Oregon is coping with a mental health condition,” 20 doctors and other health care workers wrote in the voters pamphlet. “We support Measure 109 because it provides a new treatment for many that might break through where others fall short.”

It would require the Oregon Health Authority to allow licensed, regulated production and possession of psilocybin exclusively for administration by licensed facilitators to clients. There would be a two-year development period for the program.

The only argument in opposition in the pamphlet came from the Oregon Psychiatric Physicians Association and the American Psychiatric Association.

“We believe that science does not yet indicate that psilocybin is a safe medical treatment for mental health conditions,” the groups said.

But several military veterans believe psilocybin therapy is a life-saver, especially when suicide among veterans is so high. Some 20 veterans die by suicide each day in the U.S., about 1.5 times higher than those who have not served in the military.

Chad Kuske said he developed post-traumatic stress disorder after serving as a Navy SEAL for 18 years with 12 combat deployments,

“I was really suffering from stress, anxiety, depression. I was angry all the time,” Kuske said. Then a former member of his team visited Kuske in Portland on his way to a psilocybin therapy session. Through his friend, Kuske also signed up for one.

“I’m very fortunate that that I was able to find this therapy, administered by people who care and who really had my best interests in mind and do it

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