Rogue Valley News, Wednesday – 18 More Covid-19 Cases in Oregon; 3 More Deaths

The latest news stories in the Rogue Valley and around the state of Oregon from RogueValleyMagazine.com

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 25, 2020

Rogue Valley Weather

Today
Mostly cloudy with rain and snow showers mixed this afternoon. High of 45. Snow level rising to 2500 feet this afternoon. Snow accumulation up to 1 inch. Overnight a 30% chance of rain mixed with snow. Low of 30.

Thursday
Mostly cloudy in the morning then clearing. High of around 55. Overnight, cloudy and 34 degrees.

Friday
Mostly cloudy with a 30 percent chance of rain and snow. Snow level 3000 feet in the afternoon. Highs in the lower to mid 50s. Southwest winds around 5 mph.

Saturday
Mostly cloudy. Chance of rain and snow in the morning, then chance of rain showers in the afternoon. Highs in the lower to mid 50s.

Sunday
Mostly cloudy with a chance of rain showers. Highs in the lower to mid 50s.

Today’s Headlines

COVID-19 has claimed three more lives in Oregon raising the state’s death toll to eight according to the Oregon Health Authority.   Also reported are 18 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state total to 209, as of yesterday. Oregon has had 8 related deaths to the virus.

The COVID-19 cases reported yesterday are in the following counties: Clackamas (3), Clatsop (1), Jackson (1), Marion (2), Multnomah (4), and Washington (7). Oregon’s sixth COVID-19 death is a 78-year-old man in Clackamas County, who tested positive on March 15, and died March 22 at Kaiser Sunnyside Medical Center. He had underlying medical conditions.

Oregon’s seventh COVID-19 death is a 63-year-old man in Multnomah County, who had underlying medical conditions and was not hospitalized at the time of death. He tested positive on March 16, and died March 23. Oregon’s eighth COVID-19 death is a 90-year-old woman in Washington County, who tested positive on March 19, and died March 23 at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center. She had underlying medical conditions.

Closer to home Public health officials in Jackson County say that a third positive case of the COVID-19 coronavirus has been found in Jackson County. This case is believed to be a result of community spread, the first case in the area not believed to be travel-related.

Officials said there is no known travel-related exposure or contact with a known case. Therefore, this is believed to be community-acquired. Jackson County Public Health is working to identify and isolate/quarantine any individuals who may have been in close contact with the person in the last 14 days. The first two cases were announced on March 7th. Jackson County officials said that both were individuals that had traveled to areas with more active spread of the virus, and both were being isolated at home.

Governor Kate Brown said Tuesday that she is ‘gravely concerned’ about Oregon’s ability to deliver basic services over the next six months to a year because of the economic fallout from statewide closures, massive lay-offs by affected businesses and stay-at-home orders aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

According to the Governor the bottom line … is that we have far more needs than we have resources and the economy is tumbling down and we don’t know what that will look like until we have the forecast in mid-May. She said that she is gravely concerned about their ability to deliver basic services over the next six months to a year given the drop in revenues and that’s why she is encouraging the Legislature to be extremely fiscally prudent.

Brown plans to call a special session of the Legislature as early as next week to earmark $250 million for the COVID-19 response and to insure there is enough money for the upcoming wildfire season.

From the Grants Pass Dept. of Public Safety:

Stay Home Message: Our records unit is receiving numerous calls about businesses that are still open to the public. The latest Executive Order from the Governor prohibits the operation of the following businesses, for which close personal contact is difficult or impossible to avoid.

Amusement parks; aquariums; arcades; art galleries (to the extent that they are open without appointment); barber shops and hair salons; bowling alleys; cosmetic stores; dance studios; esthetician practices; fraternal organization facilities; furniture stores; gyms and fitness studios (including climbing gyms); hookah bars; indoor and outdoor malls (i.e., all portions of a retail complex containing stores and restaurants in a single area); indoor party places (including jumping gyms and laser tag); jewelry shops and boutiques (unless they provide goods exclusively through pick-up or delivery service); medical spas, facial spas, day spas, and non-medical massage therapy services; museums; nail and tanning salons; non-tribal card rooms; skating rinks; senior activity centers; ski resorts; social and private clubs; tattoo/piercing parlors; tennis clubs; theaters; yoga studios; and youth clubs.

3. Paragraph 2 of this Executive Order does not apply to restaurants, bars, taverns, brew pubs, wine bars, cafes, food courts, coffee shops, or other similar establishments that offer food or drink, which remain subject to Executive Order No. 20-07 (prohibiting on-premises consumption of food or drink, but allowing take-out or delivery service).

Please review this list of businesses that the do apply to the Governor’s oder before making a call to the police to report they are open.

In support of the stay-at-home directive ordered by the state of Oregon, Pacific Power will maintain reliable power to all customers during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

The company will also continue to suspend late payment fees and disconnections for non-payment, as previously announced. Under Gov. Kate Brown’s order issued Monday, utility company employees, along with other essential critical infrastructure workers, are exempted from the stay-at-home order while performing job duties.

Employees have been informed of this and will carry their ID badges and any other documentation provided by the company at all times. In most cases, they will be in company branded vehicles and wearing company safety gear.

Crews will be at work ensuring that power interruptions are minimized during this time where uncertainty is high and most people are housebound. This is always the company’s top priority, but at this time crews will limit work to upgrades involving wildfire protection, projects critical to delivering power to customers, compliance obligations and outage response. Some of this work may require short-term power outages to complete work safely.

On Monday, March 23rd, a resident of the Redwood Towers located at 306 NW 6th St. reported a male subject was trying to steal the license plates off his car.  The reporting person attempted to stop the suspect from taking his plates and a fight ensued. 

During the fight, the suspect sprayed the victim with pepper spray and stabbed him in the hand with a screwdriver. He then fled the scene.

Officers arrived in the area, set a perimeter and began searching with police K-9.  While the K-9 was tracking the suspect, a male was contacted by one of the perimeter police units.  The male was identified as 34-year-old Christopher Cooper.  Resulting from the investigation that followed, Cooper was taken into custody and lodged for assault 2, attempted robbery 2, and unlawful use of pepper spray.  Cooper was lodged at the Josephine County Jail.  The victim refused medical treatment.

On Friday, Alejandro Alcala-Arroyo (24 years old) was arrested on sexual assault charges stemming from the unrelated rapes and sexual assaults of two juvenile females.

Each juvenile independently reported being brought to “the woods” by Alcala-Arroyo where each were sexually assaulted. Each female believed the perpetrator’s name to be “Alejandro Alcala.” The Medford Police Department continues to investigate these crimes and has reason to believe there could be additional victims in the community.

MPD is requesting anyone with information regarding Alcala-Arroyo call Medford Police Department Detective Diane Sandler (541-774-2247) or Medford Police Department Cultural Outreach Coordinator Lilia Caballero (541-840-1295). Reference Case 20-4494

AROUND THE STATE

Vehicle owners in Oregon will not be required to remove studded tires until May 1st according to a news release from the Oregon Department of Transportation.

This change is in response to the current public health emergency as they are taking steps to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Winter traction tires with protruding metal studs damage the surface of roads, requiring more frequent and expensive maintenance, and are typically allowed each winter season between November 1 and March 31.

The extension beyond the original March 31 deadline was approved yesterday by the Oregon Department of Transportation due to limited business hours and social distancing measures currently in place.

The Oregon Department of Revenue is making temporary changes to protect taxpayers and staff and help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19.

Beginning March 25, the Revenue Building in Salem and all regional field offices will close to the general public until further notice. Services and payments will be available by appointment only.

To make an appointment for tax services, please call the telephone number listed for the office below:
• Bend, 541-388-6139.
• Eugene, 541-686-7935.
• Gresham, 503-674-6272.
• Medford, 541-858-6500.
• Portland, 971-673-0700.
• Salem, 530-945-8774.
All in-person tax payments at the Salem headquarters also will require an appointment, which can be scheduled by calling 503-945-8050.

We encourage taxpayers to use our online resources at www.oregon.gov/dor whenever possible to obtain tax forms, calculate your kicker amount, check the status of your refund, or make tax payments using Revenue Online. The public can also keep up to date with the latest developments and news on the impacts of COVID-19 on taxes in Oregon by visiting www.oregon.gov/dor/Pages/COVID19.aspx.

State of Oregon Issues Grace Period Order for Insurance Deadlines

Salem – The Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services issued a temporary emergency order today in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. It requires all insurance companies to extend grace periods for premium payments, postpone policy cancellations and nonrenewals, and extend deadlines for reporting claims.

The COVID-19 outbreak has caused widespread business closures, job losses, and social distancing measures. This severe disruption to business in the state includes some Oregonians’ ability to make insurance premium payments, report claims, and communicate with their insurance companies.

“During this crisis, we must all do our best to help Oregonians focus on staying healthy, care for their families, and prevent the spread of the coronavirus,” said Andrew Stolfi, insurance commissioner. “Many of our insurers have already stepped up and done the right thing. This order will ensure every Oregonian who needs it has relief from these insurance policy terms, giving them a measure of security and stability.” 

Insurance companies must take steps immediately to do the following until the order is no longer in effect:

  • Institute a grace period for premium payments on all insurance policies issued in the state
  • Suspend all cancellations and nonrenewals for active insurance policies
  • Extend all deadlines for consumers to report claims and communicate about claims
  • Provide consumers the ability to make premium payments and report claims while maintaining safe social distancing standards

The order is effective immediately, and will be in force through at least April 23. If necessary, the department may extend the duration of this temporary order.

If Oregonians have questions or concerns about their insurance company or agent, they can contact the department’s advocacy team at 888-877-4894 (toll free) or visit dfr.oregon.gov for more information or to file a complaint.

For insurance and financial services information related to COVID-19, visit the department’s website: https://dfr.oregon.gov/insure/health/understand/Pages/coronavirus.aspx. 

Fremont-Winema National Forest managers want to encourage visitors enjoying the outdoors as we transition from winter to summer recreation to stay safe, be prepared and to be aware of regulations.

Springtime weather encourages getting outside for some fresh air.  However, there is still the chance for snow and winter weather conditions continue the increased risk for being outdoors – especially in the remote and rugged terrain of Lake and Klamath counties.

In recent weeks, the Forest and area Search and Rescue units have seen an uptick in people getting stuck on Forest Roads.  A similar pattern was observed during a break in the weather in December, but warmer weather and sunny days have dramatically increased the number of people in the forest over the past 4 weeks.  Many of whom are not prepared if things go wrong.

As a general rule, when snow depth is 6 inches or greater, it is not safe to be on a Forest road in a wheeled vehicle.  The roads are not plowed or maintained by the Forest during the winter and any plowing done by permittees for projects is inconsistent. 

During the spring, there is risk of getting stuck associated with any snow-covered road regardless of depth.

Snow on north-facing slopes is the last to break up and presents an ongoing challenge that can result in being stuck.  There also continues to be snow and wet weather in the forecast, which is falling on already disintegrating and structurally unsound snow.  This hides the true road conditions and increases the likelihood of getting stuck.

On the west side of the Forest, including the Klamath Ranger District, when there is a continuous snow depth of 6 inches or greater between November 1 and April 30, designated roads in the area become snowmobile and ski trails and are closed to wheeled traffic. 

This is formally referenced as Order Number FWF-2014-13-02.  Violations of the closure order are punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, or imprisonment of not more than 6 months or both.

Some tips for those enjoying spring on their public lands:

  • Plan your trip – check the weather, bring plenty of warm clothes, enough water for everyone for 3 days, emergency food, tire chains, shovel, flashlight, flares and/or something to start a fire with, camp saw or hatchet, and cold weather sleeping bag or blankets.
  • Make sure you have a full tank of gas when you leave and are prepared for changing conditions in the mountains and high desert!  Also, let someone know where you are going and when you plan to be back.
  • Keep vehicles on designated roads and be aware of changing weather and road conditions.  Wet dirt roads can quickly turn to mud, making it possible to get stuck and causing damage to road, soil and water resources.
  • In snowy conditions, if the snow on the road is 3 inches or greater, turn around – conditions are not likely to improve ahead.
  • If there are puddles in the road, mud flipping off the tires or you can see your ruts in the rearview mirror, turn around.
  • Do not count on technology – GPS can steer drivers onto impassable roads and there is not cellphone service across most of the Forest.

When enjoying a more remote primitive recreation experience in dispersed areas, it’s advised to turn around when road conditions begin to deteriorate and find a safe place to pull over and park to recreate.  Pay attention to weather conditions, including increased winds and snowfall to ensure plenty of time to safely head back home.

“The Fremont-Winema is a spectacular forest, but the remoteness and rapidly changing spring weather and conditions brings more risk and things can become deadly,” said Fremont-Winema National Forest Recreation Program Manager Scott Stoffel.  “It’s critical to plan your trip, have the right gear, pay attention to conditions and be prepared in case you get stuck and need to spend a longer time out there. 

We want everyone to have a safe and fun experience.”

For more information on the Fremont-Winema National Forest, visit www.fs.usda.gov/fremont-winema, follow the Forest on Twitter @FremontWinemaNF or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/R6FWNF.

From the Oregon Dept. of Consumer and Business Services

Governor Kate Brown yesterday, in order to ensure all Oregonians have access to the health insurance they need during this unprecedented public health crisis, called on federal Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to open a special enrollment period for Oregonians to buy health insurance and apply for federal subsidies through HealthCare.gov. The open enrollment deadline passed on Dec. 15 and does not open again until November. 

“Many Oregonians are uninsured or underinsured and now find their families’ budgets significantly tightened due to this national emergency,” Brown said in a letter to Azar. “In order to remove any potential barriers that remain, it is critical for all Oregonians to have access to a special enrollment period.”

A widespread special enrollment period would allow anyone legally present in the United States to buy a private plan and apply for a subsidy to help afford it. The governor requested that the enrollment period open as soon as possible and last at least 30 days.

Oregon needs Azar to allow the special enrollment period via HealthCare.gov because the application consumers need for federal subsidies, and Oregon’s online system for selection of plans available through HealthCare.gov, is run by the federal government. HealthCare.gov sells individual health insurance plans to Oregonians under an agreement with the state and in partnership with the Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace, a division of the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services.

“The Marketplace is our state’s pathway to coverage and federal subsidies,” said Chiqui Flowers, administrator of the Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace. “Until the federal government unblocks the gate to those options for all Oregonians, the only people who can enroll now are those who just lost other coverage or had another major qualifying event.”

The governor’s letter to Azar emphasized the importance of meeting the needs of income-strapped families during a national crisis. 

“Your administration has stressed the value of allowing Americans to make their own coverage choices. During open enrollment last fall, a moderate-income adult might have made a rational decision to skip coverage or buy one of the extremely limited, short-term plans now available under federal rules that currently are not required to cover testing for the novel coronavirus and waive cost-sharing for COVID-19 treatment,” Governor Brown wrote. “A national emergency has changed conditions vastly, and those Oregonians deserve a chance to get the coverage they need.”

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