The latest news stories in the Rogue Valley and around the state of Oregon from RogueValleyMagazine.com
Saturday, April 4, 2020
Rogue Valley Weather
Rain before 11am, then showers and possibly a thunderstorm after 11am. High of 55. Some of the storms could produce small hail. Snow level 4200 feet. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms. Overnight more showers with a low of 40.
Showers likely, then showers and possibly a thunderstorm after 11am. High near 55. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.
A 40 percent chance of showers. Snow level 2900 feet rising to 3800 feet. Partly sunny, with a high near 56.
Mostly sunny, with a high near 65.
Sunny, with a high near 71
The state of Oregon reports 1 new COVID-19 death, 73 new COVID-19 cases, with the death toll at 22 within the state as of Friday morning.
The new COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Benton (2), Clackamas (5), Clatsop (1), Crook (1), Deschutes (4), Klamath (5), Malheur (1), Marion (14), Morrow (1), Multnomah (15), Polk (2), Washington (17), Yamhill (5).
Oregon Health Authority reports new cases once a day on its website: www.healthoregon.org/coronavirus.
Oregon’s 22nd COVID-19 death is a 71-year-old man in Polk County, who tested positive on March 19 and died April 2 at Salem Hospital. He had underlying medical conditions.
Public health officials in Jackson County say that two more positive cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus has been confirmed in the county as of Friday morning, bringing the total to 29.
Jackson County Public Health said that the vast majority of cases are in people age 60 or older — 24 percent from the ages of 60 to 69, and 28 percent between 70 and 79. People between the ages of 20 and 59 represent just 14 percent of cases.
The Rogue Valley Manor retirement community in Medford confirms that a staff member tested positive for the coronavirus. Many precautionary measures are already in place there and at other senior living communities.
Over the past week, Jackson County Public Health has said that the area is now in the phase of “rapid community spread” of coronavirus.
“Cases in Jackson County are largely distributed throughout the county, which demonstrates community spread that is widely dispersed. Therefore, one city is not safer than another,” health officials said. “It is best that everyone practice social distancing when they are out accessing essential services, minimize the number of times they need to access essential services, stay at home, avoid hosting or attending social gatherings, and wash their hands frequently. These actions should be taken by all people, of all ages. We are all in this together.”
At mid-week, Jackson County Public Health made a significant shift in its recommendations for locals, advocating for people to begin using cloth masks when going out in public.
“Jackson County Public Health is NOT recommending that you purchase manufactured surgical masks, please save them for the healthcare workers that rely on them for protection,” the agency said. “According to Dr. Jim Shames, ‘when we both wear a face mask, I protect you and you protect me.'”
There has been mounting evidence to suggest that people who have COVID-19 but are asymptomatic may still be spreading the virus from droplets produced by talking or coughing. The goal of wearing a mask is to create a physical barrier to block those droplets, while also helping to keep the wearer from touching their faces.
According to Jackson County Public Health, there are a number of reasons to reconsider wearing a cloth mask:
- We now know that some people are contagious before they ever get symptoms and some never feel sick. They might spread the disease before they would ever consider masking up.
- Droplets do indeed transmit the disease, but they can be generated from talking as well as coughing. Just standing next to someone talking could spread the disease if neither of you are masked.
- Wearing a mask while sick is stigmatizing for those who wear them. Universal use wouldn’t identify who was sick and who wasn’t.
- You are less likely to touch your mouth and nose while wearing a mask
- DIY masks can possibly provide protection to the public without impacting the supply of manufactured masks currently prioritized for healthcare workers. If the medical community accepts the use of these masks in the healthcare setting, then these masks will be available and ready to go.
- There is data that suggests that in countries where masking is encouraged for all citizens, the rate of disease transmission may be reduced by their actions.
With recent news that federal authorities may recommend wearing masks in public, Oregon Health Authority is reminding Oregonians that staying home and avoiding all non-essential contact with others continues to be the most important thing that anyone can do to stay healthy and keep others healthy.
“And during moments where people must go out of the house, they should stay at least 6 feet apart from others at all times,” the agency said.
Before deciding whether to wear a mask, Oregon Health Authority recommends people keep two considerations central:
- Medical masks should be reserved for health care providers who are on the front lines working with patients most likely to have COVID-19. We have had shortages of those masks – and it’s critically important that our health care workers have the equipment they need to do their jobs.
- Non-medical mask use (e.g., homemade fabric masks) does not replace the need to follow guidance to stay home and limit our contact with others. It does not replace frequent handwashing, avoiding touching the face, and staying away from people who are ill. These are the most important steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 illness.
“We continue to stress that medical masks are essential for health care workers who are in close contact with someone who has COVID-19,” said Paul Cieslak, MD, medical director for communicable diseases, OHA Public Health Division. “We need to preserve supplies of medical masks for our health care workers so they can stay safe as they work to keep all of us healthy. For the general public, homemade fabric masks, especially if well-made and well-fitting, may provide some benefit.”
Wearing a fabric mask can help prevent the spread of infection to others when the mask is worn by someone who already is infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, particularly if the person is coughing. The mask may block some infectious droplets from spreading when someone with the infection coughs, sneezes and, to a lesser degree, speaks.
“The data do not tell us how much protection homemade cloth masks provide to the person wearing a homemade mask. For this reason, homemade and fabric masks should not be considered reliable protection; but they may provide some benefit,” said Cieslak. “Above all, we continue to stress that the reliable tool we have right now to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is strict social distancing – as outlined in Governor Brown’s ‘Stay Home, Save Lives’ orders.”
Unemployment claims in the Rogue Valley are skyrocketing with what Jackson County says is a record 2,420 unemployment claims filed in the week ending March 28, more than double the number from the previous week when job losses ratcheted up after the pandemic gripped the economy.
The largest number of claims in the county was in the hospitality and food service industry, with 674 initial claims filed, or about 28% of the total. Health care and social assistance had the next largest share, with 483 initial claims filed.
Josephine County saw 726 unemployment claims filed for the week ending March 28, almost double the number of claims filed the previous week.
The latest unemployment numbers are beginning to reflect a new category of the unemployed that weren’t eligible for benefits previously. These are the so-called “gig” workers such as Uber drivers and other self-employed people who are now eligible to receive benefits because of special federal funding.
The state of Oregon Employment Department awaits guidance from the U.S. Bureau of Labor on how to process the claims filed by self-employed workers in Oregon.
On Friday, Governor Kate Brown today announced the launch of the Coronavirus Small Business Resource Navigator, which will help connect small businesses to financial support and information they need to stay in business through the COVID-19 crisis.
“My goal is to connect thousands of Oregon’s small businesses with the federal, state, and local financial support available to small businesses dealing with the impacts of COVID-19,” said Governor Brown. “There are potentially billions of dollars available from the CARES Act, and I want Oregon businesses to get their fair share.”
Business Oregon will lead the new Small Business Resource Navigator, with support from several state agencies including the Oregon Employment Department, the Oregon Secretary of State, and the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services.
The Resource Navigator will include a hotline and a website containing comprehensive information on key programs for small businesses, available at HERE, with access to:
- Small Business Association programs established by the recently passed federal CARES Act, including: the Paycheck Protection Program, Economic Injury Disaster Loans, and Debt Relief programs
- State of Oregon programs, including the Entrepreneurial Development Loan Fund
- Local government programs, such as the South Central Oregon Economic Development Development District Economic Relief Loan Fund for Small Businesses
The American Red Cross is urging citizens who are not presently working to donate blood as coronavirus lockdowns have resulted in a drastic reduction in blood donations.
Additional safety measures are being implemented to assure the health of donors.
Appointments are required in order to maintain proper social distancing requirements. Rebecca O’Rourke, account manager for American Red Cross PNW says they have lost thousands of blood donations due to COVID-19 across the states and need healthy individuals to give blood as soon as possible, and we are setting up in stationary locations to help us with additional sanitization practices, and taking extra steps to ensure we see only healthy donors.
To schedule a donation visit www.redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS
On Thursday morning Oregon State Police Troopers and Josephine County Deputies responded to a report of a shooting in the 2700 block of Speaker Road in Josephine County.
Responding officers located a deceased male in a vehicle on the property. OSP Major Crimes Detectives responded to conduct an investigation and were assisted by the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office.
Detectives learned that the property owner had called 911 to report he had confronted a man in a vehicle that was shooting on his property. The man in the vehicle shot at the property owner who then returned fire.
OSP, working with the Josephine County DA, has determined this to be self-defense and no criminal charges are expected.
In Josephine County, a group of local organizations is helping those in need during the COVID-19 event and coordinating donations provided through the Rogue Valley Preparedness and Recovery Hub.
Rogue Valley Community Organizations Active in Disaster, or RV COAD, created the hub at roguevalley.recovers.org, where assistance can be requested for specific COVID-19-related needs, from food supply to monetary shortfalls. The hub also allows those with supplies to make donations and those who want to volunteer to register. Monetary donations are accepted.
RV COAD was formed with the mission to “act as the Jackson and Josephine counties coordinating organization with local government agencies toward an organized, collaborative response to and recovery from disaster by NGO, faith-based and community organizations and individuals.”
For more information, see roguevalley.recovers.org.
Around the state of Oregon
Pacific Power Foundation offers support for community organizations responding to COVID-19
The utility is encouraging businesses and individuals to support community organizations, now facing extraordinary demands for services, to ensure those in need continue to receive support
Community organizations are facing unprecedented challenges and demand for vital services. Pacific Power’s charitable arm, the Pacific Power Foundation, has committed $250,000 for immediate support to critical community-serving organizations in Oregon, Washington and California.
From providing free meals for children during school closures to deploying resources and support to small businesses and care for seniors, community-based groups throughout the West have put out a call for assistance to support local COVID-19 initiatives.
“Food banks and other critical organizations serve the most vulnerable populations in our communities and are under tremendous strain,” said Stefan Bird, president and CEO. “The Pacific Power Foundation is committed to supporting vital community organizations that depend and survive on contributions like this.”
Agencies include the Oregon Food Bank, Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon, Oregon Community Foundation, Portland Rescue Mission, Oregon Energy Fund, Salvation Army divisions in California and Washington and the Northwest Community Action Center.
Oregon Food Bank CEO Susannah Morgan underscored the importance of community partnerships, especially in times of crisis. “With the strong support of allies like Pacific Power, Oregon Food Bank can ensure nutritious food reaches hard-hit communities throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington. By working collectively, our network of more than 1,400 partners across Oregon and SW Washington stands ready to meet this crisis head-on. Together, we can ensure hunger is not a symptom of COVID-19 — and help us all emerge stronger.”
“Oregon families are facing the triple crisis of public health, closed schools and lost wages during this pandemic,” said Annie Kirschner, executive director for Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon. “Though many of us have to stay home, we are still coming together to make sure everyone has enough food to eat. We’re grateful to partners like Pacific Power for responding quickly to help make sure our neighbors, especially those most vulnerable across the state, are connected to resources.”
Looking for ways to help? Follow the links to support these organizations’ vital work.
(SALEM, Ore.) — In response to the “Stay Home, Save Lives” Executive Order to reduce the effects of the COVID-19 virus, a coalition of Oregon state agencies are asking Oregonians to voluntarily refrain from conducting outdoor burning.
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF), Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office (OSFM), Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA), and Oregon Health Authority (OHA) recognize that many Oregonians use fire as a necessary tool to manage their lands, including industrial forest landowners, farmers, small woodland owners, and rural residents. However, it’s important to weigh possible effects on the wider community before choosing to burn. Please be a good neighbor. Smoke from fires during the current pandemic may result in the following negative consequences for the public and first responders:
- Smoke inhalation can cause upper respiratory symptoms, which could be incorrectly attributed to COVID-19, leading to unnecessary testing or self-isolation.
- Exposure to smoke and other forms of air pollution can increase the risk of contracting infectious respiratory disease such as COVID-19, increase the severity of existing respiratory infections, and worsen underlying chronic respiratory conditions.
- There is a severe shortage of personal protective equipment to reduce smoke exposure at this time.
- First responders and other emergency services are operating at a reduced capacity and have limited resources to respond to out-of-control burns.
COVID-19 affects the respiratory system. Fever, cough and difficulty breathing are the most common symptoms. While some people with COVID-19 are hospitalized, most patients recover at home, where smoke from a nearby outdoor burn could worsen their condition. To avoid additional health impacts, all people in Oregon are asked to voluntarily refrain from conducting outdoor burning activities until further notice.
Burning that can be delayed includes:
- Debris burning around one’s property
- Burn barrels
- Industrial burning
- Slash and forest burning
- Agricultural burning that would impact neighbors and can be delayed
Local officials may already have prohibited outdoor burning in your area. If you must conduct outdoor burning, please first check with your local fire agency to see if outdoor burning is still allowed. If it is, please follow best burn practices, which can be found on the website of the Office of the State Fire Marshall.
DEQ, ODF, OSFM, and ODA encourage the public to use the following alternatives to burning when available:
- Recycle paper products when possible
- Compost or chip yard debris on site
- Haul to a yard debris composting or recycling site
- Reuse old lumber
For more information, visit:
OHA COVID-19 website – https://govstatus.egov.com/OR-OHA-COVID-19
This is a rapidly evolving situation. The latest COVID-19 response and protocols information is available at the Oregon Health Authority | COVID 19 Updates webpage. Additional information can be found on the CDC website.
Fremont-Winema National Forest offers free personal use firewood cutting
Personal use firewood cutting on the Fremont-Winema National Forest will be free to the public through June 1, 2020.
Woodcutters can collect up to 12 cords of firewood for personal use. A cord equates to a wood stack that is 4 feet wide by 4 feet high by 8 feet long.
While there is no need for permits or tags during this period, woodcutters are expected to follow the 2020 Personal Use Firewood Synopsis of Rules and Regulations.
The document, along with woodcutting maps are available online at www.fs.usda.gov/main/fremont-winema/passes-permits/forestproducts and then selecting “Firewood Permits”. Maps are also available digitally from Avenza Maps at www.avenzamaps.com.
- Cut only in permitted areas. No woodcutting is allowed within 150 feet of developed recreation sites or in Wilderness Areas, Wild and Scenic River Corridors, Unique Areas, Research Natural Areas, Research Areas, Experimental Forest Areas or within posted areas including unlogged or active timber sales, contract areas and posted “No Cutting” areas.
- All trees standing or down with paint, tags or signs on them are protected and may not be cut.
- Use of mechanized skidding and/or loading equipment for removal of firewood is prohibited. The only power equipment authorized for use are chainsaws, winches and hydraulic splitters.
- Spark arresters should be on all mechanical equipment and fire prevention measures, including following Industrial Fire Precaution Level (IFPL), should be followed.
- Maximum length of firewood allowed to be cut and transported is 6 feet.
- Cut and scatter limbs and tops. Remove all slash from roads and ditches.
- See the synopsis document for specific regulations regarding the Ranger District. This includes restrictions on cutting near streams, seeps, springs and meadows, as well as tree species allowed.
Firewood obtained is intended for personal use only and not for resale. Commercial permits are still available by contacting local Fremont-Winema National Forest offices by phone.
“We’re happy to be able to provide free firewood cutting as a service to the public during this difficult time,” said Fremont-Winema National Forest Supervisor Barry Imler. “Many of our area residents depend on wood for heat and we hope this opportunity helps them as well as our forest health.”
Woodcutters are encouraged to pay attention to weather and road conditions to avoid resource damage. Some woodcutting areas may be inaccessible due to snow or wet conditions. A good guide for drivers is if they can see their tracks on the road in the rearview mirror, conditions are too wet and they should pull over or turn around to avoid resource damage. Minimizing damage to roads helps ensure continued public access and reduces the impacts to natural resources.
Additionally, woodcutters should practice good forest safety, including:
- 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.
- Do not count on technology – GPS can steer drivers onto impassable roads and there is not cellphone service across most of the Forest.
For more information on the free personal use firewood cutting, please contact your local Fremont-Winema National Forest Office during regular business hours between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
They can be reached at: Supervisor’s Office – 541-947-2151; Bly Ranger District – 541-353-2427; Chemult Ranger District – 541-365-7001; Chiloquin Ranger District – 541-783-4001; Klamath Ranger District – 541-883-6714; Lakeview Ranger District – 541-947-3334; Paisley Ranger District – 541-943-3114; Silver Lake Ranger District – 541-576-2107.
This week, the Department of Justice announced that it is making $850 million available to help public safety agencies respond to the challenges posed by the outbreak of COVID-19. State, local and tribal law enforcement agencies in Oregon are eligible to receive nearly $10 million in supplemental funding.
The Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding program, authorized by the recent stimulus legislation passed by the Congress and signed by President Trump, will allow eligible state, local and tribal governments to apply immediately to receive these critical funds. The department is moving quickly to make awards, with the goal of having funds available within days.
“In a matter of weeks, I have seen countless examples from across our state and country of law enforcement officers and other public safety professionals going far above and beyond their regular duties to serve our communities in this time of great need,” said U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams. “I’m pleased to join the department in announcing this much needed funding and will do everything in my power to expedite its distribution to eligible law enforcement agencies here in Oregon.”
“This is an unprecedented moment in our nation’s history and an especially dangerous one for our front-line law enforcement officers, corrections officials, and public safety professionals,” said Office of Justice Programs Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Katharine T. Sullivan. “We are grateful to the Congress for making these resources available and for the show of support this program represents.”
On Friday the Bureau of Land Management released the Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for Fuels Reduction and Rangeland Restoration in the Great Basin. This Draft PEIS is intended to further efforts to conserve and restore sagebrush communities within a 223 million-acre area that includes portions of Idaho, Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada and Utah.
This plan works in tandem with the BLM’s efforts to construct up to 11,000 miles of fuel breaks in the Great Basin that was finalized by the publication of a Notice of Availability of a Record of Decision on Thursday, April 2.
“Conserving and restoring sagebrush communities in the Great Basin that people rely on for their livelihoods and recreation, and that wildlife depend on for habitat, is a top priority of the BLM,” said Deputy Director, Policy and Programs, Bureau of Land Management William Perry Pendley. “Constructing fuel breaks and reducing fuels to decrease the risk of large and severe wildfires, and implementing rangeland restoration treatments, is critical to maintain the remaining sagebrush communities in the region.”
The Trump Administration has prioritized active management of the nation’s public lands as provided in Executive Order 13855 and Secretary’s Order 3372, which establish a meaningful and coordinated framework for ensuring the protection of people, communities, and natural resources. Implementation of both Orders is a priority for reducing the risks of deadly and destructive wildfires.
Sagebrush communities in the Great Basin are a vital part of Western working landscapes and are home to over 350 species of plants and wildlife. Intact sagebrush communities are disappearing within the Great Basin due to increased large and severe wildfires, the spread of invasive annual grasses, and the encroachment of pinyon-juniper. The Great Basin region is losing sagebrush communities faster than they can reestablish naturally. Approximately 45% of the historical range of sagebrush has been lost. Fuels reduction and rangeland restoration treatments can reduce fire severity, increase sagebrush communities’ resistance to invasive annual grasses and improve their ability to recover after wildfires.
The Preferred Alternative outlined in the Draft Fuels Reduction and Rangeland Restoration PEIS analyzes a full suite of manual, chemical and mechanical tools, including prescribed fire, seeding, and targeted grazing to reduce fuels and conserve and restore sagebrush communities. When finalized, the PEIS will not authorize any specific fuels reduction or rangeland restoration projects. Instead, it will analyze common elements of fuels reduction and rangeland restoration projects. Local offices can use this information to comply with National Environmental Policy Act requirements when planning and analyzing specific projects, allowing for more rapid implementation.
An electronic copy of the Draft PEIS and associated documents is available for public comment for 60 days on the BLM Land Use Planning and NEPA register at https://go.usa.gov/xdfgV
If you are unable to access the documents online and would like a paper copy, please contact the project staff by email at BLM_PEIS_Questions@blm.gov or phone at (208) 373-3824.
Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the BLM will provide opportunities for the public to gain additional information, and ask questions, about the Draft PEIS virtually instead of through in-person public meetings. Links to virtual public meeting materials will be available on the BLM Land Use Planning and NEPA register by April 18 at https://go.usa.gov/xdfgV
Members of the public will be able to access the material at their convenience and can email questions to the project staff at BLM_PEIS_Questions@blm.gov
Blue Zones Project, Oregon – “Tips for Working From Home”
In the spirit of supporting our organizations across the state as many offices navigate a transition to remote work and virtual meetings, Blue Zones Project wants to provide you a few helpful tips for working from home:
- Set up a designated work area and working schedule.
It can be hard to ‘turn off’ from a day at work when your living and working space are the same. Be sure to designate a space for work equipment and time on the clock to ensure you still maintain a work-life balance. Be sure to turn off work notifications when you’re done working for the day.
- Wake up and get ready for the day as usual.
Be sure to wake up with enough time to continue your morning routine and get in the right headspace for work. Sleeping in and not giving yourself enough transition time can make your morning feel rushed and stressful. Don’t forget to include a healthy breakfast!
- Continue to take regular breaks.
Taking time for a short walk, standing up for a few minutes and having a scheduled lunch break are important to your routine and can ensure that you’re downshifting just enough to refocus and complete your work in a timely manner. Microbreaks, such as resting the eyes for 60 seconds, are made easy by this free Chrome extension, Break Timer.
- Communicate to people in your household when you are working and request quiet time.
It can be easy to be distracted by family members at home, chores that need to be done and other everyday things. Be sure to communicate with your family when you need quiet time for working and conference calls to decrease stress.