The latest news stories and stories of interest in the Rogue Valley and around the state of Oregon from the online digital home of the valley, RogueValleyMagazine.com
Tuesday, May 12, 2020
Rogue Valley Weather
Today Showers much of the day with a high near 64. More showers overnight, low of 46. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
Wednesday Showers. High near 63.
Thursday Showers likely, with thunderstorms also possible after 11am. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 65. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
Friday Partly sunny, with a high near 74.
Saturday A chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 74.
Southern Oregon businesses across the Rogue Valley from Ashland to Medford to Grants Pass are getting ready to reopen upon the approval of the county proposals for Phase One, which should begin on Friday, May 15th.
The latest guidelines from Governor Brown’s office carves out a space for retailers to open whether those counties are approved or not.
Under Governor Brown’s “Stay Home, Save Lives” order businesses forced to close earlier that included furniture stores, jewelry stores, small boutiques, and indoor and outdoor malls should be able to reopen late this week.
Some other retailers opted to close down or adjust their services voluntarily, either out of an abundance of caution or because the social distancing rules for staying open were too difficult for them.
On May 15 all retailers, — with the lone exception of malls and the businesses within them — will be allowed to reopen in the state of Oregon under the revised Phase One guidelines, which are many.
Retail stores will still have to limit the number of customers inside and focus on maintaining six feet of physical distance for both customers and employees. The guidelines state that store managers will have to determine maximum occupancy in order to avoid crowded aisles.
Those stores will also have to post OHA-provided informational signs on COVID-19, frequently sanitize common areas, and require all employees to wear face coverings.
Stores are supposed to “strongly encourage” that customers wear face coverings too, although it is not mandatory. They are also asked to consider clear plastic barriers in front of cashiers and customer service counters, and encourage one-way traffic through entrances and exits.
Three more people have died from coronavirus in Oregon, bringing the state death toll to 130, as of Monday. The Oregon Health Authority also reported 51 new confirmed cases and 7 new presumptive cases. This brings the state’s total cases to 3,286.
One of the reported deaths was a 91-year-old Polk County man with underlying health conditions. The other two reported deaths, a 77-year-old woman and a 64-year-old man, have not been linked to any underlying medical conditions at this time.
Jackson County Public Health, meanwhile, said that it had received no new positive test results for COVID-19, leaving the total at 49. The last confirmed case was announced on Friday, April 24 — more than two weeks ago.
Many of Southern Oregon’s Goodwill stores have reopened.
Safety guidelines will be enforced, including a mask requirement. Stores open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. include Ashland, Central Point, Klamath Falls, Medford, Roseburg, and White City. Stores NOT yet open include the Grants Pass store, As-Is outlets, and Good & Will boutique.
Donations are accepted at the Grants Pass store 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily Job Connections in Ashland opens today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for job seeker services using computers and resources. Changes to expect when shopping include a mandatory mask or face covering. To ensure social distancing, there will be a limited number of guests allowed while shopping with social distancing markers and lane restrictions throughout the building. Staff members will wear gloves and clean highly touched surfaces including door handles, carts, register areas, etc.
Contactless procedures will be practiced during check out at registers. All donations and returns will be under quarantine for a minimum 72 hours before they are put on the sales floor.
Governor Kate Brown has joined other state leaders from the five-state “Western States Pact” in lobbying Congress to distribute additional funding to state and local governments reeling from the economic impacts of the coronavirus shutdown and response.
The Governors and legislative leaders of Oregon, California, Washington, Colorado, and Nevada all signed off on a letter addressed to the heads of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, asking them for $1 trillion in “direct and flexible relief” to state and local governments in order to prevent major cuts to public services. While Democrats in the House and Senate have moved to support another major stimulus bill, Republicans and the Trump administration have signaled resistance.
Also yesterday, Gov. Kate Brown said the current state budget could face a $3 billion reduction due to the COVID-19 pandemic – and has directed all state agencies to prepare plans to cut spending by 17%.
State economists will issue the next state revenue forecast next week. Oregon lawmakers last year approved a $85.8 billion state budget for 2019 through 2021. The Governor said that she will be working with leaders in the state legislature to find ways to balance the budget “in a thoughtful, collaborative manner that explores all tools available.”
On Monday, Grants Pass officers attempted to stop a tan Toyota pickup on NE D Street near NE Beacon Drive. The pickup, known to be driven by Justin Sager, was believed to be involved in the theft of motorcycles and other property in the northeast area of Grants Pass.
The vehicle turned north on Beacon Drive and fled at a high rate of speed, running stop signs and going into oncoming lanes of travel. The primary officers terminated the pursuit in the interest of safety to the community. Other officers were able to locate the vehicle as it turned into a dead street on Lynda Lane off of NE Hillcrest Ave, and crashed into a parked car. The driver fled on foot into a vacant field. Several officers from multiple agencies established a perimiter of the area to keep the suspect from continuing to flee.
Utilizing the Unmanned Aerial Surveillance (UAS) device and a K9 unit, members of Grants Pass PD, Josephine County Sheriffs, and Oregon State Police were able to locate Sager in a large blackberry thicket. Sager was taken into custody without further incident. Sager was arrested and charged with nearly a dozen violations and is lodged in the Josephine County Jail.
Around the State
The Oregon State Fire Marshal is extending the temporary rule change for another two weeks allowing self-service at gas pumps.
This change was suppose to end on Saturday, May 9th. On Friday, May 8th the Fire Marshall announced he is extending the temporary change until Saturday, May 23rd. A temporary rule change that has allowed gas stations to implement self-service at their pumps will be extended through May 9, the Oregon State Fire Marshal announced on Friday. The rule suspension was originally announced on March 28, and has already been extended once.
According to the Fire Marshal’s office, the rule change is intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — and specifically to protect gas station attendants by cutting down their face-to-face exposure to customers. Self-service isn’t mandatory for gas stations, and its not necessarily up to the customers either. Gas stations have decided on their own whether to embrace the rule change.
If you think it’s difficult to find places to go that aren’t closed down, there’s more bad news out there.
A coalition of timber countries are closing off their lands to the public next week in an effort to cut down on potential wildfires. The closure begins on Monday, May 18. A joint statement from timber companies Seneca, Lone Rock Resources, Giustina Resources, Campbell Global, and Giustina Land & Timber Company cited worsening drought conditions and above-average temperatures that have led to predictions for a bad fire season in Oregon.
Because many public outdoor recreation sites have been closed due to coronavirus, these timber companies say that the public’s use of private lands has “increased dramatically.” Five companies own or operate around 600,000 acres of land between Benton, Coos, Curry, Douglas, Jackson, Josephine, Lane, Linn, and Polk counties. Those lands will close to the public effective next Monday. So far, nothing has been announced for additional closures affecting Klamath county.
A plunge in revenue because of the COVID-19 response means layoffs and furloughs at the Oregon Lottery.
Lottery Director Barry Pack says the agency will cut nearly seven-and-a-half-million dollars by permanently eliminating 60 positions, or 13-percent of its workforce. Two-hundred-and-ninety employees will face furloughs of at least 30 days. Remaining staff will take a three-month salary reduction of ten-percent, and the executive team will take 15-percent.
Oregon has received nine-million dollars from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for expansion of COVID-19 testing.
The money will go to 30 health centers around the state. It can be used to expand testing, purchase PPE, lab services and contact tracing to identify people who might have been exposed by someone confirmed to have COVID-19.
Oregon OSHA has cited National Frozen Foods in Albany for failing to implement physical distancing measures to protect workers from the spread of the coronavirus.
The citation, which carries a proposed penalty of $2,000, stems from an inspection launched April 20 in response to multiple complaints about the facility, which produces frozen fruits and vegetables.
“We expect employers to follow the appropriate requirements to protect workers against the spread of this disease,” said Michael Wood, administrator for Oregon OSHA. “Continuing to do business as usual at the expense of worker safety is not acceptable.”
Under a state executive order aimed at slowing the COVID-19 pandemic, employers are required to maintain physical distancing policies to keep workers at least six feet apart.
The practice at National Frozen Foods ran counter to those requirements, according to Oregon OSHA’s inspection, which included interviews of employees. The company allowed 18 employees – stationed at frozen packaging lines nine at a time during day and swing shifts – to work at a distance of two feet to four feet from each other.
The company allowed this practice to continue after multiple employees who worked on the packaging lines tested positive for COVID-19.
Oregon OSHA’s inspection centered on the position of employees and related operations involving packaging conveyor lines on the west side of the facility.
The division maintains and enforces rules requiring employers to provide safe and healthy workplaces, including implementing control measures to protect against health hazards. Under Gov. Kate Brown’s executive order – issued to address the public health crisis triggered by the coronavirus pandemic – Oregon OSHA is tasked with enforcing requirements with respect to employers and potential worker exposures. The division continues to screen complaints, conduct spot checks, and initiate inspections.
In addition to its enforcement activities, the division offers employers a variety of resources addressing COVID-19: https://osha.oregon.gov/Pages/re/covid-19.aspx
A male black bear injured a man after encountering him and his dog in an incident that happened yesterday on private industrial timberland west of Creswell, Oregon.
The incident happened during the middle of the day on Sunday, about five miles west of Creswell near Camas Swale Road, which is in a semi-rural area with a mix of rural residential and private timberland properties in Lane County. The 72-year-old man was able to walk home after the incident and seek medical attention. He was treated and released from the hospital yesterday.
According to an Oregon State Police interview with the victim, he and his dog had hiked from his property to the adjoining timber company property. While walking a forest road, they encountered a bear in the road only 20 feet away. The dog barked and ran at the bear. The bear knocked the dog down and was on the dog when the victim approached yelling and waving his arms in an attempt scare the bear from the dog. The bear turned from the dog and redirected to the victim.
The bear charged, knocking the man to the ground. The man fought back and after a short time, the bear left. The man and dog, both injured, hiked approximately one mile back to his residence before being transported to receive medical care.
The man suffered lacerations and punctures on his forearm as well as lacerations to his torso and head. He was released from the hospital yesterday after receiving treatment for his wounds. His dog was treated by a veterinarian. Both the man and his dog are expected to fully recover.
The man described the bear as mature, black in color with a “cream” colored muzzle. He did not see any other bears at the scene of the attack.
ODFW, Oregon State Police and USDA Wildlife Services responded to the incident after Lane County Sheriff notified them yesterday. Fresh bear sign was located and Wildlife Services hounds gave a short chase before treeing a large, mature male bear with a light-colored muzzle. The bear was shot and killed at approximately 5:30 p.m.
Most of the private timberlands in the area are closed to public visitors and wildlife managers will monitor for other bear activity in the area. The bear is being examined and tested for a variety of diseases including rabies, which is common practice after any incident when an animal has injured a person.
“This was a very serious incident and the victim took the right steps by first trying to scare the bear off and then fighting back when he was attacked,” said Brian Wolfer, ODFW South Willamette Watershed Manager. “We extend our well wishes to him and his family and hope for his speedy recovery.”
“There is a very good chance that the bear that was killed is the one that injured the man, but this area is also good bear habitat and home to many bears,” continued Wolfer. “While we are not currently looking for another bear, the area will remain closed and trail cameras will be set up to see if there are other bears matching the description in the area.”
Human-bear incidents are rare in Oregon. Black bear populations number between 25,000-30,000 statewide but there have only been four previously reported incidents in the state since 1988, none of them fatal.
Here are some tips for staying safe while hiking in bear country:
- Avoid trails with bear tracks or bear sign.
- Make noise when hiking so as not to surprise a bear.
- If you see a bear, leave the area.
- Stay far away from cubs―mother is nearby.
- Leash dogs. A loose dog may lead a bear back to you.
- Don’t hike after dark.
- Consider carrying bear spray in areas known to have bears.
For more information on co-existing with bears and what to do if you encounter one, visit https://www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/living_with/black_bears.asp.
On Sunday, an Oregon State Police Trooper conducted a traffic stop on a Cadillac STS, operated by Anthony Mailman (35) from LaGrande, on Hwy 126 near milepost 13, west of Prineville.
Mailman was arrested for Fail to Carry and Present Operator’s License, Giving False Information to a Police Officer, and a warrant for Parole Violation.
An OSP drug dog alerted to the presence of controlled substances. During a search of the vehicle, Troopers located approximately 5.9 ounces (169 grams) of suspected crystal methamphetamine, scales, and a loaded revolver concealed inside the vehicle.
Mailman was lodged in the Crook County Jail on charges of Giving False Information to a Police Officer, Felon In Possession of a Firearm, Possession of Methamphetamine, Distribution of Methamphetamine, and Manufacture of Methamphetamine, Fail to Carry and Present Operator’s License, and the Parole Violation warrant. The Oregon State Police was assisted by the Crook County Sheriff’s Office.
U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams announced today that a Gresham, Oregon man has been charged with illegally purchasing, importing, and offering for sale chloroquine, the active pharmaceutical ingredient in prescription drugs used to treat malaria.
Matthew Owens, 42, has been charged by criminal complaint with smuggling and the receipt in interstate commerce of misbranded drugs and the delivery thereof for pay.
“Together, Americans are facing a public health emergency without precedent in our lifetimes. We are heartened by the countless examples of public service by front-line health workers, law enforcement, and ordinary Americans alike. These heroic acts of service inspire us all,” said U.S. Attorney Williams. “And yet, there are some individuals actively trying to profit off the pandemic, and, in the process, putting more lives as risk. We will not let these selfish and dangerous criminal acts continue unchecked.”
According to court documents, on April 13, 2020, HSI contacted FDA-OCI after a package containing 122.8 grams of a white powder was intercepted at a FedEx facility in Memphis, Tennessee. The package originated in Xiaoshan, China, and was addressed to Owens’ Gresham apartment. The enclosed substance was declared as ammonium polyphosphate but was later determined to be chloroquine. An invoice included with the substance described it as a “sample” having “no commercial value”, statements commonly used by persons improperly importing items and attempting to avoid detection.
Investigators searched FDA records and found neither “Hangzhou Weishi Electronic Commerce Co Ltd,” the entity who shipped the package, nor “Matthew Owens” as having registered any drug manufacturing facilities. A search of Oregon Medical Board, Oregon Board of Pharmacy, and Oregon State Board of Nursing public databases found no records indicating that Owens was a physician, pharmacist, or registered nurse.
Due to current circumstances, Bureau of Land Management Officials are reminding the public that there is about a month remaining to comment on the proposed electric bike, or e-bike, regulations for the BLM. The comment period ends on June 9, 2020.
This effort is in line with Secretary U.S. Department of the Interior David Bernhardt’s call for the BLM and other Interior bureaus to expand access on public lands to e-bikes. The BLM will consider informative and unique feedback as part of crafting its final rule.
Interested parties may submit comments on the proposed regulation, identified by the number RIN 1004-AE72, by any of the following methods:
- Mail: U.S. Department of the Interior, Director (630), Bureau of Land Management, Mail Stop 2134 LM, 1849 C St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20240, Attention: RIN 1004-AE72.
- Federal eRulemaking portal: Follow this link.
For additional information, please see the BLM National Office news release announcing the opening of the public comment period: https://www.blm.gov/press-release/blm-seeks-public-comment-proposed-e-bike-regulations.
U.S. Dept. of Forestry Wildfire Prevention Tips
For many, the term “wildfires” conjures up large forest fires in remote, unpopulated areas. And, in many cases, these “wildfires” are believed be the from lightning. The truth, however, is just the opposite. People, and things created by people, are actually responsible for 70 percent of wildfires in Oregon.
And the majority of these fires start near homes and communities. The top three human-caused wildfires are escaped, or rekindled, debris burns; sparks or exhaust from power equipment, and escaped campfires; all of which can be prevented.
Escaped debris burns is, and has consistently been, the number one cause of wildfires in Oregon for decades. While the general cause falls under debris burning, the specific cause may result from a number of reasons. Burning during windy conditions; not having adequate clearing around the burn pile; leaving the burn site unattended; rekindling days or weeks after the initial burn due to increased wind and/or heat; or not having water and tools immediately available to manage the burn site. Whatever the reason, all of these fires can be prevented by following this simple checklist.
- Call before you burn. Local regulations may restrict or prohibit burning altogether.
- Place yard debris in an open area away from structures, trees and power lines.
- Create small piles (4’ x 4’) to better manage the burn.
- Cover portions of piles with polyethylene plastic (landscape material) to keep a portion dry for lighting later.
- When conditions improve, check with your local fire agency for any regulations in place.
- Never burn under windy conditions.
- To maintain containment, create a perimeter around the pile at a minimum of 3 feet, scraped clear to bare mineral soil.
- Keep a shovel and charged hose nearby to manage the burn.
- Make sure the pile is dead out before leaving.
- Return periodically over several weeks to make sure the pile is still out: No heat, no smoke.
Wildfires sparked from power equipment can happen when, in many cases, property owners are trying to reduce fire hazards around the home. The leading culprit in recent years has been mowing dry, cured grass during periods of high or extreme fire danger. While hot exhaust coming into contact with dry grass could start a fire, the most common ignition source is the lawn mower blade striking a rock or other spark emitting surface. Other equipment known to start fires are power saws, weed eaters, motor vehicle exhaust (including motorcycles and ATV’s), cutting and welding, and power lines. Keep these things in mind when working with or using power equipment.
- Check local regulations. Some activities may be restricted or prohibited due to fire danger.
- When allowed, mow grass early in the morning when moisture is present.
- Keep vehicles and other equipment in good working condition, including exhaust systems.
- Create defensible space early in the spring before the onslaught of fire danger.
While escaped campfires ranks third on our list, it does not account for the hundreds of abandoned campfires firefighters extinguish during their routine patrols. Campfires lead to wildfires when people build them in unsafe areas, leave the site without properly putting them out, or don’t carry the proper tools to care for and fully extinguish the fire. Follow these simple guidelines when having a campfire.
- Call before you go. Campfires may not be allowed due to fire danger.
- Carry a bucket for water and a shovel.
- Campgrounds are the safest place to have a campfire, complete with open areas and established fire pits.
- Where dispersed camping is allowed, build campfires in open areas away from grass, brush and overhanging trees.
- Keep fires small and manageable.
- Put the campfire completely out before leaving or going to bed. To do so, drown the fire with lots of water from your bucket, stir the coals and drown again. Using the back of your hand, determine that the ashes are cool to the touch and won’t rekindle under warm, windy conditions.
Finally, May is Wildfire Awareness Month and fire officials from multiple protection agencies are encouraging everyone to do their part to Keep Oregon Green. Log on to keeporegongreen.org for more information.