Rogue Valley News, Friday, 5/15 – Phase One of Opening Oregon Begins

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,

Friday, May 15, 2020

Rogue Valley Weather

Today   Mostly sunny, with a high near 74. Overnight, cloudy and 51 degrees

Saturday   A 20% chance of rain, cloudy and a high near 71.  Overnight, rain likely with a low of 50.   Chance of precipitation is 90%. New precipitation amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch possible.

Sunday  Showers. High near 65. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New precipitation amounts between a quarter and half of an inch possible.  Rain overnight, low of 47.

Monday   Showers, with thunderstorms also possible after noon. High near 64. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.

Tuesday A chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 65.

Today’s Headlines

Phase One Begins.  At a press conference yesterday Governor Kate Brown announced which counties have been cleared to enter “Phase One” of the state’s plan for loosening coronavirus restrictions. 

Overnight, applications from counties in southern Oregon began to report that they had received the green-light to begin Phase One on Friday.  Jackson, Josephine, Curry, Klamath, and Lake counties all confirmed that they were approved.

Under the retail ban lifting starting today, Friday — as long as retailers aren’t in a mall and they follow the new COVID-19 health guidelines, they can open. Proper safety measures include employees wearing face masks, limiting the number of customers, enforcing physical distancing and frequently sanitizing high traffic areas.

That means standalone furniture stores, art galleries, jewelry shops and boutiques that were closed by executive order weeks ago can reopen. But, stores in outdoor- and indoor-shopping centers are an exception. They will need to open on a county-by-county basis.

Phase One plan begins today in Oregon

In the press conference yesterday, Brown was joined by Oregon Health Authority Director Pat Allen and State Epidemiologist Dean Sideliner who both urged Oregonians to continue practicing proper social distancing and to wear face coverings.

As of today, 33 of 36 Oregon counties are approved to open in this Phase One plan.

Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington counties — those hardest hit by the COVID-19 outbreak in terms of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths — did not apply to reopen and will wait until they say they are better prepared.

Around the state, COVID-19 has claimed three more lives in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 137, the Oregon Health Authority reported late yesterday.

Oregon Health Authority reported 67 new confirmed cases and no new presumptive cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the state total to 3,479.

The new confirmed cases reported today are in the following counties: Deschutes (2), Linn (2), Malheur (1), Marion (33), Multnomah (19), Polk (1), Umatilla (2), Washington (2), Yamhill (5). Oregon’s 135th COVID-19 death is a 66-year-old man in Multnomah County, who tested positive on April 11 and died on May 13 at Kaiser Permanente Westside Medical Center. He had underlying medical conditions. Oregon’s 136th COVID-19 death is a 61-year-old man in Multnomah County, who tested positive on April 22 and died on May 12 at Oregon Health & Science University. He had underlying medical conditions. Oregon’s 137th COVID-19 death is a 66-year-old man in Washington County.

Another round of flights in support of first responders and medical personnel will take place from the Kingsley Field 173rd fighter wing from Klamath Falls today. 

TeamKingsley  is flying this Friday, May 15 with flyovers to salute our amazing healthcare workers on the frontlines of COVID-19.  Flyovers will begin at around 10:05 am at Ashland Community Hospital,  followed by Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford, Providence Medford Medical Center, Bay Area Hospital in Coos Bay, Coquille Valley Hospital, Southern Coos Hospital & Health Center in Bandon, and Curry General Hospital in Brookings.

Last weekend, the 173rd made the rounds through central and eastern Oregon flying over several hospitals in a two and a half hour period.  The fly-bys are always shared with our local health care providers as the aircraft takes off and returns to the area.

Around the State of Oregon

The pack of wolves known to frequent southern Oregon, usually called the “Rogue Pack,” was likely responsible for another livestock kill in Klamath County, according to the latest wolf depredation report from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

On the morning of May 11, a ranch manager in the Fort Klamath area reported finding a dead yearling steer in an 80-acre private pasture, prompting a call to ODFW. ODFW’s investigation concluded that the kill was confirmed to be from wolves, most likely of the Rogue Pack. The Rogue Pack has been one of the most active of the protected gray wolf groups in Oregon when it comes to preying the livestock of farmers and ranchers. Although ODFW’s latest wolf report found that depredations went down last year, the Rogue Pack topped depredation lists over both 2019 and 2018.

The last recorded livestock kills by the Rogue Pack happened in Jackson County last fall.

Despite the fact that counties in our region have been given the phase one go-ahead, local Oregonians plan to rally this weekend.

More than 200 people say they’ll be attending and over 600 have said they’re interested on a Facebook event page created for the Faith & Freedom Rally. The rally is scheduled to begin at 11:00AM at the Jackson County Courthouse on Saturday, May 16th. The rally will be held on the lawn of the courthouse and will have multiple speakers, including congressional candidate Jason Atkinson, Oregon State Senator Herman Baertschiger, and Jackson County Commissioner Colleen Roberts.

Oregon’s vote-by-mail system is earning praise during the coronavirus pandemic, but some Oregonians still will need help to get their vote counted.

Disability Rights Oregon deputy legal director Tom Stenson says people who are blind or have low vision usually get assistance filling out their ballots from the local county clerk’s office, with staff sometimes coming to folks’ houses.  Stenson says his organization is thinking of next Tuesday’s primary as a trial run for the general election, when coronavirus might still be impacting the state. Disability Rights Oregon will be documenting what works and what doesn’t so the system can be improved before November.

During the week of May 3-9, the Oregon Employment Department received 14,100 initial claims for unemployment benefits.

The agency has received 396,000 initial claims since coronavirus business closures began in mid-March. According to The Oregon Employment Department, these three counties had the largest number of unemployment claims during the week of May 3-9: The agency says if measured by dollars paid, Unemployment Insurance would now be the largest paying subsector of Oregon’s economy. By comparison, unemployment benefits would have ranked 37th by payroll prior to the coronavirus closures. The greatest number of initial claims continued to come from the accommodation and food services sector, with 68,400 initial claims filed in the industry since March 15.

Starting Monday, May 18, everyone at the Portland International Airport needs to wear a face covering to help stop the spread of coronavirus. PDX officials made the announcement Wednesday, along with unveiling several other new requirements for passengers, employees and contractors at the airport.

According to the new rules, only children under 2 years old and people with medical conditions that prevent them from wearing face coverings are exempt from wearing a cloth mask. Some airlines have already been requiring passengers to wear masks.  While still open as an essential service, PDX says its passenger volume is down 90-95% from last year.

The coronavirus outbreak is devastating the economy and leading to surges in hungry people. Oregon Food Bank is stepping up to meet the challenge and believes we can emerge stronger from this crisis.

The food-distribution network says its partners around the state have seen 20 to 60 percent spikes in demand for hunger relief over the last few weeks. Oregon Food Bank C-E-O Susannah Morgan says it’s the biggest crisis she’s seen in her 24 years working in food banking. But she adds that meals still are flowing to 13-hundred assistance sites distributing food across Oregon and southwest Washington each week.

 Donations for Oregon Food Bank’s “#EmergeStronger Community Challenge” is allowing the network to deploy more than four-point-one million dollars to get their emergency response plan running, according to a report from the organization.

The City of Ashland is experiencing a high level of bear problems. ODFW is asking residents to be extra vigilant and take steps to not feed bears.  

Since the beginning of March, ODFW has documented 29 complaints about bears inside city limits, including aggressive actions, nuisance behaviors, and loss of wariness. Many of these incidents are the result of access to garbage, bird seed, compost, or other types of food rewards.  The bear problems have been ongoing since early March. This morning, a bear showing signs of habituation (including being observed multiple times on a resident’s porch in a high-density residential area near Lithia Park) was put down by wildlife managers. Based on examination of the sow, she was young (2-3 years old) and had not yet reproduced (so not caring for cubs).

Meat from this bear has been salvaged and will be donated to someone in need. ODFW, Wildlife Services, and the Ashland Police Department are asking all residents of Ashland to do everything they can to avoid habituating these animals. 

Oregon State Police says it may have to cut hundreds of jobs due to a loss in revenue. The law enforcement agency says it could be forced to eliminate 199 positions by July.

The agency says its forecast revenue for May is down by three-billion-dollars. The agency is also expecting to lose some funding with Governor Kate Brown’s anticipated 27-million-dollar budget cuts to state agencies.  Oregon State Police says it is awaiting next Wednesday’s revenue forecast before making any final decisions.

The latest State of Oregon Covid-19 News & Preparedness Information Here.

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