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.
Friday, July 17, 2020
Rogue Valley Weather
Today Mainly sunny. High 92. NW winds at less than 5 mph, increasing to 10 to 15 mph. Overnight, clear and 59 degrees.
Saturday Sunny and a high of 95.
Sunday -Sunshine with a high near 98.
Monday Sunny with a high of 103 expected.
Tuesday Sunny with a high near 102.
Oregon health officials are reporting a record 437 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the state total to 13,509. This is the second time there have been more than 400 new cases in one day.
There were also two new deaths due to coronavirus, which brings the state death toll to 249.
The new cases reported today are in the following counties: Benton (4), Clackamas (28), Clatsop (2), Coos (2), Deschutes (28), Douglas (4), Hood River (5), Jackson (8), Jefferson (6), Josephine (1), Klamath (3), Lane (12), Lincoln (3), Linn (4), Malheur (17), Marion (53), Morrow (8), Multnomah (108), Polk (7), Tillamook (2), Umatilla (50), Union (1), Wasco (2), Washington (76), and Yamhill (3).
Jackson County reports 8 new Covid cases, and Josephine County 1, bringing the Grants Pass area’s total number of cases to 68. Of the 68 total cases, 13 are currently presumptive and 55 are confirmed. Klamath County reported 3 new cases in the last 24 hours.
Officials say the rise in cases are from social gatherings and sporadic spread. Worksite outbreaks and long-term care facility outbreaks also are contributing cases to the daily count, according to health officials. The Oregon Heath Authority recommends that everyone limit the size of gatherings, keep social distance, use face coverings, and find alternative ways for those who are vulnerable to participate in activities. Since Oregon began reopening, we have seen outbreaks when people get together to celebrate with family and friends. Some examples include:
COVID-19 is spreading more among social activities involving groups of younger people. OHA has recorded outbreaks linked to:
- An exercise classes
- A fraternity party
- A bachelor party
Alaska Airlines will begin daily non-stop flights between Medford and Los Angeles, the Jackson County Airport Authority announced on Thursday. Alaska has not had a direct flight from the Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport (MFR) to the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) since September of 2017. The new route begins on October 1 of this year. According to Jackson County, fares start as low as $39 one-way. By the end of the year, Alaska will have added 12 new routes linking LAX to cities across the West. Alaska says that it requires all employees and guests to wear a face covering through the airport and onboard, “with few exceptions.” The airline also boasts physical distancing onboard, enhanced cleaning, hospital-grade HEPA air filters, hand-sanitizing stations, and reduced onboard service to limit interactions.
Daniel Burda, the man accused of killing former Mouseketeer and Phoenix resident Dennis Day, has been released on bail pending a trial that has been pushed back until at least December.
Burda’s lawyer announced the development on Wednesday afternoon. According to court documents, Burda will be subject to GPS monitoring while he awaits trial. Police found the remains of 76-year-old Dennis Day at his Phoenix home in April of 2019. At that point, he had already been missing for nearly a year, having last been seen in July of 2018. Officers from the Phoenix Police Department made several visits to Day’s house shortly after he was reported missing, including a search of the home, without discovering the body. Police arrested Burda last July.
According to family and friends, Burda served as a live-in handyman for Day and his husband, Ernie Caswell. Burda was accused of causing Day’s death “by neglect or maltreatment,” abusing his corpse, and using his credit cards dozens of times over a span of days. Burda was sent to Oregon State Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation in October, but was ultimately declared fit for trial.
Federal regulators on Thursday threw a significant curveball at a coalition that has been planning for years to demolish four massive hydroelectric dams on a river along the Oregon-California border to save salmon populations that have dwindled to almost nothing.
The deal, which would be the largest dam demolition project in U.S. history, relies on a delicate calculus: The power company that operates the Klamath River dams will transfer its hydroelectric license and contribute $250 million in order to sever itself from the removal project and avoid any further liability or unanticipated costs. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, however, on Thursday approved the license transfer on the condition that PacifiCorp remain a co-licensee along with the Klamath River Renewal Corporation, the non-profit coalition assembled to oversee the dams’ demolition.
That stipulation could kill or drastically alter the deal because removing PacifiCorp from the deal entirely better protects the utility’s ratepayers — an element that was necessary to gain the support from public utility commissions in both Oregon and California.
Around the state of Oregon
One of the first wildfires in Klamath County in 2020 broke out Wednesday afternoon near the Spence Mountain Trailhead. Fire crews were still working to contain a wildfire that ignited near the shores of Upper Klamath Lake. The Oregon Department of Forestry said that the Spence Mountain Fire started around 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday evening. Though it was only about a half-acre when crews first arrived at the scene, it quickly spread up the slopes of Spence Mountain from its point of origin near the lake. The Spence Fire was approaching 50 acres in size late Thursday afternoon. ODF said that both air and ground crews from multiple agencies were working to contain the fire, with hand line now built around the majority of the area. 150 people were assigned to the fire on Thursday. According to the Klamath County Sheriff’s Office, due to ongoing fire operations in the area of Highway 140 northwest of Running Y, the Spence Mountain Trailhead System as well as the Howard Bay Boat Launch are closed to public use. In addition, watercraft are urged to avoid the waters of Howard Bay so as to not interfere with aircraft. No structures are currently threatened by the fire, ODF said.
An Oregon Liquor Control Commission employee has been charged with second-degree theft after $250 was found missing from an agency office, the commission said Thursday morning. An audit revealed in March that money was missing from license payments made in-person at the commission’s Roseburg office. The Oregon State Police investigated in June and arrested 43-year-old Fawnettia Laster in July, police said. Laster was subsequently released to appear in court. The commission is performing an internal investigation to review and correct procedures that allowed any possible theft to take place.
While all businesses are bearing the brunt of COVID-19’s economic backlash, truly small businesses are hardest hit. A coalition of not-for-profit, cooperative credit unions is working together to distribute relief grants, which qualified small businesses will not have to pay back. Out of concern that very small businesses — those with fewer than 25 employees — were left behind by federal COVID-19 relief packages, the Oregon Legislature and Governor Kate Brown set aside $5 million, asking Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) to process the applications and issue the grants. Four credit unions with CDFI designation — Consolidated Community, Trailhead, Point West, and Central Willamette — stepped up and will fund grants ranging from $2,500 to $12,500. The State of Oregon’s program designed the grants for historically disadvantaged businesses in every corner of the state, with particular focus on business owners who are Asian, Black, Hispanic, Native American, or women.
Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf issued a statement Thursday in regards to the Portland protests, saying the city has been “under siege for 47 straight days.” In it, he refers to the protesters as “anarchists” and accuses them of damaging the federal courthouse and other property. He said Oregon leaders are not addressing the violence and are instead blaming law enforcement and requesting fewer officers in the community. Along with his statement, Wolf cited several crimes he claims protesters have committed on federal property in Portland, including vandalizing the Hatfield Courthouse, Terry Schrunk Plaza, the 911 Federal Building, and the Pioneer Courthouse, using lasers to attempt to damage officers’ eyes, shooting fireworks at the federal courthouse, and trespassing.
One man is dead after his boat capsized near Haystack Rock in Pacific City. The Tillamook County Sheriff’s Office says the 73-year-old man died yesterday morning. Police say the man was in a 12-foot rigid inflatable boat with a 19-year-old man when they decided to move out into the ocean for some fishing after laying some crab pots in the bay. Police say that’s when an ocean swell flipped their boat, throwing both men into the water. The 19-year-old made it back to the boat and called 9-1-1. A Coast Guard air crew found the 73-year-old man and pulled him from the water. He died at the scene.
The Office of State Fire Marshal has reopened its process to accept nominees for the 2020 Golden and Silver Sparky awards.
The Golden Sparky award recognizes a member of the fire service for outstanding achievement in fire prevention or public fire safety education. The Silver Sparky award recognizes a civilian for outstanding achievement in fire prevention or public fire safety education.
Awards are normally announced and presented in May at the Oregon Fire Marshals Association Conference. Because of disruptions created by COVID-19, which canceled meeting events and impacted agencies and organizations statewide, the Office of State Fire Marshal (OSFM) has extended the submission deadline to the end of August.
“The Sparky awards call attention to the critical role of public education in fire safety, which remains as important as ever during our collective COVID-19 response,” said Oregon State Fire Marshal Jim Walker. “Each year, the Sparky award nomination and selection process helps inform the public of the importance of fire prevention and education. It also allows Oregonians, communities, and the fire services to acknowledge the leadership of their colleagues who are making a difference. We encourage all Oregonians to call out excellence among those helping others through fire prevention.”
You do not have to be a member of the fire service to nominate any person or agency. Nominations may also be submitted by members of the public.
The nomination deadline is Aug. 31.