Rogue Valley News, Thursday, 7/30 – Extreme Fire Danger Level Goes Into Effect; Oregon With 8 More Covid-19 Deaths, 304 New Cases

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.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Rogue Valley Weather

Today   Widespread haze before noon. Areas of smoke after noon. Sunny and hot, with a high near 105. Clear overnight with a low around 66.

Friday   Widespread haze before noon. Sunny and hot, with a high near 101.

Saturday   Sunny, with a high near 95. Calm wind becoming northwest around 5 mph in the afternoon.

Sunday   Sunny, with a high near 94.

Monday   Sunny, with a high near 91.

Today’s Headlines

Triple-digit temperatures recently have increased the wildfire danger in and around the City of Grants Pass.

At 12:01AM on Friday, July 31, the official fire danger level will climb to Extreme (Red) within the City of Grants Pass as well as Jackson and Josephine counties.

The public fire restrictions that go into effect on Friday are detailed below.

  • Power saws are not allowed to be used at any time in areas of flammable vegetation. 
  • Equipment used for the cutting, grinding or welding of metal may not be used at any time in areas of flammable vegetation.
  • The mowing of dry, cured grass with power equipment may not take place at any time.
  • The use of any other spark-emitting equipment using an internal combustion engine is disallowed at any time in areas of flammable vegetation.

The following fire prevention regulations shall remain in effect:

  • Open wood fueled fires are prohibited, including campfires, cooking fires, and warming fires, except at locations designated by the Fire Marshal. Wood smokers, charcoal barbecues as well as propane and natural gas fueled ornamental fires are allowed.
  • Motor vehicles, including motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles, are only allowed on improved roads free of flammable vegetation, except for the culture and harvest of agricultural crops.
  • Smoking is allowed only in an enclosed vehicle, in a boat on the water, or in a cleared area within a campsite.

The City Fire Marshal or an authorized representative may, in writing, approve a modification or waiver of these requirements. For more information about the City of Grants Pass Fire Season regulations, please call the Fire Prevention Bureau at 541-450-6200.

Hold on Jackson County, Gov. Kate Brown’s new Metric Education Press Conference this week has thrown a wrench into the Medford School District’s original fall plan.

School districts are now scrambling to change on how they will be teaching classes after Brown announced new coronavirus metrics that will now determine when schools can allow in-person learning.   Superintendent of the Medford School District Dr. Bret Champion is working with his team to adjust to the governor’s changes.   A previous update to state guidance included face covering requirements for all Oregon students. 

“As of today (and please know things change quickly!), grades four through 12 will be fully virtual,” Dr. Champion said in a letter to MSD families. “Students will be taught by their teachers from the school the students attend.”

Because Jackson County’s COVID-19 numbers are currently below the metric threshold, schools would have the option of offering in-person classes to grades K-3.

“We will be studying our options and sharing updated and detailed information in the coming days,” Dr. Champion said. “We know that this continues to be a roller coaster for our families and staff. Please know that we continue to work to ensure that our system provides the best possible education for ALL our students, while protecting the health of our students, our staff, and our community.”

MSD will be holding a virtual town hall on August 5 at 5:30 p.m. to discuss the evolving plans.

“In the Medford School District, we have a shared vision: ALL are learning and learning is for ALL,” Champion said. “That has never been more true than right now. This isn’t going to be perfect, but we will do our very best (along with you) to support students learning and wellbeing as we work toward opening this unprecedented school year.”  Stay tuned.

Southern Oregon University will pivot to a fall academic schedule in which most classes will be delivered remotely.

The shift is due to the continued spread of COVID-19 in southern Oregon and statewide.

The university updated its safety and health protocols, including strict capacity standards for indoor spaces and a requirement for face coverings both inside and outside where adequate social distancing is not possible.

SOU is working with Oregon’s other public universities, community partners and Jackson County Public Health to plan for and respond to positive COVID-19 cases when they occur.

On Wednesday, RADE detectives were notified of a male in Grants Pass who was in possession of a large quantity of methamphetamine near SW Burgess and SW 4th Street.

Detectives began surveillance and located the male, Joshua W. Wheaton, from Crescent City, CA. Wheaton was detained during the investigation and GPDPS Narcotics Detection K9 Officer Gasperson and his partner Match responded. With their assistance, Wheaton was detained and he and his vehicle was searched. Located was over 508 grams (1.11 pounds) of methamphetamine, cash, packaging material and drug notes.

Wheaton was taken into custody and lodged for PCS/DCS Methamphetamine.

Near Klamath Falls, hot, gusty afternoon winds coupled with low humidity will make things difficult for fire crews as they try to battle the blazes that have combined to burn more than 81,000 acres in the Tulelake and Tionesta areas near Lava Beds National Park.  

Thursday and Friday are expected to bring more red flag conditions due to wind and humidity.  There remains a mandatory evacuation for the Medicine Lake Recreation Area. The Lava Beds National Monument remains closed. According to fire managers, the Caldwell Fire that burned out of control Sunday and Monday was more manageable on Tuesday. Crews now have 40% of the fire contained. On the east side, the fire is held by the held by the 120 road, and crews built control line all around the fire area that had crossed over the railroad tracks. 

COVID-19 has claimed eight more lives in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 311.

Oregon Health Authority reported 304 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of yesterday, bringing the state total to 17,721.

The new confirmed cases are in the following counties: Benton (3), Clackamas (28), Clatsop (1), Crook (3), Deschutes (16), Douglas (2), Hood River (7), Jackson (13), Jefferson (5), Josephine (1), Klamath (2), Lane (13), Lincoln (2), Linn (1), Malheur (20), Marion (20), Morrow (5), Multnomah (82), Polk (4), Umatilla (4), Union (1), Wallowa (1), Wasco (3), Washington (51) and Yamhill (13).

There were 13 new cases were reported yesterday in Jackson County. Jackson County Public Health on Wednesday reported the first death of a county resident due to coronavirus. According to the agency, the patient was a 65-year-old man who tested positive on June 29. He died on July 25 at Providence Portland Medical Center.

One new case of COVID-19 has been identified in Josephine County, bringing the county’s total number of cases to 98.

For everyone, to protect yourself from Covid-19: 

Keep your distance by maintaining six feet of social or physical distancing between yourself and others.

Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, utilizing hand sanitizer when washing facilities are not available.

Sanitize surfaces that are often touched. Avoid gatherings of any size where social or physical distancing is not possible.

To protect others around you, cover coughs and sneezes. Stay home when sick.

Wear a clean mask in public spaces, including outdoors when six feet of social distance cannot be maintained.

Around the state of Oregon

23 year old Jessica Criss of Bozeman was crowned Miss Montana 2020 on July 25 in Glendive. Jessica is the daughter of Charles and JoAnne Criss of Klamath Falls. 

She graduated from Montana State University in equine science in 2019. Future plans are to get a masters degree so she can use horses as therapy animals. Criss spent last summer on an internship in the Netherlands with a professional showhorse jumper and toured Europe every free opportunity. She is a black belt in karate, but said she will teach youth you don’t have to use violence to protect yourself. Her talent is classical vocal. For the fifth consecutive year, she was chosen by her peers as Miss Congeniality. She wins a $5,100 scholarship and will advance to compete in the Miss America Pageant.

Gov. Brown and leaders from the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Education shared new guidance about schools and how they might operate this fall saying there’s no simple, statewide answer for every school in Oregon.

It is important to get students back to class, but how that is done that depends on a number of important factors, such as: prevalence of the virus, availability of testing, the capacity of the local health care system to provide quality care and the readiness of the public health system to work with schools to contain any outbreaks. Oregon’s Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance outlines three learning options for Oregon schools:

  • On-site: Students attend in person full-time.
  • Hybrid: Students attend in person part time and do distance learning part-time.
  • Comprehensive Distance Learning: Students learn remotely, experiencing daily interaction with teachers who will guide the student’s full educational experience. This option will provide additional supports for mental, social and emotional health, as well as family engagement.

Oregon public health officials evidence-based metrics is to help school boards and school districts make local decisions based on local conditions, to determine how they can safely reopen school. The guidance offers some exceptions to address that communities across Oregon are dealing with a variety of circumstances and no one solution fits all. It also prioritizes in-person learning for kindergarten through third grade.

Schools need everyone in the community to help students safely return to the classroom and keep them in school. We can suppress COVID-19 and return to levels where we can safely reopen schools if we all do our part.

  • Wear a mask or face-covering.
  • Maintain physical distance.
  • Avoid large group get-togethers.

Federal agents who have clashed with protesters in Portland, Oregon, will begin a “phased withdrawal” from the city, Gov. Kate Brown said Wednesday. 

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said in a statement the plan negotiated with Brown over the last 24 hours includes a “robust presence” of Oregon State Police in the downtown of the state’s largest city.  

Federal agents with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will begin leaving the city’s downtown area on Thursday, Brown said. Federal Protective Service agents — who are always posted at the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse — will work alongside state police to guard the exterior of the courthouse and a limited number of other federal agents will remain inside the courthouse, she said.

The heat of summer is here across the state, and with extreme temperatures and dry conditions comes increased risks. Oregon’s Office of Emergency Management offers a few simple tips to help Oregonians keep cool, stay safe and prevent wildfires as we all navigate the continued impacts of COVID-19.

  • Staying home to prevent the spread of COVID?  Keep windows and blinds closed to stay cool indoors and make sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
  • When you need to be outdoors, stay close to home, bring a water bottle with you and limit activity to early in the day or later in the evening when temperatures are cooler.
  • Heading out to cool off in the water? Plan ahead, know the risks and don’t forget those life jackets.
  • Be sure to wear face coverings when you cannot maintain a distance of at least six feet from others. Switch to a cotton bandana or scarf if your normal face covering is too heavy or thick to wear in the heat.
  • Check on family members and neighbors, especially the elderly, those who live alone or who may need special assistance. Remember, you can visit in person as long as you stay at least six feet away, but a call, text or video-chat works as well and reduces the risk of COVID exposure.
  • It’s everyone’s responsibility to help prevent human-caused wildfires. Know your local fire restrictions and always pack a water source and a shovel. If you make a campfire, be sure it’s dead out before leaving. To learn about restrictions and wildfire activities at home, at work and when you are out and about, visit www.KeepOregonGreen.org/prevent-wildfires.  

Above all, know your risks and be prepared for them. OEM’s 2 Weeks Ready initiative offers a real way each of us can help ourselves and our communities prepare for the next emergency.

2 Weeks Ready encourages Oregonians to prepare to be on their own for a minimum of two weeks. This empowers individuals and communities to count on themselves and each other, especially in the aftermath of a major disaster such as a wildfire or earthquake. It’s also a great way to mitigate the effects of events such as heat waves, power outages, and even COVID-19 as people may need to isolate at home for as long as 14 days. “It’s all about knowing the risk so you can plan ahead to reduce that risk,” says OEM Director Andrew Phelps.

“Disasters don’t wait for us to be ready, and they can be due to any number of hazards. Preparing for disaster can be overwhelming but 2 Weeks Ready is an achievable goal. You don’t have to get there today, but you do need to start now.”OEM has created a short video to show Oregonians the basics of a 2 Weeks Ready kit, including face coverings and hand sanitizer. Everyone’s kit will look different so be sure to customize for you and your family.For more information on preparedness resources, visit www.oregon.gov/oem.

The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service-Wildlife Services (APHIS-WS) today renewed their partnership for alleviating human-wildlife conflicts on BLM-administered public lands. 

An updated Memorandum of Understanding clarifies respective roles and responsibilities for wildlife damage management and reducing predation on livestock across more than 245 million acres of public lands, mostly in the West and Alaska. The MOU will remain in effect for five years and replaces the previous agreement, signed in 2012.“Under the Trump Administration, the BLM has increased access to and recreational opportunities on public lands. Reaffirming our partnership with APHIS-Wildlife Services allows us to take steps to protect the safety and the recreational experience of public land visitors and their pets while helping to ensure abundant wildlife,” said BLM Deputy Director for Policy and Programs William Perry Pendley. “We also recognize the livestock community, as well as those with small children and pets in the urban-rural interface areas, must be protected from attacks by dangerous predators.”

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