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Rogue Valley News, Tuesday, 10/6 – Grants Pass Fire Rescue is teaming up with the National Fire Protection Association

The latest news stories and stories of interest in the Rogue Valley area and around the state of Oregon from the online digital home of the valley,

Fire Prevention WeekGrants Pass Fire Rescue is teaming up with the National Fire Protection Association® (NFPA®) — the official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week for more than 90 years —to promote this year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign, “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen!” The campaign works to educate everyone about  simple but important actions they can take to keep themselves and those around them safe.  

According to NFPA, cooking is the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries in the United States. Almost half (44%) of reported home fires started in the kitchen. Two-thirds (66%) of home cooking fires start with the ignition of food or other cooking materials.

“We know cooking fires can be prevented,” said Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice-president of outreach and advocacy. “Staying in the kitchen, using a timer, and avoiding distractions such as electronics or TV are steps everyone can take to keep families safe in their homes.”

 Grants Pass Fire Rescue encourages all residents to embrace the 2020 Fire Prevention Week theme.

“The most important step you should take before making a meal is to “Serve Up Fire Safety in the Kitchen!”. “A cooking fire can grow quickly. I have seen many homes damaged and people injured by fires that could easily have been prevented.”

Grants Pass Fire Rescue wants to share safety tips to keep you from having a cooking fire.

  • Never leave cooking food unattended. Stay in the kitchen while you are frying, grilling or broiling. If you have to leave, even for a short time, turn off the stove.
  • If you are simmering, baking, roasting, or boiling food, check it regularly, remain in the home while food is cooking, and use a timer to remind you that you’re cooking.
  • You have to be alert when cooking. You won’t be alert if you are sleepy, have taken medicine or drugs, or consumed alcohol that makes you drowsy.
  • Always keep an oven mitt and pan lid nearby when you’re cooking. If a small grease fire starts, slide the lid over the pan to smother the flame. Turn off the burner, and leave the pan covered until it is completely cool.
  • Have a “kid-free zone” of at least 3 feet around the stove and areas where hot food or drink is prepared or carried.

Today’s Headlines

Statewide in Oregon, the death toll from COVID-19 is unchanged from yesterday and remains at 572. Oregon Health Authority reported 288 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of yesterday bringing the state total to 35,049.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Benton (2), Clackamas (25), Columbia (5), Coos (4), Deschutes (11), Douglas (2), Jackson (14), Jefferson (3), Josephine (6), Klamath (3), Lane (33), Linn (7), Malheur (8), Marion (52), Morrow (1), Multnomah (61), Polk (3), Umatilla (7), Wasco (1), Washington (35) and Yamhill (5).

The Covid-19 cases continue to skyrocket in Lane County worrying city officials and health officials.  Another 130 new cases in the county arrived over the weekend, and another 33 on Monday.   Lane County’s total is now 1,516 cases since the pandemic began.

All told, 236 people are currently considered infectious. Four people remain hospitalized.

The University of Oregon alone has reported 57 new cases of COVID-19 in the first 4 days of October, including 32 new cases reported on Friday.

Of those cases, only one of the students lives in on-campus housing; the rest live off campus, according to UO data.

Public health officials have called for students to halt parties, where transmission appears to be taking place.  The county also announced a new workplace cluster involving Eugene Water & Electric Board staff.

The Lane County Board of Commissioners is set to consider five options during a meeting Tuesday aimed at stemming surging coronavirus cases in the county.

The options are a direct response to record case numbers set in the past few days that public health officials have said could warrant increased restrictions, including a return to Phase I.

The actions under consideration range from increasing education about COVID-19 precautions (masks, social distancing, etc.) all the way to more direct action, including requesting a change to Phase I restrictions or to be placed on Gov. Kate Brown’s watch list.

At the moment, county staff are recommending the less invasive option, which includes continuing to monitor the spread of the virus and increasing efforts to encourage people to wear masks, limit gatherings and social distance.   Importantly, this option would help buy time to see if people are changing their behavior in light of growing concern over rising case numbers.

Tuesday’s discussion over additional actions is informational only, and no vote is expected.

Eugene city police and other first responders are up against a street drug that’s having severe reactions and police are prompting a warning to all residents.

Officials said the drug, possibly methamphetamine, is causing profuse sweating, violent outbursts, elevated vital signs and causing people to have unusual behavior.

The odd response was noticed by Eugene-Springfield Fire EMS and Eugene police over the past couple days, a news release said.

Anymore with information or encountering this behavior is asked to call 911.  

Winter term at Oregon State University looks like it will be online and remotely learning according to officials on the campus in Corvallis.

As with the fall term, courses offered on-site in winter term will be primarily those that have a heavy experimental learning component, such as labs, field courses and some graduate courses.

“As we plan for spring term, OSU will closely monitor COVID-19 conditions and, if possible, provide increased in-person instruction and additional on-site extracurricular and experiential learning opportunities for students,” says the University’s President F. King Alexander.

Residence halls, dining centers, the Memorial Union and Valley Library are among the buildings that will stay open in the winter.

School officials will announce winter term plans for the OSU Cascades campus on October 15th.

In Roseburg, teachers staged a sickout last week in protest of schools reopening there with the Covid-19 cases also rising in the area.   The concern is over the Winston-Dillard School District reopening. Douglas County is not currently meeting the requirement of having 10 or fewer cases per 100,000 people a week for school reopening.

School officials said they had a meeting with the Oregon Department of Education over the weekend. With the number of students in the district limited due to current construction projects, ODE determined that the district is considered rural, which means they fall under different metrics that allows them to reopen for in-person learning.

However, school officials said they will still be reopening under a hybrid learning model, which is what they originally planned.

“I’m excited they were willing to entertain the conversation, I’m excited they were willing to let our school district to reopen,” said board member Brian West.  Monday was the first day of school for the high school. West said half the students will participate in distance learning, while the other half is learning in person. The groups will alternate through the week.  Stay tuned.

Around the state of Oregon

For the first time in 22 years Oregon’s largest congressional district, which is reliably red in a blue state, will not have an incumbent listed on November’s ballot. U.S. Rep. Greg Walden’s retirement opened an opportunity for a new U.S. House representative. Although the Democratic candidate, Alex Spenser of Klamath Falls,  said she feels she has an “excellent chance” at becoming the first Democratic Representative the historically conservative region has seen in four decades,  Political experts say Oregon’s 2nd Congressional District race is practically a foregone conclusion for Cliff Bentz, a former Republican state senator, likely to emerge as the winner. The vast 2nd Congressional District is the largest in Oregon, covering roughly two-thirds of the state in rural eastern and central Oregon. It is the seventh largest district in the nation. The population of the area is 648,280, according to the 2000 U.S. Census. The district has been represented by Walden since he was first elected in 1998. Walden is the only Republican among Oregon’s congressional delegation of two senators and five representatives. During Walden’s 11 election cycles, the closest race was in 2018 when he won by 17 percentage points against Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner. In October Walden announced that he would retire in January 2021.

On Sunday, October 4, Oregon State Police Troopers and emergency personnel responded to a single vehicle crash on I-84 near milepost 64.

Preliminary investigation revealed that a Harley Davidson FXS motorcycle, operated by Jose Antonio Gutierrez (40) of Milton-Freewater, was eastbound when for unknown reasons the rear tire seized causing the bike to crash.

Gutierrez was transported by Life Flight to Emanuel Hospital where he was pronounced deceased on Monday, October 5, 2020.

Also on Sunday afternoon, Oregon State Police Troopers and emergency personnel responded to a vehicle crash on Interstate 5 near milepost 16. Preliminary investigation revealed that a Peterbilt semi-truck, operated by Trevor Logan (28) of Grants Pass, was southbound when it struck a pedestrian. Logan was not injured and is cooperating with the investigation. The pedestrian sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced deceased.  Her name will be released when it is appropriate. OSP was assisted by ODOT and Jackson County Fire District #5.

If you tend to get a cold every winter, you might be in luck. That history could mean you’re better prepared to fight off Covid-19 than people who typically swagger through the dreary months without a sniffle. A new study published in the peer-reviewed microbiology journal mBio concludes that the novel coronavirus activates memory B immune cells, which might help clear Covid-19. These cells also fight some seasonal colds, and they can survive for decades in the body, biding their time in the background until they’re needed to fight a virus. The study, which analyzed blood samples from 26 people recovering from mild-to-moderate cases of the novel coronavirus and 21 healthy, non-infected people, is the first to report that memory B cells recognize and react to SARS-CoV-2, or Covid-19.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 8.4 percent during the month of August. This represents a sizable decrease from the record high rate of 14.7 percent notched in April during the middle of the economic shutdown, but still millions of Americans remain unemployed.  The hospitality industry has been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. As of last year, over 14 million people (or 9.4 percent of all workers) were employed in accommodation and food services, which includes hotels, casinos, restaurants, and bars. However, the industry accounted for almost one-third of all job losses due to the pandemic. BLS data shows that the industry has gained back over 3.7 million jobs since April, but unemployment remains high, at 20.8 percent.  The share of workers in restaurants and hospitality varies considerably on a geographic basis. Popular destinations among tourists like Nevada and Hawaii have the largest shares of workers in the sector. Over 22 percent of non-farm workers in Nevada are employed in the accommodation and food services industry, while Hawaii has over 17 percent. Nebraska and Connecticut have the lowest shares of workers in accommodation and food services, both at 7.6 percent.  The analysis found that in Oregon, 9.6% of all workers are members of the accommodation and food services industry, which relies heavily on tourism.

An Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC) adult in custody, Evan L. Lichty, died October 5, 2020. Lichty was incarcerated at Two Rivers Correctional Institution (TRCI) in Umatilla and passed away while on hospice care. As with all in-custody deaths, the Oregon State Police have been notified.

Lichty entered DOC custody on November 5, 2015, from Marion County. His earliest release date was September 22, 2022. Lichty was 87 years old. Next of kin has been notified.

DOC takes all in-custody deaths seriously. The agency is responsible for the care and custody of 14,000 individuals who are incarcerated in 14 institutions across the state. While crime information is public record, DOC elects to disclose only upon request out of respect for any family or victims.

 A man is facing charges after allegedly breaking the window of a Portland Police patrol vehicle and pepper spraying an officer inside.  The Portland Police Bureau says the officer was sitting inside his patrol vehicle doing paperwork around 9:30 yesterday morning when 41-year-old John B. Russell broke out his back window.  Police say Russell then pepper sprayed the interior of the vehicle and ran to his car and drove off.  Police stopped him about six blocks away and arrested him on multiple charges including assaulting a public safety officer.

Oregon is expected to add nearly 182,000 jobs over the next nine years.  The Oregon Employment Department forecasts most of those jobs will be in health care because of the state’s aging population.  Professional and Business services is second.  Most of the jobs will be located in Central Oregon and the Portland area.

U-Pick pumpkin patches and COVID-19

One of the joys of living in Oregon is getting to visit local farms and pumpkin patches for Halloween activities. You may be wondering if these activities are safe this year. Here are some tips for staying safe at the pumpkin patch this autumn.

  • Stay home if you’re sick or come into contact with someone who’s sick.
  • Wear a mask if you can’t stay physically distant.
  • Avoid crowded activities.
  • Look for activities that you can do without being too close to others. Some farms may offer hayrides for one household at a time or a corn maze with large aisles that has clearly marked one-way traffic.

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