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Rogue Valley News, Wednesday, 10/28 – Jackson County Eligible For Funds To Turn Motels Into Shelters

Oregon lawmakers have approved a similar initiative amounting to $30 million. Project TurnKey will only help counties impacted by wildfires, including Jackson County — which was already struggling with a housing crisis before the Almeda Fire destroyed 2,400 hundred homes.

Oregon Rep. Pam Marsh, D-Ashland, has been spearheading this project since July. The initial proposal came with a $65 million price tag, and it was split in two: part would go to wildfire-impacted communities, and $35 million would go to other parts of the state. The Joint Legislative Emergency Board didn’t approve the second half, but Marsh says it’ll likely reappear during the short legislative session.

“We’re going to continue to develop the project because we strongly believe that communities are ready to step up and act on homelessness,” Marsh says. “And the state has a responsibility to help them understand best practices and to provide resources.”

For now, nonprofits or government agencies serving Jackson, Lane, Clackamas, Lincoln, and Marion counties will soon be able to apply for funds from the Oregon Community Foundation. Those funds can be used to purchase hotels or motels, which have been struggling financially in recent months as a result of the pandemic.

Motels purchased with these funds could only be used as housing — whether temporary or permanent — otherwise, they have to be sold, with proceeds going back to the state.

Marsh says the goal is to have organizations also provide services like crisis counseling and other support. They’ll need to have previous experience in operating shelters, and they’ll need to come to the application process with an operational plan. Applications should be reviewed and selected by December 15, “with the hope that occupancy can be negotiated before the close of the transaction, in preparation for winter shelter needs,” reads the proposal documents.

Headlines Around the State of Oregon

We’re learning today that the Eugene Police responded to the call of a deceased person under the bridge at E. 39th Avenue and E. Amazon Drive yesterday afternoon.  Police had initially responded to a report of a fire and explosion.

Eugene Police Arson investigators “We have to really slow down and look at all the evidence surrounding it,” said once spokesperson.   Investigators are asking that if anyone has information, or observed anything Tuesday afternoon around the time of the incident to please contact police at (541) 682-5111.

COVID-19 has claimed 9 more lives in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 664, the Oregon Health Authority reported this morning.   OHA says 391 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 happened overnight, bringing the state total to 42,808.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (5), Benton (3), Clackamas (35), Clatsop (1), Columbia (3), Coos (5), Crook (2), Curry (1), Deschutes (5), Douglas (9), Harney (11), Jackson (25), Jefferson (1), Josephine (2), Klamath (5), Lake (1), Lane (31), Linn (6), Malheur (10), Marion (72), Multnomah (72), Polk (3), Umatilla (22), Union (1), Wallowa (2), Wasco (1), Washington (50), Wheeler (1), and Yamhill (6).  

Oregon’s rolling average for the past week reached a new high Tuesday, averaging 384 cases a day, up seven from Monday. But that remains significantly lower than some of Oregon’s neighbors, including Washington, Idaho and Nevada, which are averaging roughly 700 to 900 cases a day.

Meanwhile, Oregon is getting more than one-million rapid-response coronavirus tests from the federal government.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced yesterday it’s sending one-million-270-thousand Abbot BinaxNOW COVID-19 point of care antigen tests to Oregon.  The department says the shipment is intended to help “facilitate the continued re-opening of Oregon schools, businesses and economy.”  Officials say the rapid response tests can diagnose COVID-19 within 15 minutes.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Tuesday extended her declaration of a state of emergency for COVID-19 another 60 days until January 2, 2021.

The state of emergency declaration is the legal underpinning for the executive orders the Governor has issued to keep Oregonians healthy and safe throughout this crisis, including her orders on reopening Oregon while maintaining essential health and safety protections, as well as orders around childcare, schools, and higher education operations. Extending the state of emergency declaration allows those orders to stay in effect. 

With the holidays on the way, many are wondering how local hospitals are preparing for a possible sudden surge of patients amid the coronavirus pandemic.  Health experts share that they’re ready and prepared for anything, especially as an unexpected winter is close by. However, flu season could bring an even greater challenge.

Dr. Jim McGovern is PeaceHealth’s VP of Medical Affairs and COVID Incident Commander.

“We’re actually better than we have been,” McGovern said. “I think we’ve kind of gone through a small surge here in Lane County, and we’re cautiously optimistic that we’re headed to the other side of it.”

McGovern said that their planning began early on, and the hospital has the ability to expand their Medical/Surgical unit from three patients to 36, as well as other units when needed.

This could include opening up the Mother & Baby Unit when that is not being utilized. They’ve also recently opened up an observation unit that added even more beds. Lane County Public Health reports that 12 individuals are currently hospitalized with COVID-19. The Oregon Health Authority warned that hospital beds in Oregon could reach capacity by mid-December if action in slowing the spread is not taken.

A woman was shot in the face with a paintball gun while walking near Maxwell Road and Northwest Expressway in Eugene Tuesday night, the Eugene Police Department reported today.

The woman, who witnesses described as in her 20s, was reportedly walking home from work around 11 p.m. when a vehicle drove by and shot paintballs at the woman, one hitting her just inches from her eye. One passerby said his son heard the woman screaming for help, having thought she had been shot by a firearm instead of a paintball gun.

Police said the woman did have injuries but was not taken to a hospital.  The person who came upon the victim said the woman was hit so hard she could not feel her face. A vehicle once person saw was an older, white Ford Mustang, but wasn’t sure if it was the vehicle involved in the shooting. He said shots continued to be fired from the vehicle, forcing him and others on scene to jump into a ditch in case they were shot at again.  If you have any information, contact the Eugene Police Department.

Oregon is seeing record-breaking early ballot returns with one week to go before the presidential election.  Officials say more than one-million residents have already returned their ballots for next Tuesday’s election.  That’s 40-percent of Oregon’s registered voters.  Back in 2016, only 28-percent of Oregon voters had cast their ballots one week before the election.

An Oregon Office of Emergency Management dashboard shows that at least 4,009 homes were destroyed in eight counties in Oregon in recent fires. Some 2,364 homes were destroyed in Jackson County and 11 in Klamath County.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state have awarded millions of dollars in aid and other initiatives to help fire victims.

Oregon’s devastating September wildfires that killed nine people and burned more than 1 million acres.

Most of the wildfires in Oregon are contained, though several aren’t yet: the Riverside fire near Estacada (72% contained), the Thielsen fire in the Diamond Lake area (80% contained) and the Slater fire in Josephine County and Northern California (85% contained).

For Oregonians with questions or concerns about voting this election, the state Attorney General’s office says that it has set up a voter protection hotline to provide answers.

The voter protection hotline can be reached at 971-673-4111 for anyone with non-emergency questions and concerns. Messages are reviewed regularly by Department of Justice staff, who can usually return calls within 24 hours on weekdays, or by Monday if left over the weekend. Instructions are offered in English and Spanish, but messages can be returned in other languages upon request.

The AG’s office asserts that voter fraud in Oregon is extremely rare, based on studies throughout the state’s 20-year history with vote-by-mail. Nonetheless, voters who have suspicions about possible fraud and other illegal election activity can use the hotline to report them.

A Portland City Commissioner is proposing a plan to redirect millions of dollars in police funding to community members struggling financially amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.  

Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty unveiled a proposal yesterday to cut 18-million dollars from the Portland Police Bureau.  Mayor Ted Wheeler says he wants to hear more about the potential public safety impact before signing off on it.  A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for tomorrow.

An 18-year-old Sweet Home man has pleaded no contest to two counts of first-degree sex abuse in Linn County Circuit Court.

Seven Lee Bullock entered the pleas last week and is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 6, the Albany Democrat-Herald reported.

The crimes occurred between November 2012 and March 2016 and the victim was a child under the age of 10 according to court documents.  Per terms of the negotiated settlement, eight other sex crimes are scheduled to be dismissed at sentencing.

Police are searching for a missing 7-year-old California girl who could be in the Springfield area.  Police say Emalee Perry was taken from her home in Red Bluff, California Saturday by her biological mother.  Investigators believe they may have been headed toward Springfield or Rainbow.

A Bend, Oregon resident was sentenced to 36 months’ imprisonment today for running an illicit Butane Honey Oil (BHO) extraction lab on rural Bend property, announced U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams.

Jacob Genaro Robe, 31 years old, was sentenced to 3 years in federal prison and 3 years’ supervised release.

“BHO extraction is a highly volatile and dangerous process that has resulted in explosions injuring and killing Oregon residents. When Oregon citizens passed state laws legalizing and regulating the manufacture of marijuana products including BHO, it was meant to bring those black market operations into the light of day and create safeguards protecting the health and safety of Oregon consumers” said U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams. “Those laws are ineffective without enforcement. As this case demonstrates, there are individuals who will violate laws in pursuit of profits over consumer protections and we stand ready to hold them accountable.”

According to court documents, Robe and his brother created a vertical operation growing marijuana, manufacturing BHO and distributing it in other states for significant profit. On March 27, 2018, an Oregon State Police trooper stopped Jacob Robe for a traffic violation near Klamath Falls, Oregon.  The officer recognized signs of drug trafficking and eventually located more than $20,000 in cash, BHO, and hallucinogenic mushrooms.

The Central Oregon Drug Enforcement Team had previously received information regarding defendant and his brothers having a BHO lab and selling BHO in other states, and detectives served a search warrant on the brothers’ rural property in Bend, Oregon.  Also found were freezers with marijuana, drying racks with sheets of BHO and jars with their logo “THE BHOys.” (Photos)

In an unattached two-story structure approximately 179 large, mature, marijuana plants were located along with around 280 starter plants.  Law enforcement located an indoor marijuana grow with hundreds of plants, a closed-loop BHO lab, 18 pounds of BHO, 200 pounds of marijuana and thirteen firearms. Police located the firearms in various places in the residence, including positioned near the front door (photo) in the kitchen (photo) and in Robe’s bedroom.

On November 25, 2019 Robe was charged by information, and on January 29, 2020 pleaded guilty to conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana.

Robe forfeited $23,000 in U.S. currency.

Pandemic-related job losses have increased the number of Oregonians eligible for help paying for health insurance. The Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace estimates thousands of Oregonians may be newly eligible.

In recent years, Oregon had made great strides in reducing the uninsured rate. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 94 percent of all Oregonians had health coverage. Since the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of Oregonians either have lost their job or have experienced a loss in income. As a result, these Oregonians may be newly eligible for financial help to purchase health insurance.

Insurance agents and community partner organizations throughout the state are available to help with applying for financial assistance and choosing private plans. Consumers can also browse plans and find out how much savings they are eligible for by going to OregonHealthCare.gov/WindowShop.

Oregonians who do not get health insurance through their job or a program such as the Oregon Health Plan or Medicare may qualify for help paying for 2021 coverage at OregonHealthCare.gov. Even if people are temporarily uninsured, they can sign up for help by the Dec. 15 deadline to get health insurance for next year.

“A pandemic is no time to go without health insurance and the essential health benefits that come with it,” said Chiqui Flowers, administrator of the Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace. “You can get help paying for health insurance based on your income. Don’t assume you make too much to be eligible.”

Individuals making $51,040 or less per year, and families of four making $104,800 or less, may get help paying for coverage. In 2020, more than seven in 10 Oregonians who chose plans through HealthCare.gov got financial help for monthly premiums and out-of-pocket costs. These savings lowered the average premium to just $145 per month.

To apply, go to OregonHealthCare.gov before Dec. 15 and answer a few Oregon-specific questions to get to the right application. Or they can search the “get help” directory on the site to find an insurance agent or community partner organization who can help them complete the application and enroll. Insurance agents and community partners provide local, one-on-one assistance at no charge to the client. This help is available virtually and over the phone, and in person following safety protocols.

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