The latest news stories and stories of interest in the Rogue Valley from the digital home of Southern Oregon, from Wynne Broadcasting and RogueValleyMagazine.com
Thursday, December 3, 2020
Rogue Valley Weather
Today- Patchy freezing fog before 10am. Mostly sunny, with a high near 54. Calm wind.
Friday- Patchy fog before 10am. Otherwise, sunny, with a high near 54. Calm wind.
Saturday- A 30 percent chance of rain after 4pm. Patchy fog before 10am. Otherwise, partly sunny, with a high near 55. Southeast wind 3 to 6 mph.
Sunday- Areas of fog before 10am. Otherwise, mostly sunny, with a high near 52.
Monday- Mostly sunny, with a high near 55.
Weekly cases, hospitalizations set new pandemic highs
OHA’s COVID-19 weekly report released today, set new weekly highs for COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations for the second consecutive week. OHA reported 9,100 new daily cases during the week of Monday, Nov. 23 through Sunday, Nov. 29, a 5% increase over the previous week.
Weekly hospitalizations associated with COVID-19 rose to 398, a 9% increase, a significant slowing from the previous week, yet still the highest weekly total reported during the pandemic. There were 86 reported COVID-19 reported deaths, up from 61 the previous week.
People aged 20 to 49 have accounted for 55% of the cases, while people 70 and older have accounted for 74% of the deaths. During the week of Nov. 22 to Nov. 28,141,356 COVID-19 tests were administered. The percentage of positive tests was 8.6%.
We’re closer to a COVID-19 vaccine, but keep wearing your mask
After a long spring, summer and fall, there is a glimmer of light ahead. The first COVID-19 vaccines may be available in limited quantities before the end of 2020.
Currently, two vaccines are nearing approval. The vaccine producers, pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna, report that the vaccines were found to be 90% and 95% effective, respectively, in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 in Phase 3 study participants.
The vaccines are waiting for approval under an Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after a rigorous testing and trial process. Oregon has made the safety of COVID-19 vaccines a top priority and has joined a consortium of western states (Washington, California, Nevada and Colorado) that is reviewing all vaccines for safety before they are made available to the public. Federal partners are also working to ensure the safety of COVID-19 vaccines.
If approved, a limited supply will be available in December. People will need two doses, spaced a few weeks apart. Because the initial supply of first doses will be limited, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends prioritizing two groups: health care workers treating COVID-19 patients and residents of long-term care facilities. OHA has not yet determined prioritization and will convene a Vaccine Advisory Committee to gain input from community members about how to ensure an equitable approach to distribution.
OHA is working with vaccination providers, including doctors’ offices, retail pharmacies, hospitals and federally qualified health centers, to ensure that people in Oregon can easily get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as large quantities are available. The hope is that there will be enough vaccine to start widespread immunization in spring 2021.
This news offers hope that we may be able to end the widespread impact of the pandemic, but it’s important to continue taking steps to slow the spread. Please stay home whenever possible, avoid gatherings, wear a face covering, keep six feet of physical distance, and wash hands often.
Keep up to date with Oregon’s COVID-19 vaccine plans at healthoregon.org/covidvaccine.
Apply to join Oregon’s COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee
As Oregon prepares to receive and distribute vaccines, OHA is establishing a Vaccine Advisory Committee to create a final vaccine distribution plan that centers equity. We are sharing this opportunity with community partners so that anyone who may be interested has a chance to learn more and apply.
The Vaccine Advisory Committee is a decision-making group that will work with OHA to co-create a final vaccine distribution plan that prioritizes communities most impacted by COVID-19 and those impacted by past and current health inequities. The committee will guide decisions on how the supply of vaccines, which will be limited at first, is prioritized and allocated across the state. It will develop communication and community engagement strategies to build trust and increase confidence in COVID vaccines.
Members will be expected to attend a three-hour initial meeting during the week of Jan. 4 and one- to two-hour weekly meetings through January and February, with continued regular meetings throughout the spring. Meetings will be held in English on Zoom, with language interpreters available for members who prefer languages other than English. Please contact email@example.com if you have questions. To apply, fill out this form by Dec. 14. Thank you!
Oregon’s new risk and protection framework takes effect Thursday
Effective on Thursday, Dec. 3, when the “freeze” ends, Oregon will begin using its new risk and protection framework. Here are the county risk levels.
- Lower risk: Gilliam, Sherman, Wallowa, Wheeler
- Moderate risk: Harney, Tillamook
- High risk: Benton, Clatsop, Coos, Curry, Lincoln
- Extreme risk: 25 counties
OHA to change COVID-19 test reporting
OHA is revising its process for reporting test results to align with the new statewide framework. The change will take effect tomorrow, Dec. 3.
This new health and safety framework is based on four risk levels for counties level of COVID-19 spread: extreme, high, moderate and lower risk.
One of the key new metrics in determining the spread of the virus is the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests. To determine that, OHA is no longer counting the people tested and will instead count test results. This change will provide a more complete picture of the spread of the disease in a community.
To support this change, and to maintain transparency in reporting on COVID-19, OHA is changing its public dashboards. That transition is expected to be complete in about two weeks. During that time, OHA will continue to update its Tableau dashboards on weekdays.
OHA has developed an interim dashboard that will report test results at the state and county levels until the new revised dashboard is deployed.
In related news, Oregon Tech President Nagi Naganathan tested positive for COVID-19
Tuesday, is in quarantine and is recuperating, according to the school. During
Naganathan’s absence, Joanna Mott, provost and vice president of academic affairs,
will act in his capacity. The university announced Wednesday that Naganathan has not
been on campus since Nov. 23 and has had limited in-person contact with school
officials since then. Oregon Tech said it will work with county public health officials to
trace any possible contacts.
The Rogue Pack of gray wolves has made its way back to Jackson County in
southwestern Oregon and killed a cow, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and
The pack created by the now-dead wolf known as OR-7 was blamed for a Thursday kill of a year-old cow in the Rancheria area east of Butte Falls, The Mail Tribune reported. Fish and Wildlife officials say the heifer was on private grass pasture about a quarter-mile from the rancher’s home. The carcass was discovered with the entrails and part of its hind legs consumed. The injuries were consistent with previous livestock kills by wolves in the area known to be Rogue Pack habitat and thus was attributed to the pack, officials said.
A registered sex offender accused of trafficking in child exploitation was sentenced to
more than 17 years in prison on Tuesday, the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office
said. In August of 2019, the Medford Police Department began an undercover
investigation into people using Peer-to-Peer software in order to share explicit images of
children. During that operation, the DA’s office said, police identified 55-year-old Central
Point man Christopher Sartin as one of the suspects. Sartin is a registered sex offender,
having been convicted on a child pornography charge in 2011. The Southern Oregon
High Tech Crimes Task Force served multiple search warrants and seized evidence for
analysis. Detectives later identified one high-resolution image that included a
thumbprint, one which they believed might be a match for Sartin, the DA’s office said.
Investigators also came to believe that the child in the photos could be local, prompting
a push to identify the victim. Medford Police detectives were ultimately able to identify the child the images as a “local girl who was under the age of twelve.”
An Inmate from Jackson County has died in Oregon State prison custody. Michael Alvie
Murray, died the morning of December 2 nd . Murray was incarcerated at Oregon State
Penitentiary (OSP) in Salem and passed in the infirmary. As with all in-custody deaths,
the Oregon State Police have been notified, and the Medical Examiner will determine
cause of death. Murray entered DOC custody on August 8, 2013, from Jackson County
with an earliest release date of April 20, 2021. Murray was 73 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 approximately 13,100 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. OSP is a multi-
custody prison located in Salem that houses over 2,000 adults in custody. OSP is surrounded by a 25-foot-high wall with 10 towers.
Deputy Involved Shooting Case — On 12/02/20 deputies with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report of a disorderly loud party in the 2500 block of Agate Meadows in White City, Oregon. Neighbors reported a group of more than 25 subjects were inside the house and there were several speeding vehicles leaving the scene as well as other vehicles parked illegally in the neighborhood. A deputy on scene reported being involved in a shooting. All law enforcement on scene are unharmed. One individual received a gunshot wound that is non-life threatening. The male subject is being treated at a local medical facility. The Jackson County Major Assault Death Investigation Unit (MADIU) was called out and is coordinating the investigation. No further information is available at this time.
AROUND the STATE of OREGON
M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust Distributes Nearly $700,000 in Wildfire Relief Funding
Contributions made to nonprofits supporting individuals and families during community recovery – The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust will contribute $680,000 to 12 nonprofits in Oregon and Washington serving individuals and families impacted by the deadly wildfires that swept through the region earlier this year. The funding decision was made at the nonprofit foundation’s most recent board meeting, and recipients were told of the contributions in the days leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday.
“We all know that 2020 has been an exceptionally hard year for so many in our region. To then see entire communities that we love be ravaged by once-in-a-century fires is heartbreaking,” said Steve Moore, executive director, M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust. “We also know that a years-long rebuilding process is just now getting underway. We are grateful to play a small role in supporting the organizations on the ground in these communities as they seek to help individuals and families begin anew.”
According to reports, the 2020 wildfire season was one of the most destructive in history throughout the Western United States. In total, 11 people were killed in Oregon as flames destroyed more than one million acres of land and thousands of homes and buildings. Similarly, the state of Washington saw more individual fires in one season than ever before as more than 713,000 acres burned, taking one life.
As rebuilding efforts begin, nonprofit organizations are working tirelessly to help address the needs of families and communities as they seek to navigate a season made all the more challenging against the complex backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. To support those serving this critical need, Emergency Fire Relief and Rebuilding Support* contributions will be made by the Trust to the following organizations:
- Salvation Army, Cascade Division
- Catholic Charities of Oregon
- American Red Cross of Northwest Oregon
- Northwest Division of Salvation Army
- Catholic Charities of Eastern Washington
- American Red Cross Northwest Region
- Community Foundation of North Central Washington
- United Way of Jackson County
- Greater Douglas United Way (Douglas County)
- Klamath Community Foundation
- Teresa McCormick Center, Medford
- Northwest Relief Fund of the National Christian Foundation
These donations are the second collection of emergency contributions made by the Murdock Trust this year. In addition to the Murdock Trust’s ongoing Strategic Project and Initiative Grants programs, which are awarded quarterly and have proceeded as planned through the year, the foundation has also awarded more than $15 million in emergency grants to nonprofits serving community needs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are so grateful for all of the organizations, agencies, business partners, school districts, faith communities and individual volunteers who sprang into action to serve the immediate needs of those affected, first by the COVID-19 pandemic and then by these fires,” said Moore. “We are grateful to play a small role in supporting these groups in these first moments of recovery, and we stand ready to continue to help strengthen and build the capacity of these groups and other nonprofits serving the diverse needs of our region during these unprecedented times.”
*Due to capacity, distributions through this program are made by invitation only. Nonprofits that serve the Pacific Northwest community and are interested in pursuing a grant with the Murdock Trust are encouraged to review and consider a Strategic Project or Initative Grant. For more information and funding criteria, please visit our website: murdocktrust.org/grant-opportunities.
About M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust
The Murdock Trust, created by the will of the late Melvin J. (Jack) Murdock, provides grants to organizations in five states of the Pacific Northwest—Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington—that seek to strengthen the region’s educational, spiritual and cultural base in creative and sustainable ways. Since its inception in 1975, the Trust has awarded more than 7,000 grants totaling more than $1 billion. For more information, find the Murdock Trust on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and on our website.
MEDICARE OPEN ENROLLMENT ENDS MONDAY, DEC. 7
(Salem) – Time is running our for people with Medicare to make changes to their health plans and prescription drug coverage for 2021. Medicare’s open enrollment period for 2021 benefits ends Monday, Dec. 7.
There are several things to take note of for the 2021 plan year. They are:
- 29 prescription drug plans
- A variety of Medicare Advantage (MA) plans, including a new Medicare Medical Savings Account MA option, are available in all Oregon counties (only two MA plan options are available in Baker, Gilliam, Harney, Lake, Morrow, Umatilla, Union, and Wallowa counties)
- Part D senior savings model for diabetic supplies
- Acupuncture, telehealth, and other virtual services
- End-stage renal disease (ESRD) patients can enroll in Medicare Advantage plans for 2021
Visit Medicare.gov/Plan-Compare to find 2021 health and drug plans, compare coverage options, or estimate Medicare costs. For more details, check out Medicare.gov or the 2021 Oregon Guide to Medicare Insurance Plans viewed online at dcbspage.org/2021guide.
The Oregon Senior Health Insurance Benefits Assistance (SHIBA) program is available to help beneficiaries understand their options. To find free, local Medicare counseling help, go to dcbspage.org/SHIBALOCAL or call 800-722-4134 (toll-free) to speak to a state-certified Medicare counselor.
SHIBA counselors can help Oregonians navigate the Medicare.gov Plan Finder tool to enter prescriptions and compare the cost and benefits of individual drug plans, provide enrollment guidance, and answer any other questions related to Medicare benefits. All of these services are available remotely statewide to ensure the safety of both clients and counselors.
Find local help by calling 800-722-4134 (toll-free) or visiting SHIBA.Oregon.gov. Follow SHIBA on Facebook and Twitter. Oregon SHIBA is part of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, Oregon’s largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency. Visit dcbs.oregon.gov. Follow DCBS on Twitter: twitter.com/OregonDCBS. Receive consumer help and information on insurance, mortgages, investments, workplace safety, and more.
A retired dentist and former candidate for the Oregon House of Representatives died
Tuesday, after she was struck by a car on a West Salem road. Selma Pierce, 66, was
struck near Doaks Ferry Road NW and Hidden Valley Drive NW, police said. Officers
believe she was in the roadway when she was struck. The driver who struck her
stayed at the scene and cooperated with investigators, police said. Pierce was
married to Bud Pierce, a Salem oncologist who announced his second bid for
governor this week. Bud Pierce, 64, previously ran for governor against incumbent
Kate Brown in 2016. Selma Pierce played an active role in her husband’s campaign,
making appearances at campaign events across the state and managing his social
media accounts. Pierce released a statement through his campaign organization on Tuesday evening.
A doctor from Dallas is making headlines after saying he refuses to wear a mask while
caring for his patients. Video surfaced of Dr. Steven LaTulippe giving a speech at a
“Stop the Steal” election rally in Salem in November. LaTulippe said in the speech that
he and his staff have “not once” worn a mask at South View Medical Arts. Currently,
there is a state government order that requires health care providers to wear face
ROSEBURG CONTRACTOR FINED $42,000 FOR CONTINUED JOB SAFETY VIOLATIONS —
Oregon OSHA has fined a Roseburg contractor for the second time in as many months as the company continues to fumble basic workplace safety standards that protect workers from falls that could kill them.
In fact, Mid Oregon Builders LLC has a history of failure when it comes to following a straightforward and reliable requirement: Implementing adequate fall protection systems where workers are exposed to falling six feet or more to a lower level.
“There is absolutely no good reason for an employer to neglect fall protection requirements that are proven to protect workers,” said Michael Wood, administrator for Oregon OSHA. “To repeatedly choose to disregard them is inexcusable. It serves only to leave preventable hazards unaddressed and people’s lives at increased risk.”
The most recent citation – issued in November and carrying a penalty of $42,000 – resulted from an inspection that found the company had exposed an employee to a potential fall of about 20 feet. The employee, who was doing a roofing job on a new house in Sutherlin, was not connected to a fall protection lifeline.
The citation is on top of another issued in September. In that case, Oregon OSHA fined the company $38,390. That citation involved other workplace safety violations. But the bulk of it – $36,000 – stemmed from Mid Oregon Builders’ repeated failure to heed the same six-foot trigger-height requirements for fall protection.
The gravity of the situation cannot be overstated: Falls are the leading cause of death in the construction industry. Yet, Mid Oregon Builders has violated the same fall protection rule five times since July 2018.
In one case, the company provided no fall protection systems to four employees working on a framing job. They were working more than nine feet above a lower level.
In another case – also a framing job – the company provide no type of protection, exposing two employees to a potential fall of about 10 feet to lower levels. In yet another case, Mid-Oregon Builders left two employees unconnected to their fall protection lifelines. The workers were two stories up on a roof, exposed to a potential fall of 21 feet to the ground.
From just its history of violating the six-foot trigger-height requirements, Mid-Oregon Builders has incurred penalties totaling more than $120,000. Under Oregon OSHA’s rules, penalties multiply when employers commit repeat offenses.
In addition to its enforcement activities, Oregon OSHA offers employers resources to help improve workplace safety and health. These resources include the division’s Fall Protection Suite of online video training and its A-to-Z topic page about fall protection.
Learn more about help provided by Oregon OSHA’s consultation services, technical staff, and additional education and training services. Oregon OSHA, a division of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, enforces the state’s workplace safety and health rules and works to improve workplace safety and health for all Oregon workers. For more information, visit osha.oregon.gov.
The Department of Consumer and Business Services is Oregon’s largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency. For more information, go to www.dcbs.oregon.gov.