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Rogue Valley News, Monday 12/14 – COVID-19 Spike Forces Jackson County Health Officials ask Public to Contact Trace, Butte Creek Mill is Back Grinding Flour

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

Monday, December 14, 2020 

Rogue Valley Weather

Today- Partly sunny, with a high near 46. Calm wind.

Tuesday- A 30 percent chance of rain, mainly after 10am. Cloudy, with a high near 45. Calm wind.

Wednesday- Rain, mainly after 10am. High near 47. South southwest wind 5 to 7 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New precipitation amounts between a quarter and half of an inch possible.

Thursday- A 50 percent chance of rain, mainly before 10am. Snow level 3900 feet. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 44.

Friday- Patchy fog before 1pm. Otherwise, mostly cloudy, with a high near 45.

The Oregon Health Authority reported 1,048 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 Sunday, bringing the state total to 93,853.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (4), Benton (21), Clackamas (112), Clatsop (3), Columbia (15), Coos (11), Crook (7), Curry (14), Deschutes (39), Douglas (20), Hood River (13), Jackson (90), Jefferson (17), Josephine (11), Klamath (28), Lake (1), Lane (88), Lincoln (12), Linn (24), Malheur (4), Marion (150), Morrow (4), Multnomah (172), Polk (15), Tillamook (1), Umatilla (36), Union (2), Wasco (9), Washington (108), Yamhill (17).

COVID-19 has claimed six more lives in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 1,155, Oregon Health Authority reported Sunday.

— The Oregon Health Authority responded to the news of The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issuing the first emergency use authorization on Dec. 11th for a vaccine to prevent COVID-19. Officials say the vaccine, made by Pfizer-BioNTech, was found to be 95% effective in Phase 3 clinical trials that involved more than 40,000 participants
and caused only mild, temporary side effects, including pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain and fever. 

OHA says it is working with all hospitals are care providers in efforts to connect with individuals and organizations representing communities of color, tribal communities and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities through a diverse Vaccine Advisory Committee that is co-creating a vaccine distribution plan centering on the experiences of these populations. 

COVID-19 Spike Forces Jackson County Health Officials ask Public to Contact Trace

Jackson County public health officials are asking people who test positive to inform all of their close contacts right away. At the start of the pandemic, contact tracers from the county would immediately identify and inform people who came in contact with the infected person.

Nichole Brickey manages the contact tracers in Jackson County, and she says that because timing is so important, it’s best to leave some responsibility up to the public.

“There’s such a backlog of people that tested positive that by the time that the investigation was done and we found out who the contacts were, we called a lot of people and the contacts were like, ‘Well, I’ve already tested, and I’m positive,’” says Brickey.

In an effort to keep up with case investigations and contact tracing, health officials have stopped monitoring people for serious symptoms after they receive a positive test result. Brickey says that as the pandemic grows, the county has to put its limited resources where they can do the most good. Now, staff have more time to educate people who test positive on how to best care for themselves, as well as trace down anyone they’ve come in contact with.

“It’s definitely more beneficial to notify people so that people can be aware and take care of themselves than I think it is for us to just, you know, play mother over somebody and monitor them every day,” says Brickey. The public health office says that not everyone who is positive will get a call from a public health worker. They’ll first focus on those most at-risk of serious illness or spreading it to others. If you do test positive, it may take around a week for a case investigator to reach out to you — if they call at all.

Butte Creek Mill sells flour and pancake mix for first time since 2015

EAGLE POINT, Ore. — The Butte Creek Mill is back grounding flour and selling both its flour and its pancake mix.

The mill grounded 3,000 pounds of wheat this week and packaged half of it for sale. Carolers from five local churches sang outside the mill in Eagle Point as the community came out to buy mixes in support of the mill.

This is the first time since 2015 the public has had a taste of the famous products.

“It’s fantastic. It’s emotional. It’s exciting,” Butte Creek Mill board member, Jay O’Neil, said. “This is December again, so it’s five years to the month since the fire and the community has been waiting and waiting for something to happen at this mill and bring this mill back to life,” he added.

Workers will mix and package the other half of the 3,000 pounds next week and make ready for sale. Check the mill’s website this week to see when they’ll be available.

Dutch Bros donates more than $280K to Phoenix-Talent Fire Relief Fund

 Dutch Bros made a major donation to the Phoenix-Talent Fire Relief Fund on Friday, handing a big check over to the school district. Friday’s check was for a whopping $289,730. Of the total contribution, $39,730 came from sales at Jackson County Dutch Bros locations on Wednesday, November 27. Another $250,000 came from the Dutch Bros Foundation.

“The devastation of these fires hit us hard,” said Katie Hutchinson, vice president of philanthropy at the Dutch Bros Foundation. “We wanted to do more for our neighbors in Jackson County, and give back to the families that our Broistas serve at the window everyday.”

The Phoenix-Talent Fire Relief Fund benefits families with children in the Phoenix-Talent School District who lost their homes to the Almeda Fire.

“We’re so grateful for all of the customers who came out and supported families in Jackson County,” said Ty Sullivan, owner of Dutch Bros Jackson County. “We’re honored to be a part of helping our community through these tough times.”

AROUND the STATE of OREGON

TIME IS ALMOST OUT TO GET HEALTH COVERAGE FOR 2021

News Release from Oregon Dept. of Consumer & Business Services
Posted on FlashAlert: December 14th, 2020 7:00 AM

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(Salem) – Open enrollment, which began Nov. 1, ends Tuesday, Dec. 15. Oregonians who do not receive health insurance through work, Medicare, or the Oregon Health Plan will need to sign up for health insurance at HealthCare.gov on or before Dec. 15 if they want to have coverage in 2021.

“We don’t want Oregonians to be left uncovered, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Chiqui Flowers, administrator of the Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace. “2020 has proven how vital health coverage is to the financial and health future of Oregonians statewide.”

Consumers can look at plans and find out how much of a subsidy they are eligible for by going to HealthCare.gov.

“You can get help paying for health insurance based on your income,” said Flowers. “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.

The Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace, a part of state government, helps people get health insurance when they do not have job-based coverage, and do not qualify for the Oregon Health Plan or another program. The Marketplace is the state-level partner to HealthCare.gov, and a division of the Department of Consumer and Business Services (DCBS). For more information, go to OregonHealthCare.gov.

COVID-19 outbreak at Oregon Employment Department’s Major Claim Center in Wilsonville.

Oregon Employment Department employees continue to whittle away at backlogs of claims and benefit payments despite a COVID-19 outbreak at its major claims center in Wilsonville.

According to the weekly compilation by the Oregon Health Authority, the center reported 14 cases as of Nov. 28, up from the 11 acknowledged last week by acting Employment Department Director David Gerstenfeld.

It is one of seven state government workplaces reporting outbreaks (minimum five cases) of the 124 statewide on the Health Authority’s list. The others are the Oregon State Hospital in Salem, two prisons in Salem and prisons in Madras, Ontario and Pendleton.

Gerstenfeld says the outbreak spurred his agency to continue to move hundreds of employees toward working remotely. About 600 employees, many hired within the past few months to process the growing workloads, were housed in the 100,000-square-foot building in Wilsonville.

“We were seeing an increase in positive COVID-19 cases among our own employees, an increase that mirrors what has been happening across the country and throughout the state,” he told reporters Wednesday, Dec. 9, during a weekly conference call.

“Fortunately, the disruption to handling our claims is less than we had feared. We are not slowing down, and we will keep confronting every challenge that faces us.”

The Wilsonville building remains open.

Gerstenfeld said claims for unemployment benefits still in “adjudication,” which require further review, were down from 52,000 Sept. 30 to around 12,600. About 22,000 await payment of their waiting-week benefits, down from an estimated 170,000 whose payments required some kind of manual processing. A total of $269 million has been paid to 385,000 people.

Gerstenfeld said he is optimistic that agency employees will be able to complete both tasks by the end of December.

As a result of the two-week business freeze ordered by Gov. Kate Brown that ended Dec. 3, plus seasonal changes, the Employment Department received about 53,000 claims for unemployment benefits, slightly more than the 51,000 it projected. About 19,000 were newly filed claims, and 34,000 were restarts of previous claims, for which the agency has information on file. The normal benefit period is 26 weeks.

Gerstenfeld said the most recent claims backlog for regular unemployment benefits was about 2,200, most being processed within five days of filing. He said the oldest ones date back to Nov. 18.

The agency has paid out $6.2 billion in benefits since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in mid-March. Gerstenfeld said that sum equals the amount that the agency has paid out during the past decade.

Jefferson woman shot husband after argument

AJefferson woman was arrested by the Marion County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday afternoon after allegedly shooting her husband as he attempted to leave their residence following an argument.

Alicia Victoria Torres, 37, is suspected of second-degree attempted murder, second-degree assault and unlawful use of a weapon. Torres was lodged at the Marion County Jail on a no-bail hold on Sunday afternoon, according to the jail’s website. The shooting occurred at about 2:30 p.m. Saturday in front of a home in the 600 block of Union Street, according to a news release.

A deputy who handles the city of Jefferson for MCSO was the first to arrive in the area and detained Torres, who was actively being confronted by neighbors, the news release states. Her husband, Donald Secrest, 43, was transported to a local hospital with injuries that weren’t life threatening. Detectives then responded and preliminary investigation revealed that the disturbance began inside the home, where Torres is alleged to have been the aggressor during an argument with Secrest, according to the news release. Secrest attempted to leave the residence, and Torres reportedly shot him once while he was in his car backing out of the driveway. The couple’s three children witnessed the shooting, the news release states.

A Keno man died and numerous others were injured as vehicles crashed on icy roads
Saturday in the Klamath Basin.

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Overnight snow mixed with morning fog to createtreacherous conditions, according to Oregon State Police Sgt. Bob Fenner. Ralph Brown, 82, of Keno, died after his pickup truck, traveling southbound on Highway 97 near the Oregon/California border about 9:10 a.m., lost control on icy roads. The vehicle crossed the median and slammed into a northbound semi-truck. Thomas Brown, 28, a passenger in the pickup, was seriously injured. According to OSP, the driver of the semi was taken to Sky Lakes Medical Center in Klamath Falls with injuries. As traffic backed
up behind the scene, six more vehicles crashed and more than 10 left the roadway, including numerous semi-trucks.

Just minutes before that collision, Klamath Falls Police Department officers were on the scene of a separate crash on Highway 97 near the Pilot Travel Center in Klamath Falls when a semi-truck lost control and struck three
patrol cars and a fire engine. The truck driver fled the scene and as of Saturday evening had not been apprehended.

Senior Living Communities Gear Up For Vaccine Distribution

Health care workers, nursing home residents and caretakers are in “Phase 1A’ of vaccine distribution. 

As part of Phase 1A, the Oregon Health Authority said that the first vaccines will go to every hospital in Oregon, as well as emergency medical service providers and long-term care facilities.

Allocations are based upon how many people are in each county and each provider’s storage capacity, along with other health equity considerations.

The Springs at Greer Gardens is a senior living community in Eugene. Founder and CEO of The Springs Living Fee Stubblefield said if all staff and residents get vaccinated, it would be a game changer. However, when we asked him if getting vaccinated will be a requirement to live or work at their facilities he said no. The decision will be voluntary.

“We’re almost to the vaccine,” Stubblefield said. “We could see our staff at The Springs at Greer Gardens in Eugene be vaccinated with the first round in the next week or two. We’re really excited about that. Until then, we will continue to use all the systems that we’ve created and implemented to keep people safe.”

Out of the 260 residents at The Springs at Greer Gardens, none have tested positive for COVID-19. However, 3 staff members have tested positive out of 152.

“When you have a virus that specifically targets vulnerable people, our customers, people that we work hard and care for every day, our parents and our grandparents, it’s a big responsibility. We took it that way,” Stubblefield said.

Amira Fahoum works at Compass Senior Living in Eugene. She said currently she doesn’t know if the facility will require residents and staff to get vaccinated. However, she believes it is their best chance at fighting this virus. 

“The more people who can get vaccinated, the less it will be transmitted,” Fahoum said. “This virus affects our elderly population so much harder. If we can start to protect them and those that care for them, then we have a greater chance of not having the large outbreaks like we’re seeing.”

Lane County Public Health officials said that long-term care facilities make up 44 percent of all active outbreaks in Lane County, and four out of five deaths.

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