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
Tuesday, December 15, 2020
Rogue Valley Weather
Today- A 50 percent chance of rain. Cloudy, with a high near 45. Light and variable wind.
Wednesday- Rain, mainly after 4pm. Patchy fog before 10am. High near 47. Light south southeast wind becoming southeast 9 to 14 mph in the morning. Winds could gust as high as 21 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New precipitation amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch possible.
Thursday- Rain likely, mainly before 10am. Snow level 3500 feet. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 43. Light west wind. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible.
Friday- Patchy fog before 7am. Otherwise, mostly cloudy, with a high near 46.
Saturday- A slight chance of rain after 10am. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 51.
Oregon reports 1,180 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 6 new deaths
The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (1), Benton (11), Clackamas (97), Clatsop (3), Columbia (10), Coos (8), Crook (4), Curry (4), Deschutes (43), Douglas (5), Gilliam (1), Grant (1), Hood River (11), Jackson (40), Jefferson (4), Josephine (17), Klamath (27), Lane (72), Lincoln (7), Linn (34), Malheur (6), Marion (190), Morrow (1), Multnomah (248), Polk (26), Sherman (1), Tillamook (5), Umatilla (23), Union (4), Wasco (4), Washington (234), Yamhill (38).
First doses of COVID-19 vaccine arrive in Oregon – State kicks off massive immunization campaign as health facilities begin receiving new Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine
Legacy Health is the first registered COVID-19 vaccine provider in the state to receive the vaccine, made by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE. The health system’s Holladay Park site in Portland and Meridian Park site in Tualatin each took delivery of one package of 975 doses today at around 7 a.m.
Additional doses are expected at three other locations in Oregon on Tuesday: Oregon Health & Science University Pharmacy, Kaiser Permanente’s Airport Way Center in Portland, and St. Alphonsus Medical Center in Ontario also are each expected to receive 975-dose packages of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The remaining 30,225 Pfizer vaccine doses from this week’s allocation of 35,100 dose for Oregon will arrive at hospitals throughout the rest of the week, with 10,725 doses going to skilled nursing facilities for vaccinations that start next week.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked Oregon to choose the initial sites as a way to test the system that providers around the state are using to order the vaccine.
The shipments follow a U.S. Food and Drug Administration decision on Friday to issue an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which was found in Phase 3 clinical trials to be 95% effective and, in most people, cause only mild to moderate, short-lived side effects.
“In recent weeks, as COVID-19 vaccines reached the final stages of approval, I have said time and again that hope is on the way. Today, I can tell you that help is here,” said Governor Kate Brown. “The first shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine have arrived in Oregon, the first of many that will be distributed across the state. Starting with the frontline health care workers who have been our first line of defense against COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, and the long-term care facility residents who are among the most vulnerable, each day, more and more Oregonians will be vaccinated against this disease.
“Throughout the process, we will work to ensure that the Oregonians that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, including those from Black, Indigenous, Latino/Latina/Latinx, Pacific Islander, and Tribal communities, have equitable access to vaccination. We are in the middle of some of the hardest days of this pandemic. Our hospitals are stretched to capacity, and too many families are losing loved ones just as we enter the holiday season. So many Oregonians have suffered and sacrificed in the last ten months.
“But starting this week, and each week following –– as vaccines become more widely available –– we will begin gaining ground again in our fight against this disease.”
Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen emphasized that vaccinations against COVID-19 are still months away for most Oregonians, so vigilance in practicing basic prevention measures — wearing masks, physical distancing, avoiding gatherings, staying home if sick — must continue.
“The vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel, but we will be in this tunnel for several months,” he said. “We need to keep doing what we’ve been doing to help our friends, neighbors and ourselves stay safe.”
Kathryn Correia, chief executive officer of Legacy Health, said, “The safe and equitable distribution and administration of vaccines will take all of us in the health care community working together with public health officials to accomplish the task before us. On behalf of our entire Legacy Health team, we pledge our continued partnership and commitment to this effort.”
Most Oregon hospitals and health systems that registered as vaccine provider sites are expected to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine over the next two weeks. Follow-up shipments are anticipated on Dec. 22 and Dec. 29. In addition, a vaccine manufactured by Moderna Inc., which has not yet received FDA emergency use authorization, also are scheduled for delivery in Oregon on Dec. 22 and Dec. 29.
In all, public health officials anticipate there will be enough of the two vaccines to provide first doses to about 100,000 people, with second doses following in January.
Becky Hultberg, president and chief executive officer of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems (OAHHS), called the arrival of the first doses “fantastic news.”
“As for who receives these first doses,” she said, “we strongly support putting our frontline health care workers at the top of the list. We need to take care of them, so they can take care of us. It’s what they always do, putting the patient first.”
Health officials say that outlook will be borne out in the first phase of the statewide vaccination effort, with health care workers, particularly those at highest risk of direct exposure to COVID-19 in their work — hospital employees, emergency medical services personnel, as well as long-term care facility employees and residents — getting the first doses. Essential workers, followed by people with underlying health conditions and those older than 65 are next in line as they are identified by OHA’s equity-focused Vaccine Advisory Committee.
Priority groups in Phase 2 will be determined at a later time. The general population isn’t expected to be eligible for vaccination until sometime in spring 2021.
The state vaccination distribution plan rollout is happening in tandem with a federal effort that is partnering with pharmacy companies CVS, Walgreens and Consonus Healthcare to offer on-site, no-cost COVID-19 vaccines to more than 680 long-term care facilities in Oregon. The first three weeks of the operation, which starts Dec. 21, will see 22,425 vaccine doses going to skilled nursing facilities and 80,000 doses headed to assisted living facilities.
Ashland’s BioSkin Adds Fashion to Pandemic Safety
The Ashland-based company has donated $125,000 to Oregon food banks. BioSkin become a big provider of facemasks that not only do the basics of stopping the spread of germs, they’ve also starting turning out masks that do other things as well.
Historically their bread-and-butter has been manufacture of knee and back braces. But when the pandemic hit, the elective surgery market dried up. People needed fewer braces as part of their recovery and so the hundred or so employees turned to mask making.
Online sales started in April with a black fabric-based mask. The facemasks really started selling when they added all sorts of fabric prints, designs and colors, so that the masks being shipped to consumers today not only cover the face, they are also made with an eye for fashion.
“We’re making those all here in the United States. They’re put together right here in our manufacturing facility in Southern Oregon, so it’s been good to keep people working,” said Taylor Cropper, the marketing director at BioSkin.
Between 500 and 100 three-packs sell on an average day enough to keep the existing workforce in place. They’ve had to add extras during the pandemic to keep up with demand.
When they incorporated some fashion into the masks sales accelerated through their website. More demand for BioSkin masks materialized as marketers and companies saw an opportunity to put their brand name or logo on a mask.
“As long as everyone has that mask on their face people are looking for something that’s comfortable and also something that’s communicating their brand,” Cropper said. “So we’ve had a lot of companies primarily in the Northwest that have reached out to us to work on custom logos and custom designs for them.”
BioSkin masks are helping stop the spread of COVID. They’ve maintained a standard for comfort so you can wear the mask for extended periods. Like a retailer, they’re being made with more fashion incorporated into them. And for companies, they’re a perfect place to put a company logo.
County-Owned Off-Trail Areas of Greenway Closing Due to Damaged Trees
JACKSON COUNTY, OREGON — The Jackson County Board of Commissioners, due to hazardous conditions in the natural, have closed off-trail areas of the Bear Creek Greenway owned by Jackson County. This nine-mile stretch of county-owned land is along the greenway from Ashland to Central Point.
Jackson County, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), arborists, and many others fell the trees near the trail to allow the greenway path area’s safe to reopen. The cost to remove hazardous trees throughout the entire area would be extensive and ineligible for State or Federal reimbursement. Instead, Park workers will continue to monitor the burn scar and allow nature to take its course with the damaged trees.
Steve Lambert says, “folks are encouraged to use the trail as they normally do. Have fun biking and walking on the greenway; we ask that you please remain on the paved path for your safety.”
AROUND the STATE of OREGON
Governor Kate Brown on Monday announced some new tax relief for small businesses
hit hard by coronavirus — though for many businesses, it’s likely to be too little, too late.
Brown’s office said that the Oregon Department of Revenue will eliminate penalties and interest on 2019 income tax due from Oregon businesses that are struggling to pay the bills amid ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. The new provisions apply to personal income, corporate excise, and corporate income taxes. All penalties on 2019 income taxes due from impacted businesses are waived. All interest on 2019 income tax on impacted businesses with less than $5 million in gross receipts are also waived.
Extended payment plans of up to 36 months for any impacted taxpayer also remain available. Brown’s office said that the state Department of Revenue will also extend the due date for the amusement device tax, which applies to lottery machines, for the second quarter of the 2020 tax year from January 14, 2021, to April 14, 2021.
The Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs (ODVA) has decreased interest rates on all new loan applications for its home loan products, resulting in the program’s lowest-ever rates in its 75-year history.
The Oregon Veteran Home Loan Program, which has been one of ODVA’s core veteran services since the agency’s inception in 1945, is dropping interest rates on all new loan applications by 0.250%, effective Monday, December 14. The new interest rates can be seen in the attached rate sheet (https://www.oregon.gov/odva/Home-Loans/Home%20Loans%20Forms/Rate%20Sheet%20Flyer.pdf).
The ODVA program offers eligible veterans fixed-rate financing for owner-occupied, single-family residences up to the Federal Housing Finance Agency Limit ($510,400 through the end of December 2020, then a maximum loan amount of $548,250 after January 1, 2021).
The home loan program is a non-expiring, lifetime benefit for any eligible Oregon veteran and may be used up to four times. The program cover purchases only, not refinancing.
This Oregon benefit is separate and distinct from the federal VA Home Loan Guarantee and has lent approximately $8.2 billion in low-interest home loans to more than 336,000 veterans since 1945.
To be eligible, a veteran must have served on active duty with the U.S. Armed Forces, as documented on his or her DD-214, and must meet one of the service criteria outlined on ODVA’s website at https://www.oregon.gov/odva/Home-Loans/Pages/Eligibility.aspx.
For more information about the Oregon Veterans’ Affairs Home Loan Program and eligibility, please visit orvethomeloans.com.
A county in Central Oregon has filed a complaint against the state over marijuana tax revenue the county believes it should be paid, despite its moratorium on marijuana processing and growing facilities.
Deschutes County’s legal department filed a complaint in state tax court against the Oregon Department of Revenue, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission and Department of Administrative Services, The Bulletin reported. Marijuana tax revenue has not been paid to the county since the Deschutes County Commission placed a moratorium on approving new marijuana processing and producing facilities in August 2019. And in November, residents voted to
uphold the moratorium. But, a county only receives the tax revenue if it allows all licensed recreational marijuana activity to happen in the county, according to Mark Pettinger, a spokesman for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.
Meeting on the Senate floor in the Oregon State Capitol, Oregon’s electors on Monday
gave their seven votes to Joe Biden.
Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno, a Republican, said before the vote that it came amid an “incredibly difficult” year, citing the coronavirus pandemic, catastrophic wildfires and racial injustice. The whole process, from Clarno’s remarks, to the electors being sworn in by Oregon Chief Justice Martha Walters, and to the voting, took less than 20 minutes. The delegates, wearing masks and keeping more than six feet of distance between themselves, clapped when it was over. Shortly before the electors voted, four people circled the capitol building, much of which is fenced off amid construction work, with one carrying a flag that said “Don’t
Tread on Me.” It was a big contrast to pro-Trump “stop the steal” rallies held after the November election and that attracted more than one hundred people several times. Oregon’s seven votes gave Biden 247 Electoral College votes, while Trump held steady at 232.
The barricades are coming down from around Portland’s “Red House on Mississippi.”
Mayor Ted Wheeler says the city reached a deal with the family living at the home on Saturday. Activists on Twitter say protesters began taking down their barricades yesterday after police agreed not to forcibly remove the family from the home while negotiations continue. Protesters flocked to the home last week after police forcibly evicted the Black and Indigenous family who lives there. The family had owned the home since the 1950s but suffered a foreclosure after missing payments on their second mortgage.
A bizarre story out of Portland.
Authorities say a police officer ran the license plate of a green 1997 Subaru Legacy parked facing eastbound in a westbound lane near Northeast Cornfoot and Alderwood roads near Portland’s Airport this weekend.
When the officer attempted to stop the stolen vehicle at about 10:40 p.m., it sped away. Police said they did not pursue the driver but later saw the Subaru speeding east on Northeast Airport Way, reaching speeds as high as 100 mph as it dodged through traffic, according to a news release. Authorities monitored the situation from an air support unit, watching the vehicle eventually reach Northeast Marine Drive along the Columbia River.
When police closed in, the suspect ran into the water and “attempted to swim toward the middle of the river.” The air temperature at the time was a chilly 42 degrees, with winds of 10 to 15 mph, meaning the water was extremely cold. After surrendering, the man was taken to a local hospital and treated for severe hypothermia.