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Rogue Valley News, Friday 12/18 – Local Research Firm Begins 3rd Round of COVID-19 Vaccine Clinical Trials, Mt. Ashland Ski Area Opens

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

Friday, December 18, 2020 

Rogue Valley Weather

Dense Fog Advisory in effect from December 18, 07:24 AM PST until December 18, 10:00 AM PST

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.

Sunday– A chance of rain. Cloudy, with a high near 51.

Monday– A chance of rain, mainly after 4pm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 53.

Tuesday– A slight chance of rain before 10am. Snow level 4000 feet. Partly sunny, with a high near 46.

Oregon reports 1,339 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 21 new deaths

PORTLAND, Ore. — COVID-19 has claimed 21 more lives in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 1,283, the Oregon Health Authority reported at 12:01 a.m. today.

Oregon Health Authority reported 1,339 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of 12:01 a.m. today, bringing the state total to 98,936.

The new cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (2), Benton (20), Clackamas (173), Clatsop (3), Columbia (18), Coos (5), Crook (4), Curry (1), Deschutes (48), Douglas (12), Gilliam (3), Hood River (23), Jackson (82), Jefferson (10), Josephine (24), Klamath (19), Lane (74), Lincoln (8), Linn (60), Malheur (13), Marion (148), Morrow (5), Multnomah (250), Polk (20), Tillamook (12), Umatilla (34), Union (13), Wasco (9), Washington (218), Wheeler (1) and Yamhill (27).

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Oregon will receive fewer doses of the COVID-19 vaccine next week than expected, state health officials said. KOIN reports that officials expected to receive 40,950 doses of the Pfizer vaccine next week from the federal government, but will now only receive 25,350 doses. Oregon hospitals administered the first coronavirus vaccines in the state Wednesday to nurses, respiratory therapists, housekeeping workers and other health care employees in high-risk jobs, marking the beginning of a broad vaccination campaign. Health officials say they plan to vaccinate 100,000 people statewide by the end of the year. If and when the Moderna vaccine receives the FDA emergency use authorization, Oregon expects to receive 71,900 doses the week of Dec. 20. 

29 Oregon counties now under ‘extreme risk’ restrictions

29 Oregon counties are now under ‘extreme risk’ restrictions due to the coronavirus, effective Friday, December 18.

The governor announced the change in the county risk levels earlier this week. The new framework manages coronavirus safety measures in each county based on four risk categories: extreme risk, high risk, moderate risk, and lower risk. There are currently no counties under the high-risk category, according to the governor’s office. 

Here is the county-by-county breakdown:map

Counties under extreme risk:

  • Baker
  • Benton (moved from High)
  • Clackamas
  • Clatsop (moved from High)
  • Columbia
  • Coos (moved from High)
  • Crook
  • Curry (moved from High)
  • Deschutes
  • Douglas
  • Hood River
  • Jackson
  • Jefferson
  • Josephine
  • Klamath
  • Lane
  • Lincoln (moved from High)
  • Linn
  • Malheur
  • Marion
  • Morrow
  • Multnomah
  • Polk
  • Tillamook (moved from Moderate)
  • Umatilla
  • Union
  • Wasco
  • Washington
  • Yamhill

Counties under Moderate Risk:

  • Lake County (Moved from extreme risk)

Counties Under Lower Risk:

  • Gilliam
  • Grant (Moved from extreme risk)
  • Harney (Moved from moderate risk)
  • Sherman
  • Wallowa
  • Wheeler

Depending on their risk level, different counties may face varying guidelines.  ‘High risk’ counties, for example, are banned from indoor recreation, indoor dining and limited to 50% capacity at stores. 

The Oregon Health Authority assigns a county’s risk level by looking at COVID-19 metrics, and the level can shift up or down after a two-week period.

Mt. Ashland Ski Area Opens

Mt. Ashland Ski Area will open for the season on Friday, Dec. 18 at 9 a.m. for season pass holders only, according to a news release. No day tickets will be sold to the public, though tickets for Saturday and beyond are currently available online. All four lifts will operate from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The terrain off of the Ariel lift will be for advanced skiers and riders only as grooming will be limited to the lower mountain.

Local research firm begins third round of COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials

MEDFORD, OR — The Clinical Research Institute of Southern Oregon is about to start its third clinical trial for a COVID-19 vaccine. Each study included several hundred men and women, with half of the participants getting vaccinated and half of the participants receiving a placebo vaccine. This is a blind study, meaning participants don’t know which vaccine they received.

Studies will last up to two years. Participants are able to withdraw from the study at any point in time and will also be compensated for their time. 

Prior studies included the Pfizer, Jansen and Moderna vaccine. The upcoming study will be a two-dose Novavax vaccine. The clinic is currently looking for all adult age groups with different ethnicities and medical histories to participate in the next study. The clinic also says it hopes to work with pregnant women and children in the future. For More Information: https://velocityclinical.com/locations/velocity-clinical-research-medford

OSHA proposes fines against Grace Cascade Christian High School

Oregon OSHA has proposed a fine against Grace Cascade Christian High School for alleged violations of the state’s coronavirus restrictions. The citation was issued on December 4 by the state agency, which has taken the lead in enforcing Governor Kate Brown’s executive orders concerning COVID-19.

OSHA proposes fines against Grace Cascade Christian High School

According to an OSHA report, an inspector visited the high school on November 20. The inspector noted two “serious” violations — first, that the school was open in spite of the Oregon Department of Education’s requirements from the end of September through November, when Jackson County case rates were prohibitively high; and second, that mask mandates were not properly enforced.

“The school’s policy allowed for staff removing their facial covering or face shield if the instructor was distanced from students, while students were in the same room,” the citation alleges. “Students were allowed to remove their face covering or face shield while seated in their physically distanced desk location leading to ‘group mask breaks’ potential if multiple students chose to do so at the same time, exposing one or more employees to the serious health hazards of COVID-19.”

Between the two violations, the proposed penalty totals a modest $360. OSHA noted that Grace Cascade has 30 days to appeal the fine, but no appeal has yet been filed.

Businesses accused of operating in defiance of state coronavirus restrictions have often received much steeper penalties. Howard’s Pharmacy in Lakeview faced a proposed fine of $9,400 from OSHA in September for refusing to mandate masks indoors, and a Rogue River bar had its liquor license suspended by the OLCC.

Schools throughout Jackson County have largely been relegated to comprehensive distance learning since the school year began due to high local COVID-19 case rates and Oregon’s mandated metrics. However, Grace Cascade administrators signaled in early August that they would offer in-person classes while other local districts were still navigating the new ODE guidance.

In a letter to families, head of Grace Cascade schools Dr. Ken Townsend said at the time that the private schools were “not under the authority of ODE,” but beholden to their own Board of Directors, promising to send a reopening plan to Jackson County Public Health for feedback.

In October, 6th grade students at Cascade Christian Middle School were sent home after a student tested positive for coronavirus. However, there have been no indications from state or local health officials that any of the Grace Cascade schools have been the source of an outbreak of five cases or more.

The OSHA inspector did note some mitigating circumstances in “probability justification” at Cascade Christian High that may have contributed to a relatively small proposed fine:

“Regular most of the time mask usage, regular use in any close proximity, hand sanitation, social distancing, cohorts, daily health screenings, and isolation and quarantine policies,” OSHA noted. “Low infection prevalence in local schools at the time of inspection and a high elevated county case rate significantly influenced by high numbers in assisted living facilities and not fully indicative of community at large infection rate.”

AROUND the STATE of OREGON

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Oregon firefighters rescue stranded tortoise after fire, roof collapse

Eugene Springfield Fire responded to a second alarm fire in a Commercial/Residential building. The roof collapsed from the fire.

Firefighters were able to use chainsaws and hand tools to rescue the last remaining victim, a very large tortoise. We are happy to report the tortoise was removed from the wreckage and returned to its family safe and sound. 

Brown extends Oregon state of emergency into March 2021

The Oregon state of emergency put into place when the pandemic began was extended until March 3, 2021 by Gov. Kate Brown. The previous order was due to expire on January 2.

In a statement, Brown said the pandemic “continues to pose a public health threat.” Each executive order for the state of emergency has lasted 60 days and is reviewed as each deadline approaches.

 “These are the darkest days of this pandemic. And yet, hope has arrived. Beginning this week, each time another Oregonian is vaccinated against COVID-19, we are one step closer to the day when we can return to normal life,” Brown said in a statement. “In the meantime, we must keep up our guard. Protect your friends and loved ones by continuing to follow health and safety protocols. Wear a face covering, avoid gatherings, stay home when you are sick––and, together, we can drive down COVID-19 infections and save lives.”

Earlier Thursday, the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners has voted to extend the county’s eviction moratorium to July 2, 2021 amid ongoing challenges associated with coronavirus and its economic impact.

A federal judge in Portland has ruled that a group of Oregon prison inmates can proceed with their lawsuit against state officials over their response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reports the class-action lawsuit says the seven inmates named in the case have underlying medical conditions and are at risk for contracting COVID-19. The case applies to any Department of Corrections inmate who has contracted the disease or is medically vulnerable. U.S. Magistrate Judge Stacie Beckerman ruled this week that state leaders named in the lawsuit are not protected from litigation over their response to the pandemic inside Oregon’s correctional institutions. Gov. Kate Brown’s office declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.

Oregon State Patrol searching for man in Marrow County shooting investigation

SALEM, WA – The Oregon State Police has been asked by the Morrow County Sheriff’s Officer to take over a shooting investigation that occurred on December 15, 2020 in Hepner, Oregon- Morrow County.

The Morrow County Communications Center received reports of shots fired shortly before 9:30 P.M. on Tuesday, December 15, 2020. When Morrow County Sheriff’s Office Deputies arrive on scene, they found a 42-year-old female with a gunshot wound. She was transported to area hospital before being life flighted to OHSU in critical condition.

OSP is currenting looking for David Bowles as a person of interest in this case. His location is unknown. He was last seen driving a brown Chevy Impala with an Oregon License Plate URG552. David is a 5’6 about 180 lbs. white male age 43 with graying hair and blue eyes.

Please consider him armed and dangerous. If you know of his location, do not confront him call 911 or OSP Dispatch 800-442-2068 reference OSP case # SP200348879.

Oregon Ducks approve new 6-year, $27M deal for football coach Mario Cristobal

University of Oregon trustees on Thursday unanimously approved a new six-year, $27 million contract for Ducks football coach Mario Cristobal.

Cristobal could also trigger a $5 million option for the 2026 season if the Ducks either win nine regular-season games in 2021, ’22 or ’23; win 10 games in 2024; or win the Pac-12 North in any of those four seasons.

“I am humbled and honored to be part of the best college football program in the country,” Cristobal said in a statement. “… We are just getting started, and I am fired up to relentlessly work and build upon the success so far. We are privileged to call Oregon home, and we love the sense of family and community here at Oregon. We will continue to work tirelessly to elevate the Oregon football program to the next level.”

Athletic director Rob Mullens, in a call Thursday morning with the trustees, said the new contract would put Cristobal among the top four Pac-12 coaches in salary and in the top 25 nationally.

Mullens and university president Michael Schill both praised Cristobal’s on-field accomplishments, recruiting success and culture-building during the call with trustees.

“Mario has been a tremendous leader, and we are excited that he will continue to lead Oregon football,” Mullens said in a statement. “He has built a strong culture and foundation within our program in a very short period of time and I am confident we will continue to build upon the success we have experienced so far and reach even greater heights.”

Oregon on Wednesday signed a recruiting class that is ranked No. 6 nationally by ESPN.

Cristobal’s salary had ranked 11th out of 12 among Pac-12 coaches. The new agreement increases his performance incentives, and the salary pool for his assistants and staff also is expected to go up. His buyout will rise from $8 million to $9 million until January 2022, before dropping to $6.5 million and then to $4 million the following year.

Oregon promoted Cristobal to head coach after Willie Taggart left for the Florida State job in December 2017.

Cristobal, 50, is 24-9 with the Ducks, who aim for their second consecutive Pac-12 championship Friday against No. 13 USC. The former Miami offensive lineman went 27-47 in six years at Florida International from 2007 to 2012.

Cristobal’s name had been mentioned as a potential candidate for Auburn’s coaching vacancy.

Many Oregon tenants, landlords critical of moratorium extension proposal

During Thursday’s listening session between the public and lawmakers considering a handful of coronavirus relief proposals before Monday’s Special Session, many took aim at what they called a “flawed” proposal to extend Oregon’s moratorium on evictions. 

However, the reason for criticism of the proposal varied greatly between landlords and tenants.  Under the current proposal shared by Oregon lawmakers on Tuesday, about $200 million would be set aside to help landlords and tenants.  The draft bill extends the eviction moratorium to March 2021 and June 2021 for renters who give notice to their landlords that they’re having trouble paying rent. It would also set up a fund for landlords to recoup 80% of their unpaid rent if they agree to waive the remaining 20% for tenants. 

However, advocates for landlords argued to lawmakers that many of them don’t have the financial breathing room to forgive any of what’s currently owed.  “The impact of non-paid rent, which can be anywhere from $50-80 thousand dollars per month,” said Dan Mason, a community manager and president of Multifamily NW. 

Mason said while they do support rent relief, he’s against the proposal in the way it’s written. Many tenants who spoke to lawmakers last night also identified flaws in the proposal, but not for the same reasons. One man who said he was a tenant advocate argued that the proposal gives too much power to landlords:

Many people in Oregon think you’re meeting to figure out ways to prevent evictions because they’re scared and they don’t want to die, they would be shocked to learn instead that LC 18 gives landlords new ways to evict them during a pandemic.

With more than 100 people signing up to speak on Thursday night, lawmakers are adding more opportunities to weigh in on the proposal. The next round of public testimony will take place on Saturday morning from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Written testimony will be accepted until Sunday morning at 10 a.m..

Oregon lawmakers will meet on Monday morning for a Special Session to consider extending the eviction moratorium and a variety of other coronavirus relief proposals. 

Due to circumstances beyond the control of the American Association of Retired
Persons (AARP), tax aide volunteers normally provided during the tax season for
members will not be available for the 2021 tax season, according to a news release.

AARP is unable to find space large enough to adequately accommodate needs due to
COVID-19 guidelines and qualifications as a gathering space for large groups. As a result, no tax volunteers will be made available for the upcoming tax season.

Dozens of states, including Oregon,have filed an anti-trust lawsuit against Google on
Thursday, alleging that the search giant has an illegal monopoly over the online
search market that hurts consumers and advertisers.
The lawsuit, announced by Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, was filed in federal court in Washington, D.C.
by states represented by bipartisan attorneys general. The lawsuit was joined by the
attorneys general of 35 states as well as the District of Columbia and the territories of
Guam and Puerto Rico. The lawsuit was joined by the attorneys general of Alaska,
Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maine,
Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New
Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma,
Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.

 Wilson High School in southwest Portland will be renamed after one of five history
making black women.
 It was previously named after the 28th President Woodrow
Wilson.  He was known for introducing segregation in the federal government and
praising the confederacy.  Following the death of George Floyd, students and alumni
requested the change.  Some of the names in consideration are: Sojourner Truth, Ida B.
Wells and Harriet Tubman.

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