Rogue Valley News, Monday 1/18 Martin Luther King Day – Variant of COVID-19 in Oregon, Medford School District Plans for Vaccines and Reopening

The latest news stories and stories of interest in the Rogue Valley from the digital home of Southern Oregon, from Wynne Broadcasting’s RogueValleyMagazine.com

Monday, January 18, 2021

Rogue Valley Weather

Monday– Areas of dense fog before 2pm. Otherwise, cloudy through mid morning, then gradual clearing, with a high near 52. Calm wind.

Tuesday- Patchy fog before 11am. Otherwise, sunny, with a high near 54. Calm wind.

Wednesday- Patchy freezing fog before 11am. Mostly sunny, with a high near 52. Calm wind.

Thursday- Partly sunny, with a high near 48.

Friday- Partly sunny, with a high near 44.

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The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (2), Benton (12), Clackamas (66), Clatsop (16), Columbia (10), Coos (5), Crook (6), Curry (6), Deschutes (46), Douglas (11), Gilliam (3), Harney (2), Hood River (3), Jackson (30), Jefferson (15), Josephine (30), Klamath (6), Lake (1), Lane (53), Lincoln (6), Linn (7), Malheur (7), Marion (86), Morrow (5), Multnomah (102), Polk (34), Tillamook (3), Umatilla (57), Union (10), Wasco (8), Washington (131), Yamhill (20).

COVID-19 has claimed one more life in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 1,800 the Oregon Health Authority reported at 12:01 a.m. today.

Oregon Health Authority reported 799 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of 12:01 a.m. today bringing the state total to 133,205.

Vaccinations in Oregon 

Today, OHA reported that 15,784 new doses of COVID-19 vaccinations were added to the state immunization registry. Of this total, 12,781 vaccine doses were administered on Jan. 16.

Based on updated totals, OHA is meeting Gov. Kate Brown’s goal of ensuring 12,000 vaccinations a day. The Governor required the benchmark to be met by the end of the two-week period that began Jan. 4. Today we surpassed 200,000 doses of COVID vaccine administered to Oregonians.

Cumulative daily totals can take several days to finalize because providers have 72 hours to report doses administered and technical challenges have caused many providers to lag in their reporting. OHA has been providing technical support to vaccination sites to improve the timeliness of their data entry into the state’s ALERT Immunization Information System (IIS).

Oregon has now administered a cumulative total of 204,974 first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines. All vaccinations were administered by Oregon hospitals, long-term care facilities, emergency medical service (EMS) agencies, urgent care facilities and Local Public Health Authorities (LPHAs).

To date, 335,075 doses of vaccine have been delivered to sites across Oregon.

These data are preliminary and subject to change. OHA’s dashboards provide regularly updated vaccination data and Oregon’s dashboard has been updated today. 

Oregon Shifts Vaccination Plan In Light Of New Information About Supply

Governor Kate Brown held a press conference today to update Oregonians on the status of COVID-19 vaccinations in Oregon. The Governor was joined by officials including Oregon Health Authority (OHA) Director Patrick Allen. 

Earlier this week, OHA updated its vaccination plan after being informed by U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar that the federal government would be releasing its entire supply of COVID-19 vaccines to states.

Yesterday, Oregon received the news that the federal reserve of vaccines that Oregon and other states expected to receive does not exist. OHA is updating Oregon’s vaccination plan considering this new information.

“Let me assure you that Oregon’s priorities, and my priorities, have not changed,” Governor Brown said. “I remain committed to vaccinating our seniors quickly. But this latest news will unfortunately cause a two-week delay in beginning vaccinations for seniors.”

The new plan depends on Oregon receiving a reliable supply of doses from the federal government. The current plan is:

  • Starting the week of Jan. 25, begin vaccinating teachers and childcare providers.
  • Starting Feb. 8. Begin vaccinating the first of four “waves” of seniors.
    • Wave 1: Seniors 80 and older.
    • Wave 2: Seniors who are 75 and older would follow.
    • Wave 3: Seniors who are 70 and older would follow next.
    • Wave 4: Eligibility to all Oregonians 65 and older would follow in the weeks after.

In addition, it’s not just important to offer more options to get vaccinated, we want you to know when, where and how you can get immunized. 

  • If you’re eligible to get a vaccine, based on your age and occupation.
  • Where you can get information about a vaccine, based on your local county resources.
  • Where you can get the facts about vaccines and answers to your vaccination questions.

Watch a recording of the press conference. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccinations: To learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine situation in Oregon, visit our webpage, which has a breakdown of distribution and other useful information.

Testing Reveals First Case of U.K. Variant of COVID-19 in Oregon

PORTLAND — Oregon Health Authority has been notified today that a person in Oregon, identified as a Multnomah County resident, has tested positive with the variant COVID-19 virus strain originally detected in the United Kingdom.

This is the first identification in Oregon of the United Kingdom variant strain, also called strain B.1.1.7 or SARS-CoV-2 VOC 202012/01. The individual has no known travel history. Health officials are still investigating the possible sources of infection. The strain has been detected in several states, including California.

“The detection of the first case of this variant strain is a concern, and we have been monitoring movement of this strain,” said Dean Sidelinger, M.D., health officer and state epidemiologist at OHA. “As we learn more about this case and the individual who tested positive for this strain, OHA continues to promote effective public health measures, including wearing masks, maintaining six feet of physical distance, staying home, washing your hands, and avoiding gatherings and travel.”

Information about the characteristics of COVID-19 variants is rapidly emerging, for the U.K. strain and another variant first found in South Africa.

Viruses constantly mutate, and new variants of a virus are expected to occur over time. Multiple variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 have been documented in the United States and globally during this pandemic. Most variants do not change how the virus behaves, and many disappear. 

Scientists are working to learn more about how easily they might spread, and currently there is no evidence that these variants cause more severe illness or increased risk of death, or affect vaccine effectiveness, according to the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Multnomah County public health staff is working tonight and through the weekend to go back over details with this individual related to their isolation plan, contacts and any possible exposures.

“Confirming this strain locally is distressing,” said Multnomah County Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines. “Until we have enough vaccine, we must continue using face masks, distancing, and limiting our social interactions.”

The CDC provides case data information in the United States.

Oregonians can continue to work together to prevent more lives being lost to the virus by doing the following:

  • Maintain six feet of physical distance;
  • Wear a face covering when outside the house;
  • Practice good hand hygiene;
  • Avoid any gatherings with people you don’t live with;
  • If you start to have symptoms — even mild ones — consult with a medical provider quickly to get instructions on how to care for yourself and your household members and also whether to get tested;
  • And finally, if you get a call from public health, answer it, and take their advice on how to protect yourself and those around you.

Medford School District Plans for Vaccines And Reopening

Medford School District superintendent Dr. Bret Champion says Medford schools have spent hours with local health officials to plan how COVID-19 vaccines would be distributed to educators.
Dr. Champion says, “All the Jackson County school districts are willing to do anything in our power to use trucks and buses and space and people to move the vaccine forward.”

He says a survey sent out to educators and other staff members resulted in 72% of people saying they would be willing to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Champion says this was more than other local schools and the logistics are squared away for the COVID-19 vaccine in the future.

A separate survey went out to families and staff regarding their comfort when it comes to reopening. Dr. Champion found most people are comfortable with few concerns, “About 20 percent of our families said they were not comfortable with going into buildings and again that’s just a first blush response that we’ve gotten from families we’ll need to dive in whenever we know exactly what our plans are.”

Dr. Champion says once the districts plans are announced parents will have options, “For our younger grades, we’re hoping that it will be a lot of in-class time for our kids. As you get older probably more of a hybrid version.”

According to Dr. Champion families who opt for something other than hybrid learning would enroll students in the Medford Online Academy. He says options like this are what complicate reopening schools but the district is working on organizing the necessary details to move K-12 learning forward.

Josephine County Public Health, with the support of several partner organizations from throughout the community, will host a COVID-19 vaccination clinic from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 24 and 25 at the Josephine County Fairgrounds in Grants Pass. A second clinic is planned for noon to 4 p.m. Jan. 26 at Illinois Valley High School, 625 E. River St. in Cave Junction.

The Oregon National Guard and Asante, as well as other community partners, are working together to provide at least 3,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Josephine County. The vaccine will be available to all individuals in Phase 1a, as well as teachers and school staff members serving students pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. The Oregon Health Authority includes the following four groups in Phase 1a:

  • Group 1
    • Hospitals
    • Urgent Care
    • Skilled nursing and memory care facility healthcare personnel and residents
    • Tribal health programs
    • Emergency medical services providers and other first responders
    • Health care interpreters
    • Traditional heath workers
  • Group 2
    • Other long-term care facilities, including HCP and residents of:
      • Residential care facilities
      • Adult foster care
      • Group homes for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities
      • Other congregate care sites
    • Hospice programs
    • Mobile crisis care and related services
    • Individuals working in correctional settings
  • Group 3
    • HCPs in outpatient settings serving specific high-risk groups
    • Day treatment services
    • Non-emergency medical transport
    • Caregivers of medically fragile children or adults who live at home
  • Group 4
    • All other outpatient HCPs
    • Public health sites

Those who have had immediate allergic reactions of any severity to food, drug injections or insect stings should not attend these clinics and should contact their primary care provider.

Additional information on how to participate in the clinics and when to arrive will be posted to http://www.co.josephine.or.us/Page.asp?NavID=2288.

CPM Real Estate Services says its looking to contact former residents of Coleman Creek in order to distribute the money raised in a GoFundMe campaign.

When the Almeda Fire tore through Talent and Phoenix, it had an outsized impact on the mobile home communities along the I-5 corridor. Many of them were entirely leveled — leaving families with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

One of those communities was Coleman Creek Estates. Just days after the fire, CPM Real Estate Services started a GoFundMe page for the displaced residents, putting in an initial contribution of $10,000. Since then, they say that the fund has grown to more than $25,000.

“In identifying where best to send assistance, Coleman Creek Mobile Home Park stood out with a high concentration of older mobile homes built in the 1970s,” CPM said in a statement. “These were likely difficult to insure, occupied by seasonal workers and long time residents who have had little insurance relief during the aftermath of the wildfire.”

Each family will be given a $200 Visa gift card that they can use immediately on whatever they need, the real estate firm said.

“We care about our community and wanted to help those most in need. At Coleman Creek, a park we manage, we felt that this community was likely hit hardest with the least amount of support. At CPM we want to help in any small way we can, and thank those who donated to help these families,” said David Wright, President at CPM Real Estate Services.

Many of the families at Coleman Creek were members of the local Hispanic community, CPM said, and few were insured. Aside from an immediate refund of their deposit, they’ve received little direct financial support. Additionally, since many displaced families have new addresses or contact information, the real estate company has had difficulty reaching them.

“We feel that even a small show of support to these families can help as we try to rebuild and support this community,” CPM continued.

The cards are available for pickup at CPM’s mobile home park office at 2594 E Barnett Road, Suite D in Medford. The office is open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Residents will need to have a mask and must verify information about their space at Coleman Creek.

AROUND the STATE of OREGON

Artist Relief Program awards announced; 646 Oregon artists to receive $1.25 million in relief grant awards: Oregon Arts Commission 

Relief grants ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 will be awarded to 646 diverse artists across Oregon through an Artist Relief Program created by the Oregon Arts Commission in partnership with Oregon Community Foundation and the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation. The awards expend the $1.25 million available for the program.

“Artists are the creative core of our communities and help define who we are. They inspire us to innovate, to learn and grow,” said Brian Rogers, executive director of the Oregon Arts Commission. “We are thankful to be able to provide support as our artists continue to suffer great losses due to the pandemic.

“While the requests far exceeded available funds,” Rogers added, “we hope the awards will help artists sustain their practice until better times arrive. We are extremely grateful to our partners at Oregon Community Foundation and the Miller Foundation for making this program possible.”

A total of 1,158 eligible applications reporting more than $18 million in revenue loss were received. Twenty-nine panelists from around the state served on five discipline-based panels that reviewed and evaluated applications based on published review criteria: professional artistic practice; impact of cancellations and loss of revenue on artistic practice; and need and access to other resources. A geographic distribution model ensured artists were funded in every region of the state. An average of 65% of applications were funded from each of the state’s 12 regions.

“The James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation has been supporting Oregon artists for two decades through funding the visual, literary and performing arts organizations that employ Oregon’s creative workers,” said Martha Richards, executive director of the Miller Foundation. “In light of the impacts of both the pandemic and 2020 wildfires, we felt it critical to offer our support directly to artists for the first time. Together with our partners in the Artist Relief Program, we hope these grants help our state’s artists through this crisis. Now more than ever, we recognize artists’ vital role in our communities and consider their creativity and contributions as vital to our state’s recovery.”

“The relief applications submitted by working artists across Oregon demonstrated both the deep need and courageous resilience in our arts communities,” added Jerry Tischleder, Oregon Community Foundation’s program officer for arts and culture. “It’s crushing to recognize all that has been lost and I’m humbled that OCF could play a role in mending a portion of the damages. I applaud the review panels across the state who dug in to direct how funds would be allocated – it was hard work that couldn’t have been done without broad community input.”

The awarded artists represent a wide array of artistic disciplines including: Literature (creative non-fiction, fiction, play writing and poetry); dance (including choreography); music (composition and music performance); theatre and performance art; folk and traditional arts; visual arts (crafts, drawing, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, mixed media and new media); design arts; and media arts.

See a full list of artist awards by county: https://bit.ly/3nNdfD1

The Oregon Arts Commission provides leadership, funding and arts programs through its grants, special initiatives and services. Nine commissioners, appointed by the Governor, determine arts needs and establish policies for public support of the arts. The Arts Commission became part of Business Oregon (formerly Oregon Economic and Community Development Department) in 1993, in recognition of the expanding role the arts play in the broader social, economic and educational arenas of Oregon communities. In 2003, the Oregon legislature moved the operations of the Oregon Cultural Trust to the Arts Commission, streamlining operations and making use of the Commission’s expertise in grantmaking, arts and cultural information and community cultural development. 

The Arts Commission is supported with general funds appropriated by the Oregon legislature and with federal funds from the National Endowment for the Arts as well as funds from the Oregon Cultural Trust. More information about the Oregon Arts Commission is available online at: www.oregonartscommission.org.

Gov. Kate Brown is Closing Three Oregon Prisons

Gov. Kate Brown is closing three Oregon prisons, a decision authorities say would save the state more than $44 million.

COVID-19: Oregon prison system's unwelcome death sentence | Pulse of Oregon  | bendbulletin.com

The governor said she believes the money could be better invested elsewhere, such as early childhood education. The prison closure plan was included in the budget proposal the Democrat released last month. On Friday, Brown said she took unilateral action and has directed the Department of Corrections to move forward with closing the three facilities without waiting for legislative adoption of a budget.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reports the closure of three of the state’s 14 prisons will be staggered: First will be Mill Creek Correctional Facility in Salem, which is scheduled to be closed by July of this year, next Shutter Creek Correctional Institution in North Bend by January 2022, and last will be Warner Creek Correctional Facility in Lakeview, to be closed by July 2022.

All of the prisons are minimum-security facilities and inmates are within four years of release. The three prisons combined employ 237 people and house 749 inmates. The state is developing a plan for relocating all the inmates, according to Department of Corrections spokeswoman Jen Black.

Oregon Legislative Session Begins

The 2021 Legislative Session commenced last week. Members were sworn in and the chambers introduced over 1,800 bills total. Leadership is already pushing back the beginning of virtual committee hearings next week due to Capitol building security concerns. Expect the theme of the first few months of session to be “change” as committees begin work and legislators figure out how to meet inside the Capitol for full meetings of the House and Senate.

The first round already indicates legislators’ interest in pesticide application and licensing. While we are yet to see any proposals to ban products, there are likely over 1,000 more bills to come. HB 2229 looks to undo state pre-emption of GMO’s for Josephine County. Several bills propose new approaches to industry using the lens of environmental and racial justice. And finally, a litany of bills will look to shift recycling responsibility to a range of goods, with more to potentially to come, including household cleaning and pest products.

The virtual session will bring significant challenges for access, transparency and advocacy within the policy-making process. At the same time, individuals and organizations will have unprecedented ability to sign up and testify on bills without making the trip to Salem.

A handful of armed demonstrators gathered outside the Oregon Capitol on Sunday morning, part of a nationally publicized day of statehouse protests that mostly failed to materialize.

Small protests at fortified statehouses around US

Some of the roughly 15 demonstrators carried long guns and wore body armor and helmets. But even as some counter-protesters appeared, there was no confrontation, with some in both camps conversing. Several wore Hawaiian shirts, a symbol of the antigovernment “boogaloo” movement, whose adherents anticipate — or in some cases plan to incite — a second civil war.

One Hawaiian-shirted man, who called himself AJ and carried a gun, told a reporter he no longer claims association with that movement, adding, “I just stand with liberty for all.” Salem police patrol vehicles cruised past the scene occasionally, but there was no other visible police presence. The event wrapped up without incident early in the afternoon.

Hold on tight to your Powerball ticket. There were no top prize winners in Saturday’s drawing, and the jackpot has climbed to an estimated $730 million, a cash value of $546 million.

No Louisiana-Based Drawings on Christmas Day; Powerball Drawing Will Occur

This is only the fourth time the jackpot has crossed the $700 million mark, according to Powerball. If anyone wins the upcoming drawing on Wednesday, January 20, it will be the fourth-largest jackpot in the game’s history and the sixth-largest in US  lottery history, Powerball said.

Saturday’s drawing continued the longest streak of drawings without a jackpot winner in Powerball history, according to a press release. The last jackpot was won in New York on September 16, 2020. Saturday’s drawing generated several tickets with partial winnings, ranging from $4 to $2 million. Fourteen tickets matched all five white balls, earning $1 million each, according to Powerball.

The USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Region has released a final environmental assessment and decision that amends forest plans on six national forests in eastern Oregon, revising a provision that prohibits harvesting trees larger than 21 inches in diameter.

U.S. Forest Service rule change expands options for off... | AccessWDUN.com

The decision replaces the existing 21-inch standard with a management policy focused on protecting old and large trees and increasing forest resistance to disturbance. The new policy reflects scientific and experiential learning over the past 25 years, innovative management approaches that collaborative groups have explored for decades, and 24 prior project-level amendments that addressed this issue and informed the analysis. The proposal also implements an adaptive management and monitoring program to track landscape outcomes and share information across forests and with interested people and organizations. 

Many forests in eastern Oregon are uncharacteristically dense. Tree species that are less resistant to wildfire and other disturbances are increasing relative to historical conditions. This contributes to higher tree mortality risks from insects, fire, drought, and other disturbances. Meant to be an interim measure, the Eastside Screens were created in 1995 to protect riparian areas, encourage a healthy mix of young and old trees, and maintain wildlife habitat and connectivity. Now 25 years later, the 21-inch standard is being reassessed in light of current forest conditions, the latest science, project-level amendments, and public feedback.

Newly discovered fault makes scientists wary of Mt Hood earthquake

More than 100 Earthquakes Strike near Mt Hood in a Single Day

More than 100 earthquakes shook near an Oregon volcano in one day, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

An area south of Mount Hood near Portland was hit by a swarm starting at noon Sunday, USGS said.

“An earthquake swarm at Mount Hood is ongoing,” USGS said on Facebook. “The earthquakes are associated with regional faulting and are not a sign of changes in volcanic activity.” The quakes did not cause any damage, and they are not a sign of impending volcanic activity, USGS said. Many of the earthquakes were small in size.

Several earthquakes shook with a maximum magnitude of 2.7 and depths of about 3 miles below sea level, according to USGS. Magnitude measures the energy released at the source of the earthquake, the U.S. Geological Survey says. It replaces the old Richter scale.

Quakes between 2.5 and 5.4 magnitude are often felt but rarely cause much damage, according to Michigan Tech. “Swarms at Mount Hood are common and account for most of the seismicity at the volcano,” USGS said. “They can last hours to days.” The area has seen other earthquake swarms in 2009, 2012, 2014 and 2020, geologists said.

Mount Hood is Oregon’s highest peak. It’s erupted “episodically” for 500,000 years and has seen two major eruptions during the past 1,500 years, USGS said.

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