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
Tuesday, January 26, 2021
Rogue Valley Weather
Hazardous Weather Conditions – Winter Weather Advisory in effect from January 26, 10:00 AM PST until January 27, 04:00 AM PST
Today– Rain and snow likely, mainly after 5pm. Patchy freezing fog before 11am. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 40. Southeast wind 5 to 10 mph increasing to 13 to 18 mph in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 28 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. Little or no snow accumulation expected.
Wednesday- A chance of snow before 11am, then a chance of rain and snow between 11am and 2pm, then a chance of rain after 2pm. Snow level rising to 2800 feet in the afternoon. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 44. Southeast wind 8 to 14 mph, with gusts as high as 21 mph. Chance of precipitation is 50%. Little or no snow accumulation expected.
Thursday– A 40 percent chance of showers, mainly before 5pm. Snow level 2600 feet rising to 3200 feet in the afternoon. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 43. Southeast wind 5 to 9 mph becoming calm in the morning.
Friday– A 30 percent chance of rain after 5pm. Snow level 1900 feet rising to 2700 feet in the afternoon. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 43.
Saturday– A chance of rain. Snow level 2500 feet rising to 3400 feet in the afternoon. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 46.
Oregon Health Authority reported 435 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 and 2 more deaths. The state total now 138,587.
The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (1), Benton (4), Clackamas (46), Columbia (1), Coos (11), Crook (1), Deschutes (21), Douglas (12), Harney (1), Hood River (1), Jackson (25), Josephine (10), Lake (4), Lane (36), Lincoln (5), Linn (7), Marion (48), Morrow (1), Multnomah (105), Polk (6), Tillamook (1), Umatilla (20), Union (3), Wasco (6), Washington (50) and Yamhill (9).
The 435 reported cases is the lowest single-day total in Oregon since Oct. 28, when OHA reported 424 cases. Oregon has reported fewer than 900 cases for nine consecutive days. During that stretch, the state has reported an average of 702.7 cases per day. From Nov. 12 to Jan. 16, Oregon reported 1,000 cases or more in 52 out of 66 days.
There are 320 people hospitalized in Oregon with COVID-19, which is 10 more people than the number reported in Sunday’s update. Additionally, there are 75 COVID-19 patients in intensive care unit bets, which is five fewer than the number reported in Saturday’s update.
OHA also reported that 7,390 new doses of the COVID-19 vaccine were added to the state’s immunization registry. Of the 7,390, 6,182 doses were administered on Sunday. OHA notes that an additional 1,208 doses were administered the days before but were counted into Sunday’s total.
Oregon has now administered 308,051 doses of the coronavirus vaccine. To date, 492,450 doses of the vaccine have been administered across Oregon.
Falling COVID-19 infection rates will allow the state to lift some restrictions on businesses and activities over the next three weeks, the state’s top health official said Monday.
Oregon Health Authority Director Pat Allen told the Senate Committee on Health Care that the infection rate in Oregon had dropped to 5.1% for the week of Jan. 17, the lowest rate since late October.
The rate has been steadily dropping since the first week of January and has reached a point where growth in the daily number of cases is expected to stay relatively flat or drop further.
The lower rate of infection is good news as the state continues to struggle with obtaining enough of the new Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to ramp up inoculations. The two-shot vaccines are the key to ending the pandemic that has killed 420,000 people nationwide, including 1,882 Oregonians.
Oregon’s U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley have announced that Tribal organizations in the state, and the Oregon Health Authority will receive a combined $4.66 million in federal COVID-19 grants for mental health and substance abuse treatment.
A release from the senators said the funds will go to the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians, Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indians, Native American Rehabilitation Association of the Northwest and OHA.
Wyden said “The mental health impacts from COVID-19 have been profound with isolation, substance abuse and more throughout Oregon and nationwide”. He said these health investments will help, but said much more needs to be done “…to make sure mental health is treated with equal concern for Tribal members and all Oregonians”.
Merkley said “The challenges of this pandemic have further emphasized what so many of us, our friends, and our family members have known: Mental health care is essential care”. Merkley said he is grateful that the funding is headed to tribal communities.
*$1.08 million to the Confederated Tribe of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians
*$500,000 to the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indians
*$1.08 million to the Native American Rehabilitation Association of the Northwest
*$2.0 million to the Oregon Health Authority
Weather Poses Challenges At Southern Oregon Vaccination Events
Health officials offered mass vaccinations on Sunday and Monday at the Josephine County Fairgrounds in Grants Pass. But snow and rain, and people having to stand in line, resulted in lower numbers than public health officials had hoped for.
“There’s a lot of mountains in this area and there’s a lot of roads that people are nervous driving on when we start getting icy weather. It’s important that people stay safe and we’re glad that people made the decision if they needed to, to stay home,” said Josephine County Public Health Director Mike Weber.
“We will get them at a time where it’s safe for them to get here,” he said.
Around 2,600 people were vaccinated against COVID-19 at the two-day event in Grants Pass.
A third mass vaccination event is planned for Tuesday at Illinois Valley High School in Cave Junction. But health officials have moved its start time up to 11 AM, anticipating more winter weather and the possibility of closing early.
Phase 1A of Oregon’s vaccine rollout includes individuals who live in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, who may find it harder to stand outside in the elements.
Josephine County Public Health Officer David Candelaria says those vulnerable adults will mostly be served through other efforts, besides the mass public vaccination events.
“Locally we have some providers who are willing to go out to those facilities and make sure that those people get their vaccinations, the residents and the staff,” Candelaria says.
The vaccination events in Josephine County, and earlier in Jackson County, were organized by the Asante hospital system. More than 7,200 people were vaccinated Thursday through Saturday (January 21-23) in Jackson County.
Severe Winter Travel Advisories in Southern Oregon
Drivers traveling over southwest Oregon mountain passes, including those on Interstate 5, should prepare for severe winter driving conditions Tuesday afternoon into Wednesday due to heavy snow and blizzard conditions, especially if traveling into northern California.
National Weather Service forecasts call for blizzard conditions and up to 3 feet of snow in the Shasta Valley and Mt. Shasta City area and 4-to-6 inches on I-5 Siskiyou Summit and the I-5 passes north of Grants Pass as well as U.S. 199 Hayes Hill. On Oregon 42, up to 3 inches are forecast on Camas Mountain.
Drivers traveling on the Interstate 5 and U.S. 97 and U.S. 199 corridors into southern Oregon and northern California should be aware and prepare for the severe conditions.
Heavy snow events quickly overwhelm resources. Given the forecast, ODOT and Caltrans will likely need to stop traffic at Ashland and Redding to ensure public safety and to make sure they have accommodations such as food, fuel and motels.
“We want travelers to be prepared and safe and not stuck on the roadway. When that happens we can’t plow the snow and everything shuts down,” said ODOT Interim District Manager Jeremiah Griffin. Snow levels and storm tracks can vary, so be aware of the changing conditions.
Other winter driving tips include:
- Delay travel if possible
- Plan for delays if you must travel
- Carry tire chains and know how to install them
- Start off with a full tank of gas
- Have snacks and food
- Be sure to have blankets, coat, gloves and hat
- Bring cell phone charger.
Full list of Winter Driving Tips, including a video on how to drive the southern Oregon I-5 corridor, can be found at: https://www.oregon.gov/odot/pages/winter-driving.aspx.
Fatal Motor Vehicle Accident in Josephine County
On Saturday, January 23, 2021 at approximately 7:53 am, Deputies from the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office were dispatched to the 3500 block of Demaray Drive for a motor vehicle accident involving a 10-yard dump truck and a 50cc scooter. Oregon State Police also responded and assisted with the investigation.
Upon investigation, Deputies determined that Kenneth Law was operating a 50cc scooter, which attempted to cross Demaray Drive in front of the dump truck. Despite efforts of emergency medical personnel, Law was pronounced deceased at the scene.
It is believed Law was crossing the roadway in dense fog to reach a nearby convenience store. The operator of the dump truck has been cooperative with investigators and criminal charges are not expected in this case.
AROUND the STATE of OREGON
Elderly Woman Killed and 5 Others Injured in Portland Car Rampage
A motorist repeatedly drove into people along streets and sidewalks in Portland, Oregon, on Monday, killing an elderly woman who was dragged beneath the wheels. The man then tried to flee on foot but neighbors surrounded him until police arrived and wrestled him into custody.
Five other people were hurt and taken to hospitals. Authorities said they believe more people were hurt who did not need ambulance transport.
Police received a call shortly after 1 p.m. that a driver had hit a pedestrian, according to Portland Police Bureau spokesman Derek Carmon.
Additional calls then came from people saying a person driving the same suspect vehicle, a Honda Element, was striking other people and vehicles, he said.
Larry Wolfe told The Oregonian/OregonLive that he had an appointment to meet the person who was killed, a woman in her 70s. He said he saw her get hit by the car and scream, and was walking toward her when the car came back, hit her again, did a U-turn and dragged her along the pavement.
The motorist eventually crashed the Honda a final time, fled on foot and with help from the community, was apprehended by police, Carmon said. A group of people saw him run from the scene and corralled him until police were able to take him into custody.
Police did not immediately release the identities of the driver or his victims. The crime scene spans at least 15 city blocks.
New Jobs Website Launches for Growing Developmental Disabilities Field
The Office of Developmental Disabilities Services launched a website, ImpactOregon.careers, focused on available positions in the developmental disabilities field throughout Oregon.
Job seekers in Oregon will find hundreds of available jobs, ranging from direct care to administrative and managerial positions. In addition to the job postings, Impact Oregon also has a career profiles section, which highlights the way this field has room for growth and opportunity.
Job seekers statewide can browse available listings based on location, wage range and experience level. The goal of Impact Oregon is to reach Oregonians passionate about helping others who may not even be aware that this field exists.
“The developmental disabilities field has never had a centralized place where people can learn about careers and find opportunities,” said Lilia Teninty, director of the state’s Office of Developmental Disabilities Services.
“We need people who are passionate about issues of equity, social justice and excited to support people with disabilities to achieve their goals in this field.”
ImpactOregon.careers is a project of the Office of Developmental Disabilities Services but focuses on jobs available from independent provider agencies that provide direct support to more than 30,000 Oregonians with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Nationally, and in Oregon, there is a critical shortage of direct support professionals to support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. According to the 2020 Case for Inclusion Report, there is a 9 percent vacancy rate nationally, with a 43 percent turnover rate of direct support professionals. By 2026, the industry will need almost 50 percent more DSPs than are needed today.
ImpactOregon.careers is one way that the Office of Developmental Disabilities Services is addressing this demand for workers.
Providers have struggled with a worker shortage, particularly in the area of direct support professionals who provide essential care and supports to Oregonians with developmental disabilities.
Pathway Enterprises provides support services such as education, employment, and housing for more than 200 people with disabilities in Jackson, Josephine, Klamath, and Deschutes counties. Similar to other developmental disabilities providers, Pathway Enterprises currently has a turnover rate of 38 percent. This is the highest they have experienced since 2011, according to Executive Director Becky Simpson.
“Since February of last year, we have all seen an increase in turnover due to COVID-19,” she said. “Experienced caregivers and management in our field is a much-needed commodity, and we are all seeking these potential employees through expensive online platforms. Impact Oregon gives us a free and easier process for job seekers and HR managers.”
About ODDS: The Oregon Department of Human Services’ Office of Developmental Disabilities Services provides leadership to support persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live as full participants in their communities. Oregon is recognized nationally as an innovative leader in developing community-based services for individuals with I/DD. Oregon’s system has the benefit of a strong advocacy community, one that has a long history and firm commitment to supporting people with I/DD to live as independently as possible in their communities.
1st Motels Purchased to House Wildfire Victims and Other Homeless Scheduled to Open in February
Oregon lawmakers set aside $65 million in October for nonprofits and local governments to purchase and convert motels into shelters for people displaced by wildfires and those experiencing homelessness. Oregon is reviewing 19 applications from non-profits and government agencies in 14 different counties that aim to create unconventional motels-turned-apartment complexes to house wildfire victims and others experiencing homelessness.
However, the non-profit organization tasked with vetting applicants and distributing money to purchase the motels now anticipates that the first properties won’t be available for occupancy until at least mid-February, more than a month after the agency had hoped to start having units available.
“Our goal is a high-quality investment for the community,” said Megan Loeb, associate program officer at the Oregon Community Foundation, chosen to administer the program. “We continue to work as quickly as we can with the highest level of accountability and integrity.”
Oregon lawmakers allocated the millions this fall to purchase hotels and motels across the state to house wildfire victims and people experiencing homelessness. At the time, backers said that the money allocated to Project Turnkey could be used for 1,000 shelter units across 18 to 25 properties.
But only about 25 applicants have applied for funding through the program so far with 19 moving forward to the second round of the process. Loeb said those applicants would collectively be able to provide 600 to 700 new shelter units, if they are ultimately approved for funding.
The application process for the $30 million wildfire fund has already closed, but the foundation is continuing to accept applications for the $35 million fund to house people experiencing homelessness.
The non-profit agencies and government entities applying for the funding will be responsible for identifying the individuals who will live in the new shelters once they’ve completed the motel conversions.
The foundation is evaluating applicants from nine wildfire-impacted counties and 10 other counties across the state. It is currently reviewing applications from non-profits and government agencies in Benton, Clackamas, Coos, Deschutes, Douglas, Jackson, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, Lane, Klamath, Multnomah, Umatilla and Washington counties. Multiple applicants from Marion, Jackson, Deschutes and Multnomah counties are being considered.
Lane County Human Services and the county’s housing authority, Homes for Good, are one of the groups that have applied for funding through the new program. Steve Manela, division manager for Lane County Human Services, said that the county is targeting a 50-unit motel in Eugene to convert into apartments for individuals and families who were displaced by the Holiday Farm Fire last September.
He said there are currently 88 households in the county representing a total of 166 people who are still living in commercial motels. He said the county is hopeful that many of those households will be able to relocate to the new motel-turned-apartment building. “Having a range of options for people is incredibly important right now,” Manela said.
In the long-term, Manela said the new property would be used to house people experiencing homelessness, helping the county achieve its goal of creating 350 new units of permanent supportive housing at a fraction of the cost that it would take for them to acquire or build a new complex on their own.
Manela said that the county can tap into local, state and federal resources to operate the motel in the long-term. He said the bigger financial challenge will be funding supportive services for those experiencing homelessness. “It’s not the same as the fire population,” Manela said. “Oftentimes, the people we are prioritizing for permanent supportive housing have been homeless for some time, may suffer from mental illness, substance abuse disorders or have chronic health conditions and just need a whole lot more service support.”
Loeb said the foundation expects to announce the first approved properties in early February and is hopeful that individuals in need will be able to move in soon after that. She said the foundation expects to have spent all the money allocated to the program by the state in the next six to eight weeks.
The state had hoped to have the motels-turned-apartments available in time for the winter months, but Loeb said it has taken time for the foundation to vet applicants and potential properties. The foundation also extended the application deadline after receiving fewer applications than anticipated during the initial application periods.
“The need is dire,” Loeb said. “We want this to be up-and-running. We are acting with every bit of urgency and working around the clock to move these applicants through the process as quickly as we can.”
Police Departments Prepare for New Oregon Drug Laws
Police, district attorneys and other criminal justice agencies have finished building a policy framework ahead of Oregon’s first-in-the-nation drug decriminalization measure that takes effect next week, but say there are still so many unknowns that implementation will largely be “trial and error.”
“I really have not seen anything that impacts my work as widely as this measure over the decades that I’ve been in law enforcement in Oregon,” Woodburn Police Chief Jim Ferraris said. “Even marijuana legalization didn’t come close. This measure impacts so many different facets of the criminal justice system.”
Voters passed Measure 110 in November. It reclassifies personal drug possession to a Class E violation with a maximum $100 fine. People caught with user-amounts of drugs could get the fine waived by completing a health assessment, during which they could be connected with treatment, recovery and housing services — though there is no criminal penalty for failing to pay the fine. Those services would also be expanded under Measure 110 and funded with a large chunk of marijuana tax revenue.
It takes effect February 1, but the Multnomah County District Attorney adopted the measure in December. A spokesperson for the Portland Police Bureau said officers have already switched to issuing citations instead of making arrests. Other agencies, though, are still working through the logistics.
Ferraris is president of the Oregon Association Chiefs of Police, which formed a statewide workgroup with other agencies like the Oregon Youth Authority, State Sheriff’s Association, District Attorneys Association and more to figure out how to adapt to Measure 110.
Moving forward, people in possession of drugs will receive a civil citation and, because drugs are still illegal, police can seize the contraband. Defendants will have to go to court and decide whether to pay the fine or go through a health screening and get the fee waived, Ferraris said.
“There’s no criminal sanction to it,” he added. “It’s essentially less onerous than a traffic ticket.” Juvenile drug use is of particular concern, since judges can no longer order treatment. “A 17-year-old can have a bag of meth in his or her pocket and mom and dad will never know,” Ferraris said. “It’s handled like a traffic ticket. Appear in court, pay the $100 fine and off you go.”
The workgroup collaborated with juvenile departments around the state to try to convince them to intervene at a youth’s first court appearance and direct them or their guardian to services so they “don’t fall through the cracks,” Ferraris added.
The changes only apply to drug possession on February 1 and beyond, so if someone has been using illegal drugs in January, prosecutors could still charge and try them for that after the law officially changes.
Guidance from the Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) outlines the amount of drugs that exceeds personal use limits. For example, 1 gram or more of heroin, 2 grams or more of meth or cocaine, and 40 or more oxycodone pills. The DOJ also sent a bulletin to law enforcement agencies with information about how searches and seizures will be impacted by the measure.
But there are many unknowns, from what happens if you refuse to pay the fine to whether or not the funding portion of the measure will come through this year.
Governor Kate Brown’s proposed budget invests $112.6 million to implement Measure 110, a number far larger than the minimum $57 million a year in funding the text of the measure called for. However, Brown proposes delaying the financial portions of the measure until July 1, 2022 due to the challenging economic times brought on largely by the coronavirus pandemic.
Overdose deaths spiked 40% last year, according to the Oregon Health Authority. Experts say addiction thrives when people are isolated.
“The Legislature has a duty to honor voters’ wishes and invest in the recovery services outlined in Measure 110 now,” Downeysmith wrote, adding that supporters of the measure are continuing “discussions” with legislators.
If the delay is adopted, Ferrais said, “We may be citing people for this violation and they go to court but there’s no mechanism for this health screening to take place because there’s no funding for it.
Leaders won’t have all the answers come February 1, but Ferraris said they’ll continue to collect data on the number of seizures, whether fines are being paid or if people opt for the health screenings. Agencies may ask the legislature to address areas where they see “opportunities for improvement,” he said.
“We really are going to have to work through it from a trial and error standpoint,” he said. “We’re trying to get on the front end of it with good policy and good training to prepare our people to handle this, because this is a huge paradigm shift for law enforcement in Oregon.”
Deadlines Approaching in Oregon for SBA Working Capital Loans Due to Drought
Director Tanya N. Garfield of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Disaster Field Operations Center-West today reminded Oregon small nonfarm businesses of the deadline dates to apply for an SBA federal disaster loan for economic injury. These low-interest loans are to offset economic losses because of reduced revenues caused by drought in the following primary counties in Oregon.
Declaration Number: 16511
Primary Counties: Clackamas, Deschutes, Multnomah, Washington and Yamhill
Neighboring Counties: Clatsop, Columbia, Crook, Harney, Hood River, Jefferson, Klamath, Lake, Lane, Linn, Marion, Polk, Tillamook and Wasco in Oregon; and Clark and Skamania in Washington
Incident Type: Drought
Incident Date: Beginning April 18, 2020
Declaration Number: 16525
Primary Counties: Grant, Harney and Lake
Neighboring Counties: Baker, Crook, Deschutes, Klamath, Malheur, Morrow, Umatilla, Union and Wheeler in Oregon; Modoc in California; and Humboldt and Washoe in Nevada
Incident Type: Drought
Incident Date: Beginning May 1, 2020
According to Garfield, small nonfarm businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and most private nonprofit organizations of any size may apply for Economic Injury Disaster Loans of up to $2 million to help meet working capital needs caused by the disasters. “Economic Injury Disaster Loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that cannot be paid because of the disasters’ impact,” said Garfield.
“SBA eligibility covers both the economic impacts on businesses dependent on farmers and ranchers that have suffered agricultural production losses caused by the disasters and businesses directly impacted by the disasters. Economic injury assistance is available regardless of whether the applicant suffered any property damage,” Garfield added.
The interest rate is as low as 3 percent for businesses and 2.75 percent for private nonprofit organizations with terms up to 30 years. Loan amounts and terms are set by SBA and are based on each applicant’s financial condition.
By law, SBA makes Economic Injury Disaster Loans available when the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture designates an agricultural disaster. The Secretary declared declaration OR 16511 on June 24, 2020; and declaration OR 16525 on July 2, 2020.
Businesses primarily engaged in farming or ranching are not eligible for SBA disaster assistance. Agricultural enterprises should contact the Farm Services Agency about the U.S. Department of Agriculture assistance made available by the Secretary’s declaration. However, in drought disasters nurseries are eligible for SBA disaster assistance.
Applicants may apply online, receive additional disaster assistance information and download applications at https://disasterloanassistance.sba.gov/. Applicants may also call SBA’s Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on SBA disaster assistance. Individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing may call (800) 877-8339. Completed applications should be mailed to U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.
A Klamath Falls woman had a very happy holiday after her Scratch-it stocking stuffer netted her a $75,000 prize.
The Oregon Lottery says that Contessa McConnell’s sister buys Scratch-it tickets as stocking stuffers every holiday, and this year was no different.
McConnell started her “Reindeer Riches” ticket and received a pleasant surprise. Players who win $50,000 or more have to make an appointment at the Oregon Lottery office in Salem to claim their prize. McConnell made the trip to Salem on January 21 to pick up her winnings. According to the Oregon Lottery, McConnell’s sister had bought the winning ticket at Sherm’s Thunderbird Market in Klamath Falls. Lottery officials recommend that you always sign the back of your tickets with each Oregon Lottery game you play.
The Portland-based parent company of local radio stations KXL-FM, KINK and KUPL, as well as 200 other stations around the country, has filed bankruptcy.
Alpha Media Holdings said none of its stations will go off the air. The company said it will use the protection afforded by the Chapter 11 bankruptcy statutes to reduce its debt and find additional capital. In bankruptcy documents filed in the Eastern District of Virginia, Alpha told the court that it has already reached preliminary agreement to accomplish that restructuring, Alpha owns properties in 44 markets across the country.
Endeavour Capital, a Portland-based private equity firm, invested in Alpha, helping fund its growth. Alpha said in bankruptcy documents that its stations relied on “engaging live content” to cultivate a “passionate” base of listeners. But the growing popularity of streaming and other alternatives has taken a toll on the traditional radio business. Then, the pandemic hit in 2020, taking a major bite out of ad sales.
The executive directors of the Eugene/Springfield NAACP and the environmental group Oregon Wild joined the CEO of the Oregon Food Bank and other civic leaders in calling on the Oregon Legislature to expel a member who allowed protesters into the secure state Capitol building on December 21, 2020.
House Speaker Tina Kotek has already stripped Rep. Mike Nearman of his committee assignments and rescinded his commission appointments. Kotek also called on the Republican lawmaker from Independence, Oregon, to resign. Now dozens of civic leaders – from organizations like the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, the SEIU union, and the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocast Education – are calling on lawmakers to expel Nearman if he does not resign.