Rogue Valley News, Wednesday 2/17 – Medford’s Severe Weather Shelter Network Nears Completion, SOU Students Seek Public Input on Repairing Bear Creek Greenway

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

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Rogue Valley Weather

Today- Patchy fog before 10am. Otherwise, partly sunny, with a high near 52. Light and variable wind.

Thursday- Rain, mainly after 10am. Snow level 3600 feet rising to 6600 feet in the afternoon. High near 48. Light southeast wind increasing to 9 to 14 mph in the morning. Winds could gust as high as 21 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New precipitation amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch possible.

Friday- Showers likely, mainly after 10am. Snow level 3900 feet. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 48. Calm wind becoming west around 5 mph in the morning. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible.

Saturday- A 20 percent chance of showers. Snow level 2800 feet. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 47.

Sunday- Mostly cloudy, with a high near 53.

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Oregon reports 411 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 1 new death

There is one new COVID-19 related death in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 2,138, the Oregon Health Authority reported 411 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 150,875.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (2), Benton (15), Clackamas (40), Columbia (1), Coos (11), Crook (2), Curry (3), Deschutes (8), Douglas (37), Harney (1), Jackson (42), Jefferson (3), Josephine (13), Klamath (2), Lake (3), Lane (21), Lincoln (1), Linn (6), Marion (25), Multnomah (134), Polk (6), Umatilla (4), Wallowa (3), Wasco (1), Washington (22) and Yamhill (5).

Vaccinations in Oregon

Today, OHA reported that 7,568 new doses of COVID-19 vaccinations were added to the state immunization registry. Of this total, 5,282 doses were administered on Feb. 15 and 2,286 were administered on previous days but were entered into the vaccine registry on Feb. 15.

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 691,455 first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines. To date, 905,725 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.

Severe weather in the Midwest has delayed COVID-19 vaccine shipments across the country including in Oregon. In addition, the severe weather in Oregon impacted the ability for vaccine sites to actually administer vaccines. These weather-related issues may cause changes to daily number trends reported by OHA in its updates on the cumulative number of doses administered, the daily number of administered doses and the number of doses delivered to Oregon. OHA remains in regular contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for updates on delivery schedules and to ensure Oregon doses are safely delivered to Oregon vaccination sites.

If you are scheduled for a vaccination and have questions about potential delays or disruptions, check with your scheduled vaccine provider for the latest updates.

Oregon Office of Emergency Management Alert: Has your power been out? Time to think about the safety of your food.

If you’ve had power outages due to the recent ice storms, it’s a good time to think about food safety. Oregon Emergency Management reminds residents that when your food has not been stored at the proper temperature, it can make you sick. Here are a few tips to help you know how to protect your health and your food.

  • A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) if the door remains closed. If you have dry or block ice it may help keep your refrigerator as cold as possible if the power is going to be out for long time.
  • Digital, dial or instant-read food thermometers and appliance thermometers will help you know if the food is at safe temperatures. Always keep appliance thermometers in the refrigerator and freezer.
  • Never taste food to determine its safety! You can’t rely on appearance or odor to determine whether food is safe.
  • Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature. The refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened.
  • Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of your food right before you cook or eat it. Throw away any food that has a temperature of more than 40 degrees Fahrenheit (40°F).
  • Always keep meat, poultry, fish and eggs refrigerated at or below 40°F and frozen food at or below 0°F. This may be difficult when the power is out.
  • Always discard any items in the refrigerator that have come into contact with raw meat juices.

To find more food safety tips, visit https://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/HealthyEnvironments/FoodSafety/Pages/tips.aspx or contact your local public health office.

You can get this document in other languages, large print, braille or a format you prefer. Contact OEM Language Access Manager David Cardona at 971-719-1183 or email david.cardona@state.or.us. We accept all relay calls or you can dial 711. Oregon Office of Emergency Management 

Medford’s Severe Weather Shelter Network Nears Completion

Medford officials and homeless advocates are finalizing details on the city’s first severe weather shelter. But rather than a single location, it will be a network of resources that can be deployed to different sites.

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On Tuesday, members of the Medford Homeless Task Force laid out their plan for helping unsheltered people during severe cold or hot weather, or during unhealthy air quality.

The program will provide a network for resources including bedding, meal preparation, cleaning, and staff trained in de-escalation, that can quickly be deployed to a site, according to Angela Durant with the Medford planning department.

“All of those types of things, churches and their volunteer staff aren’t equipped to handle,” Durant says. “They just can’t do it, as much as they want to. This system is in place to put all those things together in a package deal for other potential sites down the road.”

St. Vincent de Paul would be the lead shelter operator and the Medford Gospel Mission would provide food. Jackson County Mental Health would provide crisis de-escalation resources.

The shelter services are essentially ready to be deployed, says Christine Quitt, chair of the Homeless Task Force. “If something happened, we are prepared to say we’ll open. Is everything perfect and in place? Probably not 100%, but we have enough, we feel, in place at this point that we could do that,” Quitt says.

The Medford Senior Center is slated to be the first severe weather shelter site, on a temporary basis since the center is not currently in use. It would house 25 people. Future sites could be in churches or other properties deemed safe, Durant says.

Severe weather incidents happen on average 10-15 times per year, according to organizers. Those incidents would have to be declared by city officials to trigger the emergency resources. The pilot program in Medford is being funded through the end of June.

SOU Students Seek Public Input on Repairing Bear Creek Greenway

As volunteers continue to work on restoring the Bear Creek Greenway in the wake of the Almeda Fire, a group of graduate students from Southern Oregon University have produced a survey to gauge what the community believes should be the future of the project.

The Almeda Fire and several smaller brush fires burned much of the Greenway between Ashland and Central Point in early September, and Jackson County has spearheaded efforts to re-seed the area — both to restore the Greenway and help with erosion control.

Though the restoration project began in October, it is still very much underway.

Graduate students from SOU’S School of Business are working on a research project about the Greenway restoration project, and it hinges on a survey of the public.

“The results of the survey will provide information about your Bear Creek Greenway experiences,” the survey page reads. “The survey will help identify opportunities for the reconstruction following the Almeda fire of the Bear Creek Greenway to align with the priorities of the local community and other Bear Creek Greenway users.”

The survey is open to people 18 years and older who give consent to participate, and the page promises that all information is strictly confidential. Only group data will be reported.

If you wish to take The Bear Creek Greenway Project Survey, visit the web page here.

AROUND the STATE of OREGON

Oregonians Still Effected By Storm with More than 150,000 Still Without Electricity

As of early Wednesday, more than 150,000 power customers were still without electricity as utility companies took two steps forward and one step back in their effort to restore lost service.

With a vast swath of the state’s residents still navigating life without reliable electricity, Oregon is beginning to dig out from a snow and ice storm that caused the worst destruction the region’s power grid had seen in decades.

For days, residents have largely hunkered down at home, trapped by snow, ice and downed trees on the roads in the Willamette Valley, and weather-driven interstate closures to the east. Now warmer temperatures have transformed snow and ice to water and slush, prompting concerns about flooding in some areas, and Interstate 84 has reopened to most traffic in eastern Oregon. But the recovery continues.

“We’ve had more outages come on as we’ve repaired past outages. Our crews are really in an ongoing repair situation and it’s going to take some time to get everybody back on,” said Portland General Electric spokesman Steve Corson. “It’s still going to take a long time, so we could have people who are out for many days yet.”

Part of the challenge, Corson said, is that unlike other recent ice storms, this one had a severe impact on the utility’s transmission system, the high-power lines that feed substations that then power individual areas. More than 200 miles of transmission lines need repairs, Corson said, and PGE is prioritizing those fixes, even as it works on repairing downed lines elsewhere.

PGE reported on its outages page that 149,429 customers were still without power as of 6 a.m. Wednesday. The utility said it had thousands of workers out in the field and had restored power for more than hundreds of thousands of people. Crews from other Oregon utilities, along with out-of-state companies, have sent in help. Meanwhile, Pacific Power reported about 6,649 customers still in the dark as of 6 a.m. Wednesday.

The push to vaccinate a growing number of Oregonians against the coronavirus has also been complicated by the weather and power failures, according to officials with the Oregon Health Authority.

The agency said Tuesday that it’s reaching out to sites that have lost power to their freezers to move vaccine doses to limit spoilage. It also acknowledged that some vaccine appointments were canceled over the weekend, and said that shipments of doses may be delayed due to severe weather both in Oregon and across the U.S.

The Oregon Health Authority is encouraging people with questions about future vaccine appointments to reach out to the group they made the appointment with, or to visit the state’s COVID-19 page to get information about how each county is affected. “We are evaluating the situation and expect to learn more in the next few days,” the agency said in a statement.

Stay warm: 211info.org maintains an updated list of warming shelters across Oregon, including hours of operation and eligibility.

Know before you go: The Oregon Department of Transportation’s Tripcheck.com map features road camera, road closure information and traffic conditions on state-operated roads (think: highways) across the state. The Washington State Department of Transportation offers a similar map with travel alerts across the state.

Prepare before you travel: ODOT also provides a helpful list of tips to keep in mind before setting out for winter travel.

The Oregon Department of Human Services will help people who receive SNAP food benefits, informally known as “food stamps,” who can apply to have their benefits restored if they file a request within 10 days of tossing food due to the weekend’s storms.

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Replacement benefits: People who receive SNAP food benefits and lost purchased food due to power outages can apply to have their benefits restored by the Oregon Department of Human Services. People must request replacement benefits within 10 days of food loss.

Earthquake Warning System Coming to Oregon in March

The earthquake early warning system known as  ShakeAlert  will be capable of delivering alerts directly to wireless devices in Oregon on March 11 and to Washington state in May, completing the West Coast rollout, the U.S. Geological Survey said Tuesday.

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The system, called ShakeAlert, is already active in California and is expected to be launched in Washington in May, giving people who live on the West Coast a potentially life-saving tool for when a major earthquake, such as “The Big One,” strikes.

The  ShakeAlert system , which warns of significant quakes, has been enabled in California since October 2019. The system uses a network of sensors that detect the start of an earthquake and calculates magnitude, location and the expected amount of shaking. It sends the information in real time to distributors that send out alerts to cellphones and the internet. The information moves so quickly that people may have valuable seconds to protect themselves before shaking arrives, trains can be slowed or industrial processes stopped.

ShakeAlert was created by the USGS, along with a team of other organizations, to give people a few seconds heads up that an earthquake is happening, and shaking is imminent. The system is made up of a network of sensors that shares information about the magnitude, location and expected shaking from earthquakes on the West Coast. That information is then sent via cellphones and the internet, according to the USGS.

“ShakeAlert can save lives and reduce injuries by giving people time to take protective actions, such as moving away from hazardous areas and making sure to drop, cover and hold on,” the USGS said.

The alerts will be delivered to wireless devices in Oregon starting March 11. Here’s a link with information about signing up for ShakeAlert

Missing Oregon Man May Be Driver Who Went Off Bridge

The family of a missing Oregon man believe he may be the same driver whose SUV plunged from a bridge into the Columbia River, according to reports. Antonio Amaro Lopez sent a text message to his family at about 5 p.m. Sunday saying he was headed home from his family’s restaurant, Amaro’s Table, in Hazel Dell, Washington, as frigid temps and heavy snow blanketed the region.

The search continues for the driver of a car that crashed off the Glenn Jackson Bridge into the Columbia River between Portland and Vancouver Sunday night.

The daughter of Antonio Amaro Lopez says she believes her father is the missing driver. Abi Amaro says her father has been missing since Sunday morning, when he went to work in Hazel Dell. Family members say his commute takes him over the Glenn Jackson Bridge and that his vehicle matches the description of the car. Witnesses
called 911 Sunday night after seeing a car go over the side of the bridge in icy conditions.

Amaro said her father was driving a maroon Subaru Tribeca SUV at the time, matching what a witness told cops about the vehicle that went over the bridge.

A Coast Guard crew searched for the SUV, but was unsuccessful, and Portland police have since taken over the investigation. Search crews still haven’t located the vehicle or any survivors.

Bills in Oregon Legislature Bolster Private and Public Charter Schools

State Senator Dennis Linthicum has introduced a flurry of bills to the Oregon legislature that would bolster private and public charter schools. The lawmaker says that the Oregon Department of Education is “promoting indoctrination sessions” for public school teachers and administrators.

Sen. Linthicum’s three bills, if passed, would increase the percentage of kids who can enroll in virtual charter schools from 3 percent to 5 percent; would establish an education savings account program giving low-income families to ability to choose a private school without tax penalties; and allow Oregon children to attend any school in the state without school board approval.

The final bill also would amend Oregon’s laws to make immunization records an optional “request” by school districts instead of a condition of attendance, though Oregon law already allows for philosophical, religious, and medical waivers of those vaccine requirements.

The lawmaker paired his roll-out of these bills with a barrage aimed at the Oregon Department of Education related to a module included in its email newsletter for math teachers — an optional third-party course called “A Pathway to Math Equity Micro-Course,” intended to help teachers improve outcomes for Black, Latinx, and multilingual
students.

Circles in the Sand’ Sets Oregon Coast Labyrinth Schedule

The sand labyrinths that have graced the southern Oregon Coast are set to return this year, giving people an opportunity to take a meditative walk on the beach. 

Circles in the Sand, the name of the group that started this, was started by artist and religious practitioner Danny Dyke in 2015. Dyke, along with a team of volunteers, set out to create labyrinths in the sand on the beach at low tide, something Dyke calls “dreamfields.”  

This year, Circles in the Sand will hold a total of 32 drawings between April 30 and August 25, in Bandon, below Face Rock Viewpoint. 

While in past years the group has scheduled as many as 60 drawings, even sometimes visiting nearby beaches, they scaled back to 43 events in 2020 and even fewer in 2021.  

These events usually draw large crowds, especially when people can walk through the completed labyrinth. Volunteers at the beginning of the walk will be available to help people social distance, the group said. Though masks aren’t mandated in Oregon for the outdoors, people are encouraged to wear masks if they come within six feet of a person outside of their household.   

The parking lot at Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint is small and the road leading to it is quite narrow, thus “no parking” signs have been put up along some stretches, and Circles in the Sand asks they be respected. 

When the drawings are scheduled is based on the tides, and the times show when visitors will be able to walk through the completed labyrinth. The team begins two hours earlier, and that is when crowds begin to form.  

Circles in the Sand estimates that each walk should be about 20 minutes.  FOR MORE INFO: https://www.sandypathbandon.com/

Slate of Activities Around Oregon for the film “Phoenix, Oregon”

An historic marker will be formally unveiled as part of a full slate of activities in celebration of the film “Phoenix, Oregon” on Saturday, Feb. 27 in downtown Klamath Falls with a simultaneous livestream. Film Trail – a network of recognizable signage placed in many iconic filming locations across the state, stitching together film history,
communities, and celebrating Oregon’s contribution to filmmaking since 1904.

The sign to be placed in Klamath Falls is the 33rd historic marker designated in the State of Oregon, but only the third in Southern Oregon – two were placed in Ashland in2020. Additionally, the program has created a large exhibit and mural at the Portland International Airport honoring Oregon’s film legacy.

In an odd twist of timing, the week of its release aligned with a national shutdown of theaters due to the spreading COVID-19 pandemic, however a simultaneous online video-on-demand release of the film resulted in “Phoenix, Oregon” becoming the #1 film in America in Domestic Box Office. As a result of the theater shutdown, the film also holds the somewhat dubious honor of being the all-time lowest-grossing #1 move in U.S. Domestic Box Office in history.

Check out the website for info on how you can watch the movie from home: https://phoenixoregonmovie.com/products/phoenix-oregon-film-festival-day

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