Rogue Valley News, Wednesday 3/10 – Researchers Concerned Over New Variant of Covid-19 that Evolved in Oregon; Medford’s Sister City Alba Donates to Phoenix-Talent Wildfire Victims Scholarship

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, March 10, 2021

Rogue Valley Weather

Wednesday- Scattered rain and snow showers before 10am, then scattered rain showers. Some thunder is also possible. Snow level 1500 feet rising to 2900 feet in the afternoon. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 50. Calm wind becoming west southwest 5 to 8 mph in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation is 50%. Little or no snow accumulation expected.

Thursday- Mostly cloudy through mid morning, then gradual clearing, with a high near 55. Calm wind becoming north northwest around 5 mph in the afternoon.

Friday– Patchy freezing fog before 10am. Sunny, with a high near 60.

Saturday– Mostly sunny, with a high near 63.

Sunday– A chance of rain. Snow level 3900 feet. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 55.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Coronavirus-update-1-4.jpg

Oregon reports 517 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 5 new deaths

There are five new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 2,303. The Oregon Health Authority reported 517 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 158,007.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (4), Benton (12), Clackamas (47), Columbia (5), Coos (27), Crook (1), Curry (11), Deschutes (14), Douglas (15), Hood River (1), Jackson (49), Jefferson  (4), Josephine (29), Klamath (15), Lake (2), Lane (17), Lincoln (4), Linn (14), Malheur (2), Marion (61), Morrow (1), Multnomah (76), Polk (8), Tillamook (8), Umatilla (17), Union (7), Washington (56) and Yamhill (10).

Vaccinations in Oregon

Today, OHA reported that 15,945 new doses of COVID-19 vaccinations were added to the state immunization registry. Of this total, 8,760 doses were administered on March 8 and 7,185 were administered on previous days but were entered into the vaccine registry on March 8.

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 1,179,510 first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines. To date, 1,418,455 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.

Gov. Brown Updates Oregon’s County Risk Levels

Beginning Friday only two of Oregon’s 36 counties — Coos and Douglas — will remain in the “extreme risk” level category, due to COVID-19 spread in the area.

What's 'Extreme Risk' Anyway? An Explainer of the New COVID Risk Guidelines  in Oregon | Local News | Bend | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

In addition, Multnomah County — the state’s most populous county and home of Portland — will improve to the “moderate risk” tier, which allows for increased capacity in restaurants, gyms, movie theaters and stores.

“We are largely seeing case rates decline across the state,” Gov. Kate Brown said Tuesday, when she announced the updated risk levels. “This should serve as a reminder that when we follow the health and safety measures we know work against this virus, we can truly make a difference in infection spread.”

Every two weeks state epidemiologists assess each counties risk levels, based on COVID-19 spread in the area, and assigns safety measures and restrictions based on that level in an effort to decrease COVID-19 cases.

Under the “extreme risk” level, generally, indoor dining, indoor exercise at gyms and indoor visits at long-term care facilities are prohibited among other restrictions.

For a county to make it to a lower level, the counties with at least 30,0000 residents must have a COVID-19 case count less than 200 per 100,000 people and a test positivity rate less than 10%.

The most recent data on the Oregon Health Authority’s website shows that Coos County, which is along the coast, reported 376 cases per 100,000 people. Douglas County, which borders Coos County, reported 243 cases per 100,000 people.

For more than two months the the Portland tri-county area fell in the “extreme risk” category until February. The metro area continues to improve, most recently reporting 62 cases per 100,000 people and a positivity rate of 2.2%.

Multnomah will move into the “moderate risk” tier on Friday. Under the new level, indoor dining and gyms can increase to 50% maximum occupancy or 100 people, whichever is smaller.

In addition, retail stores in “moderate risk” counties can increase their capacity to 75% occupancy and outdoor entertainment establishments can have a maximum of 150 people.

Researchers Concerned Over New Variant of Covid-19 that Evolved in Oregon

Oregon now has the distinction of being the first state in the country where the latest variant of the coronavirus has been discovered. Researchers said they’re concerned about a new variant of COVID-19 that evolved in Oregon.

Already Oregon has reported 11 documented cases of the United Kingdom variant of the coronavirus and one case of the Brazilian variant.

But on Friday, The New York Times reported that Oregon Health & Science University had sequenced a case that was a U.K. variant with an additional mutation that could render the current COVID-19 vaccine less effective.

Reporters said the strain was found in a health care setting in Marion County. Studies are underway to examine how it will effect people, but so far they said it’s similar to versions of the virus found in the United Kingdom.

“It has been shown this combination of variants are more resistant to being neutralized by human antibodies, but we still have a lot to learn about what that might mean outside of the lab in a real-world situation,” Brian O’Roak said on Monday (March 8).

The researchers have so far found just a single case of this formidable combination, but genetic analysis suggested that the variant had been acquired in the community and did not arise in the patient.

“We didn’t import this from elsewhere in the world — it occurred spontaneously,” said Brian O’Roak, a geneticist at Oregon Health and Science University who led the work. He and his colleagues participate in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s effort to track variants, and they have deposited their results in databases shared by scientists.

O’Roak is an associate professor of molecular and medical genetics at Oregon Health & Science University. He said his team found the Oregon strain and are still figuring out how far it will spread in the community. Some other experts have voiced concern about the variant going undetected.

“We’ve only detected the single instance of this mutation within the outbreak. We don’t think it was the only case within the outbreak to contain that mutation. But thus far we haven’t seen it out in the wider community yet,” he said, urging faster vaccination of the public.

Ken Stedman, a biology professor at Portland State University, said he’s not too concerned about the variants but thinks public health officials should keep track of them.

“He says the same things we’ve been doing to limit the spread of COVID like wearing masks and washing hands work against variants, too,” reporters wrote. “And he says those same public health measures could also help limit the number of variants we see.”

ROGUE VALLEY HEADLINES:

Medford’s Sister City Alba Donates to Phoenix-Talent Wildfire Victims Scholarship

Medford’s city sister in Alba, Italy is helping students who lost everything in the September wildfires. Alba’s Sister City Committee started fund raising to help raise money for fire victims of the Phoenix-Talent School District.

Members of the Alba Sister City Committee pose for a picture with both the American and Italian flags. The city of Medford have been sister cities for over 60 years. During times of need members of the committee have sent support. (Courtesy Luisella Vernone)

“The fire was so devastating we were really shocked by it and that’s why the crowd funding started.” said Luisella Vernone, Alba’s Sister City Committee President. 

Raising a total of $4,870, this donation will go along side the Phoenix-Talent Alumni Association to fund scholarships to students who have lost their homes in the Almeda Fire.

This past year the city of Medford and Alba celebrated its 60th anniversary of being a sister cites.

The sisterhood between Medford and Alba, a town of about 31,516 people in the Piedmont region of Italy has been ongoing since 1960 when it was formed as part of President Eisenhower’s post-World War II creation of the Sister Cities International program.

Both cities have sent committees and exchange students back and forth to tighten the bond. Superintendent Brent Barry with the Phoenix-Talent School District says that this relationship is like family.

“That sister city long standing relationship between Medford and Alba we want to share how special that bond is,” Barry said. “This provides hope and if anything to reduce any barrier to continue their education and this is a great partnership between Alba that is allowing that to happen.”

Man Accused of Killing Aidan Ellison Makes Court Appearance

The man charged with murdering Aidan Ellison, a Black Ashland teenager, won’t be going to trial any time soon.

47-year-old Robert Paul Keegan was arrested at the Stratford Inn crime scene just before Thanksgiving last year.

Keegan claims Ellison, an Ashland High School grad, punched him in the face before he shot him.

According to the affidavit, an autopsy showed there were no injuries on Ellison’s hands to prove he punched Keegan.

A trial date has not been set because there’s still more discovery being done in the case and the defense says it hasn’t gotten all of the evidence from prosecutors. Keegan’s next court date was set for April 12, 2021.

AROUND the STATE of OREGON

ShakeAlert(R) Earthquake Early Warning System to Launch in Oregon Thursday 3/11

ShakeAlert® Earthquake Early Warning System, an earthquake detection tool operated by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), goes live in Oregon on Thursday March 11, 2021.

No sign up is required to receive ShakeAlert notifications, and the only action needed is to enable emergency alerts through a cell phone’s settings. For instructions on where to find these settings, visit ORShakeAlert.us.

ShakeAlert uses science and technology to detect significant earthquakes quickly and sends a real time alert to people via their cell phone before shaking arrives at their location. These important alerts come automatically on most cell phones, making a distinctive sound and displaying a text message that reads, “Earthquake detected! Drop, cover, hold on. Protect yourself.” This message is also available in Spanish for phones set to receive alerts in that language.

“Recent disasters that have impacted our state have taught us the importance of being prepared,” said Oregon Office of Emergency Management Director Andrew Phelps. “ShakeAlert notifications can offer critical seconds of warning before we feel the impacts of an earthquake, giving people a chance to take action ­to protect themselves.”

ShakeAlert does not predict when or where an earthquake will occur or how long it will last. It detects earthquakes that have already begun, offering seconds of advance warning that allow people and systems to take actions to protect life and property from destructive shaking. The system can also be used to trigger automated actions such as closing a gas valve or slowing a train, actions that can prevent infrastructure failures in the aftermath of an earthquake.

Learn more at ORShakeAlert.us. — Oregon Office of Emergency Management

Oregon Adds 8,300 Jobs in January

Oregon's Economy Adds 8,300 Jobs | News Radio 1190 KEX | Portland Local News

Oregon’s unemployment rate edged down to 6.2% in January from 6.3%, as revised, in December. The state’s unemployment rate dropped by close to four tenths of a percentage point in each of the last three months of 2020, following more rapid declines during the prior five months. Oregon’s peak unemployment rate, as recently revised, was 13.2% in April 2020. The U.S. unemployment rate has also dropped rapidly since April, and reached 6.3% in January.

Nonfarm payroll employment rose 8,300 jobs in January, following a loss of 27,500 in December. Three industries each added close to 2,000 jobs in January: retail trade (+2,100 jobs); leisure and hospitality (+2,100); and private educational services (+1,900). Two of the major industries cut about 1,000 jobs: transportation, warehousing, and utilities (-1,000 jobs) and construction (-800).

Despite the net job gain in January, employment still remains substantially below pre-pandemic levels. Total nonfarm payroll employment has dropped 162,800 jobs, or 8.3%, since January 2020. Nearly all industries have cut jobs during that time. Leisure and hospitality is still down 76,800 jobs, or 35.6%, since January 2020. Private educational services experienced the second largest percentage decline in that time, as it cut 8,400 jobs, or 22.6%. The only industry to add jobs in the past 12 months was transportation, warehousing and utilities, which added 4,100 jobs, or 5.6%.

Newly revised employment numbers show job growth was stronger than initially reported in the second half of 2020. The trend in the last six months of the year was revised upward by an average of 8,700 jobs. However, the pandemic-induced drop during the spring of 2020 was 8,000 jobs larger than previously estimated.

Manufacturing was looking better than the previous estimates indicated, with upward revisions of about 2,300 jobs during the last six months of 2020. Nondurable goods manufacturing has added 3,500 jobs since April. Similarly, wholesale trade employment was revised upward; it added 1,500 jobs since its spring-2020 low point. Professional and technical services was also revised upward substantially. It employed 101,100 jobs in January, which was essentially equal to its high point of a year ago. For the December data, only three major industries were revised downward substantially due to the annual revisions: retail trade (-2,200 jobs); transportation, warehousing, and utilities (-1,500); and private educational services (-1,500).
 
Next Press Releases

The Oregon Employment Department plans to release the January county and metropolitan area unemployment rates today, and the next statewide unemployment rate and employment survey data for February on Tuesday, March 16.

The PDF version of the news release can be found at QualityInfo.org/press-release. To obtain the data in other formats such as in Excel, visit QualityInfo.org, then within the top banner, select Economic Data, then choose LAUS or CES. To request the press release as a Word document, contact the person shown at the top of this press release.

To file a claim for unemployment benefits or get more information about unemployment programs, visit unemployment.oregon.gov. — Oregon Employment Department

Equal Opportunity program — auxiliary aids and services available upon request to individuals with disabilities. Contact: (503) 947-1794. For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, call 711 Telecommunications Relay Services.

Traffic Stop in Reedsport Leaves One Dead in Officer Involved Shooting

Negotiators with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office Crisis Negotiations Team had been negotiating with the armed suspect in the vehicle attempting to de-escalate the situation for several hours. At 10:44 p.m., shots were fired at the scene. The suspect, whose name is being withheld at this time, was pronounced deceased by EMS personnel. 

This all started at 5:43 p.m. when Douglas County deputies conducted a traffic stop in the area of Highway 101 and Winchester Avenue. One individual was detained and the other remained in the vehicle and became hostile. Officials say the individual was armed. 

The Crisis Negotiation Team negotiated with the suspect in the vehicle for several hours to try to de-escalate the situation before officials say shots were fired at 10:44 p.m. The suspect was pronounced dead at the scene. 

The name of the individual is being withheld at this time and the Douglas County Major Crimes Unit is taking over the investigation.    Douglas Co. Sheriff’s Office

Oregon’s First Tribally-Run Opioid Clinic to Open in Salem

The opioid epidemic has hurt Native American communities more than any other demographic.  A CDC study shows a more than 500 percent spike in opioid-related deaths for native people between 1999 and 2015. To fight this trend, the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde is opening Oregon’s first tribally-owned opioid treatment program.

 The Great Circle Recovery Opioid Treatment Program will open in downtown Salem.  Operations director Jennifer Worth said they’re going to be seeing people who are,  “in the deep end of the pool.”

“We’re going to be seeing people who are really struggling, they might have multiple systems involved in their lives: criminal justice, child welfare, they may have a lot going on.”

Someone who has seen the problem firsthand is Kelly Rowe, executive director of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde.

“The tribe has invested millions of dollars in sending our members to treatment programs, and there’s a lot of recidivism and a lot of relapse,” Rowe said.  “We’ve lost tribal members through opioid use disorder. And it’s devastating to small communities, and for our tribal community, we’re all related. We are a family.  This is heartbreaking.”

Rowe said her tribe serves a six-county area, which includes Marion County. She said officials wanted a site for the opioid recovery program that’d be accessible, so people wouldn’t have to travel all the way to the tribal clinic in Grand Ronde. 

“It was exciting for us because we’re very close to areas that a have homeless population,” continued Rowe, describing the location in Salem.  “Union Gospel mission is building their new facility a couple of blocks over. So being able to make partnerships with any of those agencies or non-profits that also serve the same populations, it was huge for us.” )

The Grand Ronde Tribe is awaiting final certification from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Once approved, they expect to open by month’s end.

Back at Great Circle Recovery, Kelly Rowe acknowledged the challenges ahead. A report in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse shows Native Americans are twice as likely to become addicted to drugs and alcohol than the general population, and three times more likely to die of an overdose. 

Complicating things is the COVID-19 pandemic, which can leave addicts feeling isolated and vulnerable.

“You need to be able to talk about things, you need to be able to have that back and forth,” explained Rowe.  “And isolation…it helps the addiction take over.  There’s this sense of losing hope again. And so with COVID, we’ve seen rates of everything going up.”

But the Grand Ronde Tribe is intent on making this program work, to better protect their members and their community. “We want people to be able to seek these services and know that there is hope,” added Rowe.

Young Oregonian Survives 100 Foot Fall Down Ocean Cliff Near Cannon Beach

 A Portlander now has an incredible story to tell after falling 100 feet off an oceanside cliff and surviving. And no less, a twenty-fifth birthday tale for Portland resident, Gil Tighe who set out Friday for the Oregon coast, hoping to celebrate the milestone a day early with a partner.

Hug Point State Park, Arch Cape Vacation Rentals: house rentals & more |  Vrbo

By the end of the celebration, Tighe was in the hospital after falling 100 feet off a cliff. After a challenging rescue and two helicopter rides, Tighe is happy to be alive and telling the story.

Tighe said the couple arrived at Hug Point, a state recreation site just south of Cannon Beach, in the afternoon. The two hung out on the beach, ate cake and took pictures.

Around 4 p.m., the pair decided to explore. From previous visits, they knew of an area at Hug Point that, at low tide, allows hikers to get to the other side of the cove.

The tide was too high to access it, but the couple found what appeared to be some human-made trails through the grass that looked as if they might lead to the same place. Tighe went first because the trails looked a little slippery.

For the first few feet, Tighe was holding onto a wall along the trail for support. But a few steps in, Tighe suddenly lost footing and skidded on dirt and rocks for about 10 feet, trying to stop before a sudden drop.

“I lost my footing and I slipped, and I remember there was about ten feet or so of dirt and roots that I tried to catch myself on and then just a sudden drop,” Tighe said.

It was a drop of 100 feet in less than three seconds at roughly 40 mph. “I think at one point during the drop is when I lost consciousness and I woke up on the rocks and I was covered in blood and did not believe what had just happened was not a dream,” Tighe recalled.

Tighe’s partner called for help and rescue teams and a paramedic were able to get to Tighe and stabilize them on a back board. From there it took a Coast Guard helicopter to complete the rescue and get Tighe to the hospital.It took rescue crews from the Seaside Fire Department several minutes to find a way down the cliff. Once they arrived, they gave Tighe basic first aid. A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter arrived to help, but it took about 25 minutes to get into a position to hoist Tighe up and onto the helicopter.

Tighe was flown to Astoria, then transferred to a helicopter ambulance for the trip to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland.

Now out of the hospital and at home recovering, Tighe said the experience feels surreal, although the pain and hassle of the casts definitely bring them back to reality.

Amazingly, Tighe didn’t suffer any brain or spinal damage. “I feel really fortunate and I feel really grateful for all the hospital staff at Emanuel (Hospital). They took really good care of me and obviously toward the paramedics who came and were able to save my life,” Tighe said.

Tighe was discharged Sunday and has several weeks of recovery ahead, with a broken right arm and a fractured left elbow, eye orbit and ribs. Tighe said they expect to get surgery on their arm this coming week but is expected to make a full recovery.

Eugene Police has New Fleet of Electric Vehicles

The Eugene Police Department is introducing a new fleet of eco-friendly vehicles that we will start to see around town in the coming weeks. According to EPD, nine 2020 hybrid police SUVs were purchased as part of the philosophy to move toward a more eco-friendly equipment model that goes along with the town’s belief in environmental preservation.

“These SUVs help move EPD’s fleet toward the City’s Climate Recovery Ordinance goals as well as reduced maintenance and fuel costs,” EPD’s Melinda McLaughlin wrote in a press release.

EPD also purchased a GEM to be used downtown, which is a four-door electric vehicle that is street-legal. It can travel up to 25 m.p.h. and offers flexibility to get around downtown, provide a visible presence, while having a smaller profile than a patrol vehicle.

The EPD Downtown Team also has four E-bikes. The bikes are power assist, meaning that the officer still needs to pedal the bicycle to engage the motor. They can travel up to 28 m.p.h. on flat ground and provide a significant power assist when climbing hills.

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