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
Thursday, March 18, 2021
Rogue Valley Weather
Today– Rain likely, mainly after 11am. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 57. South southeast wind around 18 mph, with gusts as high as 28 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible.
Friday– Showers likely, mainly after 11am. Snow level 2500 feet rising to 3500 feet in the afternoon. Partly sunny, with a high near 54. Light and variable wind becoming west southwest 5 to 10 mph in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
Saturday– A 40 percent chance of showers, mainly after 11am. Snow level 2500 feet rising to 3300 feet in the afternoon. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 54. Calm wind becoming west northwest around 5 mph in the afternoon.
Sunday– Partly sunny, with a high near 57.
Monday– A chance of rain. Snow level 2900 feet rising to 3900 feet in the afternoon. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 53.
Oregon reports 239 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 3 new deaths
There are three new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon raising the state’s death toll to 2,349. The Oregon Health Authority reported 239 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 160,259
The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (1), Benton (5), Clackamas (15), Clatsop (7), Columbia (2), Coos (10), Crook (1), Curry (1), Deschutes (7), Douglas (8), Grant (6), Jackson (25), Jefferson (2), Josephine (16), Klamath (2), Lane (16), Lincoln (3), Linn (6), Malheur (3), Marion (26), Morrow (1), Multnomah (24), Polk (1), Tillamook (3), Umatilla (13), Union (1), Washington (28), Wheeler (2) and Yamhill (4).
Weekly COVID-19 cases increase, deaths, hospitalizations decline
The Oregon Health Authority’s COVID-19 Weekly Report, released today, shows increased daily cases and declines in hospitalizations and deaths from the previous week.
OHA reported 2,272 new daily cases of COVID-19 during the week of Monday, March 8 through Sunday, March 14. That represents a 31% increase from the previous week.
New COVID-19 related hospitalizations also dropped to 130, down from 139 last week.
Reported COVID-19 related deaths dropped to 26, down from 86 last week.
There were 94,079 tests for COVID-19 for the week of March 7 through March 13 — a 27% drop from last week. The percentage of positive tests was sharply higher, at 3.6%.
People 70 years of age and older have accounted for 40% of COVID-19 related hospitalizations and 77% of COVID-19 related deaths.
Today’s COVID-19 Weekly Outbreak Report shows 37 active COVID-19 outbreaks in senior living communities and congregate living settings, with three or more confirmed cases and one or more COVID-19 related deaths.
Oregon counties have new outdoor capacity limits for outdoor recreation and outdoor entertainment
Under the direction of Governor Kate Brown, outdoor capacity limits are now updated for outdoor recreation and fitness, and outdoor entertainment for Oregon counties. As of today, outdoor entertainment establishments and outdoor recreation and fitness establishments in all Oregon counties may allow the following:
- Lower risk: Maximum 50% occupancy
- Moderate risk: Maximum 25% occupancy
- High risk: Maximum 15% occupancy
- Extreme risk: Maximum 50 people
For updated outdoor capacity limits, please refer to the Sector Risk Level Guidance Chart.
Vaccinations in Oregon
Today, OHA reported that 15,289 new doses of COVID-19 vaccinations were added to the state immunization registry. Of this total, 7,849 doses were administered on March 16 and 7,440 were administered on previous days but were entered into the vaccine registry on March 16.
Today’s vaccine totals are lower than usual due to an outage in the ALERT IIS system that affected several states. It is anticipated that the number of doses from March 15 and 16 will increase over the coming days as providers catch up on submitting data to ALERT IIS.
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 1,363,311 first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines. To date, 1,777,145 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
Grocery Store Workers Frustrated With Oregon’s Vaccine Timeline
Grocery store employees have been essential workers during the entire pandemic, stocking food and working checkout lines while being exposed to thousands of people. So when they learned they’d be eligible for the vaccine May 1, it was a sigh of relief, but one they felt was long overdue.
“We’ve been pressuring the governor — asking, pleading with the governor — to please move us forward in priority based off the CDC recommendations,” said Miles Eshaia, head of communications for United Food & Commercial Workers Local 555, Oregon’s grocery workers union.
On Wednesday, Eshaia and the union’s 19,000 members learned that now, every adult in Oregon age 16 and older will also be eligible for the vaccine May 1. The announcement came from the Oregon Health Authority and lines up with President Biden’s order for all American adults to be vaccine-eligible by May 1, saying there would be enough doses. Eshaia said that’s of little comfort to grocery workers.
“They have to compete to get an appointment, that’s the challenge,” said Eshaia. “They have to compete with the entire state of Oregon … I don’t want to say it’s a slap in the face, that’s a cliché, but it’s very unfortunate.”
Grocery store workers in Washington don’t have to wait until May 1 for their vaccine. They became eligible on March 17.
“We’re happy!” said Howard Ross who works at a Fred Meyer store in Vancouver. The pandemic has been on his mind every day.
“It can be kind of scary because you don’t know who has it and the things that you hear, and you don’t want to take it home to your family,” said Ross. “Through it all, you have to do your job, so you just stay positive and keep your head up.”
Eshaia said in light of the state moving up universal vaccine eligibility, he hoped the governor would create a path prioritizing grocery workers. Gov. Brown’s office tells KGW they are currently reevaluating Oregon’s vaccine timelines and expect to have more information to share on Friday. They said the governor is committed to equitable distribution of vaccine, including for front-line workers. Oregon Health Authority (OHA) officials discussed possible prioritization on Wednesday.
“We may end up moving up front-line workers and those with pre-existing conditions so they have access to vaccine before the general population,” said OHA Director Patrick Allen.
Eshaia says practically speaking, that just makes sense, and he believes it’s the right thing to do. “These are essential people. They’re not disposable, and they’re being treated as such,” said Eshaia. “It’s not okay.”
ROGUE VALLEY HEADLINES:
Shortage of Tree Seedlings for Replanting Wildfire Areas
Unprecedented demand for forest tree seedlings after the huge wildfires of 2020, are creating difficulties for forest landowners. The Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) along with Oregon State University and other forestry organizations can help address some of the issues that make reforesting challenging.
“Seedlings were already in short supply in Oregon before the fires,” explained Kyle Abraham, Chief of ODF’s Private Forests Division. “Now, rough estimates are that somewhere between 80 and 140 million additional seedlings could be needed to reforest just the non-federal lands that burned in 2020.”
Abraham added that while these estimates are still preliminary, the possible range of seedlings needed is two to three times the typical number of seedlings needed each year for reforestation in Oregon.
Abraham cited three other factors that limit seedling availability.
- Labor shortages
It’s hard for nurseries to ramp up production and for landowners to find workers to do replanting.
- Financial risk
Seedlings have a short shelf life once “lifted” from a nursery. Nurseries mostly grow for landowners who are regular buyers of many seedlings and file orders years ahead of time.
- Lack of nursery space
Few nurseries specialize in forest species to meet the demands for seedlings.
Abraham said availability of seed can sometimes also be an issue. “Trees must be grown from the appropriate seed – seed that is adapted to the area where it will be planted. That generally takes two years. While seed inventories are generally strong for most areas of the state, there are some isolated gaps. We’re also working to help fill those gaps.”
Abraham said landowners with smaller acreages often need help finding the right seedlings for their zone. In recognition of how hard it is for many landowners to find seedlings, Abraham said they should contact ODF if they need assistance in reforestation. “Our goal is to help landowners reforest,” said Abraham. “We are being realistic about how feasible that is under the circumstances.”
Working on solutions
OSU Extension and the Oregon Small Woodlands Association have surveyed landowners about their seedling needs. That surveyed group alone needs about 3.5 million trees to fully reforest.
“ODF has convened a working group with representatives from state and federal land management agencies, the forest and nursery industries, OSU Extension, and non-profit associations that serve small-acreage landowners to help address some of these needs,” said Abraham.
He said the group is currently considering some of the following:
- Immediate options to procure or grow seedlings for smaller landowners. This strategy includes working with both private and public (USDA Forest Service) nurseries.
- Looking at options to increase in-state nursery capacity.
- Developing the necessary organizational structure to collect and batch seedling orders for smaller-acreage landowners – and to help with some of the storage and transportation logistics.
Because of climate change, seedlings planted today will grow and mature in climate conditions different than exist today.
“It’s more important than ever to get the right species of tree and from the right seed source planted in the right place,” said Abraham. “Landowners should carefully consider what species are likely to do well at the elevation and sun exposure where they will be planted. Resources that can help are ODF foresters, local OSU Forestry Extension specialists, and online seedlot selection tools, among others.”
On the labor front, Abraham said ODF has lists of current contractors to give landowners who need help planting trees. The agency is also looking at options to help landowners coordinate and work with a single contractor across multiple ownerships to help implement site preparation, planting, and maintenance for family forest landowners. This approach will make better use of limited contract resources. ODF and OSU Forestry Extension have educational resources and can offer tree planting lessons for people who want to plant trees themselves.
“I encourage landowners to reach out to forestry professionals, neighbors, and associations of woodland owners to identify resources and get answers for successful reforestation,” said Abraham.
Rollover Crash on Highway 62 in Shady Cove
The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office says that a man was taken to the hospital after a rollover crash along Highway 62 in Shady Cove on Wednesday morning.
Deputies and emergency crews first responded to the crash around 10:30 a.m. According to the Sheriff’s Office, the 29-year-old driver of a 4-door sedan left the roadway and smashed through a tree, with his vehicle coming to rest upside-down near the river.
Firefighters from Jackson County Fire District 4 had to right the vehicle before they could work to extract the driver. He was initially taken by boat to a waiting Mercy Flights ambulance before being taken to a hospital. The extent of his injuries are unknown at this time, but JCSO said that he lost consciousness during the response, which took roughly an hour to complete.
The Oregon Department of Transportation said that the eastbound lanes of Highway 62 were shut down for the emergency response.
AROUND the STATE of OREGON
Oregon Zoo Fighting To Save Western Monarch Butterflies
In the fight to save the western monarch butterfly from extinction, the Oregon Zoo is hosting a live Q and A session Thursday.
The session will feature Senator Jeff Merkley and a pollinator expert. It will be hosted by Bob Lee, the Oregon Zoo’s general curator, who joined AM Extra to discuss the details.
Pollinator scientists and advocates are fighting to save the western monarch butterfly as it draws perilously close to extinction.
Learn more at a live Q&A session featuring U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley and pollinator expert Sarina Jepsen of the Xerces Society.
This discussion, moderated by the Oregon Zoo, will be livestreamed on Thursday, March 18, at 1:30 p.m. PDT on the Oregon Zoo, Senator Jeff Merkley and Xerces Society Facebook pages.
The conversation will explore the threats faced by the western monarch butterfly, and how we can save this iconic pollinator.
The session will be held on the Oregon Zoo’s Facebook page.
Billions in Funding Coming To Oregon From COVID Relief Package
With the American Rescue Plan now signed into law, Oregon will soon be receiving more than $4.2 billion in coronavirus relief funds. Unlike provisions in last year’s CARES Act, much of that funding will be going directly to local city and county governments.
President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package last Thursday after it passed both chambers of Congress. While the precise amount of aid that will be doled out to municipalities in the coming days is likely to fluctuate somewhat, the National League of Cities has been working to calculate the approximate amounts that each area will receive.
All told, Oregon is slated to receive more than $4.2 billion — $2.6 billion of which will go to the state government to fund agencies impacted by COVID-19, with another $155,000 going to capital projects. Almost $1.5 billion will be split among counties, cities and towns throughout the state.
So what does this mean for governments our area? The NLC came up with these early estimates…
- Ashland – $4.41 million
- Brookings – $1.32 million
- Central Point – $3.84 million
- Eagle Point – $1.95 million
- Grants Pass – $9.34 million
- Klamath Falls – $4.43 million
- Medford – $18.34 million
- Talent – $1.35 million
- Yreka – $1.42 million
NOTE: Municipalities receiving less than $1 million have been omitted for brevity in this report, but many of them are eligible for their own funding in the relief package.
- Curry County – $4.45 million
- Jackson County – $42.85 million
- Josephine County – $16.97 million
- Klamath County – $13.23 million
- Lake County – $1.53 million
- Siskiyou County – $8.44 million
The National League of Cities came to these numbers after using the formulas set out by the bill on how much money each city in the country can get. For municipalities over 50,000 people, population, poverty, and housing instability all contribute to the monetary value given to each local government. Cities with less than 50,000 will get money from the state that will be sub-allocated from funding through a simple per capita formula.
According to the legislation, half of the relief money will be given out this spring and summer and the other half will be given out in 2022.
Oregon Wildfire Recovery Update
The Oregon State University’s Forest and Natural Resources Extension Fire Program is hosting a free webinar series to help Oregonians prepare for future wildfire seasons. https://extension.oregonstate.edu/fire-program
Oregon’s Recreation Site Status Map shows federal and state outdoor recreation openings and closures. — Oregon Office of Emergency Management
Income Tax Filing, Payment Deadlines for Individuals Extended to May 17
Salem, OR—The Department of Revenue is joining the IRS and automatically extending the income tax filing due date for individuals for the 2020 tax year from April 15, 2021 to May 17, 2021. Both the IRS and the Oregon Department of Revenue will be providing formal guidance in the coming days.
Individual taxpayers can also postpone state income tax payments for the 2020 tax year due on April 15, 2021 to May 17, 2021 without penalties and interest, regardless of the amount owed. This postponement applies to individual taxpayers, including individuals who pay self-employment tax. Penalties and interest will begin to accrue on any remaining unpaid balances as of May 18, 2021. Individual taxpayers will automatically avoid interest and penalties on the taxes paid by May 17.
Individual taxpayers do not need to file any forms or call the Department of Revenue to qualify for this automatic tax filing and payment relief. Individual taxpayers who need additional time to file beyond the May 17 deadline can request a filing extension until October 15 by filing federal Form 4868 through their tax professional or tax software or by using the Free File link on IRS.gov. Oregon recognizes a taxpayer’s federal extension. An extension to file is not an extension to pay. Additional extension information is available on the Revenue website.
To get tax forms, check the status of your refund, or make tax payments, visit www.oregon.gov/dor or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can call 800-356-4222 toll-free from an Oregon prefix (English or Spanish) or 503-378-4988 in Salem and outside Oregon. For TTY (hearing- or speech-impaired), we accept all relay calls. — Oregon Dept. of Revenue
OSU Puts New President F. King Alexander on Probation
The release of LSU’s internal investigation has now affected another college program as Oregon State has placed school president F. King Alexander on probation, the school announced on Wednesday.
Alexander will be on probation until June 1 following his role in allowing Les Miles to foster a hostile work environment during their time together at LSU. This all came to light following a lengthy internal investigation at LSU that was released publicly by the school in recent weeks.
Despite former LSU AD Joe Alleva recommending Miles be fired, Alexander refused to take action.
Following the release of the report from LSU, Kansas fired Miles and AD Jeff Long.
“Significant concerns have been raised about trust and commitment to OSU values from many aspects of the community,” Oregon State trustee Michele Longo Eder said of Alexander according to USA Today. “We need to find a way to see if it’s possible to address those going forward.”
LSU’s investigation also found that the program suffered “serious institutional failure” related to Title IX cases during Alexander’s tenure at the school.
Oregon State now plans to independently review the report with its own legal counsel before determining Alexander’s fate at the school.
At this time, many faculty members and students at Oregon State are calling for Alexander to lose his job in Corvallis.
University Of Oregon Gender Pay Lawsuit
A federal appeals court has revived a University of Oregon professor’s lawsuit alleging the university has failed to address a ”glaring” pay gap between her and male colleagues.
The Oregonian/OregonLive reports psychology professor Jennifer Joy Freyd argued that the university paid her several thousand dollars less per year than it paid the male professors though they were all of equal rank and seniority.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals held this week that a reasonable jury could find Freyd and her male colleagues performed a common core of tasks and did substantially equal work yet the men drew significantly higher wages. — The decision sends the case back to the trial court.
Utility Worker Freed After Hours in Collapsed Utility Trench
A man trapped in a caved-in utility trench was rescued after about three hours stuck in dirt and mud Monday in the 12000 block of Southwest Bowmont Street in Cedar Hills.
The man, who was trapped about 15 feet below the surface, was taken to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center. His medical condition was not released. Two other workers from Apollo Excavation who were also in the trench were not taken to the hospital.
The men were not identified.
Leonard Gebbie, whose home faces the trench, said two workers were replacing a sewer line when dirt collapsed onto them. A third worker went in to help them, Gebbie said.
Firefighters from Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue and Portland Fire & Rescue arrived at the scene just before 11 a.m.; close to 40 emergency responders eventually were at the scene.
One worker was able to free himself. Crews extricated a second man quickly, but the third was stuck in waist-high mud and dirt. Responders had to create tools to aid in the rescue. A City of Portland truck arrived to suction mud and dirt out of the trench.
Rain started to come down hard as emergency crews continued working to rescue the man, forcing them to put a tent and a blue tarp over the trench and bring in an extra lamp.
Meanwhile, the man, who had mentioned problems with feeling his legs, was given oxygen and sports drinks by emergency responders who took turns going into the trench to assist him and check his pulse. Crews also lowered an IV bag in a bucket. The man remained alert and conscious, at one point even helping dig out the dirt.
When the man was free, the emergency responders clapped and then lowered a combined harness and backboard into the trench. The man was strapped to the harness-backboard and emergency responders used a crank to lift him to the surface.