Rogue Valley News, Friday 3/19 – Medford Dance Company Becomes a COVID-19 Resource, Man Arrested for Manufacturing Destructive Devices in Medford

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

Friday, March 19, 2021

Rogue Valley Weather

Today- A 50 percent chance of showers, mainly after 11am. Snow level 2400 feet rising to 3600 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.

Saturday- A 30 percent chance of showers, mainly after 11am. Snow level 2300 feet rising to 3200 feet in the afternoon. Partly sunny, with a high near 54. Light and variable wind becoming northwest around 5 mph in the afternoon.

Sunday- Partly sunny, with a high near 57. Light and variable wind.

Monday- A 50 percent chance of rain. Snow level 3100 feet rising to 4000 feet in the afternoon. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 53.

Tuesday- Mostly sunny, with a high near 60.

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

Oregon reports 393 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 4 new deaths

There are four new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon raising the state’s death toll to 2,353. The Oregon Health Authority reported 393 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 160,622.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (3), Benton (19), Clackamas (21), Clatsop (2), Columbia (1), Coos (22), Crook (5), Curry (5), Deschutes (11), Douglas (16), Grant (2), Jackson (42), Jefferson (1), Josephine (25), Klamath (5), Lane (12), Lincoln (7), Linn (10), Malheur (2), Marion (44), Morrow (1), Multnomah (66), Polk (4), Tillamook (3), Umatilla (6), Union (3), Wallowa (1), Wasco (2), Washington (45) and Yamhill (7).

Vaccinations in Oregon

Today, OHA reported that 49,166 new doses of COVID-19 vaccinations were added to the state immunization registry. Of this total, 18,412 doses were administered on March 17 and 30,754 were administered on previous days but were entered into the vaccine registry on March 17. Note: On March 17, OHA saw the largest number of vaccination events submitted into the ALERT IIS system on a single day (49,166), reflecting that sites are catching up on submitting doses that were administered during the ALERT IIS outage earlier this week.

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 1,412,232 first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines. To date, 1,797,545 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.

All adult residents in Oregon will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine beginning May 1, state health officials confirmed Wednesday.

Last week, following President Joe Biden’s pledge to make all adults eligible for vaccines by May 1, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said she would not change the state’s eligibility schedule until she was sure the
state would receive enough vaccines.

Since then Oregon officials said they have received an order, from the United States Department of Health and Human Service, that directs vaccination sites to make the change with eligibility. Currently, in Oregon, those who can receive the vaccine include health care workers, first responders, teachers and residents over age 65.

People who are 45 or older with a pre-existing condition, seasonal and migrant farmworkers, food processors, the homeless and those affected by last summer’s wildfires are scheduled to become eligible on March 29. In addition essential workers and people with underlying conditions between 16 and 45 are scheduled to become eligible May 1.

City in Oregon With the Most COVID-19 Cases

The U.S. has reported more than 29,000,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Mar. 17. More than 620,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 — the highest death toll of any country.

Nationwide, there were an average of 16.8 daily new coronavirus cases per 100,000 Americans in the week ending Mar. 17. Cumulatively, the U.S. has reported 8,883.7 cases per 100,000 Americans, and 190.4 deaths per 100,000 Americans.

In Oregon, there were an average of 7.6 daily new coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents in the week ending Mar. 17. Cumulatively, Oregon has reported 3,799.6 cases per 100,000 state residents, the 4th lowest of all 50 states. Oregon has reported 55.7 deaths per 100,000, the 5th lowest of all 50 states.

While the nation’s largest metropolitan areas were hit hardest in the early months of the pandemic, nearly every city has suffered from the virus. Outbreaks are particularly likely to occur in places where large numbers of people tend to congregate, leaving cities with high concentrations of colleges, correctional facilities, and nursing homes particularly at risk.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Salem metropolitan area has reported 21,685 confirmed cases, or 5,200.5 per 100,000 residents — the most of any city in Oregon.

Medford, the city with the second most cases per capita, has reported 3,987.1 cases per 100,000 residents.

The coronavirus crisis has led to widespread unemployment across the country as consumer-facing businesses are forced to close and customers are encouraged to stay home. Unemployment in Salem peaked at 13.1% in April 2020, and is now at 6.3% as of December 2020.

To determine the metropolitan area in each state with the highest number of COVID-19 cases per capita, 24/7 Wall St. compiled and reviewed data from state and local health departments. We ranked metropolitan areas according to the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents as of Mar. 17. Data was aggregated from the county level to the metropolitan area level using boundary definitions from the U.S. Census Bureau. Population data used to adjust case and death totals came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey and are five-year estimates.

These are all the counties in Oregon where COVID-19 is slowing (and where it’s still getting worse).

MSAPopulationTotal casesCases per 100,000Total deathsDeaths per 100,000
Salem, OR416,98021,6855,200.533279.6
Medford, OR214,2678,5433,987.111855.1
Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA2,417,93191,2773,775.01,28052.9
Bend, OR180,6406,0163,330.46536.0
Albany-Lebanon, OR122,8703,6132,940.55746.4
Eugene-Springfield, OR368,88210,3572,807.713135.5
Grants Pass, OR85,4812,3902,795.95665.5
Corvallis, OR89,7802,3602,628.61718.9

LOCAL HEADLINES:

Medford Dance Company Becomes a COVID-19 Resource During the Pandemic

Ballet Folklorico Ritmo Alegre / Medford, OR

Luisa Zaragoza is the artistic and managing director at Ballet Folklorico Ritmo Alegre in Medford. A project that started as a high school club in the ’90s has grown into a dance academy for children and youth in the Medford area. Luisa, originally from Mexico, takes great pride in providing opportunities for cultural movement and expression for youth in her community.

Through the pandemic, Luisa has seen how fear and misinformation can impact the well-being of those around her. Especially since many families in her community don’t speak English or know where to get reliable information.  

“There are resources out there, but if people don’t know how to access them, then we have a barrier,” Luisa says. She knew her relationship with families in the community was an opportunity to help.  

Last year, Ballet Folklorico Ritmo Alegre partnered with the Oregon Health Authority and a couple of other local organizations to develop an education campaign providing information on COVID-19 and local resources through Facebook posts, phone calls, Zoom meetings and several drive-through events. 

“For me, this is very important work,” Luisa says. “We get people with questions from things they hear on social media, and we are able to help them. They know we get information from reliable sources and see us following security measures as well, so they trust us. In a way, we are an intermediary, and they depend on us as much as we depend on them.”  

As Oregon’s vaccination efforts are underway, Luisa has shifted some of her time to inform people on eligibility and vaccine locations. Meanwhile, she continues to offer folklorico dance classes to youth in her community and has even scheduled safely distanced performances at testing events.  

“The kids need this too. They feel like they’re contributing, and it gives them a place to escape from the many challenges they’ve experienced through the pandemic.” 

Learn more about Ballet Folklorico Ritmo Alegre and OHA’s statewide program working with community-based organizations. 

“There are resources out there, but if people don’t know how to access them, then we have a barrier,” says Luisa Zaragoza, the artistic and managing director. She knew her relationship with families in the community was an opportunity to help.  

Last year, Ballet Folklorico Ritmo Alegre partnered with OHA and a couple of other local organizations to develop an education campaign providing information on COVID-19 and local resources through Facebook posts, phone calls, Zoom meetings and several drive-through events. 

Ballet Folklorico Ritmo Alegre is also featured in a public awareness advertisement (EnglishSpanish) currently airing through the Safe + Strong campaign. Read the full story in yesterday’s newsletter. To subscribe, visit this page.

Man Arrested for Manufacturing Destructive Devices in Medford

On March 18, 2021 the Oregon State Police Explosives Unit in conjunction with the Medford Police Department served a search warrant on a residence in the 1100 block of Char Way, in Medford, Oregon.

This was the result of an ongoing investigation related to multiple reports of explosions across the Rogue Valley. 

Investigators from the Oregon State Police and the Medford Police Department identified a suspect and during the search of the residence located numerous items relating to the manufacturing of destructive devices. 

Brian Lighthill (23) was arrested and lodged in the Jackson County Jail.

Lighthill was charged with 23 counts of Manufacturing of a Destructive Device and 9 counts of Possession of a Destructive Device. — Oregon State Police

AROUND the STATE of OREGON

Oregon Office of Emergency Management Presents Public Webinar for ShakeAlert(R) Earthquake Early Warning System

ShakeAlert®, an earthquake detection tool operated by the U.S. Geological Survey, is now live in Oregon. The Office of Emergency Management (OEM) is presenting a free public webinar featuring a panel of experts discussing what ShakeAlert is, how it works, why it is important, how to enable it, and what to do when an alert is received.

The public webinar will take place on Zoom at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 23.

Preregistration is requested at https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUld-uprj4tGNDKP1G2JESPISQP2HKkQtMu. Once preregistered, instructions will be sent for logging in to the webinar.

The webinar will also be recorded and posted on the OEM website within a few days of the event.

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. Some mobile phones with text-to-voice capability may read out the message text.

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 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 Lawmakers Set to Consider Possible Penalties for Legislative Walk-Outs

Oregon lawmakers are set to consider a range of possible penalties for the legislative walk-outs most recently employed by Republicans, some of them drastic enough to require amendments to the state constitution.

Senate Democrats signaled last week that they were entertaining rules changes that could suspend lawmakers’ per diem pay if they are absent from the chamber without a valid excuse. Republicans shunned floor votes in the state Senate at the end of February, the latest in a series of walk-outs by the minority party since 2019.

The Oregon constitution requires a quorum — a two-thirds majority in attendance — in order to hold a vote. According to an advisory from the Senate Majority office, the Senate Committee on Rules will consider four separate accountability measures in a remote meeting on Thursday.

Two of them could be passed and implemented by a simple majority in the Senate, while the other two would require Oregon voters to vote in favor of amendments to the state constitution.

The High Desert Museum Named a Finalist for The 2021 National Medal For Museum And Library Science

Wolves visit the High Desert Museum near Bend, Oregon!

A 2021 award nomination places a museum dedicated to the nature, history and culture of central Oregon among the very best in the country.

The High Desert Museum outside of Bend announced Thursday that it was named a finalist for the 2021 National Medal for Museum and Library Science, considered one of the nation’s highest honors for museums and libraries.

The federal Institute of Museum and Library Services, which gives out the awards, named 30 finalists this year, of which only six – three museums and three libraries – will receive a medal. Awards were not given out in 2020, as museums and libraries shut down during the initial spread of COVID-19. Winners of the 2021 medals will be announced in May, the institute said.

Oregon Senate Approved Resolution That Would Ask Voters to Decide Whether The State Is Obligated to Ensure That Every Resident Has Access to Affordable Health Care

The Oregon Senate on Thursday approved a resolution that would ask voters to decide whether the state is obligated to ensure that every resident has access to affordable health care as a fundamental human right.

The resolution, whose aim is to amend the state Constitution, was approved along party lines, with Democratic senators in favor and Republicans opposed.

It next goes to the House in the Democrat-controlled Legislature. A similar effort in 2018 was approved by the House but it died in committee in the Senate. If it had been put on the ballot and approved by voters, it would have been the first constitutional amendment in any state to create a fundamental right to healthcare. If the House passes the bill, voters would be asked to consider amending the state’s 162-year-old Constitution.

Bushnell University in Eugene Adds Accelerated Nursing Program Due to Shortage of Nurses in Oregon

Bushnell University will add an accelerated nursing program next year that would allow people who already have bachelor’s degrees in other fields to become qualified as a nurse — in just 12 months.

When it starts in January, it will be the most accelerated nursing program in the state, according to Linda Veltri, Bushnell’s associate dean of nursing. It will turn out 32 new nurses every year, at a time when programs across Oregon are at capacity and the demand for nurses in the workforce is high. 

Bushnell also will make some changes on campus for the program, adding full clinical space with beds, mannequins and IVs for nursing students to practice.

“It’s going to be a new way in Oregon that we can accept students who don’t have any kind of an RN licensure at all,” Veltri said. At the end of the intensive 12-month program, they’ll have the skills and experience necessary to take the exam for a license.

“It’s designed for people who have a bachelor’s degree in something else,” she said. “So, maybe when I was 18 … I went to school and got a degree in biology, but now I’ve had some experience and haven’t been able to do much with my biology degree, but somehow I’ve had this epiphany that I want to be a nurse.”

Those students already have many core classes such as English and math done, so the whole year will be focused on the necessary nursing courses and experiences.

Bushnell already had several tracks toward nursing, through its RN-to-BSN program, which has students who graduated from a nursing program pursuing a bachelor’s degree, and its RN-to-MSN program, which has students who graduated from a nursing program concurrently complete a bachelor’s and master’s degree. There is also a graduate program for nursing. These all required someone to already have previous nursing education, compared to the new program that does not. 

There are accelerated programs at other universities, such as Oregon Health & Sciences University. OHSU’s program is 15 months long.

The only other nursing program in the Eugene area is the associate degree program at Lane Community College. Veltri said she works closely with the program leader at LCC to coordinate placements for students. Bushnell’s new program is not about competition, she said, but contributing more nursing education in the Eugene area and filling a serious industry need.

“Every chair in every nursing program (in Oregon) is full,” Veltri said. “And in fact they have about three-to-one applicants for every seat that they do have.”

Shortage of Nurses in Oregon

In 2019, 24 schools in Oregon offered nursing education programs: seven baccalaureate degree programs and 17 associate degree programs, according to a study by the Oregon Center for Nursing. To run a nursing program, schools require clinical space and supplies, and a lot of hands-on education, which means there are limited spots.

“According to the Oregon Employment Department projections, about 2,600 new nurses are needed each year over the next decade to replace nurses leaving the profession and fill new positions related to due to industry growth,” according to a report by Oregon Center for Nursing. “However, data from the state’s nursing programs indicate that only 1,555 newly graduated RNs were available to enter the workforce in 2019.”

This lack of nurses is one of the major hurdles post-pandemic, along with a burnout, stress and a decline in people teaching nursing and expanding programs, the report stated.

McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center’s Chief Nursing Officer Desi Shubin said she is in constant communication with Bushnell and LCC about their nursing programs.

“Linda and I have been talking about this (accelerated program) I guess for the last two years, and I am extremely supportive,” she said. 

Before COVID-19, Shubin said she was getting new cohorts of nursing school graduates every six months, but because of COVID-19 it’s been inconsistent due to issues such as people having to wait to finish classes until later terms. There also have been fewer nurses available in general, she said, as many nurses retired early, left the profession or traveled to help in hotspots across the country.

Bushnell’s new program will get more nurses in the door, faster.  “But one of the things I love about Linda’s program is it doesn’t skimp on the clinical hours,” Shubin said. “Some accelerated programs cut some of that out and make it simulation, but (Bushnell) did not do that. … I’m super excited about that because I strongly believe that nurses still need lots of clinical experience before they go off on their own.” — https://www.bushnell.edu/

Focus on local pipeline

Veltri and Shubin both emphasized the desire to strengthen the local workforce pipeline for nursing. Shubin said she’s from Portland and has lived in Eugene a few years now, and in her opinion nursing in Oregon is very “Portland-centric” with the major schools, clinical opportunities and legislation focus being in the state’s biggest city. 

“We are just really filling that gap,” Veltri said. “Now we have a way to prepare people in our own area, who don’t want to go to Portland or Ashland, but they can stay right here they can do their clinical practices here. And guess what? I’m confident they’re going to be hired, right here in the Willamette Valley.” 

Shubin said it’s for this reason that she often gives priority for clinical work to students out of Bushnell and LCC. 

“I really strongly believe that the nurses that stay are the ones that are from this community,” she said. “So I want to be able to support the nurses in the community going to a school down here, so that I can hire them and they’ll stay.”

Bushnell will be making changes to campus this year, after recently acquiring the Phoenix Inn building. Veltri said they have been promised one of those changes will be space on campus dedicated to a skills lab for the new nursing program.

The yearlong program will cost students about $50,000. The annual mean wage for a registered nurse in Oregon is $92,960, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Defazio Announces Millions of Dollars For Oregon Schools

On Thursday, Congressman Peter DeFazio announced that school districts in Oregon’s Fourth Congressional District are estimated to receive hundreds of millions of dollars as a result of the American Rescue Plan.

DeFazio said, “Our students are falling behind because of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic – it’s imperative that we do everything in our power to ensure our kids, teachers, and support staff are returning to safe schools”. DeFazio said he is proud to have secured the funding needed to procure PPE, install modernized ventilation systems, and acquire the necessary resources to make the return to school “…healthy and safe for everybody”.

A release said the funds will help give K-12 schools needed resources to reopen safely, provide safe in-person instruction to more students, address learning loss and the significant impacts the pandemic has had on students educational and emotional well-being.

The amounts going to school districts in Douglas County vary, from just over $12 million for the Roseburg School District, down to $311,000 for the Elkton School District.

Greater Albany School District

$14,615,000

Alsea School District

$191,000

Corvallis School District

$7,176,000

Monroe School District

$948,000

Philomath School District

$1,218,000

Blachly School District

$356,000

Bethel School District

$13,880,000

Coos Bay School District

$10,170,000

Creswell School District

$2,724,000

Crow-Applegate-Lorane

$551,000

Eugene School District

$38,067,000

Fern Ridge School District

$3,862,000

Junction City School District

$3,056,000

Lowell School District

$456,000

Mapleton School District

$470,000

Marcola School District

$287,000

McKenzie School District

$676,000

Oakridge School District

$6,358,000

Pleasant Hill School District

$1,779,000

South Lane School District

$6,739,000

Springfield School District

$30,249,000

Central Linn School District

$1,578,000

Lebanon Community School District

$8,218,000

Scio School District

$1,093,000

Sweet Home School District

$4,017,000

Bandon School District

$1,795,000

Coquille School District

$2,000,000

North Bend School District

$4,459,000

Powers School District

$541,000

Brookings-Harbor School District

$3,615,000

Camas Valley School District

$384,000

Days Creek School District

$395,000

North Douglas School District

$632,000

Elkton School District

$311,000

Glendale School District

$814,000

Glide School District

$1,670,000

Oakland School District

$1,446,000

Reedsport School District

$1,739,000

Riddle School District

$1,237,000

Roseburg School District

$12,081,000

South Umpqua School District

$4,750,000

Sutherlin School District

$2,537,000

Winston-Dillard School District

$3,538,000

Yoncalla School District

$932,000

Grants Pass School District

$13,578,000

Rogue River School District

$2,737,000

Port Orford-Langlois School District

$2,554,000

Central Curry School District

$618,000

Myrtle Point School District

$2,258,000

Three Rivers School District

$18,178,000

Harrisburg School District

$1,712,000

Santiam Canyon School District

$1,090,000

For more information on the American Rescue Plan, including resources on direct relief payments, enhanced unemployment insurance benefits, and more, please visit defazio.house.gov/coronavirus-recovery-resources.

Harrisburg Residents Concerned Over Water Problems

North of Harrisburg, Sewer Issues Making Water Murky

Several Harrisburg residents have reported discolored water coming from their pipes.

“Sometimes it’s just murky and foggy, but other times it will be brown,” Harrisburg resident Kendra Williams said. “Sometimes the toilet will be brown and no one’s even used it.”

According to the city administrator Michelle Eldridge, this is caused by routine water flushing meant to clear out minerals and sediments that have built up in the city’s water line. This process happens two times every year.

“If anybody is pulling water while we are doing the flushing and especially in certain areas of town, it will stir up those sediments and that will be showing up inside their water,” Eldrige said.

The flushing process was scheduled to run throughout the week ending on March 19. According to Eldridge, the water should return to normal by the beginning of next week.

But Harrisburg residents tell me there have been issues with the water quality for years now.

“It’s the worst I’ve ever seen it in the six years I’ve lived in Harrisburg,” Harrisburg resident Shannon Boehm said. “I was drawing a bath for my son and I was like, there’s no way I can put my kid in this. I can’t see the bottom of the bathtub.”

The city is currently working to improve it’s water system. In 2017, a $7.5 million bond was passed to start projects that would improve the Harrisburg’s water quality.

Crews are working to improve the city’s filtration system and replace three-and-a-half miles of water lines, according to Eldridge. 

“We’re hoping that once we get the new well online, we’ll be able to shut that one down completely and the water quality will start getting better for our patrons.”

According to Eldridge, the water is safe to drink, even though it is not aesthetically pleasing. But some residents are not taking any chances.

“I’ve tasted it before,” Harrisburg resident Gloria Orta-Friend said. “It tastes horrible like, irony and dirty, like, if you were to just fill a cup up from the river and take a drink.”

“We reached out and we were told that it’s just minerals and that it’s perfectly safe to drink,” Boehm said. “I was like, I don’t know if I believe that.”

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