The latest news stories and stories of interest in the Rogue Valley from the digital home of Southern Oregon, from Wynne Broadcasting’s RogueValleyMagazine.com
Tuesday, March 30, 2021
Rogue Valley Weather
Today- Widespread frost before 8am. Otherwise, sunny, with a high near 68. Light north wind.
Wednesday– Sunny, with a high near 80. Calm wind.
Thursday- Sunny, with a high near 74. Light and variable wind.
Friday- Mostly sunny, with a high near 71.
Saturday- Partly sunny, with a high near 69.
Oregon reports 217 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 0 new deaths
There are no new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, keeping the state’s death toll at 2,375. The Oregon Health Authority reported 217 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 164,164.
The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (3), Benton (9), Clackamas (30), Clatsop (4), Columbia (3), Coos (7), Deschutes (14), Douglas (12), Harney (2), Jackson (10), Josephine (7), Lake (1), Lane (19), Lincoln (6), Linn (16), Marion (19), Multnomah (34), Polk (6), Tillamook (3), Union (5) and Yamhill (7).
Vaccinations in Oregon
Today, OHA reported that 18,191 new doses of COVID-19 vaccinations were added to the state immunization registry. Of this total, 10,067 doses were administered on March 28 and 8,124 were administered on previous days but were entered into the vaccine registry on March 28.
Oregon has now administered a total of 872,230 first and second doses of Pfizer, 824,313 first and second doses of Moderna and 39,092 single doses of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines.
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).
To date, 1,043,055 doses of Pfizer, 1,003,700 doses of Moderna and 61,200 doses of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines 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.
Expert Warns Oregon Lawmakers of Threats Ahead in Pandemic
A national infectious disease expert warned Oregon lawmakers that darker days lie ahead in the pandemic as variant strains pose a threat amid a sluggish vaccine rollout.
Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota and a member of President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 transition team, told the House COVID-19 Subcommittee on Monday that the B.1.1.7 variant from Britain poses a major threat.
“The darkest days are just coming upon us,” said Osterholm, who said he has reversed his prior stance that schools should reopen this spring. A similar tone was also struck on Monday by Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during a White House briefing, according to press reports. She warned of “impending doom.”
“We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope,” Walensky said. “But right now, I’m scared.”
Their stark prognoses came the same week that Oregon elementary schools for students in kindergarten through fifth grade can no longer offer exclusively online instruction. Starting this week, Oregon elementary schools must provide in-person or hybrid models that combine in-person and online instruction, due to an executive order from Gov. Kate Brown. Those schools can no longer exclusively offer online instruction, though they can still provide that mode to families who request it.
Osterholm told lawmakers that the B.1.1.7 variant is “now readily infecting kids in levels I can’t believe.” For example, there was an outbreak of COVID-19 cases, some with the variant, that infected about 100 children in a daycare in Omaha.
“We are seeing it jump like lightning,” Osterholm said.
The CDC warned in January when the variant emerged in the United States that it would become the dominant strain by March. The B.1.1.7 variant quickly spread in Britain where it was first identified. Scientists say it is 50 to 70% more infectious than many other strains and perhaps 30% more deadly.
Osterholm said he originally was a strong proponent for reopening schools due to the lack of evidence of infection in children. He’s since changed his stance on that, he said, calling at a “180-degree flip.”
The B.1.1.7 variant underscores the need to vaccinate the population, said Osterholm, who is well-known in epidemiology circles for warning about the lack of preparation in the United States for a pandemic years before COVID-19.
“I think B.1.1.7 has a chance to really cause us real damage in the country before we get out of the woods,” he said.
Besides the British variant, health officials are watching variants from Brazil and South African although they have not spread so quickly. Experts believe the vaccines that have been approved for emergency use in the United States are effective against these variants. That’s why public health officials are racing to vaccinate as much of the population as possible to slow their spread.
Osterholm said the United States is the only high-income nation to open everything up, even as overall COVID-19 case numbers increase. This pattern, he said, aids the spread of B.1.1.7.
Osterholm said the situation should serve as a “tremendous motivator” for vaccine acceptance.
The good news is that the U.S. has vaccines, but the problem is that the vaccine doses are not getting out quickly enough.
Osterholm criticized moves by states to offer vaccines to more categories of people while some seniors wait. That’s “not a victory, that’s a defeat,” he said, because it means that providers are “not necessarily vaccinating the people who need it most.”
In Oregon, Brown delayed vaccinating senior citizens to give doses to public school teachers and early childhood instructors to allow schools to reopen sooner.
Currently, about 66% of Oregonians age 65 and older have received at least one dose.
Manufacturers are researching vaccines that will work for children under 16. Currently, only Pfizer vaccines are approved for children 16 and older. People have to be at least 18 to receive the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
Osterhold said vaccines for younger children probably will not be available until sometime in the fall.
Oregon has 16 cases with the B.1.1.7 variant, according to federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. That doesn’t reflect the full picture because testing for the variant requires additional genomic sequencing beyond COVID-19 tests.
The Oregon State Public Health Laboratory, part of the health authority, has announced it will start to perform genomic sequencing for specimens of public health significance starting Monday. Local public health agencies can submit a request for sequencing in cases that meet certain criteria, such as an individual who traveled, a person who tested positive in a “break through” case after receiving the vaccine and clusters of unusual size or severity.
Labs at Oregon Health & Science University, Oregon State University and the University of Oregon are also performing the sequencing on samples.
Washington state has 152 cases of the B.1.1.7 variant, federal data show. Nationwide, there are nearly 11,000 cases with the variant, with most hard-hit states in the East Coast and in the Midwest. However, the Northwest region could be just a month beyond those parts of the nation, Osterholm said.
Study Shows Vaccines 90% Effective
Even as the variant spreads, more evidence emerged Monday that the vaccines are effective. Oregon health care professionals, first responders and frontline workers participated in a federal study that found that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 infections and illnesses.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study tested nearly 4,000 people who took the vaccine every week for a 13-week period. Nearly 12 percent of the participants were Oregonians. The other participants were in Arizona, Florida, Minnesota, Texas and Utah.
“This study demonstrated that in real-world use, the mRNA vaccines are marvelously effective – 90% – in preventing SARS-CoV-2 infection as well as COVID-19 illness in frontline workers,” said Dr. Paul Cieslak, a senior health advisor, with the health authority. “These vaccines will keep people out of the hospital and also reduce spread of the virus. ”
COVID-19 Cases Increase Slightly
In Oregon, the rolling seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases increased slightly last week. Oregon had 349 new daily cases last week, up from 281 the prior week. Hospitalizations also increased, said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, state epidemiologist, adding that it’s too soon to know whether this is the start of a new trend.Sidelinger said Oregon schools are offering on-site testing for students and staff who develop symptoms or who are exposed to the virus. Sidelinger called school staff a key partner in curtailing infections because they have closer relationships with families and students than public health officials.
Besides addressing elementary schools, Brown’s March 12 executive order calls for secondary schools to offer in-person instruction starting the week of April 19. The order requires schools to offer online instruction to families who want it through the end of the school year.
Colt Gill, director of the Oregon Department of Education, said the state changed protocols to require only three feet of distancing at the elementary school level instead of six feet due following CDC guidance.
During the hearing, Rep. Cedric Hayden, R-Roseburg, asked whether vaccines will be added to the vaccination list required by schools in the fall.
Sidelinger said he “would not anticipate a quick process” of adding the vaccine to the required school schedules because they first need to be tested in clinical trials that are now underway.
House Floor Session Canceled
The Oregon House canceled its Monday floor session because a second person tied to that chamber tested positive for COVID-19, one week after a positive case shut down proceedings.
The Legislature’s human resources office notified lawmakers about the positive case. In a memo, Lindsey O’Brien, chief of staff for House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, wrote that the floor session was canceled “out of an abundance of caution” as some people get tested. The House plans to have its next floor session Tuesday, unless additional cases emerge.
“We haven’t received notice of any positive tests so far,” Danny Moran, spokesman for Kotek, said Monday in an email.
Due to medical privacy rules, officials did not say whether the person was a lawmaker, staffer or other individual. House lawmakers spent last week in quarantine, the time needed to self isolate after potential exposure to the first person, who was on the House floor March 15 and 16.
House legislative committees continued to meet virtually, as they have done throughout the session to prevent the virus’ spread.
Jackson County Vaccination Walk-In Clinic Moves to Expo
Jackson County Public Health has moved its COVID-19 vaccination clinic to a new location, the department announced Monday.
Public health officials said the clinic moved from 140 S Holly Street, to the Jackson County Expo in Central Point.
Public health said the site is a walk-through clinic, not a drive-through, and only offering the Moderna vaccine.
Appointments are required, insurance is not required at this location.
To schedule an appointment, click here and go to the Jackson Co. Public Health option.
Resources on vaccine eligibility and where to access the vaccine:
- Jackson County Health and Human Services COVID-19 vaccine website: https://jacksoncountyor.org/hhs/General/News-Information/covid-19-vaccine-1
- This website will provide information on where people can access the vaccine, how to make an appointment and list additional resources if people need assistance with scheduleing appointments.
- 211 Information is also available to answer questions about vaccine eligibility and access.
- Text ORCOVID to 898211 to get text/SMS updates (English and Spanish only)
- Email ORCOVID@211info.org (All languages)
- Call 211 or 1-866-698-6155 from 6 am – 7 pm daily, including holidays
- Register on the Get Vaccinated Oregon tool and check for county-specific information.
Medford’s School Zone Traffic Safety Operation Results
It is the goal of the Medford Police Department to improve traffic safety through education and enforcement. Today Middle School and High School students returned to the classroom and the Medford Police Department provided extra patrol in some school zones this morning with an emphasis on traffic safety. During the operation our Traffic Team and School Resource Officers issued 45 citations to drivers for speed violations in just 2.5 hours. Many of the violations were for 15 – 20 MPH over the speed limit. In addition officers issued 27 warnings for speed violations to some drivers. We have also listed below the other citations issued.
We continue to ask drivers to be aware of school zones and use caution when driving through them. It is important to know that fines for speed violations increase significantly when they are within a designated school zone. To help with public awareness we have included descriptions for the two categories of reduced school speeds in school zones. We have also included a link to the ODOT website with information on School Zones.
Other Citations Issued:
Driving While Suspended = 1
Driving Uninsured = 5
Operating Without Driving Privileges = 2
Zones Adjacent to School Grounds:
Will have signage displaying the speed limit at 20 MPH When Flashing or School Days 7AM – 5PM.
Zones at School Crosswalks away from Schools Grounds:
Will have signage displaying the speed limit at 20 MPH When Flashing or When Children are Present.
ODOT School Zone Information Link:
https://www.oregon.gov/odot/Engineering/Pages/School-Zones.aspx — Medford Police Dept.
Fatal Crash on Hwy 238 – Jackson County
On Sunday, March 28, 2021 at approximately 12:39 A.M., Oregon State Police Troopers and emergency personnel responded to a single vehicle crash on Hwy 238 near the intersection with Hanley Rd.
Preliminary investigation revealed a Toyota SR5 pickup was traveling westbound when it left the roadway, crashed and caught on fire.
The operator of the vehicle sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced deceased. The name will be released at a later time.
OSP was assisted by Jackson County Fire District 3, ODOT, and the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office. – Oregon State Police
AROUND the STATE of OREGON
Oregon Lawmakers Against Big Budget Cuts but Want to Slash Taxpayer ‘Kicker’
With billions in federal dollars flooding the state, Oregon Democrats are taking big budget cuts off the table while slashing millions in taxpayer rebates.
Under the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan passed by Congress this month, the state is set to receive $4.2 billion in federal aid. About $2.6 billion of that total is bound for state coffers which Democratic state lawmakers want to stay filled.
The two-year budget framework released by Democratic lawmakers this week is largely free of the cuts last seen in Gov. Kate Brown’s proposed budget from December. The $27.2 billion plan amounts to about $2 billion more than Brown’s wishlist and preserves state services across the board. Medicaid would go untouched while the state school fund would see a $102.5 million increase in line with Brown’s budget.
Contrary to the governor’s proposals last fall, Democrats’ budget would fund the promised addiction centers included in Measure 110 and put $195.6 million towards summer learning programs backed by Brown, who originally sought $250 million for the programs.
The most controversial bullet point in Oregon Democrats’ budget framework lies in a bill that would cut some $15 million from the ‘kicker’ money flowing back to taxpayers this year.
Oregon’s tax rebate, or kicker, is a rebate calculated for individual and corporate taxpayers when state revenue exceeds state forecasts by 2%. This tax season, the kicker is expected to total $571 million if the state’s current projections hold. Under Senate Bill 846, $15 million of that total would be redirected to the state’s Department of Justice and Insurance Fund.
Opponents of the kicker law say it prevents the state from achieving better fiscal footing and leaves it at risk of cutting invaluable state services, but supporters say the rebate amounts to faster financial relief.
The idea of more taxpayer rebate cuts is a sticking point for Oregon Republicans still sore over the state’s decision to cut $108 million from the state’s $1.4 billion 2019 kicker.
“Our budget is doing better than expected but that is obviously of no consequence to Democrats,” said Senate Minority Leader Fred Girod, R-Lyons. “Oregonians are struggling. Taking money that constitutionally belongs to them is unacceptable and wrong.”
The rest of the Democratic budget framework is noticeably conservative with the federal dollars it sets aside for the “unprecedented challenges” Democrats say lie ahead. The plan would have the state to sit on $520 million or about 20% of its total federal funds and pour another $250 million into the state’s rainy day fund.
“Our document is sufficiently flexible to respond during budget negotiations,” said state Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose. “However, it also prudently anticipates potential challenges for the 2023-25 budget.”
Under federal law, state lawmakers cannot use any of that federal money for tax breaks, which the Oregon Legislature is resisting this session with regards to the local timber industry.
Under the state constitution, Oregon must operate on a balanced budget, so small cuts could still be on the horizon. According to their budget framework, Democratic-controlled committees are set to explore superficial cuts of no more than 1% to state services.
Brown, who wields the power to line-item veto budget bills, unveiled her own 10-point plan on Tuesday with fewer details than her Democratic peers. The three-page document contains more campaign slogans than proposals, which include the goals of “supporting resilient rural communities” and “safely reopening Oregon’s economy.”
As the vast majority of Oregon counties reopen again , the state is expected to see an uptick in employment and wages as frontline workers vie for hazard pay in the form of a state-level stimulus .
The Oregon Legislature has just over three months to pass a budget before it is set to adjourn on June 28.
Convicted Child Molester Sentenced to Another 17 Years in Federal Prison for Receiving and Distributing Child Pornography
A Portland man who previously served 12 years in California state prison for sexually abusing a child was sentenced to federal prison today for enticing an adolescent boy to produce sexually explicit videos of himself and share them via Facebook Messenger, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Scott Erik Asphaug.
Scott Andrew Lawrence, 57, was sentenced to a total of 17 years in federal prison and a life term of supervised release after pleading guilty to receiving and distributing child pornography.
“Scott Lawrence is a sexual predator who posed online as a woman to prey on a vulnerable teenager,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Asphaug. “Online sexual exploitation is a grave threat to children and families, even older children. We implore parents and guardians everywhere to talk frankly with their children about the risks posed by online predators, and to monitor their children’s use of social media.”
“Seventeen years is a rightfully long sentence for a man who has repeatedly abused children. The victims targeted by Scott Lawrence, however, are the ones who will pay a higher price as they must live with the effects of that exploitation for a lifetime,” said Kieran L. Ramsey, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon.
According to court documents, in April 2001, Lawrence was convicted in San Diego County Superior Court of sexually abusing a child and sentenced to a total of 14 years in prison. He was paroled in 2013 and completed his parole term three years later. In September 2018, Lawrence was convicted in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon of failing to register as a sex offender and, at the end of February 2019, was sentenced to time served plus five years of supervised release.
Three months into his supervised release term, Lawrence began communicating via Facebook Messenger with a 16-year-old boy from South Dakota whose family Lawrence lived with previously. During one exchange, Lawrence confirmed the boy’s age. In online conversations with the boy, Lawrence posed as an adult female named “Mary,” sent the boy several sexually explicit images, and repeatedly asked for videos of the boy masturbating in return. During at least three separate chat conversations, the boy sent Lawrence a total of six videos and one image of himself masturbating. Lawrence sent the image to at least two other people.
FBI agents arrested Lawrence on October 24, 2019. He admitted to chatting with the boy while posing as a woman and asking him for sexually explicit images and videos. He also admitted sending an image of the boy to two other people.
On November 19, 2020, a federal grand jury in Portland returned a nine-count indictment charging Lawrence with production, receipt, and distribution of child pornography, and committing a felony offense involving a minor while registered as a sex offender. On December 21, 2020, he pleaded guilty to distribution and receipt of child pornography.
This case was investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by Gary Y. Sussman, Assistant U.S. Attorney and Project Safe Childhood Coordinator for the District of Oregon.
Anyone who has information about the physical or online exploitation of children are encouraged to call the FBI at (503) 224-4181 or submit a tip online at tips.fbi.gov.
Federal law defines child pornography as any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor. It is important to remember child sexual abuse material depicts actual crimes being committed against children. Not only do these images and videos document the victims’ exploitation and abuse, but when shared across the internet, re-victimize and re-traumatize the child victims each time their abuse is viewed. To learn more, please visit the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at www.missingkids.org.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc. — U.S. Attorney’s Office – District of Oregon
Drain Man Arrested for Sex Abuse
A Drain man was arrested on Sunday for sex abuse. On Sunday, March 28, 2020, Deputies became aware of a report of sex abuse which had occurred at a residence in the Drain area.
The investigation ultimately lead to the arrest of 24-year-old Caleb Phillips Hartman. The victim, an adult female, was known to Hartman.
Hartman was taken into custody and transported to the Douglas County Jail where he was lodged on a single count of Sex Abuse in the Third Degree. — Douglas Co. Sheriff’s Office
Deadly Virus Confirmed In Oregon Feral Rabbit Population
The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) has confirmed rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus 2 (RHDV2) in a feral domestic rabbit found dead in Milwaukie, a suburb of Portland.
RHDV2 is a viral disease that causes sudden death in rabbits. The virus is highly contagious among rabbit populations and can spread through contact with infected rabbits, meat, fur or materials coming into contact with them. RHDV2 poses no human health risk. The virus only infects rabbits.
On March 14, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) received a report from a veterinarian in Portland that eight domestic or feral rabbits were found dead in Milwaukie. Dr. Ryan Scholz, Oregon’s State Veterinarian, was immediately notified and had one of the rabbit carcasses delivered to Oregon State University for further testing. On March 24, the National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) confirmed the rabbit tested positive for RHDV2.
“At this point, we are confident that all eight of the rabbits died from RHDV2, and the virus has taken hold in the feral rabbit population,” said Dr. Scholz.
To prevent the virus from spreading further into the domestic rabbit population, the state will be collecting and testing feral rabbits in the vicinity where the eight deceased rabbits were found.
ODFW is concerned about this disease spreading to wild rabbits such as cottontails because infections in other states have caused high mortality in wild rabbits and hares. Wild rabbits and hares have an important role in the ecosystem.
ODA and ODFW are asking the public to report rabbit mortalities to track the virus’s presence and movement. Please call 1-800-347-7028 or visit https://oda.direct/RHD to report domestic or wild rabbits which are suspected to have died from RHDV2. Domestic rabbit owners should contact their veterinarian for more information on preventing RHDV2.
How can I prevent the spread of RHDV2?
- Wash and disinfect hands, clothing, gloves, footwear, cages, and equipment between rabbits from different sources.
- Quarantine new rabbits away from existing ones for 30 days.
- Keep pet rabbits inside to avoid exposure to environments potentially contaminated by wild/feral rabbits or by people, vehicles or implements that can spread the disease.
- Immediately contact ODA (800-347-7028) if you suspect RHD or have sick or freshly dead rabbits.
- If you have animals not freshly dead, double plastic bag them and dispose of in a landfill.
Rare Great Gray Owl Released Back Into Central Oregon Wilderness After Injury
A rare great gray owl, Oregon’s largest owl species, is back in the wild after it crashed into a glass window in the Sunriver area and was nursed back to health.
Dr. Donna Harris, a retired veterinarian, saw the owl fly into the window and helped take the injured bird to Think Wild, an animal hospital and conservation center in Bend.
The owl suffered an eye injury but was otherwise in good health.
Think Wild Executive Director Sally Compton said the owl was given anti-inflammatory treatments for a few days and a live-prey test to make sure it could hunt on its own before its release.
On Friday night, staff released the owl back into the wild.
“The story of its injury, its capture, its transport to, and ultimate care at Bend’s Think Wild was seamless, thrilling, and heartwarming in the end to all of us who love and value the wildlife around us. It could not have ended better for the Great Gray Owl and for those of us who treasure our wildlife,” said Harris. “Attending its release was one of the brightest spots for me in this past year of uncertainty and sadness.”
According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), great gray owls are an Oregon Conservation Strategy Species. The designation means a species has a small or declining population and is at risk.