Rogue Valley News, Friday 4/9 – Unattended Burn Piles Caused Wildfire Northeast Of Rogue River, New Budget Airline Coming to Rogue Valley International Airport

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, April 9, 2021

Rogue Valley Weather

Today- Patchy frost before 9am. Otherwise, sunny, with a high near 69. Calm wind becoming north northwest around 6 mph in the afternoon.

Saturday- Mostly sunny, with a high near 57. North wind 3 to 8 mph.

Sunday- Areas of frost before 9am. Otherwise, sunny, with a high near 68. Light north wind.

Monday- Sunny, with a high near 75.

Tuesday- Sunny, with a high near 75.

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

Oregon reports 678 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 2,439. The Oregon Health Authority reported 678 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 168,795.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (4), Benton (4), Clackamas (65), Clatsop (6), Columbia (10), Coos (7), Crook (4), Curry (3), Deschutes (47), Douglas (14), Gilliam (1), Grant (7), Hood River (5), Jackson (88), Jefferson (5), Josephine (27), Klamath (42), Lane (47), Lincoln (8), Linn (18), Malheur (1), Marion (48), Morrow (1), Multnomah (108), Polk (14), Tillamook (8), Umatilla (6), Union (1), Wasco (1), Washington (69) and Yamhill (9).

Vaccinations in Oregon

Today, OHA reported that 50,429 new doses of COVID-19 vaccinations were added to the state immunization registry. Of this total, 27,783 doses were administered on April 7 and 22,646 were administered on previous days but were entered into the vaccine registry on April 7.

The 50,429 doses submitted to the state’s immunization tracking system on April 7 was the highest number of COVID-19 vaccine doses entered into the database on a single day since the COVID-19 vaccines began to be administered in Oregon. The 7-day running average is now 34,733 doses per day.

As of today, 824,299 people have completed a COVID-19 vaccine series. There are 522,780 people who have had at least one dose.

Oregon has now administered a total of 1,083,978 doses of Pfizer, 971,012 doses of Moderna and 61,539 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, 1,340,235 doses of Pfizer, 1,212,800 doses of Moderna and 185,500 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.

COVID-19 Vaccine Breakthrough Cases in Oregon

Oregon Health Authority has identified 168 COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough cases—when vaccinated individuals test positive for the virus—through April 2, including three deaths.

OHA public health officials say it’s a reminder that while the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines are all highly effective at preventing severe COVID-19 illness and death, no vaccine is 100% effective, and vaccine breakthrough cases will occur.

These cases have been reported in 25 counties and all health care preparedness regions (Region 1: 76; Region 2: 29; Region 3: 27; Region 5: 9; Region 6: 4; Region 7: 17; Region 9: 6). OHA is not reporting the regions in which the deaths took place.

Vaccine breakthrough cases are defined as instances in which an individual received a positive COVID-19 test result at least 14 days after the final dose of any COVID-19 vaccine series. Vaccine breakthrough cases can be prevented by basic public health interventions, such as masking, physical distancing and avoiding social gatherings.

The number of vaccine breakthrough cases identified in Oregon represents a very small proportion of the more than 700,000 people in Oregon who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Many of the vaccine breakthrough cases identified experienced asymptomatic infection and were tested for other reasons. Eleven percent (n=19) of the vaccine breakthrough cases were hospitalized within the 30 days following their positive test, and most occurred in people older than 65 or with underlying health conditions. The three deaths represent fewer than 2% of the vaccine breakthrough cases, and none of the vaccine breakthrough cases were associated with a COVID-19 variant.

State and local epidemiologists are continuing to track and investigate vaccine breakthrough cases and are working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to collect information that may provide insight into characteristics associated with vaccine breakthrough.

Healthcare preparedness regions map

Restaurants in 6 Oregon Counties Will Have to Cutback Indoor Dining Capacity

Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association

The framework for mitigating Covid risk in Oregon across a variety of industries has changed once again with newly established statewide hospitalization metrics among other factors defining Oregon’s new ‘Extreme Risk’ category. As a result, all Oregon counties for the first time in many months will once again have access to indoor dining operations.

“The news this week is bittersweet,” said Jason Brandt, President & CEO of the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association. “While five counties moved down in risk (Grant, Malheur, Umatilla, Coos, and Curry), six moved up in risk (Clackamas, Deschutes, Klamath, Linn, Multnomah, and Tillamook) which means moving down from 50% to the dreaded 25% indoor capacity restriction starting Friday, April 9. Anything less than 50% capacity poses ongoing survival challenges for our small businesses.”

In a press release issued by Governor Brown’s office, Oregon’s new extreme risk category includes a new statewide metric: Covid-19 positive patients occupying 300 hospital beds or more, and a 15% increase in the seven-day average over the previous week. As of April 6, Covid-19 related hospitalizations totaled 163 in Oregon.

“We are past due in developing a hospitalization metric as the central tool to determine all county risk levels,” said Brandt. “Over 2 million vaccine doses have been administered in Oregon. The risk associated with each Covid case diminishes with each vaccination and our stringent risk categories have not changed since they were implemented to mitigate the severity of Oregon’s winter surge.”

Concern regarding variants have been commonly cited by health officials as the reason for ongoing economic restrictions as the majority of other states move well past Oregon’s reopening status. According to recent comments by Dr. Dean Sidelinger, initial results show all vaccines to be effective in preventing serious Covid illness even if the virus is still contracted and results in a documented case.

“As we learn about the effectiveness of vaccines in protecting Oregonians against serious illness caused by variants, we should use that crucial information to change the crippling restrictions still being lived out by too many Oregonians,” said Brandt. “After reviewing all the facts, any reasonable person would conclude the vaccines are effective at keeping Oregonians out of the hospital and as a result, our risk metrics and widespread economic restrictions should change accordingly.”

ORLA continues to call for a statewide indoor restaurant capacity of at least 50% including an adoption of physical distancing standards between parties that align with international health guidelines (1 meter or 3.2 feet). 

For more information on the efforts of the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association please visit OregonRLA.org

LOCAL HEADLINES:

Unattended Burn Piles Caused Wildfire Northeast Of Rogue River

An alarming wildfire that drew in firefighters from all over the Rogue Valley on Tuesday night was caused by unattended burn piles that spread to the wildlands, according to the Oregon Department of Forestry.

Rogue River Fire District initially responded to reports of a spreading grass fire in the 3700-block of Wards Creek Road, northeast of Rogue River, just before 5:30 p.m. that evening. The fire was initially estimated at three acres in size, but it was quickly spreading uphill into heavy brush and timber.

RRFD triggered a second and third alarm, calling in help from multiple local fire agencies. The steep terrain hindered bulldozers from helping to line the fire, leaving most of the work for fire crews, ODF said. Within three hours, crews were able to build a hose line around the entire perimeter, but winds caused the main fire to spot in the hills above.

ODF brought in more resources to relieve the original firefighter engines, working to contain the spot fires over night. By early Wednesday morning, the agency said that the fire was contained — allowing crews to begin mopping up.

After GPS mapping, the total fire area was estimated at just over eight acres, including the spot fires.

“Due to direction the fire was spreading, evacuations were never ordered and no homes were threatened,” ODF said. “Wards Creek Road was closed for a time to everyone but residents and fire personnel; that closure has since been lifted.”

Fire investigators looked over the scene and spoke with witnesses, determining that the fire had been caused by multiple unattended burn piles. ODF said that the responsible party was cited.

“This incident is not the first of its kind this week; fire agencies from across southern Oregon have responded to multiple escaped burns in the past seven days. Warmer weather, winds and a lack of rain are contributing to increased fire activity and risk,” ODF said.

Fire officials said that conditions are more comparable to late spring in the Rogue Valley in areas below 3,000 feet. As a result, debris burns can easily escape into the wildlands. Burn piles also run the risk of reigniting, due to the winds and dry conditions.

Oregon Department of Forestry

Current wildfire information can be found on the ODF Wildfire blog, the ODF Fire Statistics Database, or the National Wildfire Coordinating Group active large fires map.

During fire season, the current fire season map will show active large fires ODF is tracking in the state and the locations of year-to-date lightning and human-caused fires (statistical fires where ODF is the primary protection agency).

https://www.oregon.gov/odf/fire/pages/restrictions.aspx

New Budget Airline Coming to Rogue Valley International Airport

New airline Avelo thinks it's the perfect time to start flying

A new airline is coming to Medford and flights are starting cheap.

A new airline is coming to Medford and flights are starting cheap. Avelo Airlines launched today at Hollywood Burbank Airport.

The airline claims to be America’s first new mainline airline in nearly 15 years. Avelo is offering one-stop routes between Hollywood Burbank Airport and 11 destinations along the West Coast, including the Rogue Valley International Medford Airport, Arizona, Montana and Utah.

Avelo Airlines launched today at Hollywood Burbank Airport. The airline claims to be America’s first new mainline airline in nearly 15 years. Avelo is offering one-stop routes between Hollywood Burbank Airport and 11 destinations along the West Coast, including the Rogue Valley International Medford Airport, Arizona, Montana and Utah.

“We are so pleased to partner with Avelo Airlines to make that connection between Burbank and the Rogue Valley. Two very proud and cultural communities offering much different experiences; and now our communities are bridged by only a couple hours of travel,” said Jerry Brienza, Rogue Valley International Medford Airport Director.

To kick off its service, Avelo is offering introductory one-way fares starting at $19.00 on all of its routes.

The airline says flights start taking off on April 28th. The first flight to land in Medford will be on May 9th.

The startup plans to expand to other routes as it adds more planes to its fleet, which numbers just three planes.

AROUND the STATE of OREGON

AAA Explains Why Oregon Sees Deadly Wrong-Way And Fatal Crashes Spike

Deadly wrong-way crashes are happening at a higher rate across the country, and the numbers are rising even faster in Oregon.

New numbers show the streets in Oregon are getting more dangerous.

Preliminary data from the National Safety Council (NSC) shows an increase in car crash deaths between 2018 and 2019.

According to the NCS, 489 people were killed in car crashes in 2019 in Oregon – a 4% increase from 2018.

According to AAA, those fatal crashes have jumped by 164% in Oregon. The association compared data over two 4-year periods, covering 2010 to 2014 and 2015 through 2018.

“They’re happening more often, and the numbers are pretty staggering,” said AAA spokesperson Marie Dodds. “We found that there are three things that really increase or decrease your odds of being in a wrong-way crash.

The first of those three factors is impairment. Unsurprisingly, the higher a driver is over the legal limit of .08 blood alcohol content (BAC), the more likely it is that person will be involved in a wrong-way crash. Oregon State Police stopped about 2,700 impaired drivers in 2020, which is down a bit from previous years and likely due to the pandemic.

The second factor of AAA’s list is age.

“If you are 70 or older, you are much more likely to be in a wrong way crash than younger drivers,” explained Dodds.

“We know that with age comes slower reactions, decision making, easier to become confused, and so we do encounter those occasionally,” said OSP Captain Tim Fox.

If state troopers stop an older driver who they believe shouldn’t be behind the wheel, they’ll typically call a loved one to pick them up and ask for a re-test from the DMV.

The third factor that could make a driver more likely to end up in a wrong-way crash is not having a passenger. One explanation is that whoever is riding with you can actually warn you before you make a potentially dangerous mistake.

To help prevent these wrecks, OSP says to make sure you rest up and keep your speed down.

“Fatigue is something that I don’t think people talk about quite enough,” said Fox. “Be patient, get where you’re going safely. If you’re a few minutes late, people will understand at least you got there alive.”

AAA also noted a few factors that do not make a driver more likely to end up in a wrong-way crash: gender, the type of vehicle you drive, and whether your license is in good standing.

Some SNAP Recipients May See an Increase in Benefits in April

In April, some SNAP households will see a change to their benefit amount for emergency allotments (EA). The federal government has provided emergency allotments since March 2020, to give SNAP recipients additional support during the COVID-19 pandemic. SNAP households have received EA in an amount equal to the maximum benefit for the household size, minus their monthly base benefit. But this means households that are at or near the maximum SNAP benefit were receiving little or no additional support.

The April 2021 changes provide an increase in benefits to those who were previously receiving little or no EA. For example:

  • Households not currently receiving an emergency allotment will now receive an additional $95 per month.
  • Households currently receiving an emergency allotment that is less than $95 will receive an additional allotment for the difference.
  • Households currently receiving an emergency allotment of more than $95 will not see a change in their benefits.

EA benefits will be dispersed on April 13 for current SNAP households and April 30 for SNAP households who did not receive the first EA payment or who are now eligible for a minimum $95 EA payment.

SNAP recipients do not have to take any action to receive these supplemental benefits as they will be issued directly on their EBT cards. Total benefits will be different based on each household’s regular monthly allotment for the month of March.

The maximum monthly SNAP benefit amounts by household size are listed below.

More information about emergency allotments is available at https://www.oregon.gov/dhs/ASSISTANCE/FOOD-BENEFITS/Pages/About-SNAP.aspx.

Questions about your SNAP benefits should be directed to your local office or by calling the ONE customer service center at 1-800-699-9075.

Administered by ODHS, SNAP is a federal program that provides food assistance to approximately 1 million eligible, low-income families and individuals in Oregon, including many older adults and people with disabilities. Oregonians in need can apply for benefits, including SNAP, child care, cash assistance and Medicaid. Learn more at https://govstatus.egov.com/or-dhs-benefits. For local resources in your area, such as food or shelter, please call 2-1-1 or reach out to the state’s Aging and Disability Resource Connection (ADRC) at 1-855-ORE-ADRC or 1-855-673-2372.Oregon Department of Human Services 

Oregon Tech Faculty Union Submit Intent to StrikeWestern Oregon University in Monmouth Cutting Programs and Staff

The Oregon Tech faculty union, the American Association of University Professors, submitted a notice of intent to strike on April 26 if no contract deal is reached by that date.  The union submitted the required 10 day notice of a strike to the Oregon Employment Relations Board on Thursday, which meant the faculty could strike as soon
as April 19.

Yet, the union set the date out another week to allow more time for negotiating, according to an AAUP statement. If the faculty does strike later this month, it would be the first faculty strike at a public university in Oregon history. The union and university administration have been negotiating a three-year faculty contract for 16 months.

An impasse in negotiations was declared in March. The Oregon Tech AAUP formed in 2018. This is the first contract the union is negotiating.

— Meanwhile Western Oregon University in Monmouth will cut multiple programs and the equivalent of over a dozen full-time faculty, hoping to get ahead of falling enrollment that became worse during the pandemic. Administrators say the cuts are necessary to protect the university’s financial health, and are a way to keep the 165-year-old institution affordable.

The university also announced last year that more than 50 staff members were either to be laid off or not have their contracts renewed. As for the current program eliminations, the faculty union said that it is not persuaded that such drastic cuts are needed, and if they are needed, then there needs to be a more transparent process.

Western has seen a trend of declining enrollment for years. From 2011 to 2020, the university’s enrollment has decreased more than 25%, according to the university.

Hillsboro Man Wins $3.9 Million Megabucks Jackpot

Oregon's Game Megabucks logo

A Hillsboro man is the latest Oregon’s Game Megabucks jackpot winner, taking home a $3.9 million jackpot. Melvin Date matched all six numbers for the April 3 Megabucks drawing to win the $3.9 million jackpot.

A long-time player, Date routinely checks his tickets the day following the drawing. Using the Lottery’s mobile app, Date checked his tickets and learned he’d matched all the numbers drawn. Date split his prize with his son.

Both Date and his son chose the one-time lump sum amount, which is one-half of each man’s total prize. The $2.9 million portion, after taxes, is $986,000. While his son’s lump sum amount is $340,000, after taxes. Date bought his winning ticket at Beaverton Safeway on Tualatin Valley Highway.

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