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, May 11, 2021
Rogue Valley Weather
Today- Sunny, with a high near 86. Calm wind becoming north northwest around 6 mph in the afternoon.
Wednesday- Sunny, with a high near 90. Calm wind becoming north northwest around 6 mph in the afternoon.
Thursday- Sunny, with a high near 89. Light and variable wind.
Friday- Mostly sunny, with a high near 84.
Saturday- Sunny, with a high near 86.
Oregon reports 388 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 2,533. The Oregon Health Authority reported 388 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 191,774.
The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (1), Benton (21), Clackamas (76), Clatsop (4), Columbia (12), Coos (1), Crook (3), Deschutes (56), Douglas (6), Harney (3), Hood River (2), Jackson (8), Jefferson (4), Josephine (7), Lane (24), Linn (23), Marion (45), Multnomah (76), Polk (3), Tillamook (2), Wasco (1), Washington (4) and Yamhill (6).
Josephine County announces death of COVID-19 patient
A Josephine County individual has died from complications relating to a COVID-19 infection.
A 63-year-old man tested positive for COVID-19 March 8 and died May 2 at his home. He had underlying conditions.
Josephine County now has a total of 71 COVID-19-related deaths. Of those patients, 70 died from complications relating to COVID-19 infections.
Vaccinations in Oregon
Today, OHA reported that 28,659 new doses of COVID-19 vaccinations were added to the state immunization registry. Of this total, 22,263 doses were administered on May 9 and 6,396 were administered on previous days but were entered into the vaccine registry on May 9.
The 7-day running average is now 34,030 doses per day.
Oregon has now administered a total of 1,828,744 first and second doses of Pfizer, 1,401,316 first and second doses of Moderna and 112,593 single doses of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines. As of today, 1,467,659 people have completed a COVID-19 vaccine series. There are 1,982,835 people who have had at least one dose.
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, 2,110,095 doses of Pfizer, 1,710,920 doses of Moderna and 246,700 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.
The number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 across Oregon is 326, which is eight more than yesterday. There are 78 COVID-19 patients in intensive care unit (ICU) beds, which is two more than yesterday.
The total number of COVID-19 positive patient bed-days in the most recent seven days is 2,300, which is a 2.3% decrease from the previous seven days. The peak daily number of beds occupied by COVID-19 positive patients in the most recent seven days is 345.
The total number of patients in hospital beds may fluctuate between report times. The numbers do not reflect admissions per day, nor the length of hospital stay. Staffing limitations are not captured in this data and may further limit bed capacity.
More information about hospital capacity can be found here.
OHA updates population data
Today, the Oregon Health Authority updated its COVID-19 case rates (cases per 100,000 residents) using 2020 population data from Portland State University’s (PSU) Population Research Center and 2019 housing and demographic data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS).
OHA also updated its vaccination rates (people vaccinated per 100 residents) with 2020 population data from PSU and the 2019 Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS) from the ACS. These changes affected the weekly data report, all COVID-19 Tableau Dashboards and the county risk metrics.
OHA had previously been using 2019 population data from PSU and 2018 data from the ACS to calculate COVID-19 case rates and 2019 population data from PSU and 2019 PUMS data from the ACS to calculate vaccination rates.
In the past year, specific populations have changed, and this update will ensure that OHA is displaying and sharing the most up-to-date and accurate information available for case and vaccination rates in specific populations. Case rates and vaccination rates may shift slightly because of this change.
COVID-19 Affecting Oregon Schools In Session
The Oregon Health Authority reported 245 schools with at least one recent COVID-19 case just a week ago. This past week, the number rose to 329.
With about a month left in the school year, Oregon continues to deal with a COVID-19 surge, and school cases are a part of that.
Health officials say that increased community cases may lead to increased COVID-19 cases reported in schools, though they contend that does not necessarily mean transmission in schools.
Analyzing data from January to the end of April, out of 866 school-associated outbreaks (467 reported outbreaks of one case, and 399 reported outbreaks of two or more cases), OHA found 8.6% reported transmission within a school. Oregon’s high schools have the majority of multiple cases.
Some of these cases are coming from school sports, or social gatherings outside of school.
Young people are less likely to develop COVID-19 symptoms, but they can still transmit the disease. It’s possible that more cases can be linked to schools than data shows.
At the same time, research suggests new COVID-19 variants may be more contagious in children than previous COVID-19 strains.
Students 16 or older are now eligible for, and receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, and districts such as Portland Public Schools have been facilitating vaccine access for those older students. Last week, Pfizer officials said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize its COVID-19 vaccine for children 12 to 15.
At least one school district, Eugene 4J, is already planning a clinic for 12- to 15-year-olds.
With students vaccinated, that could mean fewer cases of COVID-19, and less risk in being back inside schools, or out together at social gatherings. But that hasn’t happened yet.
While cases in Jackson, Josephine, and Curry counties are on a sharp decline, Klamath County has seen a steady increase of Covid cases since last week.
Sky Lakes Medical Center issued a public statement via their Facebook page yesterday, saying: “Today we had to open a second COVID-19 isolation unit to supplement our recently expanded unit due to the increase in COVID-19 inpatients. As of this morning, there were 18 patients in the COVID-19 unit which is near the record number of patients we had in December 2020. Because COVID-19 patients require more care than most other patients, we had to cancel several elective procedures today to accommodate for staffing demands. We will review other scheduled elective surgeries on a case-by-case basis.”
Klamath Falls has been hit hard with a drastic increase in COVID-19 cases the last few weeks and the case numbers continue to grow daily. As cases in the community increase, so will the need for hospitalization.
New Airline Begins Service Between Medford And Los Angeles
The Rogue Valley International Medford Airport is now hosting new routes from a new airline. Avelo Airlines, the first new U.S. mainline airline in almost 15 years, starts service between Medford and the Los Angeles area this week.
Avelo boasts “one-way fares starting at $19,” and will offer nonstop flights between MFR and the Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR). The airline is using 189-seat Boeing 737-800 aircraft on the route, which Avelo says is one of the most fuel-efficient planes in the world.
“We are excited to bring our lower fares and caring convenient service to Medford and make it easier than ever to travel between Southern California and the heart of Southern Oregon,” said Avelo Chairman and CEO Andrew Levy.
“We will bring more choice and affordability to customers who want to explore the Rogue Valley wine region, Crater Lake, and the Table Rocks. And for those considering Southern California for their next getaway, BUR is the ultra-convenient gateway to Greater LA.”
The route offers flights from Burbank at 4:20 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, arriving in Medford at 6:10 p.m. Flights from Medford to Burbank depart at 6:50 p.m. and arrive at 8:50 p.m. On Sundays, the flights depart Burbank at 11:10 a.m. and arrive in Medford at 1 p.m., then depart Medford at 1:40 p.m. and arrive in Burbank at 3:40 p.m.
“We are overwhelmed with excitement that Medford is one of Avelo’s first choices for its new services,” said MFR director Jerry Brienza. “Southern Oregon has become a favorite for adventurous vacationers as well as those who just want to enjoy its serenity; and Burbank provides direct access to California’s hottest attractions. Avelo Airlines has great leadership and will no doubt be a strong competitor for years to come.”
MFR plans to celebrate the new airline’s arrival with a ceremony at the airport on Tuesday evening, with airport fire trucks creating a “traditional water arch” to welcome the arriving Avelo plane.
Fire Season Officially Begins May 12th In Jackson And Josephine Counties
Fire Season officially begins May 12th in Jackson and Josephine counties, the Oregon Department of Forestry announced Monday. The change means the beginning of fire danger restrictions and closures on ODF-protected lands in southwest Oregon.
At the outset, the fire danger level will be “Low” (green) with the Industrial Fire Precaution Level at level one. These regulations apply to 1.8 million acres of state, private, county, city, and federal forestlands in Jackson and Josephine counties.
“Since the beginning of March, the district has responded to more than 50 fires, totaling more than 100 acres; warm temperatures, windy conditions and a lack of spring rain are among the contributing factors that increased fire starts and growth,” ODF said. “Fuels across the region are also much drier than normal, reflecting late June-like conditions in mid-May. For these reasons, fire season is being declared in Jackson and Josephine counties.”
Starting Wednesday, debris pile burning and use of burn barrels will be prohibited in Jackson and Josephine counties. ODF pointed to multiple escaped debris burns that crews have responded to over the past several weeks. Landowners are asked to check previous burn piles to confirm that they are completely extinguished.
In low fire danger, the following activities are prohibited:
- No debris burning, including piles and debris burned in burn barrels.
- No fireworks on or within 1/8 of a mile of forestland.
- Exploding targets and tracer ammunition, or any bullet with a pyrotechnic charge in its base, are prohibited.
- Campfires are allowed in designated campgrounds, and on private land with the landowner’s permission. Portable stoves using liquefied or bottled fuels may be used as well.
- Smoking while traveling will only be allowed in enclosed vehicles on improved roads, in boats on the water and other specifically designated locations.
- Any electric fence controllers must be approved by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories Inc., or be certified by the Department of Consumer and Business Services, and be installed and used in compliance with the fence controller’s instructions for fire safe operation.
Under IFPL I (one) – fire season requirements are in effect. In addition to the following:
- A Firewatch is required at this and all higher levels unless otherwise waived.
ODF is set to follow suit in Klamath and Lake counties on Saturday, May 15 — officially beginning Fire Season regulations in those areas. For Klamath and Lake, the fire danger level will begin at Moderate (blue) with IFPL at level one.
“Where we are at with fuel conditions, lack of spring rains, extreme and exceptional drought, and continuous fire activity in Klamath County, Lake County, and around the state, Klamath-Lake District will be declaring fire season on Saturday, May 15th at 12:01 a.m.” said Randall Baley, Protection Unit Forester with ODF. “The total package of conditions all adds up to make the public aware of the situation and minimize the potential for human-caused fires.”
Additional information about fire season is also available online at: www.swofire.com, Facebook page, ODF Southwest Oregon District and Twitter account, @swofire.
Joint Agency Targeted Pedestrian Safety Enforcement Operation Conducted
On Friday May 7th, the Medford Police Department Traffic Team and the Jackson County Sheriff’s OfficeTraffic Team conducted a joint agency Targeted Pedestrian Safety Operation near Hedrick Middle School at the intersection of Jackson Street at N.Keene Way Drive. The operation focused on drivers failing to yield the right of way to pedestrians in the marked crosswalk at that intersection. Prior to the operation the Medford Police Department had received multiple complaints about drivers failing to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalks in the area of Hedrick Middle School during school hours.
This operation was conducted to raise awareness and increase pedestrian safety through the enforcement of pedestrian right of way laws with the use of a decoy pedestrian. The Targeted Pedestrian Operation took place from 10:00 am until 12:30 pm. Prior to the operation (7:30 am – 10:00 am) Officers and Deputies patrolled the area around Hedrick Middle School and North Medford High School for vehicles speeding within the posted school zones from.
During the Targeted Pedestrian Safety Operation 13 citations and 3 warnings were issued for Failure to Stop and Remain Stopped for a Pedestrian. There was also 2 citations issued for Failure to Stop for Bus Safety Lights. The results of the entire operation are listed below. The Medford Police Department has conducted several traffic safety operations within school zones this year and will continue to do so throughout the school year as we make traffic safety a priority.
We remind drivers of the Oregon laws that require a driver must stop and remain stopped if a pedestrian is walking in your lane of traffic or the lane adjacent, remembering this applies on single and multi-lane roadways. Oregon law also prohibits passing a stopped vehicle at a marked or unmarked crosswalk at an intersection if the vehicle is stopped to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway.
The information below is for the other enforcement action taken during the entire operation from 7:30 am – 12:30 pm.
13 – Failure to Stop and Remain Stopped for a Pedestrian
2 – Failure to Stop for Bus Safety Lights
12 – Violation of the Posted Speed (20 MPH) in a School Zone
6 – Cell Phone Violations
7 – Failure to Use Seatbelt
2 – Driving Uninsured
3 – Driving While Suspended (1- Felony suspended)
14 – Warnings for Miscellaneous Violations
AROUND the STATE of OREGON
Oregon to Receive $2.6 Billion from American Rescue Plan Act
Oregon can expect to receive over $2.5 billion as part of the recently launched Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
“With this funding, communities hit hard by COVID-19 will be able to return to a semblance of normalcy; they’ll be able to rehire teachers, firefighters and other essential workers – and to help small businesses safely reopen,” Secretary Janet L. Yellen said.
While the state is still awaiting the funding, some lawmakers have already started making plans, including prioritizing adding high-speed internet and additional aid to schools and businesses, and bailing out diminished unemployment accounts, KATU reports.
The funding will be divided, with the state of Oregon receiving over $248 million and the rest being divided among cities and counties.
- Portland – around $208 million
- Beaverton – around $17 million
- Gresham – $25 million
- Hillsboro – $18 million
- Tigard – $7.5 million
- Salem – $34 million
- Eugene – $36 million
- Medford – $18 million
- Ashland – over $4.5 million
- Grants Pass – $9 million
- Vancouver, WA – $33 million
- Multnomah County – around $158 million
- Clackamas County – $81 million
- Washington County – around $17 million
- Yamhill County – around $21 million
- Marion County – $67.5 million
- Lane County – $74 million
- Jackson County – around $43 million
The state of Washington is expected to receive around $4.5 billion in funds for state, counties and metropolitan cities.
Oregon to Receive $222.5 Million In Emergency Rental Aid
Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., announced Monday that Oregon will receive about $222.5 million in federal resources from the American Rescue Plan for emergency rental assistance.
“Housing is a human right, and building back better from the economic impact of this health crisis demands addressing the year of past due rent piling up on thousands of Oregonians struggling to make ends meet,” Wyden said. “With nearly 7 million Americans reportedly behind on rent, this funding makes a critical investment in getting Oregon and the rest of the country back on track.”
“The coronavirus pandemic has made a host of existing issues, including Oregon’s affordable housing crisis, even more challenging than before,” said Merkley. “We won’t be able to recover from this pandemic without addressing the urgent need to ensure that every Oregonian — regardless of what they look like, where they work, or their zip code — has access to a safe, affordable roof over their head, and this emergency rental assistance funding will help us achieve that goal. I will continue to do all that I can to help renters get the relief they need to weather this storm, and to support the maintenance and construction of new affordable housing units, so we can finally overcome the deepening housing crisis.”
Wyden and Merkley both voted for the American Rescue Plan Act, which among its provisions allocated emergency rental assistance to support basic housing stability and prevent evictions. The $222.5 million in emergency rental assistance for Oregon from the U.S. Treasury Department also includes more than $23 million targeted to the highest-need areas, where job loss and high market costs have made it especially difficult for low-income renters.
This infusion of additional support will benefit both renters and landlords and make sure states and localities that have moved quickly to address housing affordability challenges wrought by the public health emergency and its negative economic impacts in their areas will continue to have the resources they need to serve their communities.
The policy also includes enhanced policies to directly aid renters, prevent evictions and help Americans transition to secure housing.
The emergency rental assistance allocations for Oregon are as follows:
• State of Oregon: $156.45 million
• Clackamas County: $9.9 million
• Jackson County: $5.24 million
• Lane County: $9.07 million, including $4.44 million for high-need areas
• Marion County: $8.25 million
• Multnomah County: $3.81 million, including $2.36 million for high-need areas
• City of Portland $15.54 million, including $9.63 million for high-need areas
• Washington County $14.24 million, including $5.34 million for high-need areas
Minimum and Maximum Weekly Benefit Amounts to Increase Nearly 9% for New UI and PUA Claims
The Oregon Employment Department announced the annual change to the minimum and maximum weekly benefit amounts (WBAs) for regular unemployment insurance (UI). For new regular UI claims filed in Oregon on or after July 4, 2021, minimum and maximum WBAs each will increase by approximately 9%.
The increase will also apply to new PUA claims effective on or after July 4, 2021. This increase will be a significant income boost for new claimants who receive the minimum or maximum WBA. During the most recent quarter, 16% of regular UI recipients received the minimum WBA, and 24% received the maximum WBA.
The 9% increase is the result of growth in Oregon’s average weekly wage during 2020. Starting July 4, the minimum WBA for new regular UI claims will increase by $14, from $157 to $171 per week. The maximum WBA for new regular UI claims and new PUA claims will increase by $60, from $673 to $733 per week. The minimum WBA for new PUA claims will not be affected because it is set by the US Department of Labor
Individuals who file new regular UI or PUA claims prior to July 4, 2021 will continue receiving the same WBA they had been receiving. Federal rules prohibit the benefit increase for Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) and Extended Benefits (EB).
Under Oregon law (ORS657.150(4)), the Oregon Employment Department recalculates the minimum and maximum WBAs for regular UI benefits annually. The amounts are set as percentages of the average weekly wage earned by Oregonians. The minimum WBA is 15% of the average weekly wage and the maximum WBA is 64%. Both dollar amounts are rounded down to the nearest dollar, as required by law.
For more information, visit OED’s regular UI benefits calculator or the PUA benefits calculator.
Equal Opportunity program — auxiliary aids and services available upon request to individuals with disabilities. Contact: (503) 947-1794. For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, call 711 Telecommunications Relay Services. Oregon Employment Department
Oregon Lawmakers Pass Bill to Help Employees Keep Unemployment Benefits As Industries Still Struggle
While some places across the county are slashing unemployment benefits to get people back to work, Oregon is hoping a different approach will be the solution.
Oregon lawmakers passed House Bill 3178, which would allow employees who work part time to keep their unemployment benefits. The bill now heads to the governor to be signed into law.
The bill’s sponsors hope this could be a solution to struggling businesses, which are having a hard time getting people to fill open positions. That’s especially true of the hospitality industry.
“It’s really difficult for us to find people to go to work and the way things are going with the opening and closing of counties for indoor dining has been incredibly difficult to try and schedule folks,” said Greg Astley, the director of government affairs with the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association.
HB 3178 would allow workers to get up to $300 a week before their unemployment benefits are reduced. This would allow employees to work part time and still receive full unemployment benefits.
The bill is supported by the labor department as well as the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association. If signed into law, the bill will change the definition of unemployment until January 2022.
“This bill helps workers to at least get some shifts while still maintaining their unemployment insurance benefits. And it helps our operators make sure they’re able to bring people on to work those shifts during this uncertain time and maintain those unemployment insurance benefits as well,” Astley said.
Wildfire awareness month: Run-away debris burning leads human-caused wildfires
SALEM, Ore. – Fire departments and prevention groups urge everyone to dispose of yard debris, rather than burn it. This year’s warm and dry conditions have already caused fires to burn many acres quickly. Rather than burning yard debris, you can help prevent wildfires by chipping or recycling it.
The Oregon Department of Forestry has declared fire season for parts of the state. This year about 180 fires have already burned about 1,900 acres. April’s dry, warm conditions prompted some county-wide burn bans.
May is Wildfire Awareness Month. This is a great time to trim trees and tidy up bushes and plants around your home that could easily catch fire. This is especially true after this winter’s ice storm. Because of the dry weather, as you begin spring clean-up, the Oregon Department of Forestry and Keep Oregon Green urge you to consider alternatives to burning.
“The time to safely burn yard debris has passed,” said Keep Oregon Green President Kristin Babbs. “Waiting until next fall or winter after heavy rains prevents piles burned this spring from re-starting during the heat of the summer. Burn piles can hold heat for several weeks and start again under warm, windy conditions.” Babbs said delaying your burn plans will give the debris more time to cure. You can cover a part of the pile with plastic to keep it dry until it’s safe to burn.
If burning now is the only option to dispose of yard debris, fire prevention specialists ask people to follow safe burning practices. The following tips can help stop run-away burn piles:
- Call before you burn – Burning regulations vary by location depending on the weather and fuel conditions. If you are planning to burn, check with your local Oregon Department of Forestry district, fire protective association, or air protection authority to learn about current burning restrictions or regulations, and if you need a permit.
- Know the weather – Never burn on dry or windy days, because fires can spread out of control more easily.
- Clear a 10-foot buffer – Make sure there are no tree branches or power lines above or fuels around your pile.
- Keep burn piles small – Large burn piles can cast hot embers long distances. Use small piles, maximum of four feet by four feet. Add only a little debris as the pile burns, to keep it small.
- Always have water and fire tools nearby – When burning, have a water hose on and ready or a bucket of water, and shovel and dirt to put out the fire. Drown the pile with water, stir the coals, and drown again, repeating until the fire is out cold.
- Stay with the fire until it is out cold – State laws requires monitoring of debris burn from start to finish until it is out cold. This law is intended to ensure sparks or embers that jump from the fire can be put out quickly. Recheck burn piles. They can retain heat for several weeks and restart when the weather warms up and winds blow.
- Never use gasoline or other flammable or combustible liquids to start or speed up your fire. Every year, about 60 percent of the Oregon Burn Center cases are from yard debris burning.
- Only burn yard debris – State laws prohibit burning materials in the open that create dense smoke or noxious odors.
- Costs of run-away debris burns– State law requires the proper clearing, building, attending and extinguishing of open fires all year. Citations can cost $2,000. If your debris burn spreads out of control, you will have to pay for putting the fire out, and likely the damage to your neighbors’ properties. This can be extremely expensive.
More tips on wildfire prevention, including campfire safety, motorized equipment use, and fire-resistant landscaping can be found on the Keep Oregon Green site, www.keeporegongreen.org/. Find public use restrictions for Oregon Department of Forestry protected lands here: https://gisapps.odf.oregon.gov/firerestrictions/PFR.html. – Oregon Dept. of Forestry
Missing Idaho Woman’s Body Found near Meacham Oregon
A body was found during an organized search of the Meacham, Ore. area on Saturday afternoon according to the Umatilla County Sheriff. The body was found during a search for 56-year-old Deborah Hendrichs, a Star woman who has been missing since January.
Umatilla County Search and Rescue and Oregon State Police coordinated a multi-agency search of the Meacham area this weekend in hopes of locating Hendrichs. At 1 p.m. Saturday searchers notified Incident Command that a body was found on the east side of I-84 near milepost 238 south of Meacham.
56-year-old Hendrichs went missing on Jan. 11th 2021 after running out of gas on I-84 near Meacham, Oregon.
According to the Ada County Sheriff’s Office, Hendrichs turned off her cellphone and left home in a black Toyota RAV4 just after 9 a.m. that day.
According to the press release from the Umatilla County Sheriff, K9 teams located a wallet and other items matching descriptions put in the search plan early on in the day. The wallet contained identification that belonged to Hendrichs, according to the Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office press release.
Law enforcement officers were deployed to the scene after the wallet was discovered as well as drone and K9 teams. Around 1pm Saturday, the K9 team found a body believed to be Hendrichs.
Oregon State Police, Umatilla County Sheriffs Office and Umatilla County Search and Rescue responded to the area and recovered Hendrichs’ body.
A 52-year-old man from Coos Bay was arrested Saturday after police said he attacked his elderly parents with a hatchet or axe.
Deputies from the Coos County Sheriff’s Office responded to reports of an assault off of Shore Edge Drive in Coos Bay, officials said in a news release. The first officers on the scene found “evidence of a major assault that occurred on the property,” officials said, along with three injured victims suffering from lacerations on their faces and bodies.
Investigators said Lee Huckabee had fled the scene when deputies arrived. He was found with blood on his clothing and taken into custody by deputies, officials said.