Rogue Valley News, Wednesday 5/26 – Jackson County Commissioners Send Letter To Governor Brown Opposing Businesses To Ask For Proof Of Vaccine Status, FEMA Trailer Construction Begins For Almeda Fire Victims In Talent

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

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Rogue Valley Weather

Today Sunny, with a high near 85.

Thursday- Partly sunny, with a high near 73. Light and variable wind becoming northwest 5 to 10 mph in the afternoon.
Friday- Sunny, with a high near 81. Light and variable wind.
Saturday- Mostly sunny, with a high near 87.
Sunday- Sunny, with a high near 91.

Oregon reports 424 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 2,628, the Oregon Health Authority reported at 12:01 a.m. today.

Oregon Health Authority reported 424 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of 12:01 a.m. today, bringing the state total to 199,391.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (2), Benton (4), Clackamas (48), Columbia (7), Coos (3), Crook (5), Deschutes (48), Douglas (19), Grant (1), Harney (1), Jackson (24), Jefferson (12), Josephine (7), Klamath (18), Lane (26), Linn (16), Malheur (3), Marion (41), Morrow (1), Multnomah (57), Polk (3), Umatilla (21), Union (5), Washington (39), Wheeler (1) and Yamhill (12).

Vaccinations in Oregon

Today, OHA reported that 25,851 new doses of COVID-19 vaccinations were added to the state immunization registry. Of this total, 15,160 doses were administered on May 24 and 10,691 were administered on previous days but were entered into the vaccine registry on May 24.

The seven-day running average is now 30,070 doses per day.

Oregon has now administered 2,124,214 first and second doses of Pfizer, 1,550,655 first and second doses of Moderna and 135,220 single doses of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines. As of today,1,755,318 people have completed a COVID-19 vaccine series. There are 2,182,229 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, 2,619,045 doses of Pfizer, 2,053,920 doses of Moderna and 285,800 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 hospitalizations

The number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 across Oregon is 274, which is eight more than yesterday. There are 75 COVID-19 patients in intensive care unit (ICU) beds, which is no change from yesterday.

The total number of COVID-19 positive patient bed-days in the most recent seven days is 1,938, which is an 18.5% 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 306.

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.

Half of Oregon’s 36 counties now at COVID-19 Lower Risk level

Improving COVID-19 vaccination numbers have put five more counties in the Lower Risk category for business restrictions, including the most populous Multnomah, meaning half of Oregon’s 36 counties are at that less restrictive category, Gov. Kate Brown announced Tuesday.

Brown announced updates to county risk levels under the state’s public health framework to reduce transmission and protect Oregonians from COVID-19. Effective Thursday, May 27 through Thursday, June 3, there will be 15 counties in the High Risk level, three at Moderate Risk, and 18 at Lower Risk that have reached a 65% adult vaccination rate and whose equity plan has been approved.

Other counties moving to Lower Risk include Baker, Curry, Grant and Tillamook. Clatsop County moved from High to Moderate Risk. A complete list of counties and their associated risk levels is available here.

“The science is clear: vaccines are very effective in keeping people safe from COVID-19, and they are the key to returning to normal life and lifting health and safety restrictions statewide,” Brown said. “This disease remains dangerous for those in communities with high rates of unvaccinated individuals. That’s why I’m encouraging all Oregonians to roll up your sleeves, take your shot, and get a chance to change your life. It’s never been easier to get vaccinated, and you may just end up a winner through the Take Your Shot, Oregon campaign.”

On May 11, Governor Brown announced that counties that vaccinate at least 65% of their residents 16 or older with at least one dose and submit documentation on how they will close equity gaps in their vaccination efforts are eligible to move to the Lower Risk level. A county vaccination data dashboard is available on OHA’s website. Please note that the dashboard displays state vaccine allocations only, and does not track federally administered vaccine doses.  

Updated Guidance for Lower Risk Levels
On Monday, Brown announced that businesses, churches and venues in Lower Risk counties will soon have the option of creating vaccinated sections. Businesses will be able to take advantage of this option beginning Thursday, May 27. Additional details will be posted by Thursday to OHA’s website. 

Weekly County Movements
As case rates continue to decline, starting next week county risk level changes will be announced every week. The next risk level changes will be announced on Tuesday, June 1, to take effect on Friday, June 4. Counties facing moves back up in risk level will be given a caution period to re-focus efforts to drive back down creeping case numbers.

When Oregon achieves a first dose 70% statewide vaccination rate for residents 16 or older, Oregon will lift all risk level health and safety restrictions. Some restrictions based on CDC guidance for use of masks and physical distancing may remain in place.

Rogue Valley Headlines

FEMA Trailer Construction Begins For Almeda Fire Victims In Talent

Officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency are planning to have 27 new mobile homes ready for families to move into by mid-June. The FEMA trailers will be at the former site of the Totem Pole Mobile Park along Highway 99 in the Rogue Valley.

“This is one of the sites that literally burnt to the ground, that people had just moments to flee from,” says Jamie McLeod-Skinner, interim city manager for the City of Talent. “And so now, it’s an opportunity for folks to return.”

The Totem Pole site is one of three housing projects in the works in the Talent and Phoenix area. There are still approximately 125 families displaced by the Almeda Fire waiting for housing, according to FEMA spokesman Paul Corah.

But between finding property and acquiring the trailers, the process has been slow in the Rogue Valley. Corah says the agency considered over 300 sites in Jackson County alone.

“It’s easier to get an RV site way away from Talent and Phoenix, but no one wants to live out there,” Corah says.

According to McLeod-Skinner, with FEMA investing in the infrastructure, the city is hoping the Talent site could potentially be used for permanent housing.

“Everyone recognizes that kids and families were in that stressful situation that much longer, but the hope was that with that additional time spent up front it may open the door for longer term [housing] and more housing stability,” she says.

The new trailers are available to tenants rent-free until March 2022, 18 months after the emergency declaration for the Almeda Fire last September. McLeod-Skinner says she expects officials in Talent, Jackson County and the Governor’s office to extend that deadline.

The Jackson County Commissioners Send A Letter To Governor Kate Brown Opposing Businesses To Ask For Proof Of Vaccine Status

The Jackson County Commissioners held a zoom meeting today to discuss sending a letter to Governor Kate Brown, opposing businesses to ask for proof of vaccine status following OHA’s new mask mandates.

County Commissioners argued today that the science behind other states that no longer have a mask policy, have a lower rate of covid-19 cases and death rates. Another argument following proof of vaccine status was the violation of house bill 32-84, that has a dashboard amendment on medical privacy.

Commissioners also followed the Medford Chambers of Commerce’s mask mandate policy survey, which argued that out of 1505 local businesses in Jackson County, 93.3% say that they will not ask for proof of vaccine status if customers choose not to wear a mask.

The letter to governor Kate Brown will be sent out today and will include all 90 legislators and the 36 Oregon counties. Commissioners hope that the letter will encourage other county commissioners to write their own. 

FEMA Corp Works On Bear Creek Fire Prevention Clean-Up

On May 25th and 26th FEMA Corp Summit 6 will be at the Bear Creek Greenway in Central Point participating in a fire prevention cleanup. The team will be there from 10 am until 4 pm on both days. 

After the September 2020 wildfires, Jackson County reseeded much of the area in an effort to prevent massive erosion into the protected waterways. The crew will be weeding out possible fire fuels and trimming vegetation in areas within 100 feet of residential structures and commercial businesses

“It’s definitely a team effort,” assistant team leader Kyle Coburn said. “So, what we’re doing is just trying to get rid of all the flammable vegetation. They called it full breaks, so if a fire comes through, they make sure that this area doesn’t get caught in the fire.”

FEMA Corp Summit 6 is also working at the Jackson County Expo to help get Oregonians vaccinated.

“We’re at the expo all the time working. And we see these faces of people that were deeply affected by the fires last year,” team leader, Riley Holcroft said. “And we just want to do our part, helping out those people that have been affected by such tragic events.”

At the Jackson County Expo, the team has been helping with vaccination efforts, but have also been helping the community with other projects like the fire prevention clean-up

“We just like to get our hands dirty and getting work here done,” Community Relations Representative, Rene Salinas said.

Summit 6 has been in contact with organizations such as the Josephine County food bank, Jackson County animal shelter and Rogue Valley’s Habitat for Humanity to help in any way they can during their time in Southern Oregon. 

FEMA Corps is a 10 month, full-time, team-based residential service program that was developed in partnership with FEMA and the Corporation for National and Community Service, the agency that oversees AmeriCorps NCCC.

It is a program for young adults who want to gain professional skills in emergency management while serving with the Federal Emergency Management Agency staff on disaster response and recovery efforts.

The Medford National Weather Service office is having its first Wildfire Awareness Week this week from May 24th to May 28th.

Basic SKYWARN (weather spotters) training class on March 23 | WCTI

The Medford National Weather Service office is having its first Wildfire Awareness Week this week from May 24th to May 28th. The campaign is an effort to help people of Southern Oregon and Northern California prepare for fire season. Each day will be dedicated to a different fire safety or fire weather topic on their website and social media.

Day 1: Preparing your property for fire season

Day 2: Preparing yourself and your family for fire season

Day 3: Explaining the difference between a Fire Weather Watch and Red Flag Warning

Day 4: How to stay informed during fire season

Day 5: Putting it all together to be wildfire ready

Connie Clarstorm, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service says “like many people in the community, we felt the impact of the September wildfires and this is our way of reaching out and trying to help people with that preparedness piece as we go into fire season.”

May be an image of 1 person and text that says 'Day 1-P Your Property: Smoke Preparedness Wildfires Are A Health Risk. Fix any broken seals on windows and doors ahead fire season. Ensure you have proper air filtration. Stock filters for your home. Look ones that filter fine particulates, but estrict the system. Smoke from wildfires can... NOAA ...hurt your eyes 50YEARS weather.gov good ...irritate your lungs and worsen respiratory illness Make sure working condition. Consider purchasing HEPA filter to create "cleaner room". Identify local places that will have cleaner, filtered air visit like malls, libraries and civic centers. Û WEATRER'

For More INFO: https://www.weather.gov/mfr/ and on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NWSMedford/

National Click It or Ticket Campaign

The Medford Police Department is reminding drivers about the lifesaving benefits of wearing a seat belt this spring, during the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) national Click It or Ticket high-visibility enforcement effort. The national seat belt campaign, which coincides with the Memorial Day holiday, runs from May 24 to June 6, 2021.

According to NHTSA, in 2019, there were 9,466 unbuckled passenger vehicle occupants killed in crashes in the United States. In that same year, 55% of passenger vehicle occupants killed at night (6 p.m.–5:59 a.m.) were not wearing their seat belts. The Medford Police Department is committed to increasing traffic safety through education and enforcement and during the “Click It or Ticket” campaign we will be increasing patrols enforcing seatbelt violations in an effort to increase awareness and safety. The maximum fine for a seatbelt violation is $165, but your life is priceless. 

For more information on the Click It or Ticket mobilization, please visit www.nhtsa.gov/ciot.    —     Medford Police Dept

AROUND the STATE of OREGON

Detectives Find Missing Remains Of Murdered Oregon Mother

Deputies say they’ve located the missing remains of Sara Zghoul, an Oregon woman who was murdered in January of 2018.

“I am happy we were able to reach a complete resolution in this case, and I hope this helps Ms. Zghoul’s family obtain some closure in this tragic loss they have had to endure,” Washington County sheriff’s detectives said.

Zghoul, a 28-year-old mother from the Aloha area, was found deceased inside of a car on January 25, 2018.

Investigators later identified Jeremiah Johnston of Aloha as a suspect in the case. He later pleaded guilty to murder, kidnapping, and abuse of corpse charges in Zghoul’s killing.

On May 19, 2021, detectives from the sheriff’s office Violent Crimes Unit located Zghoul’s missing remains.

Johnston was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 65 years, at which time he would be 101 years old.

Some Public Lands In Oregon Still Closed In Wake Of 2020 Wildfires

Portions of Oregon’s National Forests and other public lands remain closed in the wake of the catastrophic 2020 fire season.

The USDA Forest Service created an interactive map to help visitors identify areas that remain closed to the public. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9v68sVk7PFY

Beach Driving Restrictions Start Near Pacific City

The Oregon State Parks and Recreation Commission approved a new rule restricting driving on some beaches in south Tillamook County around Cape Kiwanda.

A new fence atop the Cape was also unveiled this week, providing hikers with different views of the rocky headland and surf.

Driving on the beach from Tierra del Mar, an unincorporated community north of Pacific City, north to the mouth of the Sand Lake estuary was previously open for part of the year, and is now closed to all motor vehicles year-round. The beach south of the Tierra del Mar access remains open to driving. Signs at the beach access make the driving rules clear.

The Cape Kiwanda beach access in Pacific City is reached from a county-owned parking lot and boat ramp. The beach north of the boat ramp is available for parking by people launching or retrieving a boat. The beach from the county boat ramp is closed to motor vehicles from there south about a quarter mile. Boats may occasionally launch from this area when the area just north of the ramp is unsafe for launching or retrieving boats.

The beach was temporarily closed to motor vehicles in 2020 in cooperation with the county to reduce COVID-related crowding concerns, and due to staff and revenue shortages also prompted by COVID-19.

“This change moves nearly all the motor vehicles to designated parking areas off the beach on the south side of Cape Kiwanda,” says Park Manager Jason Elkins. “It’s great seeing families having a natural experience on the beach without dodging cars.”

Cape Kiwanda is a sandstone headland just north of Pacific City and reachable by walking up a steep dune. The area is prone to erosion and has several sheer drops to the ocean. An old fence kept hikers more than a hundred yard back from the cliff edges in most areas, except for a small viewpoint. Hikers regularly ignored the fence and ventured into risky areas of the cape. Between 2014-2016, six people died due to falls. A new fence that creates several new views of the ocean and geologic features was unveiled May 20, 2021.

“We want visitors to enjoy better views without being tempted to cross a fence,” says Park Manager Jason Elkins.

The fence has gone through different configurations since the area became a state park in 1973, and the elements and crumbly sandstone have made past attempts difficult to maintain. The new fence uses the same kinds of hardy wooden posts used in vineyards and for growing hops, with coated, nonreflective chain link covering the spaces under the rails.

State Park and Department of Corrections crews installed 2,500’ feet of fence at a cost of $30,000 over the last year.

Odds Of Winning Oregon’s Vaccine Lottery Prizes In Some Counties is Pretty Good

Wasco, Sherman and Gilliam counties, where the population is sparse and the number of folks who have received COVID-19 shots are among the lowest in Oregon, the odds look pretty good for the one vaccinated person who will be picked at random in the counties for a $10,000 prize under the state’s new lottery promotion.

In Gilliam County, 616 people are vaccinated as of Monday. That is not a typo. In Sherman county, 716 people have received a coronavirus vaccine shot.

Lake County and Harney County are the other two lowest with just over 2,300 each who were vaccinated for coronavirus.

While we’re talking about it, the worst odds for that $10,000 county prize are in Multnomah County where your chance of winning the county prize is one in 472,000 and growing.

Is the county prize, the million-dollar statewide jackpot, and the five college scholarships of $100,000 motivating people to get their shot now?

Those on the front lines say its too early to tell. “People didn’t seem to know about the state lottery quite yet Friday night,” said Kathy Schwartz.

She’s an emergency room nurse and a Wasco County commissioner, who is also board chair of the North Central Public Health District, which covers Wasco, Gilliam and Sherman counties.

While it’s too early to see whether the governor’s new incentives work, it’s not too early to get creative.

Schwartz said Friday night the health district held a coronavirus clinic at a restaurant where a vaccination also knocked $10 off the meal. She knows the numbers are low in the three counties.

“It’s very frustrating, yes. And so again, whatever it takes. We are in favor of whatever it takes. If it’s lotteries, a college education, $10,000 or a $10 coupon to get $10 off your meal, we’re up for it,” she said.

In southeast Oregon, Harney County now has plenty of vaccines, but not many people are looking for a shot. As of Monday, 2,339 people were vaccinated.

“We have not had a rush at the public health department of people wanting to get vaccinated since the governor came out and said there’s gonna be a lottery available,” said Nic Calvin, Public Health Director for Harney County.

He said most people who want the shot have it and others are trying to convince the rest not to get it.

“The people that do not want it, they’re the ones that are on Facebook in our comment section doing everything they can to dissuade people from getting it – calling us every name in the book and telling us we’re doing a terrible job here at the health department,” he said. He does think the county prize and the $1 million statewide jackpot will motivate some folks who have not yet made it a priority to get the shot.

Nearly everyone in Oregon who has received the coronavirus vaccination will be automatically entered into the random drawings. The last day to get a COVID-19 shot and qualify for the prizes is June 27.

 Couple Discovers Huge Lava Cave Below Their Home in Bend

A Bend Oregon couple have discovered a large lava tube on their property.

In 2017, Suzanne and James Brierley purchased the home that sits on a 10-acre lot in Bend. At the time, their real estate agent told them there was a small cave somewhere on the property, below the home.

However, they did not realize how extensive the cave really was, or that it was a lava tube,

The Brierleys contacted Oregon High Desert Grotto, a branch of the National Speleological Society, to help them explore the lava tube, according to the Newsweek report. The Oregon High Desert Grotto has not yet responded to Patch’s request for comment.

Lava tubes are underground passageways created by lava flows and are capable of transporting large quantities of lava long distances underneath the surface, according to the National Park Service. When the lava supply runs out after an eruption, or if it gets diverted elsewhere, it leaves behind an empty cave.

According to the National Park Service, the longest lava tube cave in the world is the Kazumura lava tube system, within the 500-year-old ‘Ailā’au lava flow of Kīlauea, Hawaii. It is more than 40 miles long.

Lava tube exploration is highly popular on the West Coast, especially at Lava Beds National Monument, run by the National Parks Service. The lava tubes there were created between 10,500 and 65,000 years ago, as lava that was flowing beneath the surface began to cool and solidify on the tops and sides. As the lava flow ran dry, the rock cooled and cracked, producing openings to the surface.

Visitors can go caving at the Lava Beds National Monument, where developed caves are divided into three groups based on their varying levels of difficulty.

In the Pacific Northwest, lava enthusiasts flock to the Ape Cave at Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Lewis County, Washington. The Ape Cave is 2.5 miles long and is one of the longest and most accessible lava tubes in North America, according to the USDA Forest Service. The lava tube formed about 2,000 years ago following an unusual lava flow down Mount St. Helens.

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