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, May 28, 2021
Rogue Valley Weather
Today– Sunny, with a high near 83. Calm wind becoming north northwest around 5 mph in the afternoon.
Saturday– Mostly sunny, with a high near 88. Calm wind becoming north northwest 5 to 8 mph in the afternoon.
Sunday– Sunny, with a high near 91. Calm wind becoming north northwest around 6 mph in the afternoon
Memorial Day– Sunny and hot, with a high near 97.
Tuesday– Sunny and hot, with a high near 102.
Oregon reports 433 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 21 new deaths
There are 21 new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 2,660.
The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (2), Benton (3), Clackamas (50), Clatsop (1), Columbia (8), Coos (4), Crook (4), Deschutes (41), Douglas (24), Harney (2), Hood River (1), Jackson (22), Jefferson (3), Josephine (12), Klamath (13), Lane (17), Linn (23), Malheur (4), Marion (54), Morrow (5), Multnomah (64), Polk (4), Tillamook (1), Umatilla (17), Union (1), Wasco (1), Washington (38) and Yamhill (14).
Oregon surpasses 200,000 COVID-19 cases
The confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 in Oregon have hit the 200,000 mark. Today, Oregon Health Authority reported 433 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 200,210.
“As we head into the Memorial Day holiday weekend, this milestone is a grim reminder that while case counts are decreasing statewide in large part due to vaccination, there remains a risk of COVID-19 in Oregon, especially for those who are not yet vaccinated,” said OHA Director Patrick Allen. “I urge caution for Oregonians who are not yet vaccinated. You are still at risk of infection and should wear a mask indoors and practice physical distance precautions.”
As we try to stamp out the virus, our most effective tool to end the pandemic is vaccinations. While the people who are fully vaccinated are well protected, the pandemic is far from over.
All individuals in Oregon age 12 and older are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. For more COVID-19 vaccine information by county, click here.
Vaccinations in Oregon
Today, OHA reported that 29,611 new doses of COVID-19 vaccinations were added to the state immunization registry. Of this total, 16,348 doses were administered on May 26 and 13,263 were administered on previous days but were entered into the vaccine registry on May 26.
The 7-day running average is now 29,106 doses per day.
Oregon has now administered a total of 2,154,797 first and second doses of Pfizer, 1,572,083 first and second doses of Moderna and 138,588 single doses of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines. As of today, 1,790,838 people have completed a COVID-19 vaccine series. There are 2,206,455 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, 2,102,240 doses of Moderna and 291,000 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 256, which is 17 fewer than yesterday. There are 68 COVID-19 patients in intensive care unit (ICU) beds, which is nine fewer than yesterday.
The total number of COVID-19 positive patient bed-days in the most recent seven days is 1,860, which is a 18.7% 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 285.
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.
Virus Variant Ravaging India Found in Oregon
The coronavirus variant that’s believed to be what drove India’s devastating surge this spring has now been detected in Oregon.
The Oregon Health Authority states that six cases of the B.1.617.2 have been identified in the state. That variant is classified as a variant of interest by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health experts say the variant does appear to be more transmissible but vaccines are still effective against it.
“I’m not terribly concerned about any of these, mostly because the vaccines seem to be working really quite well,” said Dr. Ken Stedman, a biology professor at Portland State University. “The concern is that this variant, like also the B.1.17, seems to spread more rapidly among unvaccinated people.”
While speaking to state lawmakers Wednesday, OHA Director Pat Allen talked about breakthrough virus cases and how there’s no specific variant that would be a concern.
“There is no evidence at the national level that any particular variant is more likely for breakthroughs, and there’s no evidence to suggest that these cases are resulting in additional spread,” said Allen.
Boatnik Festival Kicks Off a Packed Weekend of Activities
The activities started Thursday evening with the Davis Shows Carnival featuring food, rides, games and family fun.
The excitement continues Friday with the concert, a spectacular fireworks display on the river, midway vendors, and the carnival. Saturday morning features the well-known Boatnik parade that travels through downtown Grants Pass and ends at Riverside Park.
See a Video here: https://www.facebook.com/165144223535889/videos/288844209648783
Throughout the weekend the festivities continue in the park where there is a whirlwind of activities that include: Sprint and Drag boat racing, carnival rides, arts and crafts, Papa John’s pizza-eating contest, children’s activities, Bingo, food vendors, Monday Sundaes, the Boatnik Brewfest, the Chevy Drive It Home Golf Shoot Out and a second night of patriotic fireworks.
Monday is the highlight of Boatnik featuring the World Famous Tom Rice Memorial White Water Hydroplane Race, and the Memorial Day Service including a jet flyover.
In addition to the iconic boat races, Boatnik usually features the carnival, a parade, concerts, and other events. More information about the schedule, ticket prices, and other details are expected over the next several days. — https://www.boatnik.com/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Boatnik-165144223535889/
Three Arrested for Starting Fires along Greenway
Fires were started in three separate instances along the Greenway in Medford. They have resulted in arrests.
On May 18th, 2021, a fire was started in the 800 block of N. Riverside Avenue, near Bear Creek, which threatened a nearby residence before it was extinguished by Medford Fire Department. Video surveillance identified a suspect who was located this morning, shortly after midnight. Colin Duff, 26 years old, was arrested for Reckless Burning. Officers believe he was camping near the fire, burning trash, when it got out of control.
On May 26th, 2021 at about 8:44 p.m., emergency personnel were dispatched to the Greenway, near 770 Midway Road for a grass fire threatening homes. Medford Fire Department extinguished the fire without homes being damaged. Witnesses identified a suspect fleeing the area. Officers caught up to Alberto Salcedo-Jiminez, 37, and ultimately determined he started the fire, which was set in three different locations. The motive for his actions is not being disclosed. Salcedo-Jiminez was arrested for Arson 1st Degree and Trespassing.
On May 27th, 2021, at about 9:20 a.m., detectives were on scene of last night’s fire near Midway Road, continuing their investigation, when they saw a plume of smoke nearby. The two detectives alerted fire officials and responded to the area on foot. They discovered a male near the fire and questioned him. The detectives determined the male, who was camping where the fire occurred, had lit some property on fire belonging to someone else, and the fire got out of control.
Detectives and an officer attempted to take the male into custody for Arson and he resisted arrest. He was placed in handcuffs after a short scuffle. He was lodged in jail for Arson 1, Reckless Burning, and Resisting Arrest.
At time of this press release, the fire remains active but under control.
Suspect: Hummel, Terin Dante 29 years old.
Please stay vigilant this fire season and report any fire activity immediately. Medford Police Dept
Illegal Marijuana Search Warrant Served in Grants Pass
On Wednesday, May 26, 2021, a search warrant relating to an illegal marijuana grow operation was served in the 8000 block of Monument Dr, Grants Pass, OR.
Members of the Josephine Marijuana Enforcement Team (JMET) served the warrant in partnership with Oregon State Police, Rogue Area Drug Enforcement (RADE, consisting of Grants Pass DPS, OSP, Josephine County Parole and Probation), Illegal Marijuana Enforcement Team (IMET, consisting of Jackson County SO, Medford PD), Oregon Liquor Control Commission, Oregon Department of Agriculture, Josephine County Water Master and Josephine County Code Enforcement.
During the execution of the search warrant, 30,673 illegal marijuana plants were seized and destroyed. Additionally, six firearms, multiple water pumps and generators were seized as evidence. Heavy equipment was also seized.
20 subjects were detained due to safety concerns. At the time of this press release, no arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing. No further details are being released at this time. Josephine Co. Sheriff’s Office
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival Announced That Live Performances Will Return Earlier Than Expected This Year
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival announced Thursday that live performances will return earlier than originally anticipated this year, with the premiere of new show at the outdoor Allen Elizabethan Theatre and a string of weekly concerts.
After coronavirus shuttered OSF for the 2020 season, the theatre company in February outlined a cautious approach to the 2021 season — planning for in-person shows to run from fall into winter, coupled with online recordings of both new and classic shows. However, Thursday’s announcement indicates that the plan has changed somewhat in the intervening months.
A new live show, Cheryl L. West’s Fannie: The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer, will premiere July 1 on the outdoor Elizabethan stage. According to OSF, Fannie is the story of Mississippi-born civil and voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer, “painting a song-filled, electrifying portrait of courage, humor, and grit.” E. Faye Butler will portray Fannie from July 1 to August 28, with OSF’s own Greta Oglesby taking over the role from September 1 to October 9. For More INFO: https://www.osfashland.org/
AROUND the STATE of OREGON
Oregon State Hospital Calls For National Guard To Help As Staffing Crisis Escalates
The Oregon State Hospital’s critical staff shortage reached a new level this week, and officials have called for the National Guard to help fill roles vacated by staff on coronavirus-related leave, the hospital announced late Wednesday.
The announcement was a sudden change from a plan released to the public Tuesday, when the psychiatric hospital said it would pull in managers from around the Oregon Health Authority and other state agencies to help with emergency staffing. The hospital still plans to use those managers for temporary staffing
State hospital spokesperson Rebeka Gipson-King said Thursday the Office of Emergency Management had received the request for 30 registered nurses from the Guard, with a preference for those who have behavioral health experience.
Those nurses would be assigned to 10 or 10.5-hour shifts four days a week, and would help fill in behind the hospital’s own licensed nursing staff, Gipson-King said.
Gipson-King said the hospital had not heard as of Thursday afternoon whether the request has been approved.
The call for the National Guard is the final step in a five-step emergency plan that the state hospital created in November as the number of staffers on coronavirus-related leave grew.
The first three steps of the emergency plan redirected employees from around the hospital, in areas such as social work, vocational rehabilitation or even office staff, to assist with day-to-day care of patients. Each step denoted that a certain percentage of the hospital’s more than 900 full-time equivalent nursing staff was on coronavirus-related leave.
Kim Thoma, an administrative specialist and president of the SEIU Local 503 union, which represents many hospital employees, expressed concern over possible delays with external contractors.
“It takes time to get people ready to work the floor,” she said. “It’s a different kind of work — working with people who are severely mentally ill. It does take a special skill set to be able to talk our patients down if they’re struggling, and I think not just anyone can come in and do that job.”
As the hospital deals with an unprecedented staffing crisis, administrators also requested a pause on admissions for the week, citing an inability to get patients discharged from the hospital fast enough to make room for new ones. A federal judge granted the request. Since the pandemic began, the hospital has been admitting patients on a restricted basis, quarantining cohorts of new patients for two weeks and then placing the newcomers in the general population.
Hospital administrators have successfully made at least four other requests to halt admissions since last April, each time citing coronavirus concerns.
The call for help from the National Guard, the fifth and final wave of the hospital’s emergency plan, means that the hospital is now without 50% of its full-time equivalent nursing staff, or approximately 460 employees. Those metrics were released by the state hospital in November when it first implemented the emergency staffing plan.
The hospital houses about 650 patients and has about 2,300 employees across its two campuses, in Salem and Junction City. Many of the patients have been civilly committed, found guilty except for reason of insanity, or found unable to aid and assist in their own defense in a criminal case.
As the hospital has dealt with the growing staffing crisis over the past few months, employees have expressed fear about increasingly fraught work conditions. Staff have said they’re exhausted from being mandated to work extended hours, deal with increasingly violent patients, and incidents that regularly end with staff and patients injured.
Recent staff injuries included one person going to the hospital after a patient attacked them with a plastic chair, leaving them with facial lacerations and a patient breaking a staff member’s arm.
“Our staff are feeling the strain of that because there aren’t as many people to respond to emergencies,” Thoma said. “People are quitting who’ve been here for a long time — it’s just progressively getting worse with morale because people are so exhausted.”
Gipson-King said managers within the hospital will be asked to fill weekend shifts immediately, because those shifts are the most difficult to cover, and internal managers can start immediately without the training required for people outside the organization. Gipson-King said the hospital will begin holding training for Oregon Health Authority managers as soon as possible.
She said on Thursday that hospital managers will not be mandated to work weekend shifts, as staff currently are, but will be asked to volunteer for one to two shifts between now and July 4.
So far, Gipson-King said, two people from external state agencies had volunteered to work hospital shifts, and they would start training June 7 or 14 — two weeks after the initial call for help was put out.
An email from OHA Director Patrick Allen to agency managers said those who take on emergency assignments at the state hospital will receive six days of new employee orientation, nine days of training in basic nursing tasks and 40 hours of on-unit orientation with a mentor.
Allen described the emergency shifts as a “temporary reassignment,” and said managers and supervisors who volunteer for those shifts will continue to be paid at their current salaries.
Meanwhile, hospital superintendent Dolly Matteucci in her email to state hospital supervisors said that Oregon Health Authority managers, as well as supervisors from all other state agencies, will be asked to help with staffing.
While Oregon Health Authority managers are not being required to assist with the state hospital, Allen in his email strongly encouraged “anyone who has good people skills” to volunteer.
Matteucci said that supervisors would be assigned to work depending on the skills they have. Someone who has never worked with patients might be asked to serve meals, escort patients to treatment activities or help hospital staff provide activities for patients.
But despite Matteucci’s assurance, several hospital employees have said that the emergency staffing plan has placed people from around the hospital in unsafe situations, for which they don’t have adequate training.
While the state hospital did have several coronavirus outbreaks among staff and patients, most of those on leave are not sick with the virus, but taking childcare leave. The COVID-19 crisis has impacted childcare centers and in-person schooling.
The state hospital staffing crisis is also a subject of discussion in this legislative session, with a package of bills related to the state hospital currently being considered — including one that would fund over 200 staff positions, according to State Rep. Rachel Prusak, who is on the Oregon State Hospital Advisory Board.
Ben Morris, with Local 503, said the latest stage in the staffing shortage illustrated the inadequacies of the Oregon Legislature’s budget for the state hospital.
“Right now the Legislature has an almost unprecedented amount of money from the American Rescue Plan and from the budget surplus,” he said. “What better time to actually fund Oregon State Hospital at a level that meets its needs?” He said the package of bills in the current session that address OSH is the first of many necessary steps.
Increased emergency SNAP benefits continue in June
Most Oregonians who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits will receive emergency allotments in June. The federal government has approved emergency allotments every month since March 2020, to give SNAP recipients additional support during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In June, approximately 521,000 SNAP households will receive $70 million in emergency allotments in addition to their regular SNAP benefits.
“We are grateful to have the opportunity to provide emergency benefits available to most SNAP households in Oregon,” said Dan Haun, director of the Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS), Self-Sufficiency Program. “We also know that many Oregonians are still struggling to meet their basic needs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we encourage them contact our partners at 211 and the Oregon Food Bank for support during this difficult time.”
Emergency allotments will be available on June 11 for current SNAP households. New SNAP households will receive the emergency allotments June 29 or July 2.
SNAP recipients do not have to take any action to receive these supplemental benefits as they will be issued directly on their EBT cards.
Need to know
- Most Oregonians who receive SNAP benefits will receive increased emergency benefits in June
- Find resources to meet your basic needs: Dial 2-1-1, or text your zip code to 898-21, www.211info.org
- Support and resources from the Oregon Department of Human Services
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 local ODHS offices or by calling the ONE customer service center at 1-800-699-9075.
If you are a SNAP household and your income or the number of people in your household has changed that could impact your benefits. It is important to make sure we have the most up-to-date information.
You can report any changes to your income or household in many ways:
- Online at: ONE.Oregon.gov
- By mail at: ONE Customer Service Center, PO Box 14015, Salem, OR 97309
- By fax at: 503-378-5628
- By phone at: 1-800-699-9075 or TTY 711
Resources to help meet basic needs
- Find a food pantry: foodfinder.oregonfoodbank.org
- Learn about government programs and community resources for older adults and people with disabilities: Aging and Disability Resource Connection of Oregon at 1-855-673-2372 or www.adrcoforegon.org.
- Dial 2-1-1, or text your zip code to 898-21, www.211info.org
- Oregon Department of Human Services Resources
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 Public Utility Commission Is Approving A Final One-Month Extension To The Moratorium On Disconnection
The Oregon Public Utility Commission is approving a final one-month extension to the moratorium on disconnections for electric and natural gas customers who haven’t paid their bills during the pandemic. Nearly 87-thousand electric and natural gas customers are at least 90 days behind on payments. That’s more than 230-percent higher than before the pandemic. Disconnections can start August 1st. The PUC is asking utilities to make their best efforts not to disconnect customers who are working to pay their back debts.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Oregon and California have announced $1.8 million in Environmental Quality Incentives Program funding to support the Klamath Basin and address critical needs during the ongoing drought.
Applications for drought assistance are due by June 16.
In recognition of the catastrophic conditions the Klamath Basin is currently experiencing, NRCS will offer a dedicated sign-up and ranking for the Klamath region without competition from other regions. California and Oregon NRCS are working together to make sure programs for farmers in the Klamath are well aligned, including communication, timelines, screening, ranking and practice lists.
NRCS has allocated $1.134 million in EQIP funding to Oregon and $674,000 to California to address critical needs during this drought. Interested landowners should submit applications by June
- Apply in person at a local NRCS field office or online through Farmers.gov
An indictment was unsealed on Wednesday charging a Portland, Oregon, man with fraudulently converting to personal use loans intended to help small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Eric Wade Lysne, 29, has been charged with one count each of wire and bank fraud. The indictment alleges that, since April 2020, Lysne has devised and perpetrated a scheme to defraud the Small Business Administration (SBA) and various financial institutions by fraudulently applying for and obtaining Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans using false borrower information.
Lysne created fictitious entities, including Paradigm Consulting Groups (Paradigm), on whose behalf he applied for and received EIDLs and PPP loans. In order to give Paradigm the appearance of a legitimate business, Lysne applied for and received an IRS Employer Identification Number in April 2020 and registered the business with the Oregon Secretary of State the following month.
National Poppy Day Today!
This year, National Poppy Day takes place on Friday, May 28
“National Poppy Day is a time to honor every member of the Armed Forces who died in the name of liberty, freedom and democracy,” says James W. Oxford, national commander of The American Legion.
“Wearing this symbolic red flower shows your support of veterans for generations to come.”
Everyone can participate in National Poppy Day. Wear a poppy or a poppy-themed item, such as a pin, t-shirt, bracelet or a poppy sticker, and tell people what it means. Share poppies with friends, family and colleagues. Accept a poppy and make a donation if you see members of The American Legion Family distributing poppies.
“Each year, members of the American Legion Family, led by the American Legion Auxiliary, distribute poppies with a request for a donation,” says Nicole Clapp, national president of The American Legion Auxiliary.
“All donations received are then used by The American Legion Family to support the future of local veterans, active-duty military personnel and their families with medical and financial needs.”
This year, National Poppy Day takes place on Friday, May 28.
For those on social media, share your military stories or poppy photos, and use the hashtag, #PoppyDay #LegionFamily.
Visit poppydayusa.org for more information about National Poppy Day, to purchase poppy-themed items, or to donate to The American Legion.