The latest news stories of interest in the Rogue Valley and around the state of Oregon from the digital home of Southern Oregon, Wynne Broadcasting’s RogueValleyMagazine.com
Thursday, June 17, 2021
Rogue Valley Weather
Today– Sunny, with a high near 93. Calm wind becoming north northwest 5 to 7 mph in the afternoon.
Friday– Sunny, with a high near 92. Light and variable wind becoming north northwest 5 to 10 mph in the afternoon.
Sunday– Sunny and hot, with a high near 101.
Monday– Sunny and hot, with a high near 103.
Tuesday– Sunny, with a high near 94.
Oregon reports 247 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 7 new deaths
There are seven new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 2,744. The Oregon Health Authority reported 247 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 205,698.
The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (5), Benton (7), Clackamas (20), Clatsop (2), Columbia (3), Coos (3), Crook (3), Curry (1), Deschutes (15), Douglas (12), Gilliam (1), Harney (2), Jackson (27), Jefferson (3), Josephine (16), Klamath (3), Lane (18), Lincoln (4), Linn (10), Malheur (1), Marion (31), Morrow (1), Multnomah (29), Polk (5), Umatilla (13), Union (1), Washington (8), Yamhill (3).
COVID-19 weekly cases and hospitalizations rise
The Oregon Health Authority’s COVID-19 Weekly Report, released today, shows increases in daily cases, following six consecutive weeks of declining case numbers, and increases in hospitalizations from the previous week.
“Unfortunately, the progress we have seen in recent weeks was affected for the reporting week ending June 13, and those who remain the most at risk are Oregonians who have not been vaccinated,” said Patrick Allen, OHA director. “This comes two weeks after one of the busiest holiday travel times we have seen since the start of the pandemic and is a reminder that gatherings we enjoy and travel still present risks without the protection provided by vaccination.”
“The good news is, COVID-19 vaccine is widely available statewide for all eligible Oregonians. Please make a plan to get vaccinated, which remains the best way to protect you and your loved ones from COVID-19 infection.”
OHA reported 1,780 new daily cases of COVID-19 during the week of Monday, June 7, through Sunday, June 13. That represents a 3.2% increase from the previous week.
New COVID-19 related hospitalizations also rose from 112 to 152.
There were 36 reported COVID-19 related deaths, up from 20 reported the previous week.
There were 70,779 tests for COVID-19 for the week of June 6 through June 12. The percentage of positive tests was 4%.
People 70 years of age and older have accounted for 38% of COVID-19 related hospitalizations and 74% of COVID-19 related deaths.
Today’s COVID-19 Weekly Outbreak Report shows 22 active COVID-19 outbreaks in senior living communities and congregate living settings, with three or more confirmed cases and one or more COVID-19 related deaths.
Vaccinations in Oregon
Today, OHA reported that 17,452 new doses of COVID-19 vaccinations were added to the state immunization registry. Of this total, 10,845 doses were administered on June 15 and 6,607 were administered on previous days but were entered into the vaccine registry on June 15.
The seven-day running average is now 15,803 doses per day.
Oregon has now administered 2,405,004 first and second doses of Pfizer,1,688,255 first and second doses of Moderna and 159,090 single doses of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines.
As of today, 2,335,586 people have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 2,065,711 have completed a COVID-19 vaccine series. The number of adult Oregonians needing vaccinations to reach the 70% threshold is 60,625. A daily countdown can be found on the OHA vaccinations page.
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, 2,910,285 doses of Pfizer, 2,196,300 doses of Moderna and 299,000 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 162, which is 10 less than yesterday. There are 37 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 1,173, which is an 15.2% 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 174.
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.
People With COVID Entering ICUs Are Unvaccinated
Some Oregon doctors who see patients struggling to survive COVID-19 infection say they’re angry because they feel the suffering preventable because of the vaccine.
“I just finished a week in the intensive care unit and just finished up a week this morning taking care of the sickest of the sick using a special therapy called ECMO,” said Dr. David Zonies, the associate chief medical officer for critical care at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU).
ECMO therapy is the most aggressive option when all others are gone. It pumps blood outside the body where a special machine takes out carbon dioxide and puts in oxygen, according to Mayo Clinic. It bypasses the heart and lungs and allows them to rest and recover.
Dr. Zonies said the patients he’s treated are very sick and not vaccinated.
“For the last several weeks, what we have seen is the only patients who are getting so sick are those who are unvaccinated, meaning those with COVID entering our ICUs primarily are unvaccinated people,” Dr. Zonie said.
Since the vaccine is now so easy to get and there is a statewide surplus, Dr. Zonie believes COVID is preventable. The fact that people are still getting so sick is upsetting, he said.
“I will tell you as a physician, it is very frustrating. It is very disheartening and it’s actually creating a fair amount of anger across my colleagues,” he said.
Statewide, the Oregon Health Authority reported Tuesday, June 15, a significant but dwindling number of people hospitalized because of COVID-19.
172 people were in hospitals around the state, 46 of them in the intensive care unit. A large percentage were likely missing that simple step that could have kept them safe: a COVID vaccine shot.
Nationally, the trend is similar.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average number of people hospitalized with COVID in early January was 125,000. Now it’s down to 16,000.
Doctors across the country are reporting most of their sick COVID patients were not vaccinated against the virus.
Leaders like Washington Gov. Jay Inslee are using the numbers to drive home the point that everyone eligible should get the shot.
“98% of all the people in our hospitals today, some of whom are struggling for breath, some of whom may not survive — 98% are people who have not been vaccinated. We gotta save lives,” Inslee said.
Multnomah County Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines said she’s seen the trend as well.
“I don’t have exact numbers, but the number you cited rings true for me as far as where we as a region and as a state are landing,” Dr. Vines said. “The vast majority of people being hospitalized with COVID now are not vaccinated.”
Dr. Vines said the hospital numbers demonstrate that the vaccine works.
“So that is a testament to what we’ve seen on the other side which is these vaccines are proven in real world circumstances to be very good at protecting people from severe COVID-19,” said Dr. Vines.
Dr. Zonies said if you are not vaccinated, you should get that done now, before it is too late.
“Without a doubt, when I talk to families — when we are in terrible, dire situations — the response is always the same. I didn’t get vaccinated. I wish my loved one would have been vaccinated. At that point it’s too late,” he said.
Raid On Illegal Marijuana Grow Near Eagle Point Seized 52,804 Plants
Investigators from Oregon State Police raided an illegal marijuana grow operation that stretched across two properties between Eagle Point and White City last Thursday, seizing and destroying almost 53,000 plants.
OSP said that local law enforcement in Jackson County has been working with the area water masters and code enforcement officers to sift through the proliferation of illegal operations in the midst of those that are legal and licensed.
On June 10, OSP’s Drug Enforcement Section Southwest Region marijuana team served a search warrant at two adjacent properties in the 1500-block of Alta Vista Road and the 700-block of Riley Road, both Eagle Point addresses.
Officers found and detained the two property owners while others searched through the properties. OSP said that a total of 74 greenhouses, two barns, and two outdoor growing areas were filled with marijuana plants.
Investigators seized and destroyed 52,804 plants at the end of the operation. OSP said that five guns and some cash were also seized in the search.
Jackson County code enforcement issue one of the property owners with a citation for the unpermitted greenhouse structures and electrical infrastructure. The fine for those violations could total $300,000.
Authorities from the Oregon Water Resources Department also cited one of the men for enlarging his existing water rights “due to unapproved diversions of surface water,” OSP said.
The raid in included marijuana enforcement teams from Jackson and Josephine Counties.
Jackson County Commissioners Updating Codes To Deal with Ongoing Cannabis-Related Complaints And Violations
Jackson County Commissioners are updating county codes to crack down on illegal cannabis in the county. The move comes after the county says there’s been an increase of complaints and crime-related activities concerning illegal grows in the valley.
The ongoing issue of illegal grows in the Rogue Valley has caught the attention of county officials. Jackson County Commissioners are hoping Wednesday’s code change will allow illegal grow operators to become compliant or be completely shut down.
“It was clear to us that we needed to specifically address hemp and marijuana,” said Jackson County Commissioner Dave Dotterer and his colleagues are revising the current code regarding cannabis-related violations. They are now taking a more aggressive approach to get growers to comply with permits. However, it wasn’t always like that.
“The idea behind it was not to cite people, it was not too fine people. It was to bring people into compliance,” said Commissioner Dotterer.
But Jackson County Sheriff Nathan Sickler said that didn’t work.
“That really sends a poor message to the community about why do we have rules if nobody is going to follow them or enforce them,” said Sheriff Sickler.
Last week, Oregon State Police and Jackson County Sheriff’s Office made a major illegal marijuana bust. OSP said the Eagle Point property had 74 greenhouses and it seized over 52,000 illegal marijuana plants.
“There’s just a complete disregard for any of the rules. And that’s much different than someone who has just missed the mark a little bit.”
Now growers not following county code have limited deadlines to be in compliance. It also allows law enforcement to work with code enforcement. Landowners will also be held accountable if they rent to someone breaking the rules.
“We want to improve livability for everyone in Jackson County and those business owners who are doing it legally feel like there is a purpose to following the rules,” said Sheriff Sickler.
County Commissioners state they are working with state officials on cannabis policies in Salem. They hope with stricter policies it’ll help the legal grows, as well as decrease crime in the area.
Arrests Made in Grants Pass Robbery
On May 15, 2021, Grants Pass Dept. of Public Safety (GPDPS) officers responded to Motel 6 for reports of an armed robbery resulting in injury. Officers determined that two male suspects had used firearms and physical force to steal a motorcycle.
Due to the nature of the crime, GPDPDS detectives responded to assist with the investigation. It was determined that one male suspect, later identified at Keith Fullbright, held an adult male at gunpoint threatening to shoot him, while the other male suspect, identified as Clintton Theall, unlawfully entered a hotel-room and struck a sleeping adult female in the face with a firearm, causing physical injury.
The suspects took a motorcycle from the location and fled to Roseburg, Oregon. The injured female was transported to Three Rivers Medical Center by American Medical Response (AMR) for non-life-threatening injuries.
Clintton Wayne Theall 32-year-old male Roseburg, OR
Keith Allen Fullbright 29-year-old male Roseburg, OR
–Robbery in the First Degree (one count for each arrestee)
–Assault in the Second Degree (one count for each arrestee)
–Burglary in the First Degree (one count for each arrestee)
–Criminal Mischief in the Second Degree (one count for each arrestee)
–Unlawful Use of a Weapon-Firearm (one count for each arrestee)
–Unlawful Use of a Weapon (Theall only)
–Menacing (Fullbright only)
–Felon in Possession of a Weapon-Firearm (Fullbright only)
Based on the investigation, it was determined that this was an isolated incident and there was no continued threat to the community. Detectives continued to diligently work the case. With the assistance of the Oregon State Police, Roseburg Police Department, Douglas Interagency Narcotics Team (DINT), Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and Douglas County Community Corrections, both Theall and Fullbright were apprehended in Roseburg on June 7, 2021. Anyone with additional information is urged to contact Detective Shali Marshall at 541-450-6260. Grants Pass Dept. of Public Safety
AROUND the STATE of OREGON
ABC’s Good Morning America Highlights Oregon This Morning
North Bend High Bowling Team is First Oregon Team to Ever Head To Nationals
The North Bend High School bowling team is headed to the national tournament. North Bend is the first team from Oregon to go to nationals.
The Bulldogs got the nod after placing second in a Covid-altered state tournament this year.
North Bend will be going up against 32 teams from across the nation. This is the first time the Bulldogs have gone to nationals, and their goal is to win it all.
Getting to this point has not been easy because of the pandemic.
“Last year they had the bowling alley shut down and we were practicing with plastic bowling balls, carpet rug as a lane, and we were practicing out in the back parking lot,” recalled North Bend bowling coach, Rod Duryee. “Just recently, as everybody knows, they’ve lightened up on a lot of restrictions so our boys are inside any time now bowling.”
After placing second in a Covid-altered state tournament, the North Bend bowling team is off to nationals in 2021. (SBG)
With the hard work and dedication put in by his team and a lot of support from the community, he’s excited to see the Bulldogs get a chance to compete for a national title.
Gov. Brown Signs Controversial Bill to Legalize Human Composting
Gov. Kate Brown has signed a bill passed by the Legislature legalizing human composting. Brown signed House Bill 2574 on Tuesday, which will legalize what’s also known as natural organic reduction. It also clarifies rules
surrounding alkaline hydrolysis, known as aqua cremation. The law goes into effect July 1, 2022.
Rep. Pam Marsh, from in Southern Jackson County, who co-sponsored the bill with Rep. Brian Clem, said she decided to sponsor the bill because her constituents are interested in alternative after-death options. The state plans to have its rules in place for natural organic reduction facilities by 2022.
Klamath Falls Teenager Dies in Crash with Semi Truck
A Klamath County juvenile died Wednesday in a crash on Highway 39 near Merrill. According to Oregon State Police, troopers and emergency personnel responded to the crash about 8:10 a.m. Wednesday morning.
According to police, a Chevy Spark operated by the deceased, was traveling northbound when it crossed in the southbound lane and collided with a semi. The driver of the Kenworth semi-truck, Jim Hadd of Klamath Falls, was not injured.
The juvenile was transported to Sky Lakes Medical Center, Klamath Falls, where they died. Because they are younger than 18, their name will not be released by law enforcement. OSP was assisted by the Merrill Fire Department and ODOT.
10,000 Acres Of Forest Fire Burning In NE Oregon Timber And Rangeland Almost Under Control
Firefighters are beginning to contain two lightning-sparked wildfires in northeast Oregon that burned nearly 10,000 acres of timber and rangeland.
The Joseph Canyon and Dry Creek fires started sometime on June 3-4 in the area’s rugged and remote terrain.
Hot temperatures, dry air, and high winds are fueling the fires. An unusually dry spring has made matters worse. A near-record amount of dead fallen trees are acting as fuel.
Both fires were ignited by lightning strikes in early June. Foresters say the fires are burning with an intensity usually seen in August or late Fall.
The early season blazes may be a harbinger of things to come this summer as historically dry fuels portend a long and difficult fire season.
Both the Joseph Canyon fire and 1,564-acre Dry Creek fire — burning in Hells Canyon northeast of Joseph, OR were at 60% containment as of June 9.
Oregon Lawmakers Pushing Through Bill To Crack Down On Catalytic Converter Thefts
A bill aimed at curbing thefts of catalytic converters in Oregon has been sent to Governor Kate Brown’s desk.
Senate Bill 803 would greatly limit who metal recycling companies can purchase catalytic converters from.
Thefts of the auto part have been on the rise, as it’s easy to remove from the outside of vehicles.
Sen. Chris Gorsek says the bill has plenty of support and he’s looking forward to it slowing down theft. He added that the governor’s office is “fast-tracking” the legislation.
“I think she knows – as many of us do that have worked on the bill or folks like yourself that have reported on this – that this is a serious problem all across the state, so the sooner that this gets signed, the better,” Sen. Gorsek said.
He was unable to provide a timeline on when the bill may be signed. We reached out to Gov. Brown’s office for comment, however, as of Wednesday afternoon we’ve yet to hear back.
The legislative session ends on June 27.
Rogue Valley Magazine reported on this in March: https://roguevalleymagazine.com/2021/03/12/rogue-valley-news-friday-3-12-home-values-on-the-rise-in-medford-arrest-made-in-bizarre-incident-in-grants-pass/
New Oregon Bill Hopes to Curb Escalating Thefts of Catalytic Converters
Bill would make it harder for scrap metal businesses to buy or receive them.
There was an average of 21 catalytic converter thefts per month late in 2020, a spike from the average of 4 earlier in the year. Now, Oregon lawmakers are considering a bill that would make it harder for scrap metal businesses to buy or receive catalytic converters.
A catalytic converter is an emission control device that reduces toxic gases and pollutants from your car’s exhaust.
The bill, requested by Multnomah County DA Mike Schmidt, would require certain personal information be recorded when it comes to the sale of catalytic converters.
“Right now, thieves in Oregon are taking advantage of the fact that there is a thriving gray and black market for the sale of catalytic converters,” said Multnomah County DA spokesperson Brent Weisberg. “It takes just minutes for a thief to steal catalytic converters using cheap and easily transportable and concealable equipment, but the impact to vehicle owners is drastic and very costly. This is an issue plaguing our community and auto industry and we are looking forward to working with legislators to address it.”
A precious metal that costs 15 times more than gold is driving a surge in thefts of catalytic converters. If you start your car in the morning, and it’s a lot louder than it was the night before — chances are you had your catalytic converter stolen.
These devices have been reported as missing left and right to police departments across the country, even right here in Lane County.
Steve Nohrenberg, who owns the Midas auto repair shop in Eugene, said the crime has been happening almost daily now.
“We had this happen six to eight years ago when it got like that,” Nohrenberg said. “They passed legislation, the economy got really good and it kind of went down to nothing. Now it’s crazy again.”
People have flooded in to get replacements.
The converters have precious metals inside that draw quite the attraction to thieves.
The metallic element is housed in a bulbous piece of aluminum, called a catalytic converter, that encases a honeycomb structure that filters fumes. National data is scarce, but news reports point to thousands of catalytic converter thefts over the past year, a crime wave that has risen with the price of one of their essential components: rhodium, a silvery-white chemical element that is a byproduct of the production of platinum and palladium, and is unparalleled in its ability to remove the most toxic pollutants from vehicle exhaust.
A single troy ounce, which is slightly heavier than a regular ounce, of rhodium cost around $27,000 last week — more than a brand new Toyota Prius. That’s up from $1,700 three years ago.
But to understand why those prices, and thefts, are skyrocketing, and to understand how long they might stay that high, we must go back more than a decade to the 2008 global recession and follow its effects until they coincide with last year’s pandemic-driven economic catastrophe in South Africa, where 80 percent of the world’s rhodium originates.
“It’s got platinum and rhodium — there’s only a little bit in it but rhodium is about $30,000 an ounce or something,” Nohrenberg said. “It only takes the smallest amount to make it very valuable. They sell them.”
Some converters can be traded in for around $40 to $50, while others can be valued in the hundreds.
Eugene residents Gwen and Jerry Ditlefsen had two catalytic converters stolen from their car last Friday at about 6 a.m. “I heard a noise like someone was dragging something down the street,” Gwen said. “I got him up, and we couldn’t see anything at first. He saw someone in a little car parked right out front of the fence. When he saw Jerry looking at him, he headed out. It was probably about eight minutes from when I first heard the noise.”
They were unable to get the thief’s license plate because he made it out so quickly.
Jerry shared his thoughts: “They like the four-wheel drives because they sit up high enough. You just crawl underneath them, cut them off and take them real quick. If it’s a low car, they have to jack them up with a jack so it takes a little longer. They like a little more privacy.”
Eugene resident Amanda Watts also fell victim to this type of theft around 4 a.m. one morning.
“My neighbor alerted us that they saw sparks under our car, and my husband ran out,” Watts said. “There was a man that ran away and cut our converter out.”
She called the police and fingerprints were taken, but tracking down these thieves is far from easy.
“We wish there were better practices to protect people from this because it’s really expensive to have it fixed,” Watts said. “It’s like $1,500. It’s a crime ring that’s going on right now.”
Watts tried to find the converter at a metal recycling spot but was told there’s nothing they could do.
Your car can run without a converter, but you will notice a loud exhaust noise.
“It’s an open exhaust,” Nohrenberg said. “Your car sounds like a 747 going down the road.”
The catalytic converter is the last defense before engine exhaust escapes into the world.
Nohrenberg said a replacement can run from $1,000 to $3,000.
Drivers are encouraged to park in a garage if possible and to secure their vehicles the best they can.
Others shared to know what is going on in your neighborhood and to continue being aware of your surroundings.
“People who want your catalytic converter will steal it some way,” Nohrenberg said. “They get stolen from parking lots where people are shopping, so you can’t lock it up forever. If you see someone around your car, pay attention to them. They can take one out in minutes.”
These factors, together with the platinum surplus and surging demand, took what was already an expensive, rare metal and drove the price through the roof. The global automotive industry now spends tens of billions of dollars a year on the metals for catalytic converters alone.
“We call rhodium the most precious of all the metals. People are only taking note of it now, but really it has been the top-performing commodity for the last three or four years,” Wellsted said.
He said criminals who stole rhodium-containing catalytic converters usually sold them to a network of scrap merchants. Each converter generally contains about $400 worth of rhodium, he said, in addition to its numerous other components.
The FBI declined to comment on the spate of thefts.
“I call it a pandemic within a pandemic,” said Reichenbach, the mechanic. “Mitsubishis seems to be the thieves’ new hit, and who knows what it’ll be next.”