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
Tuesday, August 10, 2021
Rogue Valley Weather — Excessive Heat Warning in effect from August 10, 01:00 PM PDT until August 14, 11:00 PM PDT
Today– Areas of smoke. Sunny and hot, with a high near 101. Light and variable wind.
Wednesday– Patchy smoke before 11am. Sunny and hot, with a high near 105. Calm wind becoming north northwest around 5 mph in the afternoon.
Thursday– Mostly sunny and hot, with a high near 106. Calm wind.
Friday– Mostly sunny and hot, with a high near 104.
Saturday– Mostly sunny and hot, with a high near 102.
EXCESSIVE HEAT WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM TUESDAY AFTERNOON THROUGH SATURDAY EVENING
* WHAT…Dangerously hot conditions with afternoon high temperatures of 102 to 112 degrees possible and overnight low temperatures in the upper 60s to mid-70s.
* WHERE…In Oregon: The inland west side valleys including the Rogue Valley, Illinois Valley, and Umpqua Valley. This includes Medford, Ashland, Grants Pass, and Roseburg. In California: The Shasta Valley, Scott Valley, and Klamath River Valleys. This includes Weed, Happy Camp, Mt. Shasta, and Fort Jones.
* WHEN…From Tuesday afternoon through Saturday evening.
* IMPACTS…Extreme heat will significantly increase the potential for heat-related illnesses, particularly for those working or participating in outdoor activities.
* ADDITIONAL DETAILS…Extremely hot days, warm overnight lows, and the extended nature of this heatwave may make it especially difficult to get any relief from the heat.
* View the hazard area in detail at https://www.wrh.noaa.gov/map/?wfo=mfr
Monitor the latest forecasts and warnings for updates on this situation. Be prepared to drink plenty of fluids, stay in an air-conditioned room, stay out of the sun, and check up on relatives and neighbors.
Young children and pets should never be left unattended in vehicles under any circumstances. This is especially true during warm or hot weather when car interiors can reach lethal temperatures in a matter of minutes.
OHA Working With County And Hospital Officials On Covid Outbreak Linked To Medford Hospital
OHA and Jackson County Public Health are investigating a COVID-19 outbreak associated with Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford.
Jackson County Public Health is collaborating with Asante to support the medical center as they respond to the outbreak.
Cases have been identified among residents of Jackson, Josephine and Klamath counties.
OHA and Jackson County public health officials began investigating two separate department outbreaks at the medical center in early July, which were reported in the OHA Weekly Workplace Outbreak Report.
Last week, Asante reported a significant increase in cases from multiple departments, leading OHA to consolidate the departmental outbreaks. As of today, OHA is aware of 61 cases associated with the ongoing outbreak at the medical center in Medford.
A sample of the cases was sequenced and all were identified as the Delta variant.
This outbreak comes as cases and outbreaks are rising throughout the United States and Oregon. In recent weeks, OHA has recorded a large increase in COVID-19 cases. That rise is linked to the spread of the Delta variant, which now accounts for nearly 100% of Oregon’s new cases.
COVID-19 vaccines remain our strongest prevention tool against the rapidly spreading Delta variant. OHA anticipates outbreaks will continue to occur, particularly in communities with low vaccination rates.
OHA encourage all eligible residents to get vaccinated in order to protect themselves and those who cannot be vaccinated, such as children under 12 years of age.
Since late July, OHA has recommended that all persons, regardless of their vaccination status, wear a mask indoors in public spaces. OHA also encourages all Oregonians to consider masking if they plan to attend crowded outdoor events, especially if they are at higher risk for complications from COVID-19 or live with individuals who are unvaccinated or at higher risk for complications from COVID-19.
Rogue Valley Hospitals Overwhelmed With COVID-19 Cases
While the Oregon Health Authority reported nearly 1400 new Covid-19 cases statewide, local hospitals are being strained. Local hospitals are feeling the burden and are so backed up they state wait times for patients could range up to 5 hours, at times.
As Covid-19 cases continue to skyrocket in Oregon, hospitals say resources are getting stretched thin. “We’re at 100% capacity almost across the entire system,” said Asante Three Rivers Medical Director, Dr. Christopher David.
“It’s exceedingly hard to prepare and have enough resources to handle that kind of surge of increase, and the last two weeks has only amplified that beyond what we could have expected,” said Dr. David.
The number of hospitalized patients with Covid-19 across Oregon Thursday is 457. That’s 35 more than Wednesday. There are 134 Covid-19 patients in intensive care, which also increased.
“Almost everything out there is delta variant and is more contagious, it’s causing more people to get ill even at a younger age and so we’re seeing it spread even further than it had before,” said Dr. David.
Asante Three Rivers say its ICU is at capacity. It started boarding patients in the emergency department due to the lack of available beds. “It’s a constant struggle when you’re running at 99% percent capacity at all times,” said Dr. David.
Providence in Medford says it’s going through the same struggle. “It’s worse now than it was when the pandemic first started for us,” said CEO of Providence Medical Center, Chris Pizzi.
Providence says wait times fluctuate depending on the severity of your condition. But wait times could be upwards of hours. “The emergency rooms, the urgent cares are all being overwhelmed,” said Pizzi.
Most elective surgeries have already been canceled. “It’s very complicated having to work through this and it’s a very difficult situation for all our health care providers,” said Pizzi.
Hospitals say people should avoid coming in, when possible. Getting tested or getting the vaccine, should not be done at local hospitals.
Josephine County announces deaths of COVID-19 patients
Five Josephine County individuals have died from complications relating to COVID-19 infections.
A 73-year-old man tested positive for COVID-19 July 30 and died Aug. 6 at a long-term care facility in Grants Pass. He had underlying conditions. He had been vaccinated for COVID-19.
A 77-year-old man tested positive for COVID-19 July 31 and died Aug. 7 at Asante Three Rivers Medical Center in Grants Pass. He had no known underlying conditions. He had not been vaccinated for COVID-19.
A 64-year-old man tested positive for COVID-19 Aug. 5 and died Aug. 8 at Asante Three Rivers Medical Center in Grants Pass. He had underlying conditions. He had been vaccinated for COVID-19.
A 72-year-old man tested positive for COVID-19 July 17 and died Aug. 7 at Asante Three Rivers Medical Center in Grants Pass. He had underlying conditions. He had not been vaccinated for COVID-19.
A 52-year-old man tested positive for COVID-19 July 22 and died Aug. 6 at Asante Three Rivers Medical Center in Grants Pass. He had underlying conditions. He had not been vaccinated for COVID-19.
Josephine County now has a total of 88 COVID-19-related deaths. Of those patients, 87 died from complications relating to COVID-19 infections.
Medford to Open Cooling Shelters Today
Due to the high temperatures forecasted, the City of Medford and community partners will open a cooling shelter.
The cooling shelter will be open Tuesday through Saturday (August 10th – August 14th) from 12 – 8 PM.
The cooling shelter will provide water, a cool resting area, restrooms, popsicles, snacks, and a cooling area and water for pets.
Individuals may come and go, with a facility capacity of 90 guests.
Tuesday, August 10th the shelter will be operated at the Medford Senior Center, located at 510 E. Main Street.
Wednesday, August 11th the shelter will be operated at Jackson County Library Medford at 205 South Central Avenue.
Thursday, August 12th the shelter will be operated at the Medford Senior Center, located at 510 E. Main Street.
Friday, August 13th the shelter will be operated at Jackson County Library Medford at 205 South Central Avenue.
Saturday, August 14th the shelter will be operated at the Medford Senior Center, located at 510 E. Main Street.
Anyone interested in volunteering or have resources to contribute may email email@example.com for more information.
STATE AGENCIES URGE PROACTIVE ACTIONS AS EXCESSIVE HEAT WATCH ISSUED
News Release from Oregon Office of Emergency Management —– The National Weather Service has issued an excessive heat watch for many parts of Oregon from August 10-14; dangerously hot conditions with triple-digit temperatures and minimal overnight cooling are possible throughout the state.
The Office of Emergency Management (OEM), Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) urge the public to take proactive actions to help reduce the risk of heat-related illnesses that can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. These lead agencies continue to coordinate statewide needs and resources and assess impacts to meet the needs of Oregonians. They are collectively sharing and amplifying heat-related messages to the public, encouraging Oregonians to stay safe and drink plenty of fluids, stay in air-conditioned rooms, take advantage of cooling centers, remain out of the sun, and check in on neighbors, friends and loved ones.
“We know excessive heat conditions can be extremely dangerous and must be taken seriously,” said OEM Director Andrew Phelps. “We are asking Oregonians to pull together and prepare for the inevitable effects of high temperatures. Take time now to make a plan to stay cool as temperatures rise – make sure your plan includes connecting with friends, family or neighbors who may be susceptible to extreme heat and offering to help them access the resources they need. The simplest act to help can save lives”
ODHS encourages people who need relief from the high temperatures to connect with 211 for information on cooling center locations, hours and transportation to the centers. Dial 211 and wait for the prompt to find hot weather-related resources, including a list of cooling centers by county. The 211 service will keep its prompt operating 24/7 for the rest of summer. Cooling center information is also available at 211info.org.
Oregonians should stay informed on the heat index and conditions when planning activities and find ways to stay cool and hydrated; the heat index measures how hot it feels outside when factoring in humidity with the actual air temperature. Individuals should also learn how to prevent, recognize and treat heat-related illnesses.
OHA provides several easily accessible resources for members of the public, local health departments and other organizations to assist ongoing outreach efforts to those most vulnerable to extreme heat events. The agency urges people to contact their primary care provider or visit an urgent care facility if they begin to experience heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion, heat cramps, sunburn, heat rash or other non-emergent medical care needs.
People over the age of 65 and those with a chronic medical condition, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer or kidney disease, may be less likely to sense and respond to changes in temperature. Also, they may be taking medications that can worsen the impact of extreme heat. People in this category should be closely monitored to make sure they’re drinking enough water, have access to air conditioning and know how to keep cool. Those who exercise in extreme heat or work outdoors are more likely to become dehydrated and get heat-related illnesses and should pay particular attention to staying as cool and hydrated as possible.
For more information, visit:
- Preventing Heat-related Illnesses (OHA): https://www.oregon.gov/oha/ph/Preparedness/Prepare/Pages/PrepareForExtremeHeat.aspx
- Extreme Heat (CDC): https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/index.html
- Warning Signs and Symptoms of Heat-related Illness (CDC): https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/warning.html
Bootleg, Walrus, Yainax Fires –
- Bootleg Fire Containment: 98% Size: 413,765 acres (647 square miles)
- Walrus FireFire Location: 10.5 miles N of BonanzaSize: 75 acres Containment: 90%
- Yainax Location: 10 miles NE of Bonanza Size: 84 acres Containment: 70%
At noon yesterday Klamath and Lake Counties lifted all evacuations for the Bootleg, Walrus, and Yainax Fires. There are still fire personnel working on each of the fires and residents are asked to exercise caution when travelling near the fire areas. Forest closures remain in effect, please check with your local ranger district before entering national forest lands.
The Red Cross is closing the evacuation shelters but will still be working with the public during the recovery efforts.
Containment numbers continue to climb on each of the fires. The Bootleg Fire is now 98% contained and the majority of the fire is in patrol status. Firefighters continue to grid and mop up along the last piece of uncontained line in the northwest corner of the fire near Coyote Creek. Some critical suppression repair activities are underway on the northeast corner of the fire and along the southern perimeter. Firefighters made great progress yesterday mopping up the Walrus and Yainax Fires and expect to put those fires in patrol status at the end of shift today.
A Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) team arrived yesterday to begin the work of assessing the fire area for erosion potential and determine if preventative measures are needed. BAER teams are staffed by specially trained professionals: hydrologists, soil scientists, engineers, biologists, vegetation specialists, archeologists, and others who rapidly evaluate the burned area and prescribe emergency stabilization treatments.
Devils Knob Complex. The Devil’s Knob Complex is a grouping of 40 plus lightning-caused fires with the majority burning on the Tiller Ranger District, Umpqua National Forest with a number of fires burning on private lands protected by Douglas Forest Protective Association. The fires were started from thunderstorms on July 29th and August 1st. The Devil’s Knob Complex is situated between the Rough Patch Complex and Jack Fire to the north, which is being managed by Northwest Incident Management Team 13 and the Skyline Ridge Complex to the southwest, which is being managed by Oregon Department of Forestry Team 1. The Devil’s Knob Complex is managed by Northwest Incident Management Team 8 from an incident command post at the Milo Academy near Tiller, Oregon.
Total Acreage: 3,003 Complex Total Containment: 5% General Updates: Suppression efforts today included extensive mopping up of small fires and portions of larger fires as well as containment actions on larger fires within the Complex. The priority continues to be taking suppression actions on larger fires that are near private property and homes, which includes Wildcat and Section 30 (Railroad) Fires. As high priority fires become contained and mopped up in the southern portion of the Complex, resources will be moved to the central and northern portions of the Complex to other priority fires. To also improve the effectiveness of existing firefighting resources, suppression activity included sharing scarce resources between the three incident complexes, such as aircraft, engines and hand crews. Fire behavior is expected to increase with a forecasted very hot and drying weather trend as the week progresses.
Skyline Ridge Complex. Ahead of an expected heat wave arriving Tuesday, firefighters are taking advantage of mild night temperatures to strengthen control lines atop two ridges to protect lands east and west of the 2,350-acre Poole Creek Fire. Control lines south of the fire are holding well. A dozen helicopters are aiding with water drops and retardant to cool any flames or embers that threaten the lines.
Overall containment on fires in the Complex stands at 14 percent. Over the next few days the fire is expected to back down two canyons between the ridges until it meets control lines protecting houses on the south bank of the South Umpqua River. As a precaution, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office has issued a Green or Level 1 “Be Ready” evacuation advisory for residences in the area north of Poole Creek Fire. This includes an area south of the South Umpqua River along Tiller Trail Highway, including all addresses on Moore Ranch Road and Ferguson Lane. For the latest evacuation information go to www.dcso.com/evacuations
The 18 other fires in the Complex – 13 of which are two acres or less – no longer show any growth and are in various stages of mop up, with some fully secured and being patrolled. This is allowing fire managers to move more firefighters and equipment to Poole Creek, located about six miles southeast of the community of Days Creek. The National Interagency Fire Center has made Oregon and Washington the top priority states for gaining access to firefighting resources, such as air tankers, hot shot crews, helicopters, fire engines and other firefighting personnel. Nearly a thousand wildland firefighters are engaged on the Complex – about one of every eight in the Pacific Northwest. “We’re concentrating those resources to safely and effectively encircle and secure Poole Creek, which is our number one priority,” said Deputy Incident Commander Eric Perkins with ODF Team 1, which is managing fires in the Complex.
Black Butte. Cause: Lightning. 11,693 acres (+2,026). 0% containment.
On the northern edge of the Black Butte fire, off Forest Road 16, firefighters continue to hold and improve containment lines to the North Fork Malheur River drainage. Protecting private lands and structures at Flag Prairie is a priority and firing operations will continue along 1675 and 284 roads. Crews will also work with the resource advisors on dozer work to clear roads for control lines. On the eastern edge of the fire, crews will scout primary and alternative lines to North Fork Malheur River.
To the northwest, along the western flank, crews will patrol and secure spots across containment lines and continue prep of control lines. Firefighters plan burnout operations as needed.
On the southeast edge, east of the River, firefighters will establish primary hand line and dozer lines, and strengthen existing lines after the fire spotted into Bear Creek on the edge of the drainage. The fire is active in the Skegway drainage, and crews continue to construct primary and alternate lines, tying dozer line in to roads and putting in hand line along the western edge. Wind, topography and vegetation continue to push the fire to the southeast.
Jack Fire and Rough Patch Complex – 23,355 Acres Contained: 53% — Firefighters continue building line and fighting the fire directly where it is safe to do so in preparation for another extreme heat wave moving into the region.
“A lot of work has been put into building this framework,” said Eric Riener, incident commander trainee for Northwest 13 Incident Management Team. “It’s like a puzzle – you build the border first, then start filling it in one piece at a time.”
The first piece of the firefighting puzzle is always ensuring the safety of those doing the work, he said. “The greatest value at risk out there is our firefighters and we will do everything to ensure safe engagement occurs.”
Many aviation and ground firefighting strategies that slow or block fire movement and spread also serve a safety purpose. Besides removing potential fuels, cutting out snags protects firefighters from falling timber.
Alternate and contingency lines provide egress routes for firefighters to retreat. Lookouts are posted to observe the effectiveness of the work being done as well as any changes in wind direction, weather or fire movement. Aviation drops of water to cool the fire’s edges and slow progression, allowing ground resources to work closer to the fire’s edge.
Middle Fork Complex and Knoll Fire – 5,097 Acres Contained: 2% — Yesterday firefighters continued reinforcing fire line and working to re-establish containment on a spot fire in the Kwis Fire. Crews and heavy equipment also continued preparing existing road systems to be used as containment line for the Ninemile, Gales, and Elephant Rock Fires. Resources assigned to these fires also assisted with initial attack of a new fire that started west of Oakridge near the Hardesty Trailhead.
Containing the Kwis Fire remains a priority for firefighters because of its proximity to Oakridge. While crews and air resources will be continuing efforts to re-establish and secure containment line around the Kwis fire, they are also evaluating additional options for containment lines south of the fire. On the Gales and Ninemile Fires, crews and heavy equipment are establishing containment lines that will reduce potential for spread of these fires towards communities. Each of the fires are burning in timber in areas of steep and rugged terrain and as the fires burn through the dry heavy fuels, fire intensity will periodically increase causing development of visible smoke columns.
Knoll Fire: Pacific Northwest Team 3 took command of this fire yesterday. It is located off Highway 126 north/northeast of McKenzie Bridge. Firefighters supported by aerial resources are utilizing a combination of constructed line, existing roads, and natural features to limit fire spread. Today, as conditions allow, firefighters will be reinforcing containment lines by burning out to consume vegetation between the line and active fire. There are numerous hazards that pose a danger to public safety in the vicinity of this fire including active fire in the McKenzie River bottom and falling trees, making river travel unsafe through the fire area. Forest visitors should also avoid Olallie Campground, Deer Creek Hot Springs, and dispersed campsites near the springs.
Weather and Smoke: Today warmer and drier conditions are expected, which will likely result in increased fire activity. Expect smoke columns from these fires to be visible from surrounding areas especially in the afternoons. For current air quality information visit oakridgeair.org/smoke or the Oregon Smoke Blog https://oregonsmoke.blogspot.com/.
Evacuations: Effective August 8, 2021, Oakridge Fire approved issuing a Level 1 (BE READY) evacuation notice due to the nearby Kwis Fire for the following areas: High Prairie, Fish Hatchery, Oakridge north of Roberts Road, and Oakridge east of Salmon Creek. A Level 3 (GO NOW) evacuation notice remains in effect for all homes, campgrounds and dispersed recreation along Forest Service Road 18 (Big Fall Creek Road) east of the intersection with Forest Service Road 1821, including Puma Campground and Bedrock Campground. A map of these evacuation areas is available at www.LaneCountyOR.gov/MiddleForkComplex.
Closures: Some National Forest System lands near the Middle Fork Complex fires are temporarily closed to provide for public safety. Please be sure to check current conditions before planning your trip to the Willamette National Forest. For more information visit www.fs.usda.gov/willamette.
Bull Complex. 510 acres –Yesterday firefighters continued line construction line along Forest Road 4696 south of the Janus Fire. On the east side of the complex, firefighters patrolled the Round Lake and Ogre Creek Fires and then worked to construct line along Forest Road 6370. Two dozers are assisting with line construction. During this work, lookouts are posted to monitor the fire’s behavior as part of safety operations. Round Lake and Ogre Creek are 100% contained with crews checking for isolated heat each day.
While relative humidity increased during the past couple days on the fires, no measurable precipitation fell on the fires. Temperatures are increasing over the next few days and may reach 100F on the fire by Wednesday. Monday’s winds may shift to a more easterly flow but should remain light.
Communities south of the fires may be getting some added smoke from two holdover fires within last year’s Lionshead Fire. Firefighters have assessed them and are monitoring the fires closely. Holdover fire is not uncommon on large fires. Stumps or large logs can hold heat over the winter and rekindle when conditions dry.
Bean Creek- 766 CS. OR-DEF-000766. IMT3. 20 mi W of Jefferson, OR. Start 8/5. Cause: Lightning. 138 acres (+0). 0% containment. Minimal fire behavior. Timber. Structures threatened. No update received.
- This public lands link is super helpful to check before you head outdoors. The Keep Oregon Green website carries ODF’s public use restrictions. Click the link for up-to-date information: https://keeporegongreen.org/current-conditions/
- Wildfire evacuation risk for PNW communities https://usfs.maps.arcgis.com/apps/View/index.html?appid=8630fdb3e88f475fb5304415ce9e03c0&extent=-136.2333,39.1055,-102.4834,50.3252
- An interactive smoke map at https://fire.airnow.gov/ allows you to zoom into your location to see the latest smoke information. Smoke-sensitive individuals and people with respiratory problems or heart disease are encouraged to take precautionary measures.
- Insurance Assistance: For additional information on submitting insurance claims after losing your home or property to a wildfire, please visit https://dfr.oregon.gov/insure/home/storm/Pages/wildfires.aspx or call the state’s team of consumer advocates at 888-877-4894 (toll-free).
Oregon reports 3,229 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 14 new deaths
There are 14 new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 2,903, the Oregon Health Authority reported 3,229 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 230,103.
The 3,229 cases reported today include new infections recorded by counties for the three-day period between Friday, Aug. 6 and Sunday, Aug. 8.
The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (6), Benton (55), Clackamas (254), Clatsop (55), Columbia (18), Coos (46), Crook (13), Curry (7), Deschutes (240), Douglas (278), Gilliam (1), Harney (3), Hood River (15), Jackson (49), Jefferson (21), Josephine (239), Klamath (25), Lane (624), Lincoln (17), Linn (152), Malheur (7), Marion (113), Morrow (26), Multnomah (538), Polk (25), Sherman (2), Tillamook (79), Umatilla (85), Union (47), Wallowa (7), Wasco (32), Washington (106) and Yamhill (44).
Oregon sees 40% jump in weekly coronavirus cases, nears hospitalization record. The number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 across Oregon is 575, which is 21 more than yesterday. There are 148 COVID-19 patients in intensive care unit (ICU) beds, which is four more than yesterday.
Nearly one in five Oregonians infected with COVID-19 in July was fully vaccinated against the disease. The news represents a sizable leap in the share of total infections involving fully vaccinated people — from 2% in April to 19% in July — and underscores emerging information that the highly contagious delta variant is more likely to infect vaccinated people than earlier versions of the virus. Health officials say 10 fully vaccinated Oregonians died of COVID-19 in July, correcting previously reported data.
In a breakthrough cases report posted to the Oregon Health Authority’s website Thursday, officials say about 2,400 of the 12,514 people known to be infected by COVID-19 in the state in July were fully vaccinated. That leaves 81% of the infected Oregonians — or just over 10,000 in July — who were either unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated.
If you’re planning an appointment at the DMV, don’t forget to bring a mask.
All state offices with public contact resumed the mask requirement on July 30 due to the surge in COVID-19 cases in Oregon this summer. State offices are following the latest Oregon Health Authority guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus.
Masks are required inside DMV offices and during drive tests conducted by DMV, regardless of vaccination status. OHA strongly recommends face masks in indoor public settings. For the latest news and guidelines for COVID safety, visit the OHA site.
Multnomah County Mask Requirements
Multnomah County is instituting new indoor masking requirements in public spaces, including businesses, making the state’s most populous and liberal county the first to reinstitute the restrictions amid a new surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations driven by the highly contagious delta variant.
The restrictions, which will take effect Friday, apply to both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.
For the first time they will be accompanied by an enforcement officer. County Chair Deborah Kafoury and Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines are holding a 1:30 p.m. news conference to announce the restrictions and underlying details. They will be joined by Guadalupe Guerrero, the superintendent of Portland Public Schools, and leaders of
local healthcare systems.
State authorities and the governor have so far taken a hands-off approach to the latest surge and deferred any restrictions to local authorities. They have reiterated masking recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, which call on both vaccinated and unvaccinated residents in areas where coronavirus is spreading widely to wear masks. Thirty five of Oregon’s 36 counties fall into that bucket based on their case and test positivity rates.
New Political Districts on the Line
Eleven state lawmakers on Thursday will begin a politically Herculean task with historically small odds of success: Draw 96 new political districts in 46 days that will be used beginning with the 2022 election. The six Democrats and five Republicans on the House and Senate redistricting committees are set to receive block-by-block U.S.
Census data chock full of population and demographic changes since the last map-making 10 years ago.
The pandemic and politics led to a six-month delay in delivery of the information on population changes and demographic shifts that is required to draw maps meeting federal and state laws. It took an Oregon Supreme Court ruling to give the Legislature the first shot at redistricting. But the justices settled on a crushing timeline that would require a special session of the Legislature on Sept. 20 to ratify the maps in time to have them delivered to the court by Sept. 27.
Lawsuit Filed Against Efforts To Unionize the Legislature
A lawsuit filed in Oregon Appellate Court last week is challenging the efforts of staff within Oregon’s Legislature to unionize. Oregon Public Broadcasting reports the Freedom Foundation — a group that combats public sector unions in Oregon, Washington and California is seeking judicial review of the state Employment Relations Board’s ruling that cleared the way for legislative staff to vote to unionize in late May.
Jason Dudash, Oregon director of the Freedom Foundation, said he believes the idea of a union is “fundamentally incompatible” with the work of the Legislature. The group argues that the bargaining unit representing legislative assistants is in conflict with the state law dividing power between Oregon’s three branches of government. The argument is nearly identical to one made by the Oregon Legislature itself last December when it objected to unionization efforts organized by staffer.
Private Vendor HIred to Handle Backlog of Emergency Rental Assistance
Oregon is dealing with a backlog of 25-thousand applications for emergency rental assistance. Oregon Housing and Community Services says software that’s used to process the applications doesn’t work well and it’s causing delays. A private vendor has been hired to have more than 60 people speed up the process. They’ll handle 85 hundred of the claims. Renters in Oregon who have applied for emergency rental assistance can’t be evicted for non-payment until the end of September.
The Deadline to Sign Up for Health Insurance is August 15th
If you don’t qualify for Oregon Health Plan (OHP) and you don’t have insurance through your work, you can sign up for an individual or family plan at the Oregon Marketplace. The deadline for 2021 coverage is Aug. 15.
To learn more, visit OregonHealthCare.gov or call 855-268-3767 (toll-free) to find free, local help.