Rogue Valley News, Friday 8/20 – Gold Hill Murder Suspect Arrested, Roseburg Covid Patient Dies Waiting For ICU Bed, West Nile Virus Detected in Mosquitos Near Eagle Point

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

Friday, August 20, 2021

Rogue Valley Weather 

Air Quality Alert

Today– Widespread haze. Mostly cloudy through mid morning, then gradual clearing, with a high near 83. Light north northwest wind.

Saturday– Widespread haze before 11am. Partly sunny, then gradually becoming sunny, with a high near 84. Calm wind becoming north northwest around 5 mph in the afternoon.

Sunday– Sunny, with a high near 86. Light northwest wind.

Monday– Sunny, with a high near 88.

Tuesday– Sunny, with a high near 90.

Gold Hill Murder Suspect Arrested

Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) detectives are investigating a homicide that occurred early this morning in Gold Hill, Ore. The 18-year-old male suspect is in custody.

At around 3:54 a.m. Thursday, Emergency Communications of Southern Oregon (ECSO) dispatch received a report of gunshots, screaming, and subjects fleeing the scene on the 500 block of Gustaf St. in Gold Hill. JCSO deputies arrived to find the victim not conscious or breathing and Jackson County Fire District Three (JCFD3) rendered aid until Mercy Flights medical personnel arrived. Medford Police Department (MPD) assisted at the scene.

At around 4:17 a.m. ECSO dispatch received a report of the suspect’s location and he was quickly detained without incident. The shooting suspect, Wiley River Foxx, 18, of Gold Hill has been lodged at the Jackson County jail on a charge of second-degree Murder. At 4:20 a.m. the victim, Thomas James Watters, 24, of Gold Hill, was pronounced dead at the scene with multiple gunshot wounds.

Jackson County Major Assault and Death Investigation Unit (MADIU) is assisting with the case. MADIU consists of detectives from Oregon State Police (OSP), JCSO, MPD, Jackson County District Attorney’s office, and other local agencies.

JCSO Case # 21-4397 — Further information will be released from the JC DA’s office. Jackson Co. Sheriff’s Office

Roseburg Covid Patient Dies Waiting For ICU Bed

A COVID-19 patient in Roseburg died Wednesday while reportedly waiting for an intensive care unit (ICU) bed at a hospital. 

Cases in the state have been spiking, raising concerns among people in the area, as Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg is the only hospital for about 70 miles. The medical center said the man was in the emergency department and the ICU was full of other COVID-19 patients.

“Our concern is that more people are entering the hospital than leaving the hospital,” Dr. Bob Dannenhoffer, Douglas County public health officer, said Thursday. “And unfortunately, one of the most common ways people are leaving the hospital is to die. We had four deaths today. Which freed up four beds but that is not the way we want to make space in the hospital.”

Talking about the death of the patient in the emergency department, the medical center said: “This is very real to our physicians, clinicians, housekeepers, and each member of our Mercy family. Today, we paused, we reset and we tried to move forward mentally and physically for our own well-being and serving our most vulnerable, sick patients within our four walls. We need your help, grace and kindness.”

The identity of the patient who died Wednesday has not been revealed by officials.

The latest incident comes as Oregon public health officials issued warning of dire consequences as unvaccinated people with the infection flooded emergency rooms, leading to maxed-out ICU beds in the southern part of the state. 

“Right now, ambulances are transporting more people in respiratory distress, but they have to wait longer to get patients into emergency departments because those beds are full,” Director Patrick Allen of the Oregon Health Authority at a briefing Thursday morning. “Patients are spending days in emergency departments because critical care beds are not available.”

A daily record of 2,971 coronavirus cases was reported Thursday by the Oregon Health Authority. The surge in cases has been driven by the delta variant, prompting more action from officials. Gov. Kate Brown announced all educators and healthcare workers must be vaccinated as soon as possible. More than 200 COVID-19 patients are currently admitted in Oregon intensive-care units, resulting in the state’s hospital and ICU beds being more than 93 percent full.

As of Wednesday, the U.S. reported 5,742 deaths, nearly double the total from two weeks earlier. The daily cases on Wednesday were close to the 150,000 mark.

West Nile Virus Detected in Mosquitos Near Eagle Point

West Nile virus has been detected in mosquitoes collected southeast of Eagle Point on August 11, 2021. It is the second time this year that West Nile virus has been found in Jackson County, with the previous detection occurring west of White City on August 4th.

The mosquitoes were collected by the Jackson County Vector Control District as part of their routine monitoring program and tested at Oregon State University’s Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.Jackson County residents are advised to take precautions against mosquitoes since West Nile virus is spread to humans through the bites of
infected mosquitoes.

People should consult their health care providers if they experience any flu-like symptoms. Health care providers can contact the Jackson County Health Department for information on West Nile virus testing.
The Jackson County Vector Control District suggests the following steps to protect against mosquitoes:
Eliminate or treat sources of standing water around your home where mosquitoes can
breed like birdbaths, ornamental ponds, buckets, and tires.
• Avoid outdoor activities at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
• Use repellants containing DEET, oil of lemon/eucalyptus, or Picardin. Always follow
the label directions.
• Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants in mosquito-infested areas.
• Make sure screen doors and windows are in good condition and fit tightly.

White City Teenager Arrested for Numerous Sex Crimes

The Pacific Northwest Violent Offender Task Force (PNVOTF) arrested a White City man Thursday morning at his place of employment. Diego Noel Santillan, 18, of White City, Ore. is lodged at the Jackson County jail on numerous sex crimes, and detectives believe more victims have yet to come forward. 

On January 5, 2021, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) deputies responded to a report of a sexual assault in the White City area. After the initial report, JCSO detectives identified several other victims. Upon further investigation it was determined that there was probable cause to arrest Santillan for numerous sex crimes including rape, sex abuse, and sodomy. Bail is set at $1 million. 

Based on information gathered in the investigations, detectives believe Santillan may have other victims. Anyone with information can call (541) 774-6800 and reference case #21-0080.

PNVOTF includes personnel from the United States Marshals Service, JCSO, and Central Point Police Department. PNVOTF specializes in locating and arresting fugitives wanted for offenses including, but not limited to, murder, assault, sex crimes, failure to register as a sex offender, firearm violations, and probation violations. JCSO Case #21-0080 — Jackson Co. Sheriff’s Office

Missing Grants Pass Woman Found Safe

The Grants Pass Department of Public Safety received word that Hailey Blackwell was located and returned home safely today. We would like to thank the community for their assistance with the search for Hailey.

DEQ Extends Air Quality Alert

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality extended an air quality advisory Thursday for Jackson, Klamath and Deschutes counties due to smoke from fires in the Oregon Cascades and Southern Washington.

DEQ expects smoke levels to fluctuate between moderate and unhealthy in these areas through at least Friday afternoon.

Smoke levels can change rapidly depending on weather. Check current conditions on the Oregon Smoke Information Blog, DEQ’s Air Quality Index, or by downloading the free OregonAIR app on your smartphone.

Smoke can irritate the eyes and lungs and worsen some medical conditions. People most at risk include infants and young children, people with heart or lung disease, older adults and pregnant women. Air Quality Alert

Oregon reports 2,971 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 19 new deaths

There are 19 new COVID-19 related death in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll at 2,994. The Oregon Health Authority reported 2,971 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 250,835 – as of today, more than a quarter-million Oregonians have contracted COVID-19.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (14), Benton (14), Clackamas (269), Clatsop (26), Columbia (25), Coos (38), Crook (12), Curry (34), Deschutes (171), Douglas (238), Gilliam (4), Grant (9), Harney (4), Hood River (11), Jackson (345), Jefferson (15), Josephine (188), Klamath (53), Lake (1), Lane (319), Lincoln (57), Linn (82), Malheur (23), Marion (218), Morrow (22), Multnomah (225), Polk (67), Sherman (5), Tillamook (44), Umatilla (70), Union (64), Wallowa (16), Wasco (17), Washington (207) and Yamhill (64).

Josephine County announces deaths of COVID-19 patients

Six Josephine County individuals have died from complications relating to COVID-19 infections.

A 65-year-old man tested positive for COVID-19 Aug. 4 and died Aug. 18 at Asante Three Rivers Medical Center in Grants Pass. He had underlying conditions. He had not been vaccinated for COVID-19.

A 64-year-old woman tested positive for COVID-19 Aug. 18 and died Aug. 18 at Asante Three Rivers Medical Center in Grants Pass. She had underlying conditions. She had not been vaccinated for COVID-19.

A 62-year-old woman tested positive for COVID-19 Aug. 19 and died Aug. 19 at Asante Three Rivers Medical Center in Grants Pass. She had underlying conditions. She had not been vaccinated for COVID-19.

An 81-year-old man tested positive for COVID-19 Aug. 12 and died Aug. 17 at a long-term care facility in Grants Pass. He had underlying conditions. He had not been vaccinated for COVID-19.

A 92-year-old man tested positive for COVID-19 Aug. 3 and died Aug. 19 at his home. He had underlying conditions. He had been vaccinated for COVID-19.

A 100-year-old man tested positive for COVID-19 July 31 and died Aug. 16 at his home. He had underlying conditions. He had been vaccinated for COVID-19.

Josephine County now has a total of 104 COVID-19-related deaths. Of those patients, 103 died from complications relating to COVID-19 infections. Of the 104 COVID-19 patients who died, 97 were unvaccinated.

OHA releases new pediatric dashboard 

Today, OHA published a new dashboard report of pediatric COVID-19 case data in Oregon. This dashboard replaces the previous report and will be published weekly on Thursdays with the most recent full week’s data. Here are some key findings:

  • There have been 31,394 confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 among people under 18 years old (12.7% of the total cases).
  • As with COVID-19 cases overall, weekly COVID-19 pediatric cases have increased dramatically since July 2021.
  • Pediatric case rates are highest among some communities of color and Tribal communities: people who identify as Pacific Islander, American Indian/Alaska Native, Black or Hispanic.
  • The report indicates that while pediatric case counts have increased, severe outcomes among pediatric patients are rare:
    • 0.9% of pediatric patients have been hospitalized at some point during their COVID-19 illness.
    • There have been two reported deaths with COVID-19 among people under 18 years.

Governor Kate Brown’s office and Oregon Health Authority hold News Conference 

COVID-19 hospitalizations

The number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 across Oregon is 845, which is five fewer than yesterday. There are 226 COVID-19 patients in intensive care unit (ICU) beds, which are two more than yesterday.

As of this morning, there are 41 available adult ICU beds out of 667 total (6% availability) and 310 available adult non-ICU beds out of 4,182 (7% availability).

8/19/2021StatewideRegion 1 Region 2Region 3Region 5Region 6Region 7Region 9
Adult ICU beds % available41 (6%)6%2%15%2%0%5%12%
Adult non-ICU beds % available310 (7%)4%4%14%7%18%11%39%

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.

More than 2,900 Oregonians have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Nearly all of them, 92%, have had underlying conditions.

Here are the top 10 deadliest conditions, according to the Oregon Health Authority:

  • Cardiovascular: 51% of deaths.
  • Neurological conditions*: 32%.
  • Other chronic illnesses: 29%
  • Diabetes: 28%
  • Chronic lung disease: 23%
  • Kidney disease: 21%
  • Obesity: 14%
  • Former smoker: 13%
  • Immunocompromised condition: 8%
  • Liver disease: 4%
  • Current smoker: 3%

*Neurological conditions include cerebral palsy, stroke, chronic mental illness, intellectual disabilities, multiple sclerosis, seizure disorders and Parkinson’s disease, among others.

The total of percentages exceeds 100% because some individuals may have had more than one underlying condition. The median length of illness for those who have died is 14 days.

Of those who have died as of the week of Aug. 8:

  • 1,458 were age 80 or older.
  • 704 were age 70-79.
  • 456 were age 60-69.
  • 206 were age 50-59.
  • 81 were 40-49. Just under a quarter of those have occurred since May. 
  • 29 were 30-39. About a third of those have occurred since May.
  • 15 were 29 or younger. More than half of those have occurred since May. 

Yesterday, seasonal temperatures and moderate humidity with gusty winds in the cascade gaps. Light scattered
precipitation in western Washington, northwest Oregon and far northeast Washington overnight with good humidity
recoveries across the region. Moderate lightning in far northeast Washington. Light initial attack with low to moderate growth on existing large fires.

An upper trough moving into the region from the Pacific will bring showers and wet thundershowers to sections of the Washington Cascades, eastern Washington, and northeastern Oregon today and Saturday. Showers could be heavy at times over northeastern Washington.

Elsewhere expect increasing clouds and cooler temperatures with some drizzle possible in western Oregon. Conditions will gradually clear on Sunday and Monday with increasing westerly winds. Temperatures will be below average through the weekend.

Cooler and wetter weather has dropped fire danger over much of the geographic area. More showers and continued cool temperatures will add to the moderating effect through the weekend. Thunderstorms over sections of the Washington Cascades, eastern Washington, and northeastern Oregon will create some fire starts but the cooler and wetter environment is not ripe for rapid growth of new starts into large fires.

Crews worked overnight to increase and secure containment lines on the Patton Meadow Fire, while rising humidity complicated operations to burn out fuels in the area around Patton Meadow. The rind along the edge of containment lines in several areas was increased from 50 feet up to 150 feet, while crews checked for hotspots to prevent flare ups in the interior of the fire.

The Rough Patch Complex and Jack Fire are being managed under a full suppression strategy using containment and confinement tactics to minimize fire spread to prevent loss of valuable resource. Leaders’ intent is to not allow the fire to progress to the west and to protect private structures by using the PACE model – Primary, Alternate, Contingency and Emergency control Lines and to keep the fires as small as possible while working toward full containment.

On the Bull Complex Fire crews will utilize an Unmanned Air craft System (UAS) or drone, to perform reconnaissance and gather information on the location of the fire and potential anchor points for burn operations. A spike camp will be setup for firefighters near the City of Detroit. A spike camp is a temporary camp that is set up closer to the fire to decrease travel time to and from the fire. This increases productivity and decreases risk of accidents as firefighters travel along mountain roads early in the morning or late in the evening.

The limited resources available to the Middle Fork Complex are being utilized where they will be most effective in providing for life-safety and protection of communities; shifting to priority areas as needed.

Kwis Fire: The remaining crews and equipment on Kwis continue to mop-up and complete alternate fire lines. Hazard trees that could fall and compromise fire lines by carrying fire into unburned areas are being removed. Crews are expecting similar fire behavior to what occurred yesterday with unburned islands of vegetation naturally consuming well within the fire perimeter and producing smoke, but with no increase to the size of the fire perimeter. Please continue to respect the closure area as there are still hazards in the area, as well as fire personnel and equipment.

Gales and Ninemile Fires: The strategy for the Gales and Ninemile fires involves connecting roads and ridgetops to serve as containment line. For those containment lines to be effective, depth needs to be added. This is accomplished by burning ground vegetation between the edge of the fire line and the advancing fire. Burnout operations to strengthen the fire line down into the Portland Creek drainage have progressed well and firefighters, supported with aviation assets, continue to work along the edge to ensure the fire stays within containment lines.

After burning for 39 days, the Bootleg Fire is now under the full containment of fire crews. The determination Sunday night marked the likely end of growth on Oregon’s third-largest wildfire since 1900, which burned over more than 400,000 acres of national forest and grazing allotments in Klamath and Lake counties.

Here are links to be able to see updated info on the larger fires in Oregon:

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:

Governor Brown Sends National Guard to Help Hospitals with Covid Patients

Oregon officials have reported 93 percent of local hospital beds for adults, and 90 percent of all intensive care unit beds, are full, due to Oregon’s increase in COVID-19 infections.

Before August, Oregon’s record for hospitalizations was 622 in November 2020, during a winter Covid surge when vaccines were still unavailable. However, 838 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, surpassing the previous record set the day before.

The Oregon Health Authority said, on Tuesday, that only 66 ICU beds and 275 adult non-ICU beds remain available throughout the state.

Due to the more transmissible delta variant that is rapidly spreading in southern Oregon where vaccination rates are low, a new daily record was also set with 2,941 new cases.

“If you are healthy today, you may not think this impacts you. But when our hospitals are full, all Oregonians are at risk,” tweeted Governor Kate Brown on Tuesday.

Brown announced measures during the past month aimed at decreasing cases and hospitalizations and accelerating vaccinations, including requiring healthcare workers and state employees to be vaccinated.

Last Friday, a statewide indoor mask mandate was reimplemented, covering everyone in Oregon above 5-years old, regardless of their vaccination status.

Last month, Brown confirmed that masks must be worn in K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status, but some education leaders pushed back.

On Tuesday, she urged educators to follow her mask mandate. “I have heard much about personal freedom when it comes to masks at school board meetings and on social media. I have not heard as much about personal responsibility,” Brown wrote in a letter.

She also announced that she is sending up to 1,500 National Guard troops to 20 hospitals to assist healthcare workers.

Without health and safety interventions, coronavirus hospitalizations would far exceed the state’s health system capacity in the next several weeks, according to state health officials.

On Monday, Oregon’s congressional delegation asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency for assistance in dealing with the increase in Covid cases and hospitalizations.

Oregon Refugee Resettlement Programs Prepare For Fleeing Afghans

Governor Kate Brown said Oregon welcomes any refugees from Afghanistan and is ready to help them. Catholic Charities of Oregon expects there could be hundreds of people with special immigrant visas coming here over the next several months.

This week, many Oregon state legislators and Governor Brown offered their support and welcome to refugees and called on the Biden administration to lift refugee admission caps and take emergency actions to save lives. The refugee crisis in Afghanistan is growing as the Taliban take over the country. 

In a statement, Brown said: “It’s critical that the United States take steps to evacuate as many people in danger from Afghanistan as quickly as possible, including expediting the visa approval process, particularly for those Afghans and their families who have risked their lives in service of this country.”

Catholic Charities of Oregon is one of several refugee resettlement agencies here. The visas allow people who are targeted because of their work for the U.S. to relocate here.

“We have to find them safe and secure housing, help the kids get enrolled in school, make sure their medical needs are being met, employment services,” Matthew Westerbeck, the Director of Refugee Services for Catholic Charities of Oregon, said. “This is a way for them to come to the United States, be safe, rebuild their lives, pursue their dreams and have that opportunity after working alongside us overseas.”

Alzubidi went through that process and was at one point a case manager himself. He said it’s like starting over. “It’s not an easy process,” he said. “It needs patience, time and someone who can work with you to guide you on the right path.”

You can find more about services at the following links:

• Catholic Charities of Oregon

• Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon

• Lutheran Community Services

President Biden is nominating an Oregonian to become director of the National Park
Service.  Biden announced yesterday he intends to nominate Chuck Sams, making him
the first Native American to be nominated to the job.  Sams has worked in state and
tribal governments as well as the non-profit natural resource and conservation
management fields over 25 years.  He’s currently a member of the Northwest Power
and Conservation Council.  He’s the former director of the Confederated Tribes of the
Umatilla Indian Reservation.  His nomination needs to be approved by the U.S. Senate.

Oregon Department of Education Partners With Google Offering Training and Support Program for Oregon Teachers

The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) announced a new collaboration with Google to provide free professional training and certifications to Oregon public school teachers who successfully apply for the program.

The partnership will offer courses for Google for Education Level 1 Certification, which equips teachers with skills and tools to manage coursework, inspire learning and boost collaboration to improve student outcomes further using Google’s digital tools.

“We’re excited to welcome back all Oregon students this fall, and digital learning is now an even larger part of our education system,” said ODE Digital Innovations Lead Carla Wade. “At no cost to teachers, this training can increase their effectiveness at using online tools in the classroom, improving learning outcomes and saving time.” 

The Google for Education training program is intended for teachers across Oregon, especially those in smaller districts with fewer professional development and training opportunities. Google for Education Level 1 Certification seeks to help teachers utilize the latest classroom management platforms and show how those tools can be used to create even more meaningful learning experiences for students.

“I use all the different collaboration and communication components of Google Workspace for Education in my daily work with colleagues,” said Portland Public Schools Technology Integration Specialist Melissa Lim, who has attained Google for Education Level 1 Certification. “The training offers a great opportunity for professional development, and helps teachers integrate the technology in our classrooms.”   

Level 1 Certification areas of study include:

  • Latest features of Google Classroom and all applicable tools from Google Workspace
  • Workflow efficiency and the creation of paperless classrooms
  • Growing data and feedback collection from students and colleagues
  • Connecting and collaborating with educators around the globe  
  • Building students’ digital literacy

“Teachers in Oregon and around the country have excelled in the face of incredible challenges this last year,” said Regional Head of Data Center Public Affairs in Oregon Kate Franko. “We hope this training opportunity provides teachers with new tools that can make their work easier and even more impactful.”

Publicly employed K-12 teachers interested in participating can apply by September 15, 2021. Teachers will be asked to complete a brief assessment and ODE will select final candidates to participate in the program, which teachers can complete based on their own schedules.

More information and details on the application process can be found online.

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