Rogue Valley News, Monday 8/23 – National Guard Arrives In Southern Oregon To Help Hospitals; Medford Walmart Closes Sunday And Monday To Sanitize The Building

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

Monday, August 23, 2021

Rogue Valley Weather 

Air Quality Alert

Today– Areas of smoke. Sunny, with a high near 85. Calm wind becoming north around 5 mph in the afternoon.

Tuesday– Widespread smoke, mainly after 2pm. Sunny, with a high near 83. Calm wind becoming north around 6 mph in the afternoon.
Wednesday– Mostly sunny, with a high near 84. Calm wind becoming west northwest 5 to 7 mph in the afternoon.
Thursday– Sunny, with a high near 86.
Friday– Sunny, with a high near 87.

Oregon is experiencing an increase in COVID-19 breakthrough cases.  Those are people who were vaccinated but still develop COVID-19.  During the first two weeks of August, there were nearly three-thousand breakthrough cases.  They make up 14-percent of all cases.  Officials say 86-percent of cases in Oregon are in unvaccinated people.  Only six-percent of the breakthrough patients go to the hospital, and less than one-percent of them have died.

National Guard Arrives In Southern Oregon To Help Hospitals

National Guard soldiers will provide support tasks, such as cleaning and traffic control, to Asante and Providence hospitals in Medford, Ashland, and Grants Pass. They’re among several teams that were also deployed to Roseburg and Bend.

150 soldiers will be assigned nonclinical support functions in Jackson and Josephine counties. The soldiers will go through Asante orientation over the weekend and begin their duties on Monday.

They’ll be fairly evenly split between our facilities in Jackson and Josephine counties, serving in areas such as Nutrition Services, Materials Management, Environmental Services, Security and the COVID hotline. They are also needed at Asante’s drive-thru test COVID-19 testing sites, which are seeing record volumes. The Medford location is conducting an average of 600 tests a day and the Grants Pass site, 280 a day. Wait times can be up to two hours, and recent conflicts have required staff to call security.

Many of the soldiers come from Southern Oregon, where they hold other local jobs when not deployed. The guard’s Asante deployment runs through September, but could be extended to the end of the year if the surge continues. Asante also asked the state for clinical personnel support and is awaiting a decision on that request.

Asante administrator Holly Nickerson opened the orientation with an emotional speech about how badly their help is needed.

“We’ve come to the place as an organization where we’re no longer going to be able to withhold our mission and vision to the organization, our mission and vision to the community, without support with you guys,” Nickerson said. “And I hope that resonates with you. I hope you know we wouldn’t call you in unless we truly needed you.”

Nickerson said Asante’s hospital system is experiencing a severe staff shortage amid a major surge in coronavirus patients who need critical care. Asante has 700 open positions, so it’s missing 12 percent of its staff.

Asante has had to double up patients in ICU rooms, and cancelled over 400 important surgeries.

“We have a gentlement who’s staying in a hotel who’s had his open heart surgery canceled four times,” Nickerson said. “Can you imagine needing open heart surgery and thinking every day when you wake up you’re going to get that surgery you need and have it canceled?”

Nickerson said the Asante Three Rivers Medical Center in Grants Pass has a 9-bed critical care unit that’s filled with 17 critical care patients, with two patients sharing rooms. There are also patients being treated in hallways.

Most of the coronavirus patients receiving critical care in Jackson and Josephine counties never got the coronavirus vaccine. Health workers are pleading with people to wear face masks, practice social distancing and get the coronavirus vaccine.

The National Guard soldiers are part of 1-186 Infantry Battalion based in Ashland and Medford, so many of them live in the region. They’re all trained for combat.

“Most of my career has been spent more focused on the federal business with Iraq and Afghanistan,” Battalion X-O Rob Ranit said at the orientation. “This is kind of new to me. This is kind of an interesting role. Never thought I’d be doing it.”

National Guard soldiers are often deployed to major disasters such as wildfires. In February, soldiers from this battalion were deployed to the Expo Center in Medford where they helped health workers vaccinate people.

Asante and Providence made the initial request for staffing help through Jackson County, which sent the request to the Oregon Office of Emergency Management (OEM). The county also requested a 300-bed field hospital and additional medical staff.

OEM sent a request for medical staff to other states, but a spokesman with the agency says officials “have low confidence other states will have resources available as other similar state requests have gone unfulfilled.”

Medford Walmart Closes Sunday And Monday To Sanitize The Building

The Walmart in Medford located at 1360 Center Drive will be closed on Sunday, August 22nd and Monday, August 23rd, as part of a company-initiated program to allow third-party cleaning crews time to thoroughly clean and sanitize the building.

The location will remain closed until Tuesday, August 24th, at 6 in the morning. Officials with the store say they are working to keep the store safe as covid cases surge in Jackson County. 

Walmart released an official statement: 

As an essential business and a member of the Medford, OR community, we understand the role we play in providing our customers with food, medicine and other essential items, especially at this time.

As you know, several areas across the country have begun seeing a renewed increase in positive COVID-19 cases, and we want to assist health officials working against the pandemic. In support of this effort, we have chosen to temporarily close our Medford, OR store location at 1360 Center Drive, today at 2 p.m. as part of a company-initiated program. This will allow extra time for a third-party specialist to further sanitize the store and will also give our associates additional time to restock shelves and prepare the store to once again serve the community. We plan to reopen the store to customers at 6 a.m. on Aug. 24.

Everything we’re doing is for the well-being of our associates and the thousands of customers we serve daily, and in consideration of guidance by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and health experts. Given the rise in positive cases through the Delta variant, we will follow CDC guidance, which includes fully vaccinated people wearing masks in public indoor settings in counties with substantial or high transmission.

In these counties and where there are state or local mask mandates, associates will be required to wear masks inside our facilities, including stores, clubs, distribution centers and fulfillment centers. You can find the county-by-county breakdown here. The CDC updates its data on transmission rates weekly, so the guidance on mask usage is likely tochange over time in different locations.

When the store reopens on Tuesday, we will continue conducting associate health assessments, and all unvaccinated associates must still wear face coverings.

In addition to offering COVID-19 vaccines to customers through walk-in or online appointments, we’re also offering easy access to vaccines for associates. Associates can receive their vaccinations at their home store pharmacy, on or off the clock.

Should associates choose to schedule their vaccinations elsewhere, we will provide two hours of paid leave. Associates who receive the vaccine are given a $150 bonus for doing so and up to three days paid leave, should they experience an adverse reaction to the vaccine.

These protocols and convenient access to vaccinations are in addition to the extensive measures we’ve put in place during the pandemic to help protect our associates and customers. We will continue working closely with elected and local health officials, adjusting how we serve the community while also keeping the health and safety of our customers and associates in mind.

Thank you.

Arrest Made in US Bank Robbery in Central Point

The Central Point Police Department announced that it has arrested 33-year-old Jeremy Justin Hetrick after he robbed a U.S. Bank in central point and took off on foot.


The incident happened at approximately 10:26 a.m.

The department responded to the robbery on 100 block of East Pine Street.

In a press release, the department noted that Hetrick acted alone, passing a note to the teller which said that he had a weapon, although no weapon was seen. After receiving an undisclosed amount of cash, he fled on foot.

“Dispatch was able to relay a suspect description and direction of travel to the responding officers,” the press release read. “Officers saturated the area and were able to locate a male matching the description several blocks away. The male fled on foot but was later located hiding on private property. The male was taken into custody without incident.”

The department noted that a canine was used to recover evidence.

“Central Point Police K9 “Gus” was called in to assist in locating evidence potentially discarded over the multiple blocks traveled by the suspect. K9 “Gus” and his handler, Officer Aplin, were able to recover several articles of clothing discarded by the suspect, as well as all the cash taken from the bank,” the press release read.

Oregon reports 2,187 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 19 new deaths

There are 19 new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 3,012. The Oregon Health Authority reported 2,187 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 252,977.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (7), Benton (19), Clackamas (74), Clatsop (35), Columbia (32), Coos (47), Crook (13), Curry (28), Deschutes (147), Douglas (168), Gilliam (2), Grant (4), Harney (19), Hood River (12), Jackson (148), Jefferson (13), Josephine (125), Klamath (40), Lane (240), Lincoln (32), Linn (108), Malheur (15), Marion (164), Morrow (12), Multnomah (235), Polk (34), Sherman (2), Tillamook (36), Umatilla (94), Union (17), Wallowa (5), Wasco (39), Washington (176), Yamhill (45).

“Today, we mark another sad milestone in the pandemic: Our 3,000th COVID-19 related death,” said OHA Director Patrick Allen.

“We grieve for every person lost to the virus. I offer my deepest sympathies to every family who has mourned a parent, sibling or child who has died from the disease. Every death serves as a sobering reminder of the devastating personal impact COVID-19 has on all of us. Our sadness is deepened by the realization that these deaths are increasingly preventable. We know that the available vaccines provide a reliable protective shield against serious illness and death from COVID-19. These vaccines are saving lives every day and I urge every Oregonian who has not yet received the vaccine to please make a plan vaccinated.”

Oregon’s 3,002nd COVID-19 associated death is a 62-year-old woman from Josephine County who tested positive on Aug. 19 and died on Aug. 19 at Asante Three Rivers Medical Center. Presence of underlying conditions is being confirmed.

Oregon’s 3,003rd COVID-19 associated death is an 81-year-old man from Josephine County who tested positive on Aug. 12 and died on Aug. 19 at his residence. He had underlying conditions.

Oregon’s 3,004th COVID-19 associated death is a 64-year-old woman from Josephine County who tested positive on Aug. 8 and died on Aug. 18 at Asante Three Rivers Medical Center. Presence of underlying conditions is being confirmed.

Oregon’s 3,005th COVID-19 associated death is a 95-year-old man from Josephine County who tested positive on Aug. 3 and died on Aug. 19 at his residence. He had underlying conditions.

Oregon’s 3,006th COVID-19 associated death is a 65-year-old man from Josephine County who tested positive on Aug. 4 and died on Aug. 18 at Asante Three Rivers Medical Center. He had no underlying conditions.

Oregon’s 3,007th COVID-19 associated death is a 100-year-old man from Josephine County who tested positive on July 31 and died on Aug. 16 at his residence. He had underlying conditions.

https://public.tableau.com/app/profile/oregon.health.authority.covid.19

US regulators gave full approval to Pfizer COVID Vaccine this morning

The U.S. gave full approval to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, a milestone that may help lift public confidence in the shots as the nation battles the most contagious coronavirus mutant yet.

The vaccine made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech now carries the strongest endorsement from the Food and Drug Administration, which has never before had so much evidence to judge a shot’s safety. More than 200 million Pfizer doses already have been administered in the U.S, and hundreds of millions more worldwide, since emergency use began in December.

Firefighters Make More Progress On Wildfires Blazes Across Oregon

Firefighters continue to make progress on encircling several wildfires or groups of blazes that have been burning around the state in recent weeks. But fire bosses say at least some of the blazes could continue to burn until autumn rains or winter snows.

The state of Oregon’s wildfires dashboard also shows signs of progress, with 40 active fires at present, compared to over 100 earlier this month, though the ones still actively burning continue to send smoke streaming into Central Oregon and other areas.

Fire activity picked up yesterday afternoon as smoke and clouds cleared in the Cascades where existing fires reported moderate growth. Below seasonal temperatures across most of the region yesterday with gusty winds in the Cascade Gaps. Cloud cover over the west side north of the Umpqua divide brought light scattered precipitation. There were good overnight humidity recoveries across the region. No lightning was observed in the geographic area.

An upper-level trough will dominate the weather through mid-week, keeping temperatures mainly on the cool side of
normal. The west side will see morning clouds through this period with clearer skies east of the Cascades. General winds will be lighter, but still a little breezy through Cascade gaps each afternoon.

Passing shortwave disturbances will periodically increase cloud cover and could generate some sprinkles, but no significant precipitation or lightning is expected through mid-week.

A system passing through Thursday could boost winds as well as shower chances, the latter primarily for northern Washington. The weekend could see some warmer weather, but models are still in disagreement about details.

Cooler temperatures and higher relative humidity along with diminished fire danger will combine to limit the potential for new significant fires for the next several days. Good humidity recoveries across the region overnight.

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:

https://keeporegongreen.org/current-conditions/

Protesters Clash In Portland

Opposing rallies that drew hundreds of people in Portland, Oregon, sparked clashes on Sunday.

The two groups had gathered in different parts of the city after a far-right group changed the location of its event.

The right-wing rally drew about 100 people in a parking lot of a former Kmart store and clashes began as it wound down, KOIN-TV reported. A van tried to drive into the parking lot, but crashed and the driver ran away. Demonstrators then began igniting fireworks and similar devices. It was not immediately clear whether anyone suffered serious injuries.

Later, shots were fired near demonstrators downtown. Dustin Brandon Ferreira, 37, a left-wing activist, told The Oregonian/OregonLive he was with others Sunday evening when a man used a slur against a Black man in the group and then fired multiple rounds in their direction.

Portland police said the man was arrested. No one was injured.

Demonstrations associated with anti-fascists had earlier drawn more than 200 people downtown.

The plans for the opposing demonstrations had prompted Portland police to call in all available police personnel.

Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell said Friday that despite expecting clashes, police will not necessarily be standing in between opposing groups.

Lovell and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler did not name the groups expected to gather that “may choose to confront one another.”

Oregon State Police, the sheriff’s office and other local partners were also helping address the situation.

Similar events in Portland between groups with differing political ideations or affiliations have resulted in violent clashes. Sunday’s event falls on the one-year anniversary of a particularly violent political clash in which the opposing groups brawled on the street next to police headquarters for hours.

You Can Help Redraw Oregon’s House and Senate Districts

The Oregon Legislative Information System has made a game to design a new political map of Oregon. The grand prize is political sway in Oregon for the next 10 years.

Normally this once-a-decade resizing of political districts has the legislature drawing maps, the legislature voting on maps and the governor signing off on maps. The public role is in hearings. If all goes well, there is a new political atlas for the next election.

Redistricting hearings start despite no maps, no data and uncertain future  | News | oregoncapitalinsider.com

This year, mapmaking is going pro-am as amateur cartographers can get on the OLIS video game to draw their own political dream maps. They’ll get the same recently arrived, deeply detailed U.S. Census tract information and software program as lawmakers use.

“Oregonians can begin drawing new lines using the gold standard data,” said Shelly Boshart Davis, R-Albany, co-chair of the House Redistricting Committee.

The starting point is https://www.oregonlegislature.gov/redistricting. After creating an account, taking a tutorial, and preparing a lot of patience to deal with the wonky program, mapmaking can begin.

As a template, the current districts with a 37-22 Democratic majority in the House and 18-12 edge in the Senate can be called up for reference. So can the U.S. House map of the delegation’s four Democrats and one Republican.

A few valley curves, a straight-edge county line, following a river path, or running up against a mountain range will be challenging. But with enough effort and time, voila! your own version of the political landscape of Oregon.

The full slate of work includes:

  • Six congressional districts of 710,000 people each
  • 30 Senate Districts of 127,700 people each
  • 60 House Districts of 63,850 people each

The computer will tell you whether your maps meet geographical requirements and demographic goals.

One of the biggest tripping points is Oregon’s requirement that two House districts be completely “nested’ inside each Senate District. So, for example, House Districts 59 and 60 fit completely inside Senate District 30.

There also are federal voting rights laws. Oregon’s state directives say districts must be contiguous, be of equal population, utilize existing geographical or political boundaries, not divide “communities of common interest” and be connected by transportation links.

The full set of does and don’ts, rules, laws, and other mapmaking stuff is on the website.

When done, the map can be submitted to the legislature for consideration. The deadline is Sept. 7 by 5 p.m.

A note of receipt of the map will be sent by email. Whether maps found to have flaws will be noted in time for resubmission is still undecided.

“It depends on how many maps we receive,” said Allison Daniel, a legislative policy and research analyst.

Maps that make the cut by checking all the boxes for size, shape, location, equity, and other items will pop up on the legislature’s redistricting website.

After a whirlwind series of nine public hearings, the committee will deliberate on what plan to bring to the full legislature when it meets in a special session Sept. 20. The hope is the House and Senate can debate and pass the legislation quickly so it can get to Gov. Kate Brown for review.

The Oregon Supreme Court has set a Sept. 27 deadline to receive the maps.

Low Blood Donation Supply Shortage In Oregon

In a news release, Bloodworks Northwest shared that they are experiencing the lowest inventory of blood in more than a decade. The release continues on saying the record low supply and declining donations is forcing Bloodworks to cut back on the amount of blood it can provide to hospitals from the Canadian border to Southern Oregon and all across Western Washington.

“It’s been a hard summer,” said Vicki Finson, the Executive V.P. for Blood Services with Bloodworks Northwest. “We are seeing less donors, less people making appointments, and a much higher cancellation and no show rate. That combined with the inventory that was already fragile has really put us in a desperate situation.”

With less blood being provided to hospitals, the less care patients can receive. For example, a patient with immediate trauma may get blood but others who need care but not as urgently could be delayed.

“It does mean that someone might not be able to get care,” explained Finson. “A patient who maybe had surgery and their hemoglobin is low and they need a transfusion or a chemotherapy patient who needs to get a transfusion, they might be able to wait in the hospital and get it the next day. Certainly, that is not the best of care, but it does allow us to try and use a very fragile inventory.”

More donations can solve the problem, but there is no time to waste. Bloodworks requires donors to make an appointment. You can do that on their website.

Finson is urging those interested in donating to check all available appointment times. She says it’s possible that some weeks will be filled, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t still a need for blood.

Powerball Adds Monday Drawing

Oregon Lottery logo

Powerball players will soon have the opportunity to start the week with a third chance to win larger, faster-growing jackpots! A new Monday Powerball drawing debuts August 23, 2021 and will join the current lineup of Powerball drawings held every Wednesday and Saturday, at 7:59 p.m. PT. All 48 Powerball lotteries will sell tickets for the Monday night Powerball drawing.

“Adding a third drawing will not change the Powerball game odds or cash prizes, but it will give players another chance to dream big,” said Oregon Lottery Director Barry Pack. “More importantly, more than half of all proceeds from the sale of Powerball tickets sold in Oregon, stay in Oregon, benefiting programs Oregonians value.”

In Oregon, ticket sales from the third weekly drawing will contribute to vital public programs and services including public education, economic development, state parks, Outdoor School, veteran services, and watershed enhancements. Since 1985, Oregon Lottery proceeds have helped contribute more than $13 billion.

Players can watch the new Monday night drawing live online at Powerball.com with a new live stream feature that launched earlier this summer; the Monday drawing will also be broadcast live by participating television stations. 

About Powerball: Powerball tickets are $2 per play. Tickets are sold in 45 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Currently, drawings are broadcast live every Wednesday and Saturday at 7:59 p.m. PT from the Florida Lottery draw studio in Tallahassee and will include the new Monday drawing beginning Monday, August 23. Powerball drawings are also live streamed online at Powerball.com. 

Since the Oregon Lottery began selling tickets on April 25, 1985, it has earned more than 
$13 billion for public education, economic development, state parks, Outdoor School, veteran services, and watershed enhancements. For more information on the Oregon Lottery visit www.oregonlottery.org 

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