Rogue Valley News, Thursday 8/26 – Hundreds of Protesters Gather Outside Asante In Medford To Oppose Vaccine Mandates, E. Coli Outbreak in Jackson County

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, August 26, 2021

Rogue Valley Weather 

Air Quality Alert

Today– Widespread haze. Sunny, with a high near 86. Calm wind becoming north northwest around 5 mph in the afternoon.

Friday– Widespread haze. Sunny, with a high near 87. Calm wind becoming north northwest around 5 mph in the afternoon.

Saturday– Sunny, with a high near 94. Calm wind becoming north northwest around 5 mph in the afternoon.

Sunday– Sunny, with a high near 93.

Monday– Sunny, with a high near 85.

Hundreds of Protesters Gather Outside Asante In Medford To Oppose Vaccine Mandates

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside of Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford on Wednesday, August 25th to take a stand against vaccine requirements for medical professionals, mandated by Oregon Governor Brown earlier this month.

The organizer of the protest Ryan Mallory told reporters that the crowds were estimated to be somewhere between 1,600 to 3,000 people.

Many mask-less people carried signs, some reading, “My body, my choice”, “Stop The Mandate”, and “I am not your lab experiment.” and “Don’t Tread on Me”.

The protest received support from passers-by in the form of honks and cheers, and it did not appear that anyone was opposing the message of the protest.

Some of those in support of the protest did work in the medical field, while a vast majority did not work in health care but were against the Covid-19 vaccine and were protesting against the Governor’s mandate, not the hospital.

E. Coli Outbreak in Jackson County

Now… Jackson County is dealing with an E. coli outbreak.

Fifteen people across Jackson County have been infected with E.coli, including ten people who have been hospitalized. Jackson County Public Health states that some of the hospitalizations include several children.

Health & Human Services

“A couple of children are at OHSU are receiving emergency treatment,” said Dr. Jim Shames. “We need citizens to be aware that serious diarrhea or bloody diarrhea should be reported to their health care provider.”

The most obvious symptoms are extreme diarrhea or bloody diarrhea. If you experience those symptoms, it encourages you to visit your doctor as soon as possible.

It’s unknown where the E-Coli came from and how it’s spread. Jackson County Public Health says they are still trying to figure out where the E.coli outbreak is coming from, but right now they do believe the outbreak to be localized in the county. https://jacksoncountyor.org/hhs/

Glide/Idleyld Park: Telephone Service Outage Affecting 911

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office has been notified by Lumen Technologies (formerly CenturyLink) of a service disruption which is impacting residents in the Glide/Idleyld Park communities. The cause of the outage is under investigation. The service disruption may affect the ability for residents in the area to reach 9-1-1 on a Lumen Technologies (CenturyLink) landline. 

Residents may be able to get through to emergency services on a cellular telephone, if they have service. The Glide Fire Department is not staffed, but has an emergency call box at the front entrance that will connect to the 9-1-1 dispatch center. 

At this time, there is no estimated time of repair. Additional details will be released as they become available. Douglas Co. Sheriff’s Office

Oregon reports 2,777 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 20 new deaths

There are 20 new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 3,086. The Oregon Health Authority reported 2,777 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 263,164.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (9), Benton (21), Clackamas (129), Clatsop (22), Columbia (33), Coos (61), Crook (20), Curry (20), Deschutes (161), Douglas (245), Gilliam (4), Grant (6), Harney (5), Hood River (12), Jackson (614), Jefferson (32), Josephine (109), Klamath (46), Lake (5), Lane (183), Lincoln (36), Linn (94), Malheur (25), Marion (169), Morrow (12), Multnomah (266), Polk (35), Sherman (3), Tillamook (34) Umatilla (68), Union (30), Wallowa (5), Wasco (32), Washington (170), Wheeler (1) and Yamhill (60).

Jackson County saw a new high for daily coronavirus cases on Wednesday, with public health officials reporting 614. The case count easily broke the record 416 cases posted less than two weeks earlier. Hospitalizations also rose on Wednesday over the day prior, reaching 221 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 and 60 patients in an intensive care unit (ICU).

This includes both Jackson and Josephine counties, organized as Oregon’s Hospital Region 5. The county also reported two more deaths attributed to the virus, bringing the county death toll to 192 since the pandemic began. A 69-year-old woman died August 23 at Asante Rogue Regional Medical center, and a 65-year-old man died August 23 at Providence Medford Medical Center. Both had underlying health conditions.

The expanded mask requirement begins Friday, and means that masks will be required in most public outdoor settings where physical distancing is not possible, regardless of vaccination status.

COVID-19 hospitalizations

The number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 across Oregon is 1,080, which is 80 more than yesterday. There are 295 COVID-19 patients in intensive care unit (ICU) beds, which is 12 more than yesterday.

There are 44 available adult ICU beds out of 662 total (7% availability) and 320 available adult non-ICU beds out of 4,256 (8% availability).

availbeds

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.

Note: Please do not visit an emergency department for COVID-19 testing, unless you require emergency care for your symptoms. Emergency departments in Oregon are under significant strain responding to the current surge in COVID-19. You can find a test here.  

If you have a medical condition that doesn’t require emergency care, contact your provider. An urgent care center may also help you get the care you need and will save emergency departments from added strain.  More information about hospital capacity can be found here.

COVID-19 weekly cases, hospitalizations and deaths rise

The Oregon Health Authority’s COVID-19 Weekly Report, released today, shows continued increases in daily cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

OHA reported 14,800 new cases of COVID-19 during the week of Monday, Aug. 15 through Sunday, Aug. 22. That represents a 16% increase over the previous week.

There were 601 new COVID-19 hospitalizations, up from 546 last week. That marked the seventh consecutive week of increases.  There were 87 reported COVID-19 related deaths, up from 46 reported the previous week.

There were 149,836 tests for COVID-19 for the week of Aug. 15 through Aug. 21.  The percentage of positive tests increased to 12.3%, up from 11.8% reported the previous week.

Today’s COVID-19 Weekly Outbreak Report shows 103 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.

Oregon to Contract up to 560 out-of-state Medical Workers

Governor Brown has announced that the state has contracted with two private firms to provide up to 560 nurses and other medical workers to help overwhelmed hospitals.

Oregon will deploy “crisis teams” of hundreds of nurses, respiratory therapists, paramedics and nursing assistants to regions of the state hardest hit by a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations that have stretched hospitals to the limit, Gov. Brown said Wednesday.

The healthcare facilities around the state-particularly those in the hard-hit Central and Southern Oregon will soon get a boost in nurses, paramedics, and other health professionals to help respond to the surge in Covid-19 hospitalizations fuelled by the Delta variant, the announcement on Wednesday said.

According to Brown, the state has finalized a contract with medical staffing company Jogan Health Solutions to deploy hospital crisis teams-a total of up to 500 health care personnel-to Central and Southern Oregon, as well as long-term care facilities.

It has also contracted with AMN Healthcare for at least 60 additional nurse and clinical positions.

The additional personnel will bolster medical staff capacity to help manage hospitalizations that have jumped more than 900 percent since July 9, according to the announcement.

“The deployment of crisis response teams should provide some welcome relief to our hospitals, particularly in Central and Southern Oregon, that are overwhelmed given the recent surge in hospitalizations among mostly unvaccinated individuals,” the Governor added.

FEMA Paramedics Are Helping Overwhelmed Emergency Departments

According to the Oregon Health Authority, paramedics arrived on Sunday and are helping at seven hospitals, in Jackson, Josephine, and Douglas Counties in Southern Oregon and Deschutes and Crook Counties in the central part of the state. They’re helping in hospital emergency departments overwhelmed by the Delta variant of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Oregon fire crews continue to battle blazes across the state, ranging in size and containment. Among these, the state has three fires larger than 15,000 acres, and under 30 percent containment.

The Middle Fork Complex is burning southeast of Eugene near Oakridge. As of Wednesday, the 16,527-acre group of fires was 10 percent contained. Authorities in Lane County have issued evacuation orders for some in the area.

One firefighter battling the Gale Fire, part of the Middle Fork Complex, died when he was struck by a falling tree Monday, the Lane County Sheriff’s Office said. Frumencio Ruiz Carapia, 56, of Medford, was just one of more than 600 firefighters working on the complex.

The Rough Patch Complex is encompassing more than 25,000 acres, and it is only 3 percent contained, according to incident command teams. The complex began in late July because of a lightning strike, and 402 firefighters are currently assigned to the fires.

The Devil’s Knob Complex is also more than 25,000 acres in size, and firefighters have the group 25 percent contained. Officials said the complex began Aug. 3 because of lightning.

The Bull Complex, although smaller, is 7,464 acres and out of control, fire officials said. It is burning about 100 miles southeast of Portland. There are 463 firefighters assigned to the Bull Complex, which investigators said started Aug. 2 from lightning.

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/

Oregon Revenue Forecast-Taxpayers Could Receive $1.9 Billion In Kicker Rebate

The Oregon Revenue Forecast presented to state lawmakers Wednesday indicates the economic outlook remains bright.

Strong household incomes, boosted considerably by federal aid during the pandemic, are the underlying driver. Consumers have no shortage of firepower if they want to and feel safe enough to spend.

The key to the outlook remains translating this firepower into actual consumer spending, particularly in the hard-hit service industries. Firms today are trying to staff up as quickly as possible to meet this increasing demand. The actual number of jobs created this year will be the largest on record in Oregon. The state’s labor market is now expected to regain all of its lost jobs by next summer, or one quarter sooner than in the previous forecast. While these dynamics remain intact, the risks are weighted toward the downside.

Growth in a supply-constrained economy is challenging. Firms are struggling with supply chains and a tight labor market. Wages are rising quickly to attract and retain workers. Prices are increasing as demand continues to outstrip supply. On top of this, the current delta wave of the pandemic complicates the immediate term outlook. What matters most economically are shutdowns. A modest pullback in consumer spending in a few categories will not lead to mass layoffs.

If anything, any slowing in spending today will likely turn into stronger gains in coming quarters.This cycle is different. The current recovery will be faster, more complete, and more inclusive than recent experiences coming out of the tech and housing bubbles. As some of the pandemic-specific challenges fade, the underlying economy is on solid footing due to the strength of corporate and household balance sheets.In September of odd-numbered years, the revenue forecast closes out the biennium than ended on June 30th.

At this time, the Close of Session forecast is calculated by folding any tax law changes made during the legislative session into the May 2021 outlook. This sets the bar for Oregon’s balanced budget requirement and its unique kicker law. Changes to tax law were relatively small in the 2021 session, with a net revenue impact of -$3.6 million to General Fund resources in the 2021-23 budget period.

The September forecast also reveals where revenues landed in the prior budget period. In a typical year, there are few surprises, since tax collections are relatively small during the early summer. This year was different. Due to a delayed tax filing deadline, much uncertainty remained following the May forecast. When the forecast was developed, the peak tax season had just begun.

By the end of the fiscal year, the 2021 tax season turned out to be a very big one. Collections of personal income taxes, corporate income taxes, lottery sales and the new Corporate Activity Tax all surged. Recent withholdings of personal income taxes are up 17% relative to last year. Payments during the tax season were strong as well, led by collections from high-income taxpayers. A $1.9 billion personal income tax kicker credit is slated for tax year 2021.

The median taxpayer can expect to receive a credit of $420, while the average is estimated to be $850. The strong revenue growth seen during the 2019-21 biennium put a cap on a decade of unprecedented expansion in Oregon’s General Fund revenues.

Over the past decade, General Fund revenues have almost doubled from around $12 billion per year to around $24 billion. Over the decade as a whole, kicker payments amounted to $2.6 billion, reducing cumulative General Fund resources by 2.6 percent. Last biennium, kicker payments took away half of the General Fund growth. Looking forward, the current $1.9 billion kicker reduces 2021-23 revenues as well.

Governor Kate Brown issued the following statement today on the state’s revenue forecast:

“Today’s revenue forecast is another sign that Oregon’s economy is healthy, strong, and on the path for a rapid recovery. This is welcome news at a time that Oregonians continue to face immense challenges: from wildfire recovery to extreme drought to our worst surge of cases and hospitalizations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“And we must never lose sight of the fact that, because of historic, structural inequities, the impacts of the pandemic and the natural disasters of the past year and a half have disproportionately impacted Black, Indigenous, Latino, Latina, Latinx, Asian, Pacific Islander, and Tribal communities the hardest.

“My priority will be to continue to address the challenges facing Oregon families, including the disparities resulting from systemic racism, with a particular focus on ensuring our hospitals and health care workers have the resources they need to continue to provide patients with life-saving care.”

Senate President Peter Courtney issued the following statement after the release of the September 2021 quarterly economic and revenue forecast:

“Oregon’s economy remains strong. We have more money to invest in pandemic relief, childcare and housing. We’re still in a crisis. The Legislature will help out Oregonians who’ve hurt the most. I look forward to doing this as fast as we can.”

Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek issued the following statement today after the release of the latest quarterly state economic and revenue forecast:

“The stable outlook of today’s revenue forecast is welcome news coming off a legislative session where we invested strongly in programs to help Oregonians impacted by the pandemic, wildfires, the housing crisis and other challenges. We need to maintain this momentum to build a better future for everyone.

“Today is also a reminder that our economic recovery is linked to our ability to control the virus. Our hospital systems are on the verge of collapse in this moment. With 1,000 Oregonians hospitalized due to COVID-19, there is still too much suffering across the state. We will maintain our economic recovery if we all commit to protecting each other from the Delta variant.”

Oregon Senate Republicans statement

Today, the Office of Economic Analysis presented the quarterly revenue forecast. It confirmed that Oregon taxpayers will receive a $1.9 billion Kicker. The corporate Kicker will send an additional $850 million to K-12 schools. The state budget will also have an ending fund balance of $699 million.

“It’s clear that Democrats raided $15 million from the Kicker for no good reason. Unprecedented deficit stimulus spending by the federal government and Oregonians stepping up to support businesses during the Governor’s shutdowns has given the state excess money.

“The legislature now has money to invest in COVID and wildfire response and recovery and preparing for upcoming unknown expenses in the next biennium. Most importantly, our kids need to be in school full-time to get caught up after a year of learning loss. This money can help our kids recover.”

DOWNLOAD PDF HERE

Jobless Claims Rise In Oregon

New claims for regular benefits in Oregon rose from 5,616 to 6,759 last week, the highest point since early July. Oregon has imposed new masking requirements as the delta variant pushes COVID-19 infections to all-time highs though the state hasn’t mandated new business closures.

Jobless claims edged up by 4,000 to 353,000 from 349,000 a week earlier, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The four-week average of claims, which smooths out week-to-week volatility, fell by 11,500 to 366,500, a pandemic low.

As many as 80,000 Oregonians face the loss of jobless aid after Labor Day when expanded federal benefits expire for self-employed workers and those on extended benefits programs. That’s up to two-thirds of all those receiving unemployment assistance in the state.

The national count has fallen more or less steadily since topping 900,000 in early January as the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines has helped the economy, encouraging businesses to reopen or expand hours and luring consumers out of their homes to restaurants, bars, and shops.

But a resurgence of cases linked to the highly contagious delta variant has clouded the economic outlook. And claims already remain high by historic standards: Before the pandemic tore through the economy in March 2020, the weekly pace amounted to around 220,000 a week.

Filings for unemployment benefits have traditionally been seen as a real-time measure of the job market’s health. But their reliability has deteriorated during the pandemic. In many states, the weekly figures have been inflated by fraud and by multiple filings from unemployed Americans as they navigate bureaucratic hurdles to try to obtain benefits. Those complications help explain why the pace of applications remains comparatively high.

The job market has been rebounding with vigor since the pandemic paralyzed economic activity last year and employers slashed more than 22 million jobs in March and April 2020. The United States has since recovered 16.7 million jobs. And employers have added a rising number of jobs for three straight months, including a robust 943,000 in July. They have been posting job openings — a record 10.1 million in June — faster than applicants are lining up to fill them.

Some employers blame labor shortages on supplemental unemployment benefits from the federal government — including $300 a week on top of regular state aid — for discouraging some of the jobless from seeking work. In response, many states have withdrawn from the federal programs, which expire nationwide next month anyway.

Economists point to other factor that have kept out of the job market — difficulty finding or affording child care, fear about becoming infected by the virus at work and the hope of some people to find better jobs than they had before the pandemic.

Whatever the causes, the economy remains 5.7 million jobs shy of what it had in February 2020.

Including federal programs, 12 million people were receiving some type of jobless benefit the week of Aug. 7, down from 27.5 million a year before.

OHSU Warns About Using Ivermectin

Oregon Health & Science University echoed calls from the FDA on Wednesday, warning against the use of the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin to prevent or treat COVID-19 — a phenomenon that has been increasing within the past several months.

The Oregon Poison Center, located at OHSU, says that it has been fielding a “substantial” number of calls related to ivermectin. The drug is approved to treat parasitic worms and some skin conditions in humans, but is being misused by some for COVID-19.

Because the drug is not approved in the treatment of COVID-19, even for emergency use, some people have turned to using veterinarian doses designed for animals.

During the entirety of 2020, the Oregon Poison Center recorded just three cases of intentional misuse of ivermectin. So far just in the month of August this year, the center says it has seen nine cases. Taking too much ivermectin can cause nausea, diarrhea, low blood pressure, itching and hives, dizziness, balance problems, seizures and even death.

In the veterinary formulations designed for animals, the drug can be much more concentrated or contain ingredients not approved for human use, which OHSU says is particularly dangerous.

Stretch of I-84 Closed For Nine Hours After Truck Crashes On Bridge Near Meacham

Interstate 84 in eastern Oregon is open again after a truck crash shut it down Wednesday morning and through the afternoon.

Courtesy ODOT

According to the Oregon Department of Transportation, a pavement construction project was happening in the area. The crash occurred near milepost 238, which is between Pendleton and La Grande. There’s no word yet if anyone was injured in the crash.

Transportation officials say the liquid that spilled all over the road is not fuel or another flammable liquid, it’s apple juice.

Westbound I-84 was closed to truck traffic in Ontario but remained open for local traffic only between Ontario and Baker City. Westbound I-84 was closed to all traffic between Baker City and Pendleton.

At 6 p.m. Mountain Time Wednesday, ODOT sent out an alert saying the interstate was open again.

Officials say crews had a few challenges: removing the truck, which was hanging over the edge of the bridge, addressing the damaged guardrail, and cleaning up debris and slippery apple juice on the bridge deck.

Travelers are always urged to use the Oregon Department of Transportation’s TripCheck website before heading out.  If you live in Oregon, you can call 511 or 800-977-6368 for updated road conditions. For those outside Oregon, call 503-588-2941.

Mysterious Cattle Mutilations Continue In Eastern Oregon

Oregon authorities are investigating the mysterious death and mutilation of two bulls whose carcasses were found this summer in Harney County and Wheeler County. The two separate cases are the latest in what has been a series of strange slayings in the state over the last few years.

SM mutilated bull wheeler 2.jpg
photo courtesy of Deputy Jeremiah Holmes

In the most recent case, a Black Angus bull, out of the Thomas Angus Ranch purebred line and worth about $4,500, was found dead and mutilated on August 14th at Greenbar Ranch in Wheeler County.

Bodie Brown, whose brother Tanner owned the bull, and a friend were the first to find the carcass near a watering hole. Its nose, tongue, left cheek, ear, eye, reproductive organs and part of its tail were removed with clean cuts.

The cause of death is unknown.

The bull, when found, had likely been dead a few days and was already decomposing. The 24-hour window during which a necropsy could have been performed on the body had passed.

Deputy Jeremiah Holmes of the Wheeler County Sheriff’s Office is on the case.

This is the fifth case of cattle mutilation in Wheeler County in the past 20 months. Nearby Harney County has had five cases in the past four years, two of which happened this year, in May and July.

According to FBI records, it’s not just an Oregon problem. Since the 1970s, thousands of killings and mutilations of cattle have happened across the U.S.

The cases, officials say, usually look “eerily similar”: A cow or bull is found dead in a remote area with no indication of how a suspect might have gained access to the property. Typically, no footprints, tire tracks or fingerprints are found. There’s little to no spilled blood and no visible puncture wounds, bullets or strangulation marks.

Oregon has been particularly hard hit by the cattle mutilation phenomenon in recent years with five cases occurring in Wheeler County, another five reported in Harney County, and three cases in Crook County which made news back in March.

With all of the reports, authorities remain baffled by the killings as scenes of the strange slaughters feature no tangible clues nor blood from the downed animals nor any indication of how exactly they were initially subdued.

Holmes, the deputy on Brown’s case, is also the primary investigator on the four other recent mutilation cases in Wheeler County and said all five cases looked “about the same.”

The deputy, however, declined to comment on further details about the August case, saying he’s tracing some specific clues and doesn’t want a suspect to know.

All five recent mutilation cases in Wheeler County are still open and under investigation, as are the most recent five cases in Harney County.

Holmes advises farmers and the public to be on the lookout for people or vehicles that appear suspicious and to write down license plate numbers and vehicle descriptions.

In a recent statement, the Harney County Sheriff’s Office similarly invited community members and livestock owners “to be vigilant and watch for suspicious persons or vehicles where livestock are.”

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