Rogue Valley News, Monday 10/18 – Asante Closes Medford and White City Urgent Care Clinics; Wildfire Near Merlin

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

Monday, October 18, 2021

Rogue Valley Weather

Today– Showers likely, mainly before 8am. Cloudy through mid morning, then gradual clearing, with a high near 57. Light and variable wind. Chance of precipitation is 70%.

Tuesday– Mostly sunny, with a high near 65. Light and variable wind becoming southeast 10 to 15 mph in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 23 mph.

Wednesday– A 30 percent chance of rain, mainly before 11am. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 63. Southeast wind 11 to 16 mph, with gusts as high as 24 mph.

Thursday– A 20 percent chance of rain after 11am. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 67.

Friday– Rain likely, mainly before 11am. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 59.

Asante Closes Medford and White City Urgent Care Clinics

Asante announced that it will close two of its urgent care clinics in Jackson County. The medical provider said the decision stemmed from a decrease in use.

Starting this Sunday, the urgent care clinics on Black Oak Drive in Medford and the White City location on Avenue G will both shut down. The company’s third urgent care clinic in Grants Pass on the Three Rivers Medical Center campus will remain open.

The Asante Physician Partners Family Medicine clinics, which are located in the same buildings as the Medford and White City urgent care clinics, are not closing. The family medicine clinics continue to schedule patients for appointments.

Asante said in a statement that this was a business decision arising from a decrease in usage of urgent care services, while more patients took to using telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020, the number of people coming into our urgent care clinics has dropped significantly,” said Doug Ward, vice president of Operations for Asante Physician Partners. “Many of our patients shifted to using online video visits for their non-emergency, acute care needs.”

Roughly 15 to 20 employees between the two locations will be reassigned to other positions within the Asante network of facilities.

“No employees are losing their jobs due to the closures,” Ward said.

Asante opened the Medford urgent care clinic in 2016, and the White City location followed in 2018.

Monday, October 18, marks the deadline for Oregon’s statewide COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Healthcare workers, educators, and most state employees will need to have submitted proof of full vaccination or a valid exemption by then or face suspension. Asante had reported at the end of September that 83% of its staff were fully vaccinated.

Wildfire Near Merlin

Rural Metro Fire and the Oregon Department of Forestry Southwest District have discovered a new wildfire burning in the 500 block of Crow Rd, near the powerline right-of-way.

Firefighters say that the fire is currently being pushed by winds and was found when roughly one acre in size.

ODF reported that forward spread of the fire has been stopped. No structures are currently threatened at this time.

ODF also says that several of its firefighters and engines are at the scene and that one of its dozers has been called in to assist.  Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the fire. 

Several Crashes in Josephine County on Saturday

Saturday morning in Josephine County, law enforcement and first responders were busy responding to several early morning crashes.

According to Rural Metro Fire, one of those crashes included a rollover right around the 3400 block of New Hope Rd, that took out a utility pole being used as an anchor for larger power poles.

Firefighters state that the driver was rescued and denied that they were injured. No outages were reported as a result of the crash.

Rural Metro says that other crashes last night also included a vehicle that attempted to take out a tree in the 8400 block of New Hope Rd, setting off a “crash alert phone app” that called 911 automatically. That driver also denied any injuries.

Another accident involved a vehicle running into a deer on Interstate 5 near milepost 66. Crews on the scene say that the deer didn’t survive, but the driver was transported with what appeared to be non-life-threatening injuries.

Investigators believe that intoxicants were suspected in some of the crashes. Law enforcement is currently investigating all of these crashes.

Missing Central Point Man Returned Home Safe

 A Central Point man who had been missing since Friday has been found safe and is back home with his family according to Medford Police.

Medford Police officers reported that Reid Brumble returned back to his home early Sunday morning.

Reid was considered a Missing Endangered Person when he went missing because he had left without medications that are essential to his health due to pre-existing medical conditions.

Oregon reports 1,218 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 4,161. The Oregon Health Authority reported 1,218 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 348,766.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (6), Benton (18), Clackamas (65), Clatsop (6), Columbia (17), Coos (29), Crook (45), Curry (2), Deschutes (88), Douglas (44), Grant (1), Harney (3), Hood River (5), Jackson (56), Jefferson (17), Josephine (23), Klamath (80), Lake (7), Lane (87), Lincoln (16), Linn (93), Malheur (32), Marion (125), Morrow (8), Multnomah (148), Polk (16), Sherman (1), Tillamook (5), Umatilla (28), Union (14), Wallowa (2), Wasco (17), Washington (88) and Yamhill (26).

A deadly spike in COVID-19 infections that began just before Independence Day should near its end around Christmas, a new state forecast said Thursday. But with more than two months to go to reach the projected end point, about 177,000 more infections are expected in the state, according to the Oregon Health & Science University weekly forecast released late Thursday.

A lawsuit against Oregon’s vaccine mandate for state employees, health care workers, and teachers will be heard today, the same day the mandate takes effect. The lawsuit was filed by seven Oregonians who will argue they should be exempt because they previously had COVID-19 and recovered from it. They claim there’s evidence that people who recover from COVID-19 have a greater risk of having an adverse reaction. The CDC says it’s safe if the person waits 90 days after recovering from the virus.

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Medicare Open Enrollment Begins

Open enrollment begins today for Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug plans. 

Open enrollment for the 2022 Medicare plan year is from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7, 2021.

Medicare plans and coverage for prescription drugs change each year, so it is important for Oregonians who are enrolled in Medicare to evaluate their plan options and make changes during open enrollment.

The Senior Health Insurance Benefits Assistance (SHIBA) program with the Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) is available to help Oregonians understand their Medicare options and benefits, provide enrollment guidance and answer any questions related to Medicare benefits. 

“Medicare is a critical benefit for older adults and people with disabilities and navigating the options available can be confusing,” said Jane-Ellen Weidanz, ODHS Long Term Services and Supports Administrator. “When it comes to open enrollment, do not wait until the last minute. Take time to review your options and make choices as soon as you can. SHIBA is here to help Oregonians make the right choice for them.”

SHIBA provides trained counselors to educate and advocate for Oregonians with Medicare. Local SHIBA counselors and SHIBA’s 2022 Oregon Guide to Medicare Insurance Plans can be found by visiting  Oregon Department of Human Services

Governor’s Office Responds to Oregon National Guard Issue

Governor Brown’s office responded on Friday to a letter published by members of Oregon’s Congressional delegation highlighting alleged mismanagement and delay of benefits and pay for National Guard members deployed to help hospitals understaffed and overwhelmed by the COVID-19 Delta variant surge.

The original letter addressed to Gov. Brown and Major General Michael E. Stencel, said that the treatment some service members faced was “unacceptable” citing reports that the deployment was chaotic, and that Guardsmen received contradictory or lackluster directions about where they needed to be and when.

Some Guardsmen were left hanging up to mid-September, according to the lawmakers, and some had to reserve hotels or other accommodations with their own money, while others reportedly found that their travel vouchers weren’t recognized.

In a statement, Governor Brown’s office said that the Oregon Military Department had already started addressing the issues last week and let the Congressional delegation know. Gov. Brown’s press secretary Liz Merah said that the issues also seemed to be confined to a handful of the Guardsmen deployed.

Oregon House Speaker Calls for Special Session to Protect Tenants

The Oregon House Speaker, Tina Kotek, called for a special session of the Oregon Legislature to stave off a rash of evictions as pandemic restrictions expire.

“Nothing is more important than keeping people housed,” Kotek wrote on Twitter. “The pandemic and the coming winter demand action now.”

It has been reported that 11,900 renters statewide who’ve applied for pandemic assistance were on the cusp of losing legal protection from eviction because it had taken too long for the state to get relief money to their landlords.

When The Oregonian reported Friday that the protections for those renters had expired, Kotek responded to the story with the tweet. “We need a special session for legislators to fix this problem,” she wrote.

It’s not clear whether Kotek would have the votes to pass such a bill, nor is it clear that Gov. Brown will call for a special session. Brown has previously stated she will rely on landlord self-interest to wait for state assistance rather than kick tenants out and get nothing. If tenants are evicted before assistance arrives, the application does not proceed, Brown’s office said last month.

Mt. Bachelor to Keep Controversial Ski Passes for Now

A central Oregon ski area operator will keep in place a new ski pass that allows people who pay more to bypass most chairlift lines despite a request from Oregon U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden to scrap the plan due to equity issues.

Powdr Corp. co-Presidents Wade Martin and Justin Sibley, in an open letter Friday, said the company intends to keep the pass available at Mt. Bachelor near Bend, but will offer season ticket holders refunds before the season starts.

The pass, called Fast Tracks and announced Monday, starts at $49 per day and allows buyers to use a dedicated lane at each chairlift. The price will vary based on high-demand days, the company said.

The U.S. Forest Service, which manages the land the ski area is located on, has looked into the matter. Deschutes National Forest District Ranger Kevin Larkin states that the agency will continue to evaluate information.

Havoc Ongoing in Portland

A crowd of 100 people wreaked havoc in downtown Portland last week, smashing storefront windows, lighting dumpsters on fire, and causing at least $500,000 in damage. But police officers didn’t stop them.

Portland Police Bureau officials say that’s because legislation passed by Oregon lawmakers this year restricts the tools they can use as people vandalize buildings and cause mayhem. The measure prohibits the use of things like pepper spray and rubber bullets for crowd control.

However there are exceptions, and lawmakers say police should still be able to use the tools they need to quell riots. Portland has seen ongoing, often violent protests since the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis.

OSU Study on Sunscreen

A new study out of Oregon State University shows sunscreen with the common ingredient zinc oxide loses much of its effectiveness and becomes toxic after two hours of exposure to the sun.

Researchers at OSU say zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are effective at blocking UV rays, but they change and turn toxic after two hours of exposure and they lose 80-percent of their effectiveness. The study was published in Photochemical & Photobiological Sciences.

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