Rogue Valley News, Wednesday 10/20 – Tuesday Raid On Klamath Falls Warehouse Finds 8.8 Tons Of Black Market Marijuana, Illegal Grows a Problem for All of Southern Oregon

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.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Rogue Valley Weather

Today– A chance of showers before 11am, then a slight chance of showers after 2pm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 63. South southwest wind 6 to 16 mph, with gusts as high as 24 mph. Chance of precipitation is 40%.

Thursday– A 40 percent chance of rain after 11am. Partly sunny, with a high near 70. Southeast wind 5 to 11 mph.

Friday– Rain before 8am, then showers, mainly after 8am. High near 59. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New precipitation amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch possible

Saturday– Rain. Cloudy, with a high near 56.

Sunday– Showers likely before 8am, then rain, mainly after 8am. Cloudy, with a high near 58.

Tuesday Raid On Klamath Falls Warehouse Finds 8.8 Tons Of Black Market Marijuana

A raid on a warehouse in downtown Klamath Falls on Tuesday found a major marijuana processing operation and roughly 17,600 pounds of marijuana, according to Klamath Falls Police.

The Basin Interagency Narcotics Enforcement Team (BINET) served a search warrant on the 20,550 square-foot warehouse, finding it filled with drying and processed marijuana and temporary living quarters for 28 workers who were detained on-site and later released.

“Two small drug endangered children were also living inside the warehouse with their parents who were working as trimmers for the illegal marijuana production,” Klamath Falls Police said. “DHS Child Welfare responded to the scene and investigated the child welfare concerns.”

One person was cited and released for felony Unlawful Manufacture of Marijuana. Additional charges and more suspects could be referred to the county District Attorney’s office.

KFPD said that roughly 17,600 pounds of mostly processed marijuana buds were seized, taken to the Klamath County Waste Management landfill, and destroyed. Police estimated that the product had a black market street value of more than $20 million.

According to KFPD, the investigation into this operation started with a previous Klamath County Sheriff’s Office investigation into multiple illegal marijuana grows in southern Klamath County. BINET detectives then dug further into the drug trafficking organization, eventually leading to the warehouse in Klamath Falls.

The grow operations were operating under the guise of “hemp” farms, but KFPD said that the product in the warehouse tested as high-THC marijuana and not hemp.

Anyone with information regarding the illegal manufacture or distribution of drugs within Klamath County is asked to call the Klamath Falls Police Department Anonymous Tip Line at (541) 883-5334 or the Klamath County Sheriff’s Office Tip Line at (541) 850-5380.

Meanwhile in a letter to Governor Kate Brown and state officials approved last week, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners asked for assistance from the Oregon National Guard in cracking down illegal marijuana production in the area. But a response from the Governor’s office suggests that the help is unlikely to come anytime soon.

Jackson County declared a state of emergency last Wednesday, in part as a vehicle to lobby the state for funding that could translate into more law and code enforcement personnel to deal with the rapid escalation of unlicensed marijuana grows and local authorities’ inability to respond quickly enough.

In a statement, Governor Brown’s press secretary Liz Merah indicated that Brown agreed with the commissioner’s assessment of the severity of the problem, but would not be able to commit more resources until next year.

Merah cited Brown’s support of House Bill 3000, one of the most recent legislative efforts to combine state and local resources in cracking down on unlicensed cannabis, and the creation of a multi-agency team to work on implementing it.

“This team has been hard at work in the region during harvest season,” Merah said. “Additionally, and after conversations with local leaders, the Governor directed OSP to specifically dedicate additional resources to multi-agency operations.”

Brown also authorized doubling the size of cannabis-related law enforcement grants for the region, Merah said, but those funds won’t come through until just prior to the 2022 growing season.

The Oregon National Guard does already have a presence on several drug enforcement teams in southern Oregon, Merah said — although it likely does not represent the kind of investment in personnel that Jackson County has requested. One full-time National Guardsman is embedded each with the OSP Marijuana Task Force based in Medford, the Homeland Security Investigations Medford office, and with the Klamath County High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task force.

Merah said that this year the Oregon Military Department also has an aviation program with two pilots who have flown missions in support of law enforcement agencies.

“The message is clear –– Oregon is not open for business to illegal cannabis grows,” Merah continued. “These are criminal enterprises that deplete water resources while our state is in drought, hold their workforce in inhumane conditions, and severely harm our legal cannabis marketplace.”

Guardsmen are unlikely to be mobilized in force to southern Oregon on marijuana enforcement duty this year for two reasons, Merah said: first, because many of them have already been deployed to support hospitals during the COVID-19 Delta variant surge; and because the current growing season is already essentially over.

“The Governor remains concerned about the situation and will continue to monitor what resources might be needed for the 2022 growing season,” Merah concluded.

As both Josephine and Jackson counties work to crack down on illegal marijuana grow operations, they differ somewhat on how they approach the issue. Jackson County recently asked Governor Brown to bring in the National Guard. But Sheriff Daniel said that he does not think that is the answer.

Daniel says, for one, he doesn’t think Governor Brown would active the National Guard for this purpose. Meanwhile, recent state assistance and the prospect of federal aid could help Josephine County address the situation on their own terms. Daniel said that the recent passage of House Bill 3000 will support the county’s efforts by doubling the size of the Josephine Marijuana Enforcement Team (JMET).

According to Sheriff Daniel, the problem is not a local one so much as an international one.

“We have cartel-type operations from Bulgaria, China, Ukraine, Mexico … all different countries,” Daniel said. “And so it’s an international problem, so I think on the federal level is really where some assistance would be very much welcomed.”

Josephine County Realtor Arrested as Suspected Of Working In Black Market Marijuana Trade

Deputies from the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office arrested a Grants Pass-based realtor on Tuesday in connection with the black market marijuana trade that has rapidly expanded in southern Oregon within the last several years.

According to Sheriff Dave Daniel, his agency had been investigating a broker employed with RE/MAX in Grants Pass who had allegedly conducted more than two dozen transactions related to property used for illegal marijuana operations.

Sheriff Daniel said that, over the space of several years, the realtor had transferred ownership of properties from individuals to LLCs in order to cover illegal activity. Detectives are also looking into potential money laundering.

Investigators served search warrants on Tuesday at a residence in Rogue River and the brokerage office in Grants Pass.

41-year-old Tyra Polly Ann Foxx was booked into the Josephine County Jail on Tuesday on charges for Unlawful Manufacture of a Marijuana Item, Hindering Prosecution, Tampering With Physical Evidence, and Forgery in the First Degree. She posted bail later the same day. Foxx has yet to be arraigned or indicted in court.

Grants Pass Police Detectives Arrest Sexual Predator

On 10-19-2021 at approximately 1340 hours, Grants Pass Police Detectives arrested Boris Deleon, a 35-year-old white male, for charges of Compelling Prostitution, Coercion, and Intimidation in the first degree.

Boris Deleon
Boris Deleon

On 10-18-21, the Grants Pass Police Department received a complaint regarding a 21-year-old female receiving death threats from an unknown male subject she had met online. 

The victim reported the male subject, later identified as 35-year-old Boris Deleon, had contacted her in early October 2021 to solicit her for sexual contact for a substantial amount of money. 

When the victim refused to participate, Deleon made death threats to the victim and claimed to be part of the Sinaloa cartel. Deleon admitted to “catfishing” individuals online thousands of times.

The Grants Pass Police Department would like to remind citizens to practice sound judgment when communicating online. “Catfishing” is when someone poses as another person while communicating electronically.  While “catfishing” itself is not illegal, there are circumstances when the conduct can become criminal. 

We encourage anyone who has been subjected to online threats to participate in sexual activity, propositions for monetary compensation for sexual contact, or threats to publicly shame another person because of sexual activity to report those activities to the Grants Pass Police Department. 

 If anyone has further information related to this investigation, please call the Grants Pass Police non-emergency number at 541-450-6260. — Grants Pass Police Department

Oregon reports 1,366 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 41 new deaths

There are 41 new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 4,226. The Oregon Health Authority reported 1,366 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 353,368.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (7), Benton (44), Clackamas (87), Clatsop (13), Columbia (14), Coos (29), Crook (42), Curry (8), Deschutes (73), Douglas (44), Gilliam (3), Grant (15), Harney (17), Hood River (3), Jackson (56), Jefferson (14), Josephine (14), Klamath (81), Lake (14), Lane (124), Lincoln (22), Linn (60), Malheur (26), Marion (116), Morrow (4), Multnomah (123), Polk (51), Sherman (2), Tillamook (7), Umatilla (72), Union (3), Wallowa (3), Wasco (22), Washington (107), Wheeler (9),and Yamhill (37).

Mandate Affecting Hospitals In Oregon

Oregon’s urban hospitals have lost hundreds of employees and some have consolidated services over the state’s vaccine mandate but they’re continuing to admit patients, perform necessary surgeries, and conduct lab tests, they reported on Monday.

Rural hospitals, which play a bigger role in their communities, have dealt with the mandate by largely accepting claims from employees that they should be exempt for religious or medical grounds.

Though some patients might face longer wait times during a busy day in an emergency room or for a non-urgent procedure, the impact of the mandate is likely to be invisible for most patients, health experts predicted.

The Oregon Health Authority said that it is “not seeing evidence there will be a large number of vacancies in health care staffing” after Monday’s deadline.

“We are hearing from health care partners that the number of vaccinated health care workers continues to rise with many health care systems reporting more than 90% of their staff vaccinated,” a spokeswoman said in a statement. “That said, we don’t yet know the full impact of the vaccination requirement on the state’s health care workforce, and won’t for at least the next several days to a week.”

The agency has asked employers to give staff flexibility in getting vaccinated or requesting an exemption. 

“Staff can be asked to work remotely, take vacation time or unpaid leave until they have met the vaccination requirement. We also encourage employers to keep at it, and encourage their employees to complete vaccination,” an agency spokeswoman said.

Monday’s mandate, which applies to health care staff, school employees and volunteers, and state employees, was declared in August to curtail the surge of the Delta variant which sparked the biggest spike in hospitalizations and death since the pandemic began.

The mandate prodded many health care workers to get inoculated with the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

“The vaccination requirement worked,” Legacy Health said in a statement.

At Oregon Health & Science University, more than 450 people are being laid off or are on unpaid leave while the institution reviews their exemption requests. About 7% of staff at Providence Health & Services, the largest health care system in Oregon, were still not compliant on Monday and St. Charles Health System, based in Bend, reported it has lost 180 employees, with most of them resigning last week.

Kaiser Permanente had already adjusted to the mandate by Monday, while Santiam Hospital and Clinics, which employs about 550 people in Stayton, reported a vaccination rate of nearly 85%.

“About 20 hospital employees have chosen unpaid leave, termination or early retirement rather than get vaccinated,” said Lauren Benjamin, the hospital’s spokeswoman. “We have not had to consolidate or postpone our services.”

Providence, based in Portland with 23,000 employees, echoed that message. “We are confident that we will be able to minimize any potential impacts on our patients and their families,” said Gary Walker, a Providence spokesman.

Hundreds of employees on leave

Asante, with three hospitals in southern Oregon, has lost dozens of employees among a staff of 6,100, and Legacy Health, with nearly 6,500 employees, has nearly 600 on unpaid leave.

The state health authority left health care companies with the responsibility for approving medical or religious exemption claims. Some companies were more generous than others in their approvals. 

The Oregon Nurses Association complained about religious rejections at Legacy Silverton Medical Center, the only Legacy hospital where it has members. The company acknowledged that “the denials were upsetting for some employees.”

There appears to be less controversy in rural areas, however, where hospitals cannot afford to lose even a single employee.

“We’re not just a hospital,” Charlie Tveit, CEO of Lake Health District, told the Capital Chronicle. “We are responsible for the county public health, county mental health. We have a couple of long-term care and assisted living (facilities). We provide the EMS service for our area now. So we do a lot of things other than just a hospital.”

The district, based in Lakeview near the border of Nevada, has 400 employees and volunteers, and only about 60% are fully vaccinated. Almost all of the rest have been approved for their exemptions claims, Tveit said.

“As of an hour ago, we had less than 1% who are undecided,” Tveit said Monday afternoon. “For some people, they either couldn’t make up their mind as to (whether) they should get vaccinated. But the date helped solidify that for those who elected to get an exemption.”

Only 1% of his workforce had not been inoculated or requested an exemption by late Monday. Tveit said he hopes he won’t lose anyone. “The workforce is critical in rural settings,” Tveit said. “We’re fortunate if we can get people to work for us, and it’s hard to recruit if somebody leaves. So we’ve elected to keep everyone safe and accept their exemptions. We’re not in a position to challenge somebody’s medical reason or their religious beliefs.”

Although unvaccinated health care employees are not supposed to be involved in patient services after Monday, Tveit said the health care district will carry on as before, with health care staff masking, sanitizing surfaces and wearing appropriate protective gear. 

Less than 40% of the population in the county – only about 8,000 people – is inoculated but only 11 people have died from Covid-19, the fourth lowest number in Oregon after Gilliam, Sherman and Wheeler counties.

“I think we have done a really good job in Lake County,” Tveit said. “We don’t have a high incidence of hospitalization in our county … and we haven’t had employees getting sick from exposure while at our health and our facilities.”

He said that other rural hospitals, even in counties with a much higher number of cases and fatalities, are also approving all exemptions. 

Good Shepherd Health Care System in Hermiston, in a county with nearly 145 deaths, more than 14,000 Covid-19 cases and an overall vaccination rate of 50%, said last week it would meet the mandate. It did so, said Caitlin Cozad, who oversees the hospital’s communications and marketing. “Good Shepherd is fully compliant with the state mandate and fully operational,” she said.

An official at Blue Mountain Hospital District, which includes a hospital in John Day, said the facility has seen a “significant increase” in vaccinations leading up to the mandate. The hospital has created an internal pool of cross-trained employees to give it greater flexibility and has asked the state for staffing help to fill any gaps.

“Our patients should expect to continue to receive safe, high-quality care without disruption when they come to any of Blue Mountain Hospital District’s facilities,” said Var Rigby, director of human resources at the district.

Salem Health, located in urban Marion County, said it has approved most exemption requests. “As of today, 100% of Salem Health employees are in compliance with the Oregon state rule for vaccine mandates,” said Lisa Wood, a Salem Health spokesperson. “Salem Health has received 490 vaccine mandate exception requests to date and the vast majority of these requests have been accepted.”

She said unvaccinated staff with an exemption will be required to undergo regular Covid-19 tests. The few people who are not inoculated or who have not submitted an exemption request will have until Jan. 31 to become compliant.

Wood said patients can choose to be treated only by vaccinated staff. “Salem Health does not anticipate any disruption in patient care as a result of the vaccine mandate deadline. As we have throughout the pandemic, we have contingency plans in place to meet staffing needs and continue serving the community.”

EMT services operate as usual

Susan Mills, a spokeswoman with the Oregon Health Authority, said the state has not received any reports of problems among paramedics and emergency medical technicians. “As of now, no EMT or paramedic shortages have been reported as a result of the vaccine,” Mills said. 

Officials in some rural areas had warned that ambulance services would be severely impacted by the mandate. But that is not the case in Jefferson County, where just over 50% of residents are vaccinated. The county has 42 paramedics and other emergency staff and volunteers. 

Only two are being laid off and they’re both inactive anyway, said Michael Lepin, chief of the Jefferson County EMS District. “The vaccine mandate has not (and) will not interrupt our operations,” he wrote in an email. “I have not heard from other agencies, only rumors and speculation. The agencies closest to me, I know, are still in operation.”

Another sector affected by the mandate – long-term care services – also appears to be in good shape. 

“There are no reports that the vaccine mandate is affecting services to residents in long-term care facilities,” Lisa Morawski, communications director for the Oregon Department of Human Services, told the Capital Chronicle in an email.

She said adult foster homes also appeared to be largely unaffected. “We have not heard of facilities postponing admissions, although that would be one tool they could use if they are unable to maintain their current capacity,” Morawski said.

The department has been working for months to ensure that those with developmental disabilities see no disruptions, including hiring 110 temporary workers to staff a crisis and stabilization unit.

The Oregon Health Authority has spent more than $133 million for hundreds of temporary health care workers for hospitals and other facilities. Asante, which has 700 open positions, has 400 contract staff, including about 150 through a state contract. National Guard troops are helping out as well, as they are at St. Charles Health System, which has 940 open positions but is in the process of hiring 200. The health care system has benefited from OHA contract staff, with about 120 spread among its four central Oregon hospitals.

Dr. Jeff Absalon, executive vice president and chief physician executive at St. Charles, said the system is stabilized now, but he’s concerned about later in November when the state contracts run out and the military help leaves.

“We’re anticipating that there may be some adjustments come the latter part of November,” Absalon said during a news conference on Monday. “We’re very fortunate to have the National Guard and our contracted workers here for some time in front of us, but we’re still working on understanding what we will need to pivot to or whether there may be some service impacts as a result of our staffing challenges.”

The current crunch comes amid a health care workforce shortage around the state and across the country. Companies have offered sometimes thousands of dollars in retention bonuses to attract staff. Others have raised rates. 

But they’ve still had problems plugging staffing holes. These are unprecedented times,” Absalon said. “The challenges faced by our workforce gaps and challenges both for us as well as health systems across the country are significant now to a degree that I’ve never seen before.”

A federal judge on Monday denied a last-minute bid by more than three dozen state employees, health care providers and school staff to temporarily stop the state’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate. It’s one of the first of many legal actions regarding the issue to be heard by a judge. Many more are expected shortly.

U.S. District Judge Michael H. Simon rejected their motion for a temporary restraining order, marking the first federal judge’s ruling after several state court decisions thwarting similar efforts to block Oregon Gov. Brown’s and the Oregon Health Authority’s power to require that certain workers to get the vaccines or risk losing their jobs.

At least 10 vaccine mandate challenges have been filed in state and federal court since September. Among the 42 plaintiffs are nurses, doctors, teachers, and school athletic coaches including a LifeFlight paramedic, a hospice nurse, dental hygienist, and pharmacist.

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Great Oregon ShakeOut earthquake drill encourages Oregonians to learn and practice safe methods to reduce their risk during an earthquake – 10/21 at 10:21

Oregonians have learned the importance of preparedness due to numerous recent hazards – including wildfire, drought, floods, ice storms and more. Though earthquakes are less common, they are top of mind in the Northwest due to the Cascadia subduction zone, a fault located off the Pacific Coast with the potential to deliver a 9.0+ magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami. Governor Kate Brown has proclaimed Thursday, Oct. 21, as Great Oregon ShakeOut Day to encourage Oregonians to learn and practice safe methods to use during an earthquake.

A global earthquake drill taking place at 10:21 a.m. this Thursday, the Great ShakeOut urges people to take the following simple but critical safety steps during an earthquake: “Drop, Cover and Hold On:”

  • Drop onto hands and knees.
  • Cover head and neck and crawl to a sturdy desk or table if one is nearby.
  • Hold On until the shaking stops.  

“The state of Oregon takes seriously its responsibility to help ensure the safety of its residents and visitors,” said Oregon Office of Emergency Management Director Andrew Phelps. “Understanding what to do in the first few moments after a disaster can mean the difference between being a survivor and a victim. As we work to build a culture of preparedness in Oregon, it is up to each of us – and all of us – to take action to reduce our risk.  Participating in the Great Oregon ShakeOut is a proactive step anyone can, and should, take.”

More than 500,000 Oregonians – including schools, individuals, families and businesses – have committed to take part in this year’s ShakeOut drill, pledging to drop, cover and hold on wherever they are and whatever they’re doing. 

“Knowing what to do before, during and after an earthquake can save your life,” said OEM Geologic Hazards Coordinator Althea Rizzo. “The event also serves as a reminder to review and update emergency preparedness plans and supplies.” 

OEM’s 2 Weeks Ready program recommends citizens be informed and knowledgeable about the hazards where they live; make an emergency plan for themselves and their loved ones; and build an emergency kit with at least two weeks’ worth of food, water and other necessities. 

The 2 Weeks Ready program offers several resources to help people prepare, including a free publication informing what actions to take in the event of an earthquake or tsunami. To learn more about earthquakes in Oregon and how to prepare, Living on Shaky Ground is available for download at OEM’s website, and hard copies may be obtained at county and Tribal emergency management offices.

Learn more about the Great Oregon ShakeOut and register as a participant at Shakeout.org/Oregon; the public can also view a webinar on the event hosted by OEM on YouTube in English and in Spanish. —- Oregon Office of Emergency Management

DEA Holds National Prescription Drug Take Back Day to Turn the Tide Against the U.S. Opioid Epidemic – 146 Collection Sites in the Pacific Northwest

The Drug Enforcement Administration will host its 21st National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on Saturday, October 23 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. This event offers free and anonymous disposal of unneeded medications at more than 4,000 local drop-off locations nationwide.

This Saturday is another opportunity for the Pacific Northwest to dispose of unwanted, unused and expired medication at one of the 146 collection sites throughout the region.  Currently there are 18 collection sites in Alaska, 29 collection sites in Idaho, 26 collection sites in Oregon and 73 collection sites in Washington. Last April, residents of the Pacific Northwest turned in 36,259 pounds.

According to a report published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a majority of people who misused a prescription medication obtained the medicine from a family member or friend. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that last year, more than 93,000 people died of drug overdoses in the United States, marking the largest number of drug-related deaths ever recorded in a year. Opioid-related deaths accounted for 75 percent of all overdose deaths in 2020.

For more than a decade, DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day has helped Americans easily rid their homes of unneeded medications—those that are old, unwanted, or no longer needed—that too often become a gateway to addiction. Working in close partnership with local law enforcement, Take Back Day has removed more than 7,000 tons of medication from circulation since its inception. These efforts are directly in line with DEA’s priority to combat the rise of overdoses plaguing the United States.

“The United States is in the midst of an opioid epidemic—drug overdoses are up thirty percent over the last year alone and taking more than 250 lives every day,” stated DEA Administrator Anne Milgram. “The majority of opioid addictions in America start with prescription pills found in medicine cabinets at home. What’s worse, criminal drug networks are exploiting the opioid crisis by making and falsely marketing deadly, fake pills as legitimate prescriptions, which are now flooding U.S. communities. One thing is clear: prevention starts at home. I urge Americans to do their part to prevent prescription pill misuse: simply take your unneeded medications to a local collection site. It’s simple, free, anonymous, and it can save a life.”

“The DEA Drug Take Back is more important than ever and is a great opportunity for citizens of the Pacific Northwest to dispose of their unused, unwanted, or expired prescription medications,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Frank Tarentino. “Properly disposing of these medications will prevent them from falling into the hands of our children. Please help keep our citizens and communities safe by taking the time to responsibly dispose of your unwanted prescription pills during National Drug Take Back Day.”

DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is more important than ever before. Last month, DEA issued a Public Safety Alert and launched the One Pill Can Kill public awareness campaign to warn Americans of a surge in deadly, fake prescription pills driven by drug traffickers seeking to exploit the U.S. opioid epidemic and prescription pill misuse. Criminal drug networks are shipping chemicals from China to Mexico where they are converted to dangerous substances like fentanyl and methamphetamine and then pressed into pills. The end result—deadly, fake prescription pills—are what these criminal drug networks make and market to prey on Americans for profit. These fake, deadly pills are widely available and deadlier than ever. Fake pills are designed to appear nearly identical to legitimate prescriptions such as Oxycontin®, Percocet®, Vicodin®, Adderall®, Xanax® and other medicines. Criminal drug networks are selling these pills through social media, e-commerce, the dark web and existing distribution networks.

Along with the alert came a warning that the only safe medications are ones prescribed by a trusted medical professional and dispensed by a licensed pharmacist. Any pills that do not meet this standard are unsafe and potentially deadly. DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day reflects DEA’s commitment to Americans’ safety and health, encouraging the public to remove unneeded medications from their homes as a measure of preventing medication misuse and opioid addiction from ever starting.

On Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021, DEA and its partners will collect tablets, capsules, patches, and other solid forms of prescription drugs. Liquids (including intravenous solutions), syringes and other sharps, and illicit drugs will not be accepted. DEA will also continue to accept vaping devices and cartridges provided lithium batteries are removed.

A location finder and partner toolbox are available at www.DEATakeBack.com for easy reference to nearby collection sites. Beyond DEA’s Take Back Day, there are also opportunities to regularly and safely dispose of unneeded medications at more than 13,000 pharmacies, hospitals, police departments, and businesses working to help clean out medicine cabinets throughout the year.

Oregon’s Unemployment Rate Drops to 4.7% in September

Oregon’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.7% in September from 5.0%, as revised, in August. In September, 102,000 Oregonians were unemployed. This is a remarkable improvement from the worst labor force impacts of the COVID recession when 270,000 Oregonians were jobless in April 2020. However, there is still ground to make up to approach the average of 82,000 Oregonians unemployed during 2017 through 2019, during the tight labor market of the prior economic expansion. The U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 4.8% in September from 5.2% in August.

In Oregon, nonfarm payroll employment declined by 200 in September, following a revised gain of 8,900 jobs in August. Monthly gains averaged 10,200 during January through August. Job reductions in September were largest in government (-3,800 jobs) and construction (-1,400). These losses were balanced by substantial gains in professional and business services (+2,500 jobs); leisure and hospitality (+2,200); and transportation, warehousing, and utilities (+1,000 jobs).

The private sector added 3,600 jobs in September, continuing the steady private-sector expansion that averaged 4,600 jobs added per month over the past six months.

Government job losses in September were concentrated in local government where some K-12 schools added fewer employees than is typical at the start of the school year. Other local government employers are still well below their staffing levels seen two years ago, prior to the recession. 

Leisure and hospitality added 2,200 jobs in September, following a gain of 1,200 in August. Despite these gains, leisure and hospitality still accounts for the bulk of Oregon’s jobs not recovered since early 2020, with 42,100 jobs left to recover to reach the prior peak month of February 2020. The industry has regained 62% of jobs lost early in the pandemic.

Professional and technical services has grown at a rapid rate throughout 2021, and is now well above its pre-recession peak. This industry added 11,800 jobs since the low point in April 2020. Most of the jobs in the broader industry are found in firms providing services in the areas of legal, architectural, engineering, computer systems design, management consulting, research, and veterinary. 

The Oregon Employment Department and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) work cooperatively to develop and publish monthly Oregon payroll employment and labor force data. The estimates of monthly job gains and losses are based on a survey of businesses. The estimates of unemployment are based on a survey of households and other sources. 

The Oregon Employment Department publishes payroll employment estimates that are revised quarterly by using employment counts from employer unemployment insurance tax records. All department publications use this Official Oregon Series data unless noted otherwise. This month’s release incorporates the January, February and March 2021 tax records data. The department continues to make the original nonfarm payroll employment series available; these data are produced by the BLS.

The PDF version of the news release can be found at QualityInfo.org/press-release. To obtain the data in other formats such as in Excel, visit QualityInfo.org, then within the top banner, select Economic Data, then choose LAUS or CES. To request the press release as a Word document, contact the person shown at the top of this press release

To file a claim for unemployment benefits or get more information about unemployment programs, visit unemployment.oregon.gov. — Oregon Employment Department

The drought-stricken Klamath Basin is one area that the Family Farm Alliance has identified as needing legislative change, and the organization aims to protect.

Daniel Keppen of Klamath Falls is president of the Family Farm Alliance. Family Farm Alliance works to gain water rights for western agriculture areas and describes itself as a powerful advocate before the government for family farmers, ranchers, irrigation districts, and allied industries in 17 western states.

The alliance says it has this goal to ensure the availability of reliable and affordable irrigation water needed to produce the world’s food, fiber, and fuel.

The comprehensive 27-page testimony by the alliance covered everything from key concerns from members of the alliance, to what can be done to mitigate future droughts. The key concerns included are water infrastructure, water management, wildfire disasters, and lack of collaboration between farmers and the government.

The proposed solutions include investing in Western water infrastructure. Keppen says 12 that a package the coalition developed was included in a bi-partisan senate bill  that passed earlier this summer, with $8.3 billion
that could go toward new water storage, improved conveyance facilities, groundwater recharge, water conservation, water management improvements, water reuse, and desalination.

A large part of the drought in the United States is the toll that it has taken on the country’s ability to maintain food independence. While the Family Farm Alliance says the country should be responsible for providing a healthy, abundant, and transparent food supply, it says it is also a matter of national security.

Oregon’s new congressional districts are receiving national attention as a Democratic group pushes back against Republican claims that the state’s political boundaries are gerrymandered.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reports that in a filing on Monday, the National Democratic Redistricting Committee urged a judicial panel to approve the map — which was passed during last month’s contentious special
legislative session — insisting that the boundaries meet all legal standards.

With the filing, the NDRC is seeking to insert itself into a fight that began last week, when former Secretary of State Bev Clarno and three other Republicans sued to challenge the map, which includes a new sixth congressional seat — increasing Oregon’s national political clout. The new congressional map includes four U.S. House seats that either are safe Democratic or lean in the party’s favor, one reliably red seat and one seat that could be a toss-up.

Hacker Attack Effects Sinclair TV Stations

Sinclair Broadcast Group, one of the largest TV station operators in the US, said Monday that a ransomware incident is disrupting some of its office and operational networks across the country. Their TV stations in Oregon include ones in Medford, Eugene and Portland.

At an early afternoon town hall meeting held via Zoom, staffers were told that the ripple effects are widespread and the full ramifications are not yet known.

The intrusion “has caused — and may continue to cause — disruption to parts of the company’s business, including certain aspects of its provision of local advertisements by its local broadcast stations on behalf of its customers,” the company told investors. Shares traded down nearly 3%. The disturbance impeded the production of local newscasts throughout the day on Sunday and again on Monday, according to staffers at some TV stations.

Florence Ready for Frank Herbert ‘Dune’ Celebration

“Dune” is the latest movie adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel of the same name, and its story was first inspired by encroaching sand dunes around Florence.

Dune officially premieres in theaters, including on IMAX screens, and on the streaming service HBO Max on Friday, October 22, 2021. Major film releases usually have showings the evening before their official release date. That is the case for Dune, which will have in-theater showtimes the night before.

Herbert’s “Dune” is a tale of intergalactic feudalism, vendetta and political intrigue set in a far future where a mind-bending drug found only on Arrakis is the only currency that matters.

The book’s masterpiece status has much to do with the themes it explores, from what makes one a human being to how religious forces control societies. But its foundational theme is that humans shape, and are shaped in return, by their physical environments.  

Florence is bringing these themes into focus as it celebrates the “Dune” release.

“Our understanding of the planet does not always keep up with our actions, and I think ‘Dune’ and Frank Herbert have a lot to say about that,” said Meg Spencer, director of the Siuslaw Public Library District, which keeps a collection of Herbert’s research materials. 

Merritt also connected the library district and the theater with Herbert’s grandson, Byron Merritt, a consultant on the new film. The library district and City Lights Cinemas produced a short introductory film starring Byron Merritt that will be screened this weekend.

“He talks about the power of the book and everything that it covers from politics to religions to ecology — everything involved with it and why it’s a such a global phenomenon,” said Jared Anderson, City Lights Cinemas education director.

Other Florence events celebrating “Dune” include a presentation by the Oregon Dunes Restoration Collaborative and library’s regular virtual book club will discuss the themes and meaning of “Dune.”

What: Events  honoring the historical ties between the Florence dunes and the seminal science fiction classic that influenced a generation of books, music and films.

Exclusive film intro: The locally produced film features Byron Merritt, Herbert grandson’s and a consultant on the new film, discussing the legacy of “Dune” and Florence; 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 21 and Friday, Oct. 22 at City Lights Cinemas.

Dunes preservation: Oregon Dunes Restoration Collaborative presentation at 3:30 p.m.  Saturday, Oct. 23 screening.

Discussion: Library director Meg Spencer leads discussion contrasting the book and film at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 24 screening.

Where: City Lights Cinemas, 1930 Highway 101, Florence

Tickets: On sale at citylightscinemas.com/dune-celebration.

Online book club: The library’s regular virtual book club will discuss the themes and meaning of “Dune” on Nov. 4. Contact ref@siuslawlibrary.org or call 541-997-3132 for meeting details.

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