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
Tuesday, November 30, 2021
Rogue Valley Weather
Today– Areas of fog before 10am. Otherwise, mostly cloudy, with a high near 53. Calm wind.
Wednesday– Cloudy, with a high near 60. Calm wind.
Thursday– Areas of fog before 10am. Otherwise, partly sunny, with a high near 60. Calm wind.
Friday– Areas of fog before 10am. Otherwise, mostly sunny, with a high near 59.
Saturday– Patchy fog between 7am and 8am. Otherwise, mostly sunny, with a high near 57.
Medford School District to Lobby Governor Brown For Greater Local Control Of Covid-19 Rules
The Medford School District is going to take another bid for local control of coronavirus countermeasures in school after getting the go-ahead to remove outdoor masking requirements last week.
MSD Superintendent Dr. Bret Champion told reporters on Monday that while the end of outdoor masking was a positive step and one that the District implemented immediately, administrators were hoping for a more significant relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions.
“We’re grateful for the outdoor mask thing, appreciative that test-to-stay is a thing, but we would want it to go a step further and allow us to work with our local health department to talk about what other next steps might be,” Champion said.
Alongside the lifting of outdoor mask requirements, the Oregon Department of Education introduced “test to stay” last Tuesday. It gives unvaccinated students or staff who were exposed to Covid-19 at school the option of getting tested twice during the seven days following that exposure, avoiding the required week-long quarantine period if they test negative on both occasions.
Dr. Champion expressed frustration with the test to stay rules, which do not provide the same option for unvaccinated students or staff who were exposed outside of school. Exposures on school grounds during school hours have been uncommon, Champion said, and the test to stay option is thus not very useful.
“As it stands right now, if we’ve got a kid who was a direct contact at a sporting event or practice, we don’t get to use test to stay,” Champion said. “We would love to talk to Jackson County Public Health about being able to do that, but right now we can’t. The state says ‘nope’ — it only applies to this incredibly narrow, incredibly narrow group of kids who get exposed at school. A sporting event is not considered at school.”
The ODE rules say that the extracurricular exposure is excepted because masking is optional outside of school, and “the risk of transmission within the cohort is greater.”
“I believe the best decisions are made locally, with local input, local data, and local conversations with folks who are charged with our particular context,” Champion said. “Trying to make a singular decision for the entire state of Oregon is sometimes very necessary, and I don’t disrespect that at all.
“We have now been at the Covid thing since March of 2020, we’re coming up on over 18 months, about to be two years come March, and we have managed to handle Covid mitigation strategies incredibly well in the Medford School District with our local health department.”
Champion confirmed that there is a draft letter requesting more local autonomy in the works, though it has not yet been adopted by the school board or sent to the state.
The Medford School District pushed back against Governor Kate Brown and state officials in early August after all K-12 schools were placed under a mask mandate, but ultimately complied with the mandate. MSD was one of several local districts lobbying Governor Brown for local control, but the protests faded away as the Delta variant spread rapidly and Jackson County became a locus for cases and hospitalizations in the state of Oregon.
In an update on Monday, Jackson County Public Health reported that there were 243 new Covid-19 cases last week, marking a 36% decrease from the week prior. Statewide weekly cases were down 25% last week, the lowest level since July.
This continued progress was overshadowed somewhat by the news of a new “variant of concern” on the horizon, Omicron, which was first identified in South Africa but has since been detected in multiple other countries.
“It is important to be aware that there is a new variant of concern, but it is too early to know the implications this new variant may have,” said Dr. Jim Shames, Health Officer for Jackson County Public Health. “We want to encourage people that there are actions that everyone can take to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Assuring that you are fully vaccinated and taking known precautions, such as wearing a mask, are the best initial strategies that everyone can take.”
Among adults, Jackson County’s vaccination rate was just over 66% as of Monday. Its overall vaccination rate, including all ages, was just above 57%.
Menorah Lighting in Medford Tonight (Tuesday) for Hanukkah
Chabad Jewish Center of Southern Oregon hosted its 18th annual Menorah lightings in downtown Ashland on Sunday and Grants Pass. Tuesday they will be lighting in Medford for the start of Hanukkah.
A 10 foot Menorah will be proudly displayed with its universal message of light over darkness, goodness over evil, and love over hate.
“Chanukah is a holiday that enriches our lives with the light of tradition” said Rabbi Avi Zwiebel, director of the Chabad Jewish Center. The Menorah lighting will be broadcast on the Chabad Jewish Center of Southern Oregon Facebook page each night of Hannukah.
The Medford Menorah lighting, with local dignitaries will take place Tuesday, November 30 at 5:30pm at the Vogel Plaza on Central Ave in Downtown Medford.
The festivities will include the lighting of the 10 foot Menorah with local dignitaries, music, latkes and a Hanukkah pop-up store. The 10 foot Menorahs will be on display in Ashland and Medford for the duration of the holiday of Chanukah.
The events are open to all regardless of your religious preference. The Menorah lighting will be broadcast on the Chabad Jewish Center of Southern Oregon Facebook page each night of Hannukah: https://www.facebook.com/ChabadSouthernOregon
Police Seek Public’s Help: Myrtle Creek woman, 77, missing since early Saturday morning
Police made a public appeal for help locating a woman who left home early Saturday morning and hasn’t been heard from since.
Myrtle Creek Police say Bonnie Jo Short, 77, left her residence around 1:30 a.m. on Nov. 27, 2021. She is about 5-foot-4 and weighs around 110 pounds with grey hair and brown eyes. She was last seen wearing blue slacks, a grey and black striped sweatshirt, black boots and a grey robe.
Short was driving a silver 2015 Ford Escape bearing Oregon license plate 900MLJ.
“It is unknown where Bonnie may have gone, and her cell phone appears to be shut off,” police said. “If you have any information regarding Bonnie’s whereabouts or have seen her vehicle, please contact the Myrtle Creek Police Department immediately at 541-440-4471.”
ODOT and Oregon Dept. of Forestry Team Up due to Staff Shortage
For the Oregon Department of Forestry’s wildland firefighters, summer is showtime and winter is a slow time — but for their comrades at the Oregon Department of Transportation, the seasons are flipped. As a result, the two agencies partner up on a joint staffing program known as “Fire and Ice,” sharing staff when they’re needed.
The program has been going on since the 1980s, with the goal of retaining experienced employees while providing opportunities in career advancement, leadership, and relationship building. The positions covered by the program respond to dangerous situations in extreme conditions no matter the season, and Griffin says that it’s ideal to
have consistency season to season and year to year. Right now, the program gives ODOT much-needed hands as they suffer from a shortage in staff needed to maintain roadways.
Nine ODF firefighters are working as winter road maintenance specialists this winter, covering jobs from driving snowplows to operating equipment that de-ices or sands roadways. In late spring, these firefighters will return to ODF to resume fire suppression work in Jackson and Josephine counties.
Though the firefighters currently working with ODOT will help to bridge the staffing gap, state officials warn that the shortage could still result in longer timeframes for clearing roads, so travelers are encouraged to plan accordingly.
The Oregon Employment Department reports this holiday season that Oregon’s healthcare and social assistance providers are hiring “at an unprecedented rate.”
OED says about 15,000 job vacancies in Oregon’s healthcare community are causing “an urgent, statewide need to fill health care and other positions that support the healthcare industry, like food service, facilities, and business administration.”
Officials at several major healthcare providers in Southern Oregon have underlined that there has been a shortage of skilled workers in the industry for years. The stress and upheaval of the Covid-19 pandemic and the state’s vaccine mandate for healthcare workers has only exacerbated that shortage.
In September, Providence Health & Services began a major hiring push, offering bonuses and other incentives for both new recruits and caregivers who remained with the company. OED says its WorkSource Oregon can help connect employers and qualified applicants interested in the health care field.
WorkSource Oregon centers are open and taking appointments to provide one-on-one help with job applicants. WorkSource offices are available in Medford, Grants Pass, Klamath Falls, Brookings, and Roseburg.
Oregon reports 2,598 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 27 new deaths
There are 27 new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 5,142. The Oregon Health Authority reported 2,598 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 390,066.
The 27 new deaths and 2,598 new cases reported today include data recorded by counties for the period between Nov. 24 and Nov. 28.
The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (17), Benton (32), Clackamas (300), Clatsop (29), Columbia (54), Coos (27), Crook (22), Curry (9), Deschutes (282), Douglas (87), Gilliam (1), Grant (2), Harney (2), Hood River (6), Jackson (136), Jefferson (25), Josephine (77), Klamath (23), Lake (1), Lane (177), Lincoln (35), Linn (123), Malheur (6), Marion (230), Morrow (1), Multnomah (417), Polk (28), Tillamook (20),Umatilla (11), Union (18), Wallowa (7), Wasco (1), Washington (340) and Yamhill (52).
Oregon reports 861 confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases on Nov. 24, 306 confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases on Nov. 25, 467 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases on Nov. 26, 519 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases on Nov. 27 and 445 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases on Nov. 28.
OHA expresses concern about Omicron, recommends vaccination
Oregon Health Authority is issuing a statement on the new COVID-19 variant known as Omicron, which the World Health Organization has classified as a variant of concern. The following is from Dean E. Sidelinger, M.D., M.S.Ed., health officer and state epidemiologist:
We know the emergence of the new variant of COVID-19, called the Omicron variant, is concerning for many Oregonians. We share that concern, and Oregon Health Authority epidemiologists are closely monitoring its transmission in other parts of the world.
What we do know is that the basic prevention steps we have long talked about remain the best ways to protect yourself against Omicron, Delta or any variant of COVID-19 that is circulating. Vaccination remains the best protection against COVID-19 infection and transmission, including most circulating variants.
Omicron has not yet been detected in the United States, but we expect it will be in the coming days due to its reported high transmissibility. Oregon has one of the most robust variant surveillance systems in the United States, and so far, no cases of Omicron have been detected in Oregon.
Omicron is reported to be more transmissible than the Delta variant as it’s quickly outcompeted Delta in South Africa, but we do not yet know how much more transmissible it is. We also don’t know how Omicron affects vaccine effectiveness against severe infection (hospitalization and death). The vaccines have remained highly effective against other variants, and we expect the same to be true with Omicron. We should have early answers in the coming weeks.
The best way to protect yourself against Omicron, or any variant of COVID-19 that is circulating, is to be vaccinated. Vaccination remains the best protection against COVID-19. Those who are not yet vaccinated should get their first COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible. Those due for a booster – all adults either two months after a Johnson & Johnson vaccination or six months after a Moderna or Pfizer vaccination – should get it as soon as possible. Wearing a mask when inside public places as well as social distancing and handwashing remain incredibly important in the face of an emerging variant and high levels of community transmission.
We know that news of Omicron’s emergence will cause many people to experience some anxiety about the unknown. We also know there is a great deal of “pandemic fatigue” as cases, hospitalizations and deaths are reported daily. COVID-19 continues to disrupt our lives. I share these anxieties as we continue to face COVID-19.
I want to thank all of my public health colleagues and health care partners who continue to help protect us from COVID-19 and provide us all with quality care. Some communities – our communities of color and our Native American neighbors – have been especially impacted by COVID-19. But no Oregonian has been spared, so I want to thank all Oregonians for the steps they continue to take to protect themselves, loved ones and communities from this pandemic.
Video statement by Dr. Sidelinger:
Wolf OR-93 Who Traveled From Oregon to Southern California Has Been Found Dead
Confirmation on Thanksgiving eve came from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife as they announced that wolf OR-93 had been found dead by the side of Interstate 5 in Kerns County, Calif. The department says it doesn’t suspect foul play, and the wolf likely died from being hit by a vehicle. He was 2 years old.
The gray male wolf was an Oregon native, believed to have been born into the White River pack, near Mount Hood, in 2019. He gained a level of wildlife notoriety by traveling nearly 1,000 miles south, into California—his collar tracking him as far as San Luis Obispo County.
In April, OR-93′s radio collar went silent and wolf advocates feared the worst. But then, Kerns County residents began reporting sightings of a wolf with a distinctive purple collar, and it seemed OR-93 lived on. Alas, now the fears are validated.
“I’m devastated to learn of the death of this remarkable wolf, whose epic travels across California inspired the world,” Amaroq Weiss, senior wolf advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a press release responding to the news.
Though the CDFW is quick to point out that California was once a wolf habitat, OR-93 was the first documented wolf to travel that far south since 1922.
In 2011, an Eastern Oregon wolf, OR-07, gained national notoriety as the first to be tracked in the state of California since 1924. He eventually settled his pack in Oregon. One of his sons started a pack in Northern California. His daughter, OR-54, traveled as far south as the Lake Tahoe Basin before she was found dead two years ago.
Young wolves typically roam over long distances when they reach adult age, looking for new packs and mates. Wildlife researchers call this dispersing. According to the CDFW, there are around 20 known wolves in California, but they all live in Northern California.
“OR-93′s epic California journey was a beacon of hope in a time when other states are waging a brutal war on wolves, killing them by the hundreds,” Weiss said in another release. “He was simply doing what wolves do, heading out on his own, searching for a mate. I always knew the odds of his finding another wolf on the Central Coast were slim to none, but his relentless wanderings seeking a kindred spirit connected him to the hearts of so many. He won’t be forgotten, and we’ll honor his memory by continuing to fight for the safety of wolves everywhere.”
OSP Find Cocaine Worth Hundreds Of Thousands Of Dollars In Dog Crate
Oregon State Police say they found drugs inside a dog crate on Monday in Marion County. Its estimated street value is $228,000.
At around 11:00 a.m., a trooper stopped a van traveling northbound on Interstate 5 for a traffic violation. During the stop, the trooper observed signs of criminal activity.
The driver of the van gave consent to have their van searched. OSP K-9 Titan was used and found the presence of controlled substances he’s trained to detect.
Six kilograms of cocaine were found in the back of the van hidden inside the dog crate. The driver was identified as 63-year-old Humberto Alzarez Plascencia of Chino, California.
Oregon Car Repair Shops Will Need to File Bond With DMV Before Seeking ‘Mechanic’s Lien’ in New Bill
Disputes over payment for car repairs can sometimes cost vehicle owners and auto mechanics money, time and in some situations the car itself.
The 2021 Oregon Legislature passed a law to create some financial breathing space for these disputes under House Bill 2311. The new law will take effect Jan. 1, 2022.
Car owners don’t need to do anything, but automobile repair businesses need to prepare.ADVERTISING
Under current Oregon law, if an auto repair business does not receive payment for repairs to a vehicle, it has the right to apply for a possessory lien through DMV and to sell the vehicle to recover its costs. This “mechanic’s lien” is based on Oregon Revised Statute 87.152.
Under HB 2311, as of Jan. 1, 2022, auto mechanics must first have a surety bond or an irrevocable letter of credit in the amount of $20,000 filed with DMV before they can apply for a mechanic’s lien. This protects vehicle owners in case a mechanic’s lien is found to be invalid, DMV said.
As of Jan. 1, DMV will not accept mechanic’s lien applications without the bond or letter on file first unless the claimant also:
- is a franchised dealership, as defined under ORS 650.120(5);
- is a manufacturer, as defined under ORS 650.120;
- holds a towing business certificate issued under ORS 822.205; or
- is a national auction company titling the vehicle pursuant to ORS 87.152(3).
Those required to file a surety bond or letter of credit must certify to DMV every year, in writing, that the bond or letter remains in effect.
If you are a mechanic or own an independent auto repair shop and need more information about filing a mechanic’s lien from DMV, please call DMV Customer Assistance at 503-945-5000 or 503-299-9999 in the Portland Metro Area.
Researchers Ask Oregonians To Take Photos To Help Document Sea-Level Rise During King Tide Event
The Oregon Coast is set to experience higher-than-normal tides this weekend, and researchers are asking Oregonians to take photos to help document sea-level rise as climate change worsens.
From Friday through Sunday, the Oregon Coast will be experiencing some of the highest tides of winter, known as king tides. King tides occur when the moon, earth, and the sun align at the closest points to each other, leading to enough gravitational pull to create larger-than-usual tides.
The Oregon King Tides Project is asking anyone with a camera to safely take and share pictures of the king tides, which can add about 3 feet to average tides. The resulting photo collection will help document and inform researchers on the impacts of sea-level rise, flooding, and erosion — all of which are becoming worse as global warming continues to play out.
The continued burning of fossil fuels is creating greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing to climate change. Those greenhouse gases are trapped in the atmosphere, raising average temperatures and in turn, melting glaciers and ice sheets around the world. That is adding more water to the ocean and increasing sea levels. The Pacific Island nations are already experiencing significant damage from sea-level rise.
The Oregon Coastal Management Program is one of two organizations involved with the Oregon King Tides Project. Coastal Shores Specialist Meg Reed said documenting king tides now gives us a glimpse of what we can expect for the future as climate change worsens and be better prepared.
“They can have big impacts on communities,” she said. “They can create erosion, flooding, have impacts to the natural infrastructure as well as human infrastructure and it’s important to look at those impacts and see how we can start adapting as a community to sea-level rise.”
She said king tides create the highest of high tides and the lowest of low tides, and they are predictable—which makes it a perfect opportunity to learn more about sea-level rise in our region.
“With sea-level rise, we just expect the same hazards that we already experience on the coast to get worse,” Reed said. “So potentially those flooding and erosion events that we already experience will maybe become more frequent will happen more often in the winter or they might become more extreme.”
Reed said some areas of concern are places like Rockaway Beach which experiences lots of flooding during a king tide event, as well as downtown Nehalem. Other areas include oceanfront properties and even areas like airports and railroads that are low-lying are areas of concern.
Right now, the Oregon Coastal Management Program is currently working on a sea-level rise planning guide for coastal cities to begin to think about how cities, residents and businesses can begin to adapt to sea-level rise and move those projects forward.
Short-term options include putting up structural measures like seawalls or riprap. Other options include preventing certain types of development from being built in hazardous areas and proactively removing structures that are on the coastline if possible.
The Oregon King Tides Project photo account currently has more than 3,000 images. Residents can submit their photos on the Oregon King Tides Project website. The project is a collaboration between the Department of Land Conservation and Development’s Oregon Coastal Management Program and the Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition.