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, June 23, 2022
Rogue Valley Weather
Olsrud Family Gives $12 Million To Asante Women’s And Children’s Hospital
The Olsruds are Southern Oregon business owners and have actively supported Asante since 1998, when Sherm Olsrud was impressed by his care while in the hospital. Wanda and Sherm Olsrud have made a historic $12 million gift for families who receive care at Asante.
The $12 million donation is the largest in the health system’s history, according to a June 22 press release.
The Olsrud Family Women’s and Children’s Hospital will inhabit the top two floors of the new six-story pavilion at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford.
The donation will bring maternity and pediatric services to one location and be used for:
- Pediatrics department
- Pediatric outpatient infusion clinic for children facing cancer and other diseases requiring infusion
- The region’s only level III newborn intensive care unit
- Labor and delivery
- Family newborn unit
- OB emergency department
Andrea Reeder, vice president and executive director of the Asante Foundation, states that this is a historic donation, calling it “the greatest gift not only in the history of the Asante Foundation but in the history of our region.”
Candlelight Vigil and Gofundme Campaign for 7-Year-Old Boy Who Drowned In Eagle Point
The local community came together to hold a candlelight vigil Wednesday night to remember Aquila Reuben Harris, the 7-year-old boy who passed away after Saturday’s water rescue in Little Butte Creek.
The vigil took place at the Butte Creek Mill, near where Harris was found before he was taken to the hospital.
The incident occurred on the evening of Saturday, June 18 – the day before Father’s Day – in Little Butte Creek near the mill. Harris was found in the water near the mill by Jackson County Sheriff’s Office deputies.
First responders started CPR and Harris was taken by Mercy Flights to a local hospital. At 8:55 p.m. Saturday night, JCSO announced he had passed away.
Stevie Kuchinski, the woman who organized Wednesday’s vigil, said it was about bringing the community together to support a family in need.
“We all live here and all our kids play together and I feel like it was just the right thing to do,” she said. “The creek — kids are wanting to cool down, go play. Something that looks so peaceful can turn into something so tragic.”
A crowd of well over 50 people attended the vigil, candles in hand. Harris’s father, teachers, friends, and fellow community members all shared their favorite memories. Kuchinski said this tragic event hasn’t just impacted the adults of the community, but the children as well.
“It’s not just the community, it’s the friends of that little boy that are going to be wondering ‘Where’s my friend?’ or they know what happened and they’re not going to have that friend anymore,” she said. “It’s not just hit the community, it’s hit the little ones.”
A GoFundMe has been created to help raise money for the Harris family during this time. To make a donation, visit: https://gofund.me/d509c340.
Local Schools Start Summer Meal Programs
Now that summer is in full swing for local students, many school districts have started their summer meal programs.
To find the summer meal closest to your location, visit the Oregon Department of Education’s Summer Meals Map webpage.
Something new this summer is that meals will need to be consumed on-site. During the pandemic, meals could be retrieved and taken away because the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) waived many of the program requirements, offering flexibilities to meal service operations in an effort to serve participants safely and minimize exposure to COVID-19. Several of those waivers are set to expire in the near future.
We want to keep you informed about COVID-19 in Oregon. Data are provisional and change frequently. For more information, including COVID-19 data by county, visit our dashboard: http://ow.ly/qvf650JF5Ux
Oregon Wastewater Test Data Shows Far More People Have COVID Than Is Apparent Through Testing
Last month, a new COVID-19 variant from the omicron family spread across Oregon, causing a seventh wave of infections.
On paper, this seventh wave hasn’t looked particularly impressive, peaking in late May at about 1,500 new cases reported per day. But data from sewage samples collected at wastewater treatment plants across the state suggests that the BA2 omicron variant is silently causing far more infections than are showing up in state testing tallies.
“Wastewater across the state is more or less at record highs or near record highs,” said Tyler Radniecki, an associate professor of environmental engineering who is leading the wastewater sampling research effort at Oregon State University.
The OSU project is part of a nationwide COVID-19 wastewater surveillance effort. The viral concentrations in Oregon during the current surge look similar to what the team saw during the peaks of the delta surge last August and the first omicron surge in January.
By the end of May, the concentration of virus in wastewater samples registered as “strong,” indicating a significant outbreak, in much of the state. In a handful of communities, including Forest Grove and Bend, concentrations of the virus were even higher, signaling particularly intense BA2 outbreaks.
What the wastewater shows, Radniecki says, is that the state’s tally of COVID-19 cases is a very significant underestimate of the actual spread of BA2.
Wastewater monitoring does not, however, give any indication of how much severe illness a particular variant is causing. Hospitalization data shows BA2, like other omicron variants, is mostly causing milder cases, though the number of people with COVID-19 in intensive care rose above 50 this week.
Case counts have always been a very imperfect measure of actual infections because they are highly dependent on the number of people getting clinically tested for COVID-19. And as more people use rapid at-home tests, the amount of clinical testing is dropping, making case counts an even less reliable proxy for COVID-19 spread.
The surveillance method takes advantage of the fact that many people infected with COVID-19 shed the virus in their poop. The OSU team collects data from around 40 wastewater treatment plants statewide, from Ontario to Warm Springs to Florence.
Every week, the treatment plants use a small filter to collect a representative sample of the sewage flowing in over a 24-hour period. The filters get rolled up, stuck in little tubes, and shipped to Corvallis. OSU’s scientists identify viral RNA on the droplets in the filters and quantify it. After two years of honing the process, it now takes about 4 to 5 days from when a sample is collected to when OSU has an estimate of how much COVID-19 virus is in it.
The researchers also extract genomic sequences from the wastewater samples to look for variants of concern.
George Conway, Deschutes County’s health officer, says two things make wastewater monitoring powerful. First, everyone living upstream of the wastewater plant contributes to the sample.
“It’s a pooled source,” Conway said. “This helps us to better gauge the current rate of community infection.”
Second, people infected with COVID-19 start shedding the virus in their feces before they are symptomatic, and before they may choose to seek out testing. As the OSU team has streamlined its protocol, wastewater is coming closer to providing a real-time look at outbreaks as they develop.
“It has given us reliable early warning,” Conway said of the testing. “That can inform our communications to medically fragile persons and give time for medical providers and hospitals to better prepare for an increasing caseload.”
The wastewater testing data is available to the public. Radniecki encourages people to look at it, to understand if the virus is spreading or on the decline in their community.
“If you are seeing very large signals in your community, that might change your behaviors or the risk you’re willing to take,” he said
Right now, for example, the data shows COVID-19 concentrations leveling off or decreasing in most of the state, but rising in parts of southern Oregon.
It takes a little work to read the data. Each colored dot represents an individual community. Click on it, and it pulls up a chart showing how the concentration of the virus has changed in that community over time. The chart uses a logarithmic scale to show the concentrations of the virus. Similar to the way we measure the magnitude of earthquakes, it means a small increase in value at the top of the scale represents a big increase in the concentration of the virus present in a community’s wastewater.
Oregon Office of State Fire Marshal asks Oregonians to keep fireworks use legal and safe
SALEM, Ore. – “Keep it legal, keep it safe” is the message from the Oregon Office of State Fire Marshal (OSFM). The 2022 fireworks retail sales season begins June 23rd and runs through July 6th in Oregon. The OSFM would like everyone to know which fireworks are legal, where they can be used, and how to use them safely.
To reduce the risk of starting a wildfire, some local governments in Oregon have put in place regulations, perhaps including bans, on the sale or use of fireworks. It is important to check your local regulations and follow them where you live or may be traveling to celebrate the 4th of July holiday.
“We ask that those using fireworks be responsible when using them,” Oregon Office of State Fire Marshal Assistant Chief Deputy Mark Johnston said. “Every year, we see fires started because of improper use or use of illegal fireworks. Our message is to keep it legal and keep it safe as people celebrate the holiday.”
Consumer legal fireworks can only be purchased from permitted fireworks retailers and stands. State regulations also limit where those fireworks may be used. People who plan to visit public lands and parks are asked to leave all fireworks at home. The possession and use of fireworks are prohibited in national parks and forests, on Bureau of Land Management lands, U.S. Fish and Wildlife properties, state beaches, state parks, and in-state campgrounds. The use of fireworks is also prohibited on many private lands protected by the Oregon Department of Forestry.
For residents who purchase legal fireworks, fire officials encourage everyone to practice the four Bs of safe fireworks use:
- Be prepared before lighting fireworks: keep water available by using a garden hose or bucket.
- Be safe when lighting fireworks: keep children and pets away from fireworks. Never use fireworks near or on dry grass or vegetation.
- Be responsible after lighting fireworks: never relight a dud. Please wait for 15 to 20 minutes, then soak it in a bucket of water before disposal.
- Be aware: use only legal fireworks and use them only in legal places.
Oregon law prohibits the possession, use, or sale of any firework that flies into the air, explodes, or travels more than 12 feet horizontally on the ground without a permit issued by the OSFM. Fireworks, commonly called bottle rockets, Roman candles, and firecrackers, are illegal in Oregon without a permit. Officials may seize illegal fireworks and charge offenders with a class B misdemeanor, which could result in a fine of up to $2,500. Those who misuse fireworks or allow fireworks to cause damage are liable and may be required to pay fire suppression costs or other damages. Parents are also liable for fireworks damage caused by their children.
The OSFM has published FAQs for commonly answered questions about the sale and legal use of consumer fireworks, permits for the retail sale of fireworks, and state rules for their use and enforcement activities. OSFM’s fireworks education materials for sharing on social media also can be found on its website.
$600 Assistance Payments Headed For Some Oregonians This Week
The Oregon Department of Revenue will begin distributing One-Time Assistance Payments of $600 to more than 236,000 qualifying households later this week. Payments will be received by direct deposit or by check by July 1, 2022.
To qualify households must have received the Earned Income Tax Credit on their 2020 tax filing and lived in Oregon the last six months of 2020.
The One-Time Assistance Payments will be deposited directly to the bank accounts of 136,640 recipients and checks will be mailed to 99,647 recipients. Households that receive a direct deposit will also be mailed a letter explaining the payment. Households that receive a paper check will include information about the payment on their check stub. A total of nearly $141.8 million is expected to be distributed to 236,287 qualifying recipients.
Agricultural Water Alliance Forms Amid Persistent Drought to Tackle State Water Issues
Decades of insufficient investment in infrastructure and ongoing regulatory uncertainty have imperiled Oregon’s food and water supply
SALEM, OR – Today, several agricultural organizations announced the emergence of a new alliance to focus on strategic water investments and common-sense policies that will promote water and agricultural sustainability. This comes as much of Oregon continues to face historic drought conditions and as supply chain issues and global food insecurity concerns grow.
Members of the newly formed Oregon Agricultural Water Alliance (OAWA) include the Oregon Farm Bureau, Oregon Cattleman’s Association, Oregon Association of Nurseries, Oregon Dairy Farmers Association, Oregon Water Resources Congress, Northeast Oregon Water Association, and Water for Life Inc.
The alliance formed a steering committee and contracted with a consultant, Greg Addington, from Oregon’s Klamath Basin, who has experience in organizational operations and state water policy. Priorities identified by the alliance include shifting state water policy to focus on an adequate, safe, and affordable food supply and growing other environmentally beneficial agricultural products; creating more water storage (above and below ground); building drought resiliency; interstate cooperation in water supply and management; demanding more agency accountability; and reducing costly and unnecessary litigation.
Addington, who spent a decade working on Klamath Basin water issues, cited the newly formed group’s recognition that a more coordinated approach from the agricultural community is needed.
“Agricultural producers and water suppliers are struggling with extreme and reoccurring drought, labor shortages, and exponentially rising costs. These challenges are exacerbated by regulatory uncertainty and a lack of investment in storage capacity to safeguard our most basic need—water,” said Addington.
Additional goals established by the coalition include educating policymakers on the importance of forward-looking water policy, advocating for investment in water supply, creating viable pathways to water project implementation, conducting educational tours for legislators and agency staff, and informing the public about the importance of irrigated agriculture to the state’s health and prosperity.
Across the State of Oregon, farmers and ranchers produce over 240 commodities that supply Oregon, the United States, and beyond with critical elements of the agri-food chain. Collectively the OAWA members represent a broad spectrum of individuals and entities including water delivery districts that serve nearly 600,000 acres and over 14,000 producers of food and fiber in Oregon.
May 2022 Employment and Unemployment in Oregon’s Counties
In May, unemployment rates declined in 33 of Oregon’s 36 counties. Unemployment rates in three counties did not decline, but held steady over the month. Thirteen counties had unemployment rates at or below the statewide and nationwide rate of 3.6% in May.
Klamath County had Oregon’s highest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate (5.3%) in May. Other counties with relatively high unemployment rates were Grant (5.2%), Curry (4.9%), and Lincoln (4.9%). Benton, Hood River, and Wheeler counties registered the lowest unemployment rates in May, at 2.9% each. Other counties with some of the lowest unemployment rates in May included Washington (3.0%), Sherman (3.1%), and Gilliam (3.2%).
Between May 2021 and May 2022, total nonfarm employment rose in each of the six broad regions across Oregon. The Willamette Valley region experienced the fastest job growth over the year at 4.1%. Employment also grew at a relatively fast pace in the five Portland-metro counties (3.7%) and Central Oregon region (3.3%). Growth occurred at a slower pace along the Coast (1.3%), in Eastern Oregon (0.8%), and in Southern Oregon (0.7%).
The Oregon Employment Department (OED) is an equal opportunity agency. Everyone has a right to use OED programs and services. OED provides free help. Some examples are sign language and spoken language interpreters, written materials in other languages, braille, large print, audio and other formats. If you need help, please call 971-673-6400. TTY users call 711. You can also ask for help at OED_Communications@employ.oregon.gov.
Coos Bay Police Report Rise in Fentanyl Overdoses
The Coos Bay Police is reporting a rise in Fentanyl overdoses in their area and is urging the public to be cautious.
On June 20, the Coos Bay Police and Fire Departments responded to three reports of drug overdoses, one of them fatal. Fentanyl is suspected in all three.
In June alone, North Coos Dispatch center has had six overdose reports in the Coos Bay and North Bend area, with four of those on June 20 and 21.
Coos Bay Fire Department Battalion Chief Steve Takis reported his department administered Naloxone, sometimes known as Narcan, 29 times in all of 2021, but has already administered Naloxone 25 times in 2022.
Police ask the public to call 911 if they suspect someone is using or overdosing on Fentanyl since exposure in even tiny amounts can be dangerous, not only to the person using the drug, but to those who may be in close proximity as well.
Blood and Platelet Donors Needed Around Fourth of July
Red Cross sees about a 21% decline in blood and platelet donations during holiday weeks
Portland, Ore (June 22, 2022) — As summer officially begins and people gather for holiday celebrations, the American Red Cross reminds communities that patients are counting now on the generosity of blood and platelet donors, especially around the Fourth of July.
The Red Cross sees about a 21% decline in blood and platelet donations during holiday weeks, including Independence Day. When blood donations drop, so does the blood supply, making it extremely challenging to ensure blood is available when hospitals and patients, like 4-year-old Olivia Enders of West Linn, need it.
Olivia was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL) in August 2021. She has received 20 blood transfusions as part of her treatment.
“We often think of transfusions for emergencies but forget about the need for blood transfusion for people and children battling long term diseases and cancers. Every transfusion gives Olivia another chance at life and continued success at battling her cancer and being a kid again,” says Olivia’s mother, Sarah Enders.
By scheduling and keeping appointments in July, donors can help provide for those in immediate need of lifesaving care. To schedule an appointment to donate, download the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
As a thank-you for helping, all those who come to give June 30-July 10 will receive an exclusive Red Cross recycled cotton tote bag, while supplies last.
Visit RedCrossBlood.org and enter your zip code to find additional blood donation opportunities near you.
Click here for b-roll of people giving blood. Additional images of Olivia and her mom, Sarah, are attached.
Health insights for donors
At a time when health information has never been more important, the Red Cross is screening all blood, platelet and plasma donations from self-identified African American donors for the sickle cell trait. This additional screening will provide Black donors with an additional health insight and help the Red Cross identify compatible blood types more quickly to help patients with sickle cell disease. Blood transfusion is an essential treatment for those with sickle cell disease, and blood donations from individuals of the same race, ethnicity and blood type have a unique ability to help patients fighting sickle cell disease.
Donors can expect to receive sickle cell trait screening results, if applicable, within one to two weeks through the Red Cross Blood Donor App and the online donor portal at RedCrossBlood.org.
Blood drive safety
The Red Cross follows a high standard of safety and infection control. The Red Cross will continue to socially distance wherever possible at blood drives, donation centers and facilities. While donors are no longer required to wear a face mask, individuals may choose to continue to wear a mask for any reason. The Red Cross will also adhere to more stringent face mask requirements per state and/or local guidance, or at the request of blood drive sponsors. Donors are asked to schedule an appointment prior to arriving at a drive.
Oregon and Washington still require face masks be worn at all blood drives and donation sites.
How to donate blood
Simply download the American Red Cross Blood Donor App, visit RedCrossBlood.org, call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enable the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device to make an appointment or for more information. All blood types are needed to ensure a reliable supply for patients. A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age in most states (16 with parental consent where allowed by state law), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.
Blood and platelet donors can save time at their next donation by using RapidPass® to complete their pre-donation reading and health history questionnaire online, on the day of their donation, before arriving at the blood drive. To get started, follow the instructions at RedCrossBlood.org/RapidPass or use the Blood Donor App.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides comfort to victims of disasters; supplies about 40% of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; distributes international humanitarian aid; and supports veterans, military members and their families. The Red Cross is a nonprofit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to deliver its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or CruzRojaAmericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.