Klamath Basin News, Friday – Gov. Brown Closes All Schools in Oregon To Curb Spread of Coronavirus

Broadcasting’s KFLS News/Talk 1450AM/102.5FM, BasinLife.com and The Herald & News.

FRIDAY, MARCH 13, 2020

Klamath Basin Weather

Sunny, with a high near 58.   Overnight, a slight chance of rain showers before 11pm, then a chance of rain and snow showers. Low of 27 degrees.  Snow level 5100 feet lowering to 4200 feet.  New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.

Snow showers, mainly after 11am. High near 43. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.  Overnight, snow showers. Low around 24. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New snow accumulation of 1 to 3 inches possible.

Snow likely. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 43.

A chance of snow after 11am. Mostly sunny, with a high near 44.

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Today’s Headlines

Governor Kate Brown has announced that all K-12 public schools in the state of Oregon will be closed beginning Monday through the end of March.

Brown’s actions come as she and other officials try to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, which they believe might infect thousands of people in Oregon.

“Schools are critical institutions that provide important services for all our students, but especially are most vulnerable, and during this crisis I have worked hard to ensure those critical services continue,” Brown said in a statement Thursday night. “However, I have heard from superintendents, school board members, teachers, parents and students that it has now become impossible to functionally operate schools due to workforce issues and student absences.”

Brown’s announcement of statewide school closures, now in place will mean no school at all in the state of Oregon from Monday, March 16, through Tuesday, March 31.

At noon today, President Trump declared a national emergency amid growing concern about the coronavirus outbreak across the United States. The move, widely expected, frees up $50 billion dollars for states to deal with the crisis.

Here in Oregon, the school closure announcement comes quickly as Governor Brown says she has heard all week from school superintendents, teachers, parents and school board members who said they were struggling to operate in the wake of staff shortages and student absences.  

The governor said a lot of concern was also voiced for teachers over the age of 60 with underlying medical issues.

“I want to be very clear: sending Oregon children home will not stop the spread of the coronavirus,” Brown said in a statement. “While children are home, when at all possible, they should not be in the care of older adults or those with underlying health issues that are most at-risk from COVID-19.”

During the closure, Brown is calling on school districts to develop plans to operate schools when students return on Wednesday, April 1.

School districts should also use the time to ensure they have adequate cleaning supplies for increased cleaning protocols, the governor’s release stated.

The state will track the impact the closures could have on instructional time. And the Early Learning Division will work to identify ways to support child care needs for the state’s most vulnerable families, as well as health care professionals and first responders, the governor stated.

“Due to the evolving nature of this crisis, these timelines will be reevaluated in late March in consultation with school administrators,” Colt Gill, director of the Oregon Department of Education, said in a statement.

Brown is holding a press conference this morning to answer more questions about the closures. 

Earlier this week, Brown restricted gatherings to no more than 250 people for at least four weeks, means many long-planned events are postponed indefinitely, from concerts and NBA games to business conferences and even weddings.

The Oregon Health Authority reported three new cases of COVID-19 Thursday afternoon, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 24 across 11 counties.

The news came after the Oregon Health Authority reported six new cases of COVID-19 Thursday night, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 30 across 11 counties.

The six new cases are all residents of Oregon Veterans’ Home in Lebanon, where two people were initially diagnosed with the virus Wednesday. 

The COVID-19 virus, a relative of other viruses like SARS, has claimed nearly 40 lives in the U.S. from the virus.  Most of those deaths have been in the Seattle area.

Brown, with support from the Oregon Department of Education and Oregon’s Early Learning Division, has directed school districts to develop plans for returning to school that take into account the ongoing impacts of COVID-19.

Districts are required to develop plans to continue nutrition services for students during the school closures. 

The Early Learning Division will “support child care programs and will work to identify resources to support child care needs for our most vulnerable families,” a statement from Brown’s office reads. 

Brown will answer questions in a teleconference later Friday morning. In the meantime, some schools have opted to close ahead of Monday. 

Oregon Education Association President John Larson said in a statement following Brown’s announcement that state elected officials must work to ensure Oregon’s students and teachers are protected during the school closures. 

“It is essential the governor’s office release guidance instructing school districts to keep public school employees financially whole during the closing of schools,” Larson said in the statement. “Oregon’s students and educators should not have to bear the burden of a public health outbreak that is far beyond their control.”

Late Wednesday night, Brown had announced a ban of all public gatherings of more than 250 people for four weeks, effective immediately until April 8.

For workplaces, Brown recommended increasing physical space between employees in offices and limiting work-related travel and staggering work schedules.

“Coronavirus is in our community. We should be prepared for thousands of cases in Oregon,” Brown said at the briefing.

Dr. Dean Sidelinger with the Oregon Health Authority estimates there could currently be between 150 to 250 novel coronavirus cases in the state. He said without limiting social interactions, that number could reach up to 75,000 by mid-May.

Meanwhile, Oregon’s medical professionals are concerned that hospitals in the state don’t have sufficient resources to care for COVID-19 patients.

In a letter to Oregon Governor Kate Brown, more than 250 Oregon doctors told her they are being forced to make difficult decisions regarding patient care.

“We see ourselves making decisions in the next two weeks on who will live and who will die because we don’t have resources sufficient to care for them,” the letter reads.

The doctors’ concerns include a possible shortage of vacant hospital beds and ventilators needed to treat severe respiratory illnesses and not enough personal protective gear for hospital staff.

In the Klamath County School District,  as per Gov. Kate Brown’s orders last night, all non-essential KCSD school events and trips are canceled.

The district’s Emergency Response Team continues to monitor the situation and will update their webpage with future information accordingly.

And, Due to new restrictions on large gatherings, the “Run for the Music” benefit for the Klamath Union music program has been cancelled for Saturday, 3/14.

The Klamath Basin Homebuilders Association’s Home and Garden Expo has been canceled as scheduled for this weekend.

A message from the organizations Facebook page states, “It is with heavy hearts that the HBA is finding we are NOT allowed to hold the Home & Outdoor Expo this weekend.

We will be getting in touch with all of our vendors as quickly as we can and figure out the details from there.”

Also, the Klamath Rock, Gem and Mineral Show planned for this weekend (March 14-15, 2020) has been canceled.

The Herald and News will be rescheduling all upcoming events in response to the Governor’s mandate that was issued yesterday.  The Herald and News will be announcing new dates for all events over the next few days/weeks.

For those who have purchased Troubadours tickets through their website, they are working on refunding your money. For those of you who purchased your tickets at the Herald and News office, please bring them up to the office for a refund.

For Best of the Basin tables and seats, and Big Freakin’ Flea Market tables, we will apply your purchase toward the rescheduled date.

The H&N also issued this statement:  “We share in your disappointment however we also care about you, our audience. Please follow best practices in protecting you and your family from the Coronavirus pandemic”.

All Ticketed events Suspended through April 12th at Ross Ragland Theater

The Ross Ragland Theater will immediately be cancelling or postponing and rescheduling shows and all shows that had been scheduled now through April 12.   

“The well-being of our patrons, artists, volunteers and staff are of utmost importance to us.  We are currently working with all event presenters to determine if their event will be canceled or rescheduled. Your patience with us is greatly appreciated, as this process will take some time. Ticket purchasers will be contacted directly regarding the status of each performance as details are confirmed. The most up-to-date status for each event will be available on our website, as well as our Facebook page. If your event has currently been suspended ticket holders will be contacted by our Box Office staff to connect and discuss next steps based on state mandated closures”.

Please note: The following shows will be directly affected by this decree.

Klamath Community Band/Sunday, March 15

Rambling House/Tuesday, March 17

RBS- Smoke Signals/Thursday, March 19

Arcis/Sunday, March 22

RBS Spring Break Matinees/March 23-27

Young Musicians of Excellence/April 5

Basin Band Festival/April 7

Mr. Pelican/April 9-10

Senior Project Showcase/April 11

The Ragland will continue to monitor this situation and update the public as needed.

The YMCA of Klamath Falls will be canceling our YBL Tournament scheduled for this weekend (3/14/20).

Oregon Tech was in Sioux Falls and ready to play their first game in the NAIA Division 2 National tournament.  That tournament was also cancelled.    The Cascade Collegiate Conference suspended all play for spring athletics as well for the next 14 days, affecting OIT’s baseball, softball, golf, and track and field programs.

Both Henley and Klamath Union basketball teams were part of the fallout of the OSAA cancelling all winter state tournament events this week.  The teams were in Forest Grove for the 4A basketball tournament.  According to an OSAA release, all games were tabled and will not be made up, leaving the state championship  vacant.

Numerous public events Klamath County wide have also been canceled or delayed until early April.

From KFLS News and Randy Adams:

The announcements rolled in like waves on Thursday, following a late night announcement by Brown on Wednesday that she has banned gatherings of 250 people or more for the next 30 days in light of COVID-19, the novel Coronavirus.

Her announcement came following the announcement by the World Health Organization on Wednesday that Coronavirus has been categorized as a global pandemic. There is currently one case in Klamath Falls.

Klamath County School District stated on its Facebook page that any county school event prior to April 9 is canceled at this time. Events will be evaluated based on recommendations from the Oregon Health Authority and Klamath County Public Health.

Klamath County Transitions Program also canceled “Starstruck,” an evening out for adults with disabilities.

KCC and Oregon Tech stated on Thursday they will also remain open at this time.

The community college plans to cancel any field trips and off-campus group activities for classes and student clubs, increase “social distancing”measures, limiting travel and in-person meetings when necessary, and staggering work schedules when possible, according to a news release.

KCC and Oregon Tech officials said the community college is proactively preparing the campus for a coordinated response to COVID-19, while adhering to new statewide guidelines for workplaces and schools to prevent virus transmission.

The community college does not currently have any large gatherings of 250 people or more planned to take place in the next four weeks, according to the news release.

“The safety of our students and staff is our highest priority,” said KCC President Dr. Roberto Gutierrez, in a news release. “The college is in close contact with local health authorities and is taking the recommended precautions to ensure our students have a safe and healthful environment to learn in.”

Effective March 23, Oregon Tech is implementing Social Distancing guidance on its campuses, including:

University Events: Non-essential employee, department or other university sponsored gatherings will be limited, with an appropriate exception process for academic delivery and select gatherings.

Sporting Events: The NAIA athletic conference is suspending all sports until March 29 or pending further developments.

Campus Housing: All student housing facilities will remain open and in normal operations, utilizing social distancing and other precautions.

Employee Travel: Nonessential employee travel will be curtailed to the extent feasible.

Continuity of Work and Remote Work: When feasible, and with prior approval, employees may be permitted to work remotely.

“We are thankful for the guidance that Oregon Tech and the other public universities received from the Governor’s Office, Oregon Health Authority, our county officials, and the Higher Education Coordinating Commission,” said Nagi Naganathan, president of Oregon Tech, in a news release. “This close coordination will continue as this situation develops.”

Oregon Tech offers specific guidance for students and employees regarding Spring Term, which begins March 30:

Classes: Spring Term lecture classes will be delivered remotely wherever feasible for at least the first two weeks of classes from March 30 to April 10. Additional information will be communicated to students and faculty by Oregon Tech’s Office of the Provost.

Labs: Laboratory instruction will continue to be offered in their current modality and as scheduled, with efforts made to employ social distancing practices.

Computer Labs: Select computer labs will remain open for student use during Spring Term to ensure all students have access to courses delivered remotely.

Clinics Operations: Clinics run by Oregon Tech will continue normal operations until further notice.

Student Externships: Students externships and co-ops will continue; guidance will be updated on a regular basis by the department, and the extern partner in consultation with the Office of the Provost.

Evaluating Further Steps: Each of these steps will be reevaluated on a frequent basis and adjustments will be communicated to the campus community.

“In situations like this we recognize that we cannot eliminate all risk, but we are determined to do all that we can to minimize it by focusing on protecting the health and well-being of our regional and campus communities as well as ensuring our students continued academic progress,” Naganathan said.

Oregon Tech officials said social distancing guidance will be evaluated on a frequent basis and adjustments will be communicated to the campus community.

Todd Hogarth, manager of the Klamath County Fairgrounds, said the fairgrounds will cancel a total of five to six events that were planned through March and early April, including a high school rodeo.

He anticipates a palpable impact to many of the cancellations, including for the Klamath Basin Homebuilder’s Association, which holds the Home and Outdoor Show every year.

“It’s their big weekend for the year and they have costs implemented,” Hogarth said. “They’d already spent some money on some stuff.

“We will definitely work with them on next year’s budget to make sure that they can afford to have that because that’s something I think the community looks forward to.”

Also among canceled events is CASA’s Fifth Annual Casablanca event, which had been planned for the event center, Hogarth said.

“As long as the numbers stay where they are, we’re going to continue with 50% of our events and our larger events will happen,” Hogarth said.

“We’re going to go with whatever the county and the state is telling us to do,” he said.

With Tuesday’s candidate filing deadline come and gone, the Klamath County slate of candidates for May 19’s primary election is set for positions including Commissioner Positions 1 and 3, Sheriff and Surveyor.

Klamath County Commissioner Position 1 is held by incumbent Donnie Boyd, who is seeking re-election. Five people are running against Boyd, looking to unseat him, including Derek Kimbol, Gary Powless, Ryan Wheelock, Kenneth DeCrans and Kassandra Harding.

Klamath County Commissioner Position 3, held by incumbent Derrick DeGroot, also seeking re-election, has three other people running. Reginald “Rod” Davis, Dennis Vader and Jesse Withers.

Klamath County Sheriff Chris Kaber is running for reelection and has two opponents: one, Daren Krag, a Corporal from within the Sheriff’s Office and the other, John Mogle, a former Oregon State Police Trooper.

Around the state

Oregon is adding three new presumptive positive cases to its count of people diagnosed with novel coronavirus, COVID-19, bringing the state’s total to 24.

Clackamas County now has its first case, a man between the ages of 35 and 54 who was a close contact with a previous case. The new Washington County cases are both women older than 55 who had no known close contacts with confirmed cases and are considered community-spread cases.

Washington County now has a total of 10 cases.

Health officials continue to urge all Oregonians to take steps to protect those who are most vulnerable to complications from COVID-19. Those considered “high risk” include adults 60 and older, or anyone with a serious health condition, including lung or heart problems, kidney disease, or diabetes, or anyone who has a suppressed immune system.

People vulnerable to complications should follow federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations to stay home as much as possible and avoid gatherings.

Every resident should take these basic steps to protect those most at risk:

  • Never visit a hospital or long-term-care facility if you have a fever or cough illness.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Stay home if you feel ill.
  • Call your provider before seeking health care.

The COVID-19 virus spreads like the flu, when someone who is sick coughs or sneezes close to another person (close means about 6 feet).

After someone contracts COVID-19, illness usually develops within 14 days. Symptoms mirror those of the flu, including fever, cough, runny nose, headache, sore throat and general feelings of illness. That has made it more difficult for health officials to identify sick individuals and stop the virus from spreading.

As testing capacity increases–with LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics online, and clinical laboratories at some Oregon hospitals expected to begin testing by next week–officials expect the number of people who test positive with COVID-19 to rise.

Stay informed

Bend La Pine Schools Board of Directors have decided the name of the new high school is Caldera, Several people in the community had urged the board to name the new high school in honor of Congressional Medal of Honor winner.

In fact Maxwell was the most favored name with 181 votes in an online survey, beating Deschutes or Deschutes River which attracted 85 votes. Chris Boyd is the principal for the new Caldera High School. He says the committee decided that because of Maxwell’s links to Bend High it would be best for the Maxwell name to be honored at Bend High. Caldera will be the first new high school to open in Bend in two decades.

Pacific Power will not disconnect customers in Oregon, Washington and California during emergency response to COVID-19

 PORTLAND, Ore. — Pacific Power is temporarily suspending disconnections and late fees for non-payment for customers in Oregon, Washington and California to support the state of emergency declared in all three states in response to the COVID-19 virus. The company will continue to evaluate other ways to support our customers for the duration of this quickly evolving public health emergency.

Pacific Power wants customers to know we are ready around the clock to answer any questions about your electrical service and help any customers who are having difficulty paying their electrical bills. The company’s focus continues to be on maintaining the reliability of our service and the safety of customers, communities and colleagues.

Customers can call 1-888-221-7070 at any time to speak with a customer care agent who can help answer any questions. We will continue to work closely with state and federal emergency response teams to support all our customers throughout this event.

On Thursday, Becky Hultberg, President and CEO of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems (OAHHS), released the following statement on new COVID-19 guidance from Governor Kate Brown. OAHHS represents Oregon’s 62 acute care hospitals and works on behalf the patients they serve to promote community health and to continue improving Oregon’s innovative health care system.

“Two of the most important steps we can all take to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are to wash our hands frequently and practice social distancing. We support the Governor’s decision to limit large public gatherings to no more than 250 people and promote flexible work schedules to reduce interpersonal contact. These steps are recommended by public health experts and will help protect populations that are particularly at-risk – older adults, those with underlying health conditions, and the unhoused. If you have questions about COVID-19, we recommend seeking credible information through the Oregon Health Authority.”

Due to Governor Kate Brown’s directive to cancel all non-essential school associated group activities to slow the spread of COVID-19, the Oregon Arts Commission is cancelling the Poetry Out Loud State Contest scheduled for Friday, March 13, in Salem.

“Our highest priority is the health and safety of our students and their families,” said Deb Vaughn, the Arts Commission’s arts education/Poetry Out Loud coordinator.

The nine state contestants, their families and teachers were notified of the cancellation this morning. The possibility of rescheduling is dependent on direction from the Governor’s Office and the National Endowment for the Arts.

“While we are disappointed not to see their presentations, the students who put their energy into this program each have three poems learned by heart, and that is something they can always be proud of,” said Vaughn.

Each of the students will be sent a copy of Oregon Poet Laureate Kim Stafford’s book “Reunion of the Rare,” which was to have been presented at the event, to continue to encourage their exploration of poetry.

Poetry Out Loud is a national contest for high school students, organized in Oregon by the Oregon Arts Commission in collaboration with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation.

Public Health Advisory Board meets March 19 by Teleconference

The public meeting of the Public Health Advisory Board (PHAB) will be done by teleconference.  On the discussion will be to discuss PHAB chair and co-chair positions and solicit volunteers to serve as chair for 2020-2022; adopt public health funding principles; approve letter regarding the application of public health funding principles to local public health funds outside of public health modernization; review draft 2020-2024 State Health Improvement Plan and provide input on implementation; and discuss key issues for PHAB members, including individual member roles and perspectives.

When: Thursday, March 19, 2-4 p.m. The meeting is open to the public. A public comment period will be held at the end of the meeting.

The developing COVID-19 outbreak in Washington and Oregon has prompted federal officials to adjust two scheduled public comment meetings for the recently released Columbia River System Operation draft Environmental Impact Statement, the agencies announced on Thursday.

Officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation and the Bonneville Power Administration decided that the in-person public comment meetings planned for Seattle and Portland will not be held due to the high number of COVID-19 cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in those geographical areas and calls from local officials to limit public exposure. 

“Public comments are important, but so is public safety,” said Brig. Gen. D. Peter Helmlinger, commander of the Corps’ Northwestern Division.  “In order to achieve both, we added teleconference options for the public.”

In all, six phone-in opportunities have been added to the ways the public can submit comments during the comment period.

The decision to shift the Seattle and Portland meetings to “phone only” is also consistent with calls from state and county elected leaders and health officials.  Wednesday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown imposed restrictions on all gatherings larger than 250 people.  These directly affected the Seattle and Portland venues.

Details on when and how to call into the phone sessions will be posted at www.crso.info. The agencies will continue to monitor the public health situation and make further adjustments as needed.  The public is encouraged to monitor the website for any updates.

The draft EIS is available for public review online at https://cdxnodengn.epa.gov/cdx-enepa-II/public/action/eis/search (EPA’s searchable EIS database) or www.crso.info.

As part of its efforts to implement the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, the Bureau of Land Management today released a draft list of public lands with limited or restricted public access for hunting, fishing or other outdoor recreational opportunities, along with a draft map of priority access nominations received from the public and partners.

When finalized, this priority list will guide the BLM’s efforts to resolve access issues and expand public recreation opportunities on these parcels of land across the West.

“When President Donald Trump signed this bipartisan bill into law, he furthered his indelible legacy of balancing natural resources conservation and responsibly expanding recreation opportunities on our public lands,” said Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. “I am proud that the Department of the Interior and its bureaus have worked exhaustively this past year to meet our goals for implementing this historic public lands law for the American people.”

“We are committed to expanding access to public lands, and augmenting opportunities for all Americans to hunt, fish and otherwise enjoy outdoor recreational opportunities on the more than 245 million acres of land we manage nationwide on their behalf,” said BLM Deputy Director for Policy and Programs William Perry Pendley. “We know, though, that especially in the West, the checkerboard of interwoven federal, state and private lands often makes access to prime parcels of public land difficult. That’s why we’re grateful for the strong support and insight provided by the public and our partners to help us identify priority lands where we can resolve access issues with willing landowners using all the tools in our tool box – including land exchanges, direct purchases, easements and external donations.”

SPORTS Update from Randy Adams, The Winner CBS Sports Radio 1240AM and 106.5FM, Klamath Falls

Oregon and Oregon State did not play Las Vegas yesterday as scheduled.  The Pac-12 men’s basketball tournament has been canceled due to the corona outbreak.

The Big 10, Big 12, and ACC conference tournaments were also scrapped by the NCAA yesterday morning.

“Over the past week the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) has followed guidance from the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), Oregon Department of Education (ODE) and local health departments in administering our state championship events. The OSAA is committed to following the direction of Oregon’s public health authorities, including guidance from the Governor, OHA, and ODE in order to help slow the transmission of the coronavirus.

With today’s rapidly changing situation, and in consultation with these groups, the OSAA has made the difficult decision to change its spectator policies for state championship events.

Beginning Thursday morning, March 12, per guidance from the OHA and the Governor, only participating students and coaches, essential event staff personnel and media with OSAA-issued credentials will be allowed to attend OSAA State Championship events.

The NBA has suspended the regular-season due to the coronavirus.

According to a statement released by NBA Communications, “The NBA announced that a player on the Utah Jazz has preliminarily tested positive for COVID-19. The test result was reported shortly prior to the tip-off of tonight’s game between the Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena. At that time, tonight’s game was canceled. The affected player was not in the arena.

The NBA is suspending game play following the conclusion of tonight’s (Wednesday) schedule of games until further notice. The NBA will use this hiatus to determine the next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.”

This comment from the Portland Trail Blazers:

“We support the NBA’s decision to suspend the season until further notice. The safety of our fans, players, coaches and employees is our top priority and we will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure everyone’s health and safety. This situation is fluid and we will communicate more information to our fans, ticket buyers and stakeholders as soon as we have it.”

Klamath Falls News from partnership with the Herald and News, empowering the community.

…For complete details on these and other stories see today’s Herald & News.  Wynne Broadcasting and the Herald and News…stronger together to keep you informed.

More Klamath Local News Here.

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