Klamath Basin News, Friday, 5/15 – Phase One of Reopening Oregon Begins Today

The latest news stories in the Klamath Basin and around the state of Oregon from Wynne Broadcasting’s KFLS News/Talk 1450AM/102.5FM, BasinLife.com and The Herald & News.

FRIDAY, MAY 15, 2020

Klamath Basin Weather

Today   Mostly sunny, with a high near 66. Overnight, cloudy with a low near 44.

Saturday   A 20% chance of rain after 11am. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 66. Overnight, more rain likely with a low around 45.

Sunday   Showers, with thunderstorms also possible after 5pm. High near 58. Gusty winds at times.   Overnight showers and thundershowers and gust winds, low of 41.   Chance of precipitation is 100%. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.

Monday   Showers, with thunderstorms at times. High near 56. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.

Tuesday   A chance of showers. Snow level 6000 feet. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 56.

Today’s Headlines

Phase One Begins.  At a press conference yesterday Governor Kate Brown announced which counties have been cleared to enter “Phase One” of the state’s plan for loosening coronavirus restrictions. 

Klamath County’s application was approved. Overnight, counties in southern Oregon began to report that they had received the green-light to begin Phase One on Friday.  Jackson, Josephine, Curry, Klamath, and Lake counties all confirmed that they were approved.

Under the retail ban lifting starting today, Friday — as long as retailers aren’t in a mall and they follow the new COVID-19 health guidelines, they can open. Proper safety measures include employees wearing face masks, limiting the number of customers, enforcing physical distancing and frequently sanitizing high traffic areas.

That means standalone furniture stores, art galleries, jewelry shops and boutiques that were closed by executive order weeks ago can reopen. But, stores in outdoor- and indoor-shopping centers are an exception. They will need to open on a county-by-county basis.

Phase One plan begins today in Oregon

In the press conference yesterday, Brown was joined by Oregon Health Authority Director Pat Allen and State Epidemiologist Dean Sideliner who both urged Oregonians to continue practicing proper social distancing and to wear face coverings.

As of today, 33 of 36 Oregon counties are approved to open in this Phase One plan.

Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington counties — those hardest hit by the COVID-19 outbreak in terms of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths — did not apply to reopen and will wait until they say they are better prepared.

No new cases of Covid19 were reported in Klamath County Thursday, the third such day in a row.

However, COVID-19 has claimed three more lives in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 137, the Oregon Health Authority reported at 8 a.m., Thursday, May 13. Oregon Health Authority reported 67 new confirmed cases and no new presumptive cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the state total to 3,479.

The new confirmed cases reported today are in the following counties: Deschutes (2), Linn (2), Malheur (1), Marion (33), Multnomah (19), Polk (1), Umatilla (2), Washington (2), Yamhill (5). Oregon’s 135th COVID-19 death is a 66-year-old man in Multnomah County, who tested positive on April 11 and died on May 13 at Kaiser Permanente Westside Medical Center. He had underlying medical conditions. Oregon’s 136th COVID-19 death is a 61-year-old man in Multnomah County, who tested positive on April 22 and died on May 12 at Oregon Health & Science University. He had underlying medical conditions. Oregon’s 137th COVID-19 death is a 66-year-old man in Washington County.

Kruise of Klamath cancelled for summer 2020.

Sad news coming from the Kruise of Klamath car show organizers.  

Through their Facebook page yesterday, they say “It is with great disappointment that we announce that our 2020 event scheduled for June 25-28 has been canceled as a result of current and expected State of Oregon restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have already registered for the event (as either a participant or a vendor) we will be contacting you to make arrangements for issuing refunds. Thanks for your support – we hope to see everyone in 2021!”

An arrest has been made in the investigation of fires set at Klamath area businesses Saturday night.

Members of the Klamath Falls Police Department responded to multiple reported structure fires, two of which were at Coastal Farm and Ranch and a third was reported to be at Diamond Home Improvement. With the assistance of a Klamath County Fire District One Investigator, it was determined that two separate fires were intentionally set at Coastal and the fire at Diamond was also set intentionally. Both fires caused substantial damage to both buildings.

Over the course of a subsequent criminal investigation, detectives positively identified the suspect in this case and developed probable cause to arrest 46-year-old, Jason Daniel Smith for the crime of arson.  Tuesday detectives located Jason Daniel Smith and took him into custody without incident.  Smith was lodged at the Klamath County Jail with three charges of second-degree arson.

At this time, the incident is still under investigation. If you have information regarding this case, please contact the Klamath Falls Police Department at 541-883-5336. 

Oregon Institute of Technology announced this week a plan to implement staff furloughs beginning May 17 as an immediate step to help manage anticipated budget deficits stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The furlough program was collaboratively developed between the university administration and its unclassified and SEIU-represented classified staff. The university is taking a series of early financial actions, starting with furloughs, to address an expected reduction of $4.5 million in state support during the next fiscal year starting on July 1. The furlough actions are expected to save approximately $2.0 million in payroll costs for the university.

While an internal university group, the Program Reduction and Elimination Committee, will provide recommendations in early June to Oregon Tech’s president for other cost savings measures, the university is implementing furloughs beginning May 17 and through December 31, 2020.

Nearly all classified and unclassified staff at all levels will see weekly work schedules reduced by 20 percent, or one day per week, to begin addressing the budget gap. Some members may see their schedules reduced by 40 percent (2 days a week). Faculty are currently not included in the furlough program. Oregon Tech’s president, Dr. Nagi Naganathan, announced last month that he was taking a voluntary 10 percent salary reduction.

The university has applied to the Oregon Employment Department to take part in the Work Share Oregon program, enabling employees to receive unemployment insurance benefits for the days they are on furlough, and maintain their regular healthcare and pension benefits.

The Klamath County School District has developed a long-term strategic plan that will build and enhance curriculum across all grade levels, expand career and apprenticeship programs, recruit and retain quality teachers, and continue to foster community partnerships that inspire and improve student academic achievement.

The KCSD 2020 Strategic Plan was created over the past few months with input from staff, students, and more than three dozen community members representing businesses, law enforcement, higher education, and government organizations. The KCSD Strategic Planning Steering Committee met for two days in January and again in May to finalize the document. Planned meetings in March were postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Another round of flights in support of first responders and medical personnel will take place from the Kingsley Field 173rd fighter wing this Friday morning. 

TeamKingsley  is flying this Friday, May 15 with flyovers to salute our amazing healthcare workers on the frontlines of COVID-19.  Flyovers will begin at around 10:05 am at
Ashland Community Hospital,  followed by Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford, Providence Medford Medical Center, Bay Area Hospital in Coos Bay, Coquille Valley Hospital, Southern Coos Hospital & Health Center in Bandon, and Curry General Hospital in Brookings.

Last weekend, the 173rd made the rounds through central and eastern Oregon flying over several hospitals in a two and a half hour period.  The fly-bys are always shared with our local health care providers as the aircraft takes off and returns to the area.

Another group of Oregon county hospitals have received rapid COVID-19 testing machines, part of a federal shipment that arrived in the state during April. 

One of those hospitals is Sky Lakes here in Klamath Falls. At the beginning of April, hospitals in Curry, Lake, and Morrow counties received the Abbott ID NOW rapid testing machines — prioritized due to their limited access to testing. Though the state had a dozen more machines, the actual test kits were in very short supply. Even those three counties received only a few dozen tests from the federal shipment.

One of the hospitals to receive the new machine is Sky Lakes Medical Center in Klamath County. While the machine will no doubt be put to good use, Klamath County boasts one of the highest per-capita testing rates in the state already. Sky Lakes Medical Center has also expanded drive-through testing to anyone who wants to be tested, while the County has focused on bringing test sites to more rural areas.

Klamath Union High School’s band has been recognized by the Oregon School Activities Association as the top academic band in the State of Oregon.

The Klamath Union Band’s 60 members completed an average grade-point average of 3.85 during the 2019-2020 academic year, the highest tally among all high schools rated 1A – 6A in Oregon.The Klamath Union Band is directed by Allen Haugh.

The City of Klamath Falls  Streets Division crews will be performing work during the hours of 6:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m all next week.  The Asphalt Crew will be working Dig outs and Paving and the Paint Crew will be doingPainting.

The dates and locations of interest are:

May 18th – N. Eldorado Blvd. weed abatement. May 19th thru May 22nd

May 19th –100 Blk. Wendling St. (road will be closed) Crosswalks & legends –

May 20th – N. Eldorado Blvd. Overlay (road closed) S. Washburn Way.

May 21st – Paving Esplanade – (from S.6th St. to Laverne Ave)

(Between Spring St. & Michigan)

In addition, Sign Maintenance and Sweeping will be performed throughout the City.

Detours and signage will be in place where needed. The Streets Staff would like to thank our citizens in advance for proceeding with caution in areas where crews are working. Work may be delayed due to weather, equipment break-down or unexpected emergencies.

If you would like more information about, please call City Public Works Department at (541) 883-5385.)

Steen Sports Park’s gates will be re-opened today to the public consistent with the county’s reopening plan and the Oregon Health Authority’s, Specific Guidance for Outdoor Recreation Organizations.

The park’s playgrounds, sports courts, and indoor facilities, including restrooms, will not be open during this phase of the reopening plan. Signage will be posted throughout the park detailing specific guidance for individuals recreating at the park. The park is asking that everyone comply with the guidelines during these times so the park can continue to progress toward fully reopening. “The key takeaway with the guidelines is to continue social distancing,” White noted. “Do not congregate, and of course, do not come to the park if you are experiencing any symptoms.

Beginning Monday, May 18, the drive-up Sky Lakes COVID-19 Test Site outside the Sky Lakes Community Health Education Center will be open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; it will be closed Saturdays.

The diagnostic tests are encouraged for previously symptomatic patients or those with suspected exposure to COVID-19, but any adult can be tested without a provider’s order.

Around the State of Oregon

Oregon Lottery today began the process of restarting Video Lottery terminals in counties reopening under Governor Brown’s executive order. As terminals come back online, players will notice some differences intended to increase safety, including:

  • Terminals must be spaced at least 6 feet apart
  • Players must request access to a terminal before playing
  • An employee must clean each terminal between play sessions
  • One player at a time is allowed at a terminal

“As Oregon begins to reopen, Lottery is working with the Governor’s office, public health officials and retailers across the state to provide safer access to Lottery games and help kickstart the state’s economic recovery,” noted Lottery Director Barry Pack. “While the shut down of Video was statewide and immediate, restarting will take some time as we work with retailers to ensure they can operate under the new guidelines.”

The pack of wolves known to frequent southern Oregon, usually called the “Rogue Pack,” was likely responsible for another livestock kill in Klamath County, according to the latest wolf depredation report from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

On the morning of May 11, a ranch manager in the Fort Klamath area reported finding a dead yearling steer in an 80-acre private pasture, prompting a call to ODFW. ODFW’s investigation concluded that the kill was confirmed to be from wolves, most likely of the Rogue Pack. The Rogue Pack has been one of the most active of the protected gray wolf groups in Oregon when it comes to preying the livestock of farmers and ranchers. Although ODFW’s latest wolf report found that depredations went down last year, the Rogue Pack topped depredation lists over both 2019 and 2018.

The last recorded livestock kills by the Rogue Pack happened in Jackson County last fall.

Despite the fact that counties in our region have been given the phase one go-ahead, local Oregonians plan to rally this weekend.

More than 200 people say they’ll be attending and over 600 have said they’re interested on a Facebook event page created for the Faith & Freedom Rally. The rally is scheduled to begin at 11:00AM at the Jackson County Courthouse on Saturday, May 16th. The rally will be held on the lawn of the courthouse and will have multiple speakers, including congressional candidate Jason Atkinson, Oregon State Senator Herman Baertschiger, and Jackson County Commissioner Colleen Roberts.

Oregon’s vote-by-mail system is earning praise during the coronavirus pandemic, but some Oregonians still will need help to get their vote counted.

Disability Rights Oregon deputy legal director Tom Stenson says people who are blind or have low vision usually get assistance filling out their ballots from the local county clerk’s office, with staff sometimes coming to folks’ houses.  Stenson says his organization is thinking of next Tuesday’s primary as a trial run for the general election, when coronavirus might still be impacting the state. Disability Rights Oregon will be documenting what works and what doesn’t so the system can be improved before November.

During the week of May 3-9, the Oregon Employment Department received 14,100 initial claims for unemployment benefits.

The agency has received 396,000 initial claims since coronavirus business closures began in mid-March. According to The Oregon Employment Department, these three counties had the largest number of unemployment claims during the week of May 3-9: The agency says if measured by dollars paid, Unemployment Insurance would now be the largest paying subsector of Oregon’s economy. By comparison, unemployment benefits would have ranked 37th by payroll prior to the coronavirus closures. The greatest number of initial claims continued to come from the accommodation and food services sector, with 68,400 initial claims filed in the industry since March 15.

Starting Monday, May 18, everyone at the Portland International Airport needs to wear a face covering to help stop the spread of coronavirus. PDX officials made the announcement Wednesday, along with unveiling several other new requirements for passengers, employees and contractors at the airport.

According to the new rules, only children under 2 years old and people with medical conditions that prevent them from wearing face coverings are exempt from wearing a cloth mask. Some airlines have already been requiring passengers to wear masks.  While still open as an essential service, PDX says its passenger volume is down 90-95% from last year.

The coronavirus outbreak is devastating the economy and leading to surges in hungry people. Oregon Food Bank is stepping up to meet the challenge and believes we can emerge stronger from this crisis.

The food-distribution network says its partners around the state have seen 20 to 60 percent spikes in demand for hunger relief over the last few weeks. Oregon Food Bank C-E-O Susannah Morgan says it’s the biggest crisis she’s seen in her 24 years working in food banking. But she adds that meals still are flowing to 13-hundred assistance sites distributing food across Oregon and southwest Washington each week.

 Donations for Oregon Food Bank’s “#EmergeStronger Community Challenge” is allowing the network to deploy more than four-point-one million dollars to get their emergency response plan running, according to a report from the organization.

The City of Ashland is experiencing a high level of bear problems. ODFW is asking residents to be extra vigilant and take steps to not feed bears.  

Since the beginning of March, ODFW has documented 29 complaints about bears inside city limits, including aggressive actions, nuisance behaviors, and loss of wariness. Many of these incidents are the result of access to garbage, bird seed, compost, or other types of food rewards.  The bear problems have been ongoing since early March. This morning, a bear showing signs of habituation (including being observed multiple times on a resident’s porch in a high-density residential area near Lithia Park) was put down by wildlife managers. Based on examination of the sow, she was young (2-3 years old) and had not yet reproduced (so not caring for cubs).

Meat from this bear has been salvaged and will be donated to someone in need. ODFW, Wildlife Services, and the Ashland Police Department are asking all residents of Ashland to do everything they can to avoid habituating these animals. 

Oregon State Police says it may have to cut hundreds of jobs due to a loss in revenue. The law enforcement agency says it could be forced to eliminate 199 positions by July.

The agency says its forecast revenue for May is down by three-billion-dollars. The agency is also expecting to lose some funding with Governor Kate Brown’s anticipated 27-million-dollar budget cuts to state agencies.  Oregon State Police says it is awaiting next Wednesday’s revenue forecast before making any final decisions.

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.

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