Klamath Basin News, Tuesday, 9/29 – Klamath County Reporting 9 New Covid-19 Cases Overnight

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The latest and most comprehensive coverage of local News, Sports, Business, and Community News stories in the Klamath Basin, Southern Oregon and around the state of Oregon from Wynne Broadcasting’s KFLS News/Talk 1450AM / 102.5FM, The Herald & News, and BasinLife.com, and powered by Mick Insurance.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Klamath Basin Weather

Tuesday  Sunny, with a high near 90. Northeast wind around 5 mph becoming calm.

Wednesday Sunny, with a high near 91. Calm wind.

Thursday Sunny, with a high near 88.

Friday Sunny, with a high near 87.

Saturday Sunny, with a high near 86.

Today’s Headlines

The state’s death toll from COVID-19 is unchanged from yesterday and remains at 547, the Oregon Health Authority reported 181 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19, bringing the state total to 32,994.

Klamath County Public Health (KCPH) officials reported nine new cases of COVID-19 in the community yesterday bringing the local count to 289.

Jackson County reported 13 new cases. Two new cases of COVID-19 have been identified in Josephine County, bringing the county’s total number of cases to 203.

To protect yourself: keep your distance by maintaining six feet of social or physical distancing between yourself and others. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, utilizing hand sanitizer when washing facilities are not available. Sanitize surfaces that are often touched. Avoid gatherings of any size where social or physical distancing is not possible. To protect others around you: cover coughs and sneezes. Stay home when sick. Wear a clean mask in public spaces, including outdoors when six feet of social distance cannot be maintained.

The Oregon Department of Education updated its guidance to school officials this week, giving the authority to open and close schools during COVID-19 to local officials.  

Before this week, the state would require schools that are open under the exceptions to the metrics, like schools in Klamath County School District, to close and transition to online learning if they break metrics including case rates, test positivity and case counts. Now, local officials get to make the call on if schools need to lock the doors.

Klamath County Public Health spokesperson Valeree Lane called the change “a huge win for us.” She said a mandated criteria that allowed for the state to shut schools sounded like a good idea months ago, but now that the school year has started it makes sense to allow for some flexibility.

Klamath County School District Superintendent Glen Szymoniak plans to continue to coordinate with public health when making decisions regarding in-person instruction.

Klamath County developers painted a bright picture of the future of Klamath County’s economy, noting unprecedented levels of construction and development in economic sectors that have been largely undeterred by COVID-19. Between this year and next year, $1.2 billion in new construction is planned for the county, which Klamath County Economic Development Association said is an all-time high. Andrew Stork with KCEDA boasted not only a large volume of projects, but also diversity in the industries. Ongoing development includes clean energy, hotels, services, banking, retail, education and more. Stork feels the COVID-19 pandemic will ultimately benefit Klamath and other rural regions, due to the numbers of people moving away from nearby metros and to smaller communities that weren’t hit so hard by the virus. While he said they aren’t ignoring the area’s economic past, Stork is seeing new industries arrive that haven’t had a presence in the past. Industries that they’ve identified as good fits for the area are clean technology, advanced manufacturing, tourism and outdoors, technology and natural resources.

Governor Kate Brown on Monday issued a new, extended moratorium on residential evictions set to last through the end of 2020. The Governor initially issued an executive order barring evictions in March as COVID-19 restrictions ramped up in Oregon. The Oregon legislature passed a bill during the first 2020 special session barring both residential and commercial evictions through September 30 with a six-month repayment period. The new moratorium applies to residential evictions for non-payment and other no-cause evictions from September 30 through December 31. The Governor’s office said that affects from both COVID-19 and wildfires have disproportionately impacted communities of color and families in rural areas.

Three self-described counter-protesters and one photojournalist have filed a federal suit against three men they say are associated with the far-right group Proud Boys, alleging assault and battery stemming from encounters in Portland last month. The suit seeks $1.25 million in damages against Alan Swinney, Corey Wyatt and David Willis, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported. It was filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Portland. The suit, brought by lawyers from the Oregon Justice Resource Center, was filed in part from violent clashes between far-right demonstrators and left-wing, anti-fascist protesters on Aug. 22. That day, Portland police said they were too short-staffed to break up fights. Swinney, Wyatt and Willis could not be reached immediately for comment Friday, the newspaper said.

Yesterday, Representatives Greg Walden (R-OR), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), and Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), called on the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service to extend the deadline to claim Economic Impact Payments (EIPs) as Oregonians recover from wildfires. The Oregon delegation noted that millions of eligible individuals and families across the country have still not received their EIPs. On September 17, 2020, the IRS announced that they were sending letters to 131,647 Oregonians who may be eligible for an EIP. But some of those people may have lost their home to the wildfires, or be unable to access the internet. In these circumstances, the Oregon delegation requested that the non-filer deadline be extended to the beginning of December, which will help Oregonians who need these payments and allow the Bureau of Fiscal Service to send payments before December 31, 2020.

The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) and Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) received federal approval to issue Pandemic EBT benefits in September to promote increased food security for families who receive no-cost meals through participation in the United States Department of Agriculture’s National School Lunch Program.

Benefits will start being distributed Sept. 28 for an estimated total amount of more than $35.6 million in federal money. Recipients may see two deposits on their Oregon EBT card – an initial deposit of $100 and a second deposit for all students receiving an amount over $100. Amounts vary by the school district.

“These additional federal funds provide much needed assistance for our families as they manage the transition back to school,” said Dan Haun, ODHS Self-Sufficiency Programs Director. “We hope these benefits bring some relief to families facing today’s uncertainties.”

“Child Nutrition Programs know that the P-EBT benefit plays a crucial role in supporting students’ nutritional needs during this time of crisis and change,” ODE School Nutrition Program Manager, Damasita Sanchez said. “We appreciate the partnership with DHS to provide this critical support for Oregon communities.”

Students must be enrolled in an eligible school for the 2020-21 school year to be eligible for September P-EBT. There is no application process for this benefit.

Eligible students who receive Oregon SNAP benefits, or were mailed an Oregon EBT card with P-EBT benefits in the past, will receive their September P-EBT benefits on their existing Oregon EBT card. Families who lost their Oregon EBT card can request a new one by calling their local ODHS office. New Oregon EBT cards will be mailed in October.

Many families eligible for P-EBT are also eligible for on-going food assistance benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and are encouraged to check eligibility and apply at https://apps.state.or.us/onlineApplication/#NewClientAccount.

Eligible students will receive up to $176 depending on their school’s start date. Visit https://www.oregon.gov/dhs/assistance/food-benefits/pages/p-ebt.aspx for details.

Administered by ODHS, SNAP is a federal program that provides food assistance to approximately 1 million eligible, low-income families and individuals in Oregon, including many older adults and people with disabilities. Oregonians in need can apply for benefits, including SNAP, child care, cash assistance, and Medicaid. Learn more at https://govstatus.egov.com/or-dhs-benefits. For local resources in your area, such as food or shelter, please call 2-1-1.

Police say dueling rallies remained mostly peaceful in Portland over the weekend.  A Proud Boys rally that organizers said would draw thousands ended up drawing just hundreds in Portland on Saturday.  Hundreds of counter-protesters held their own rally about three miles away.  Later Saturday, protesters gathered across from the Portland Justice Center, where police say some demonstrators threw items at officers.  Governor Kate Brown praised law enforcement on Sunday for helping to prevent confrontations and violence.  The Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office says officers made a total of 30 arrests during different gatherings on Saturday.

Criticism of the law enforcement response to a protest in Portland, Oregon, late Saturday into early Sunday prompted Gov. Kate Brown to ask authorities to review “any alleged incidents” involving their officers. The governor said in a series of tweets Sunday evening that she was committed to building trust in the community. She asked Oregon State Police Superintendent Travis Hampton, Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese and Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell to take another look at what happened during their joint operations that night. Videos from the demonstration in downtown Portland showed police grabbing a news photographer and pushing him to ground as he was trying to document them tackling and detaining a person on a sidewalk, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported. Freelance photographer John Rudoff was wearing a helmet with “PRESS” stickers affixed to it. He told the outlet on Sunday that he’s “physically OK but am quite annoyed.”

New State of Oregon Wildfire-Affected Business Information

The Small Business Navigator provides current information for businesses affected by Covid-19 and wildfires. Call them at 833-604-0880. Additional wildfire-related information can be found at http://wildfire.oregon.gov

In response to a federal disaster declaration, the Small Business Administration is accepting applications for federal disaster loans to businesses and private nonprofits in Clackamas, Douglas, Jackson, Klamath, Lane, Lincoln, Linn and Marion counties. Find more information here.

Affected by wildfire, winds, and smoke? If you’re concerned about your business/nonprofit registry with Secretary of State Corporation Division, just email corporation.division@oregon.gov.

Wildfire Resources for Employees

The Oregon Employment Department is currently working with FEMA and the U.S. Department of Labor to implement Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) for those affected by the Oregon wildfires. The agency is waiting for federal approvals. Employees impacted by the wildfires can get information about unemployment here.

Free Small Business Training & Resources

The Small Business Advocacy Team regularly conducts free, educational seminars online. These seminars are available for anyone to attend. Recordings of presentations are available on our YouTube channel. Register to participate in a live webinar online.

Learn about topics ranging from Covid-19 resources for businesses to the difference between independent contractors and employees. Doing business from home? Check out the webinar on Business Licenses and Home Occupations.

If you have questions or concerns about state or local government, contact the Small Business Advocacy Team or visit their website

E-Notices for your business

You’ve been asking for the Secretary of State to  email reminders to file your annual report and/or renew your Assumed Business Name instead of mailing them through USPS.

To opt in for emailed or email and paper reminders, go online to this website or click on the image to the right. Choose Sign Up Now and follow the prompts. Our system sends you a validation email. Follow the instructions in the email to validate, and then you’ll be set up. Email corporation.division@oregon.gov with questions. 

Les Schwab Tire Center and Oregon FFA (formerly Future Farmers of America) have partnered for a Drive Away Hunger Initiative to collect food and raise hunger awareness for the month of October.

The Drive Away Hunger initiative is one that Oregon FFA and Les Schwab Tire Centers have been partnering on annually since 2015. Each year Oregon FFA members, advisors, volunteers, Les Schwab employees, and our partnering stores across Oregon have worked together to increase the impact of the initiative.

Through Saturday, Oct. 31, non-perishable food donations can be dropped at any Les Schwab Tire Center, Wilco, or Grange Coop store. Last year the Oregon FFA’s Drive Away Hunger initiative helped raise 580,084 pounds of food, equal to 435,171 meals. The Oregon FFA is part of the National FFA Organization, formerly known as the Future Farmers of America. It is a national youth organization of 760,113 student members, all preparing for leadership and careers in the science, business, and technology of agriculture. There are 8,739 local FFA chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Oregon FFA is made up of more than 11,000 members in 114 chapters throughout the state.

ODOT TRAVEL INFORMATION FOR TODAY:

ODOT: SW Oregon:
Oregon 140 east of White City: west of Kershaw Road east to the weigh station: Expect congestion, delays and single lane traffic controlled by flaggers through this evening.
Contractor is placing material on roadway that requires daytime heat and lower humidity to set up. Please consider alternate routes today until this work is complete.

U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams announced today that three Portland, Oregon residents have been charged with crimes during civil disorder events.

A federal grand jury in Portland, Oregon has returned a one-count indictment charging John Phillip Wenzel, with Civil Disorder on August 14, 2020.

Halston Eugene Hamilton and Michael Lee Pilgrim have been charged with Violation of National Defense Airspace, a misdemeanor, for flying a drone within federal airspace on September 26, 2020.  Each of these charges is only an accusation of a crime, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams announced today that a Portland, Oregon woman has been charged with jumping onto the back of a police officer who was arresting someone, as the officer was engaged in lawful crowd dispersal during a civil disorder event.

A federal grand jury in Portland, Oregon has returned a one-count indictment charging Meganne Elizabeth Englich-Mills, 24, with Civil Disorder. According to court documents, during the evening hours of September 5, 2020, a crowd of people attempted to march to the Portland Police Bureau’s East Precinct located at 737 SE 106th avenue from Ventura Park. When the crowd encountered law enforcement officers, multiple fire bombs and commercial grade fireworks were thrown by the crowd towards law enforcement, resulting in injury to both law enforcement and community members. The assembly was declared a riot and the crowd received multiple warning to disperse from the area. The crowd refused to disperse and people in the crowd began throwing rocks at law enforcement and lit several fires in the streets using dumpsters, garbage cans and wooden pallets.  

Oregon State Police Troopers assigned to conduct crowd control duties during the declared riot, encountered a group of persons refusing to disperse from the area as directed. As one Trooper attempted to take a female subject into custody, another member of the above group, later identified as Meganne Elizabeth Englich-Mills, jumped on the Trooper’s back as the Trooper and the other subject were on the ground. Additional Troopers came to the aid of the arresting officer and Englich-Mills was placed under arrest.   

 Meganne Elizabeth Englich-Mills made an initial appearance in federal court today before a U.S. Magistrate Judge John V. Acosta. Englich-Mills was arraigned, pleaded not guilty, and ordered released pending a jury trial to be held.

In the Rogue Valley, members of a group known as Hawthorne Mutual Aid announced through an attorney over the weekend that they plan to file a civil claim against the City of Medford for “unconstitutional and inhumane treatment” after officers from Medford Police cleared a homeless camp in Hawthorne Park last week.

The camp at Hawthorne Park grew in the wake of the Almeda Fire, and particularly from the closure of the Bear Creek Greenway between Ashland and Medford — displacing a number of people accustomed to camping along the Greenway. According to a press release issued by Justin Rosas, the attorney representing members of Hawthorne Mutual Aid, the group was formed after the Almeda Fire by a group of volunteers looking to provide food and shelter to “anyone displaced by fire” — including, but not limited to, those pushed out of the Greenway.

After the City received several complaints from nearby businesses and other community members, Medford Police visited the park last Monday, issuing notifications that campers would need to leave within 24 hours. The agency said that officers were accompanied by representatives from Rogue Retreat to set up the homeless with opportunities for shelter.

The COVID-19 pandemic and devastating wildfires have put unprecedented strain on Oregon’s agricultural communities. Yet when tragedy strikes, farming cannot stop. Farmers and their employees must work alongside each other during harvest to keep grocery stores filled and food on our tables — something none of us should take for granted.

Recognizing the importance of keeping farms and ranches safe during this trying time, OR-OSHA has expanded its requirements for in-field sanitation, employer-provided transportation, and on-farm housing. With needed support from the state, Oregon’s farms have made millions of dollars in upgrades this season to reduce the spread of COVID-19 on farm and in our communities. In tandem, the OR-OSHA has increased its on-farm inspections and has created a regulatory emphasis program to give heightened attention and consultation to food processors and agricultural businesses. With over 11,000 complaints filed with OR-OSHA since the start of the pandemic, agricultural operations have made up less than 3% of those complaints and only a handful of those actually resulted in any type of enforcement activity.[1]

This goes to show that our system is working— through consultation and education by OR-OSHA, Oregon’s farmers and farmworkers are getting through harvest while keeping their operations safe during COVID-19.

Despite the data collected by OR-OSHA, a misinformed narrative persists that agricultural workers have been left unprotected and unsupported by both their employers and the state during COVID-19 and the wildfires. As mentioned above, farmers have taken COVID-19 protections seriously. Farmers work side-by-side with their employees and ensure that every precaution is taken to keep everyone safe. Moreover, farmers and ranchers were on the front lines when the historically destructive wildfires took place, evacuating and caring for their neighbors, animals, and rural communities. Farmers in Southern Oregon have even set up funds to provide long-term financial recovery for agricultural employees who lost their homes and have provided emergency housing for their employees. The notion that Oregon’s farmers do not care about the health and wellbeing of their employees is simply untrue. 

While we take issue with methodology, sample size, and lack of employer representation in the COVID-19 Farmworker Study, as well as the misinformed narrative espoused by union advocates who have little to no knowledge of farming and ranching, Oregon Farm Bureau’s focus remains on how we can continue to come together to support everyone, both employers and employees, in our agricultural communities. We agree that we need more tools to provide education to farmworkers in a number of languages. Although most resources are available in English and Spanish, there needs to be access to educational materials for workers who speak indigenous or other languages. We also adamantly agree that mental health awareness in our rural communities is deeply important. Between the pandemic, wildfires, and steep economic downturn, our farmers, ranchers, and farm employees are facing an enormous amount of stress.

This issue has been of immense importance for the Oregon Farm Bureau over the last year, which is why we began our Rural Resilience campaign: Oregonfb.org/ruralresilience. Farm and ranch families are partners in resolving these needs for all members of our rural communities. 

We sincerely hope that through collaboration and a shared commitment to protecting rural communities, Oregon agriculture can be celebrated and supported, not vilified. It is in the best interests of all Oregonians if we choose to put politics aside and grow together, not apart.

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

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