Klamath Basin News, Friday, 10/23 – Gov Brown Considers Easing School Learning Restrictions; Admits Could Be Too Strict

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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.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Klamath Basin Weather

Today   Sunny, with a high near 63. Light and variable wind.  A 20% chance of showers overnight, low near 39.

Saturday   Mostly cloudy morning, then gradually becoming sunny, with a high near 58. Frost overnight, low of 23 degrees.

Sunday   Widespread frost before 11am. Otherwise, sunny, with a high near 44. Overnight low of 20 degrees.

Monday Night   Mostly clear, with a low around 29.

Tuesday   Sunny, with a high near 67.

Wednesday   Widespread frost. Otherwise, sunny, with a high near 70.

Today’s Headlines

Klamath County Public Health (KCPH) officials reported four new cases of COVID-19 in the community on Thursday. The local case count is 405 for Klamath County. This week’s total is eight.

With the state, COVID-19 has claimed 11 more lives in Oregon this week, raising the state’s death toll to 646.  Oregon Health Authority reported 373 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of yesterday, bringing the state total to 40,810.

The new cases are in the following counties: Benton (6), Clackamas (25), Clatsop (3), Columbia (1), Coos (2), Crook (6), Deschutes (13), Douglas (8), Harney (3), Hood River (1), Jackson (31), Jefferson (2), Josephine (3), Klamath (4), Lane (29), Linn (6), Malheur (18), Marion (37), Multnomah (81), Polk (3), Umatilla (13), Union (6), Wasco (10), Washington (59), and Yamhill (4).

Governor Kate Brown is considering whether to ease rules on schools to allow in-person learning.  

The Healthy Schools Reopening Council is reviewing whether the limits for COVID-19 and safety protocols are too strict.  

Currently, rates of COVID-19 are too high for most counties to have in-person learning.  The council says virus levels need to be reduced and schools need to have plans to keep students from spreading the virus.  The governor will use the recommendations in making a final decision about when schools can reopen.

The application deadline for the Emergency Business/Nonprofit Assistance Grant has been extended to October 30, 2020. The City of Klamath Falls has created the Emergency Business Assistance Grant and the Emergency Non-Profit Assistance Grant for up to $1,000 to aid in recovery from financial impact as a direct result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and COVID-related rules.  

The Grant Program is intended to provide short-term funds to businesses and non-profits who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The funds must be utilized for items such as rent/mortgage payment, utilities, or compliance with COVID-19 regulations and for up to the maximum of $1,000 per business or non-profit. The business/non-profit must be able to demonstrate how they were adversely impacted due to COVID-19 and COVID-related rules,  the business/non-profit must have a current City Business License, and a request must demonstrate that the funds will be used for rent/mortgage payment, utilities or compliance with COVID-19 regulations. For more information contact the city of Klamath Falls.

Klamath County and Wilsonart officials broke ground Wednesday on the site of a new manufacturing facility on Wesgo Drive.

The process has moved quickly, with area officials meeting with Wilsonart for the first time almost exactly a year ago. Construction is expected to be completed and the plant operational by next summer. Wilsonart executives spoke highly of the area’s willingness to work with them and push past the red tape they encountered elsewhere Klamath County Economic Development Association officials spoke of the excitement of getting this project moving and the hope that Wilsonart’s development will encourage other businesses to choose Klamath, too.

Starting on Monday, Oct. 26, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service plans to conduct a week of prescribed burn at Bear Valley National Wildlife Refuge, located south of Keno, according to a Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex news release.

In an effort to lessen future wildfire hazards and enhance forest health, 152 acres of understory vegetation (fuel) will be burned This prescribed burn will be accomplished by a team of trained wildland fire fighters from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It will occur in a controlled manner under a tight set ofprescribed conditions, which minimize impacts to wildlife and the public. The exact day of theburn will depend on having the right weather conditions and proper fine fuel moistures.   If theseburns cannot be executed during the week planned, they will be rescheduled for later in2020.

In past years, kindergarteners at Shasta Elementary School visited a local pumpkin patch in October. This year, with COVID-19, that wasn’t possible. But thanks to pumpkin donations from the Shasta Booster Club, Albertson’s, and Holiday Market, kindergarteners were still able to hunt for a future jack-o’-lantern. Shasta principal Randy Rose, after spinning a story about his phone call to The Great Pumpkin, unleashed the kindergarteners to find and collect the small, orange gourds. Students then picked their favorite to take home with them. In all, 130 pumpkins were donated to the school. Of those, 80 were for the school’s two cohorts of kindergarteners and the rest were for students in special programs.

While the two candidates vying for Oregon’s vast 2nd Congressional District have very differing views, both are making it a point to listen to their would-be constituents.

Given that the district is the seventh largest in the nation and spans more than 20 Oregon counties, that’s kept them pretty busy during this campaign. Republican Cliff Bentz and Democrat Alex Spenser are facing off to replace Representative Greg Walden, a Republican who has held the seat since 1999 and announced last October that he would not seek re-election in 2020.

An elected, federal position that influences agency operations in the Klamath Basin, Walden’s seat is of particular interest to stakeholders in local water issues. Given that a Democrat hasn’t represented District 2 since 1981 and the district tends to give Republican candidates 11% more of its votes than the national average, political scientists believe Bentz has this election all but wrapped up. But Spenser is holding out for a blue wave even stronger than 2018.

Both candidates agree that basin’s agriculture community needs support, though Spenser specified that she would first want to take care of smaller, family farmers and ranchers who don’t hold as much sway as larger, corporate operations.

Join the Countdown to Crunch

Community encouraged to join event Oct. 26 and Oct. 28, highlighting local food

Do you need an excuse to eat leafy vegetables? A community-wide celebration next week highlighting locally grown greens may be just the push you need.

Community members are invited to join more than 1,800 Klamath County School District students and staff Oct. 26 and Oct. 28 in the third annual Countdown to Crunch celebrating National Farm to School Month.

In past years, students have crunched Oregon-grown apples together. This year, the crunch features Klamath-grown salad greens. Students will be crunching – and munching – greens grown by Katie Swanson, owner of Sweet Union Farm in Klamath Falls. You can buy Oregon-grown greens to crunch from a grocery store, Saturday’s downtown Farmers Market or online at www.kfom.org.

Students from eight schools will be crunching in their classrooms or cafeterias at 1:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 26 and Wednesday, Oct. 28. Other students and community members can join the Countdown to Crunch either day through online crunching parties. Blue Zones Project, KCSD, KFOM and OSU Extension are hosting a community crunch on Zoom. Click on the link to register for the Zoom Crunch: www.healthyklamath.org/crunchatonce. That Zoom Crunch will be broadcast on Facebook Live. Community members and organizations also are encouraged to host their own Facebook Live or Zoom crunching parties.

“When you collaboratively do something, it has a bigger impact,” said Patty Case, educator for OSU Klamath Extension Family and Community Health and coordinator for the event. “We need to value our local food production and we have to do that in a collective way. It takes a community to feed a community.”

OSU Extension will provide schools with information on greens. Access educational materials on leafy greens at www.foodhero.org. To view a fun video about the event: https://youtu.be/Yf2wfO0dtSk.

Merrill, Malin, Henley, Shasta, Stearns and Bonanza elementaries and Lost River and Bonanza junior/senior high schools are participating in the Countdown to Crunch this year.

“We’re featuring a hyper-local farm and grower this year because COVID-19 has made us all acutely aware of how unstable our food system can be in a crisis,” Case said. “We want to acknowledge and encourage local growers to join the effort to feed our youth.

“On average, a food travels about 1,500 miles to get to our community. The greens students will be eating come from Sweet Union Farm only a few miles away. If we can create excitement and help students understand where their food comes from, we all win — the schools, the growers and the local economy.”

Greens such as spinach, microgreens, lettuce, chard and kale tolerate the cold and can be grown eight or more months out of the year in the Klamath Basin. They are versatile and can be eaten cooked or raw, in salad, sandwiches and soups. In addition, they’re packed with nutrients, including vitamins A, C, K and folate to boost the immune system, according to experts at OSU Klamath Extension.

Around the state of Oregon

New York, Seattle and Portland — three cities recently labeled “anarchist jurisdictions” by the U.S. Justice Department — filed a lawsuit Thursday to invalidate the designation and fight off the Trump administration’s efforts to withhold federal dollars.

President Donald Trump issued a memorandum last month that sought to identify localities that permit “anarchy, violence and destruction in American cities” following riots that took place during anti-police and anti-racism protests after George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police. The Justice Department last month identified New York City, Portland, Oregon, and Seattle as three cities that could have federal funding slashed. The lawsuit ridiculed the designation, calling the president’s action “offensive to both the Constitution and common sense” and describing the notion of anarchist jurisdictions “an oxymoronic designation without precedent in American jurisprudence.” 

The Oregon Supreme Court has ruled against a pair of young plaintiffs who sued the state and Governor of Oregon for allegedly failing to address climate change.

The ruling marks a penultimate stage in the lawsuit, which has been ongoing since 2011. Originally filed against then-Governor John Kitzhaber and his administration, the case that eventually became Chernaik v. Brown made its way to the state Supreme Court last year after a long series of arguments, rulings, and appeals. The plaintiffs argued that the “public trust doctrine,” which covers the state’s responsibility to steward and protect certain natural resources, includes the atmosphere — alleging that Oregon’s failure to comprehensively address climate change represents a betrayal of the public trust.

The Oregon Supreme Court’s opinion, issued on Wednesday, rejected the plaintiffs’ argument for an expanded definition of the public trust — affirming the earlier decision by the Court of Appeals and sending the case back to the circuit court for judgment. Though Governor Kate Brown and state officials were defendants in the case — and ultimately successful in arguing against the state’s responsibility for climate change impacts — Brown said in a statement issued on Wednesday that she “agrees” with the plaintiffs and other young climate change activists who argue for action.

SNAP Program Waiver Approved
A waiver approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) allows Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Disaster SNAP recipients in the following 23 counties to purchase hot or prepared foods from authorized SNAP retailers until Nov. 20.

Approved counties: Benton, Clackamas, Columbia Coos, Curry, Deschutes, Douglas, Hood River, Jackson, Josephine, Jefferson, Klamath, Lake, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, Multnomah, Polk, Tillamook, Wasco, Washington, and Yamhill.

Normally, SNAP benefits cannot be used to purchase “hot food products prepared for immediate consumption.” This restriction is being waived following the severe winds and wildfires that led to the displacement of many residents and left them without access to a kitchen to prepare meals. Examples of allowable prepared foods include hot deli foods, fountain drinks, including but not limited to coffee and tea, a slice of hot/prepared pizza, hot soup, salad bars, and sandwiches.

This waiver will last through Nov. 20 and allows SNAP and DSNAP recipients to use their benefits to buy prepared food at any participating retailer that accepts SNAP EBT cards. Restaurant purchases are still prohibited.

For more information about the hot food waiver, visit https://www.oregon.gov/dhs/ASSISTANCE/FOOD-BENEFITS/Pages/DSNAP-Hot-Foods-Waiver.aspx.

(Salem, Ore.) – Mya Miranda, age 16, a foster child who went missing from Boardman, Ore. on Oct. 17, 2020, was found on Oct. 22, 2020. The Oregon Department of Human Services, Child Welfare Division is thankful for the community support to find her.

A small number of children in foster care may be in significant danger when they run away or have gone missing. As DHS works to do everything it can to find these missing children and ensure their safety, media alerts will be issued in some circumstances when it is determined necessary. Sometimes, in these situations, a child may go missing repeatedly, resulting in more than one media alert for the same child.

Report child abuse to the Oregon Child Abuse Hotline by calling 1-855-503-SAFE (7233).  This toll-free number allows you to report abuse of any child or adult to the Oregon Department of Human Services, 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year.

Western Oregon University (WOU) has announced several admissions policy changes, effective immediately. There is no application fee for freshman and transfer students until Sept. 1, 2021. Also, high school seniors and transfer students can self-report their cumulative grade point average when completing their admissions application.

“Western Oregon University recognizes that students are facing challenges with regard to their college search process,” said WOU Admissions Director Rob Findtner. “Families across Oregon and beyond are dealing with financial hardship and uncertainty. The elimination of the application fee removes a financial barrier and encourages students to apply for admission.”

Admitted students will be required to provide final official transcripts prior to enrolling at WOU. Students who wish to receive consideration for WOU scholarships must provide official transcripts by February 1 as the WOU scholarship application is due March 1.

“WOU also recognizes the pandemic has impacted our K-12 and higher education partners on many fronts, including the processing of official transcript requests,” Findtner said. “The opportunity for students to self-report their cumulative grade point average will alleviate the concerns associated with providing WOU an official transcripts at the time of application. The policy change also expedites the processing and response time for the Admissions office.”

Freshman admission will be based upon a student’s self-reported cumulative grade point average and their high school courses. WOU does not require the submission of ACT or SAT scores for freshmen. Transfer students are asked to provide their cumulative grade point average for each college or university attended when completing their application. Transfer admission will be based upon a student’s academic performance and the successful completion of college-level mathematics and writing courses.

WOU’s Admissions office is hosting several online events. The events listing is available here: https://network.wou.edu/portal/campus_visit

About Western Oregon University Western Oregon University, founded in 1856 and located in Monmouth, is the state’s oldest public university. 

In another somewhat wild timetable fantasy, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley is sponsoring a bill that would end the sale of gas-powered vehicles in the U.S. by 2035.  Several states including Oregon and California have their own goals.  This would put the U.S. on a path to increase production of electric and hydrogen fuel cell powered vehicles.  By 2025, half of vehicles would have to be electric.  Then, every year that’s increased by five-percent until 100-percent is reached by 2035.

OHA sees 70% increase in Oregon opioid deaths during April, May

TheOregon Health Authority saw an alarming spike in opioid overdose deaths in Oregon this past spring compared to last year, and public health experts believe use of illicit fentanyl and methamphetamine is driving the increase.

Analysts in the Injury and Violence Prevention Section at the OHA Public Health Division found that Oregon saw a nearly 70% increase in the number of overdose deaths during April and May 2020 compared to the same time in 2019. There also was a nearly 8% increase in the number of overdose deaths during the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.

The preliminary data come from the State Unintentional Drug Overdose Reporting System (SUDORS), which includes combined and abstracted data from medical examiners and death certificates.

Additionally, the analysis found, between April and May 2020 there was a 28% increase in overdose deaths, and a more than 15% increase in overdose deaths between March and April. And opioid-involved deaths accounted for almost 73% of total overdose deaths in May 2020.

Of opioid-involved deaths, the data show, fentanyl and heroin continue to be the drugs most frequently involved, and fentanyl-involved deaths accounted for almost 40% of total overdose deaths in May 2020.

The analysis also uncovered a continuing alarming trend in methamphetamine use: Methamphetamine/amphetamine-involved deaths accounted for more than 40% of all overdose deaths in May 2020.

What’s unclear is what effect the COVID-19 pandemic may have had on opioid misuse in Oregon.

“Until more data become available, it is premature to say how much of the spike in overdose deaths is attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Tom Jeanne, M.D., MPH, deputy state health officer and deputy state epidemiologist at the Public Health Division. “However, the realization that we will be dealing with COVID-19 for some time, and other stressors related to jobs, school and social isolation, may increase feelings of anxiety and depression, and that can lead to a harmful level of alcohol or other drug use.”

OHA continues to monitor and post finalized opioid data on its Prescribing and Drug Overdose Data Dashboard at https://www.oregon.gov/oha/ph/preventionwellness/substanceuse/opioids/pages/data.aspx.

The next regular public meeting of the Oregon Cannabis Commission will be Nov. 2, 2020, 1-4pm.

On the agenda is a review and vote to finalize recommendation letter; legislative strategy; Cannabis Equity bill; OLCC update – legislative concept; Oregon Medical Marijuana Program procedure change on inspections; vote on amending bylaws; final remarks and next steps; voting on chair and co-chair for 2021; public comment.

Where: By conference at 669-254-5252, meeting ID 161-464-4853.

The Oregon Cannabis Commission was established in the 2017 legislative session through HB 2198. The commission consists of the state health officer or designee and eight members appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the senate. The commission is tasked with determining a possible framework for future governance of the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program, steps to address research on cannabis in areas of public health policy and public safety policy, agronomic and horticultural best practices, and medical and pharmacopoeia best practices. The commission also advises the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission regarding statutes governing medical and retail cannabis. Visit www.Healthoregon.org/cannabiscommission for more information.

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