Klamath Basin News, Friday, 11/20 – Klamath County with 30 New Covid-19 Cases Overnight; KCSD To Return To Distance Learning After Thanksgiving Holiday; Oregon With Record Number of Cases and Deaths in a Single Day

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Friday, November 20, 2020

Klamath Basin Weather

Friday Sunny, with a high near 43. North wind 3 to 5 mph.

Saturday Sunny, with a high near 44.

Sunday Mostly cloudy, with a high near 44.

Monday A 20% chance of snow before 11am. Partly sunny, with a high near 44. Overnight, cloudy, with a low around 27. Snow level rising to 5700 feet in the afternoon.

Tuesday Mostly sunny, with a high near 50.

Today’s Headlines

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The Oregon Health Authority today is reporting the largest daily number of COVID-19 cases and deaths since the beginning of the pandemic in Oregon. COVID-19 has claimed 20 more lives in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 808, the Oregon Health Authority reported yesterday. Oregon Health Authority reported 1225 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of yesterday, bringing the state total to 60,873.

Klamath County Public Health (KCPH) officials reported 30 new cases of COVID-19 in the community on Thursday. The local case count is 583. A 70-year-old resident of Klamath County died at St. Charles Hospital. He had underlying health conditions and had tested positive for COVID-19. This week’s total cases are 58.

Jackson County Public Health reported an unprecedented seven more people dead from coronavirus as of Thursday, bringing the county’s death toll to 19 since the beginning of the pandemic. Overnight saw another 89 cases in Jackson County.

Some of the details on those deaths were not yet available on Thursday, but only one of the cases died in a hospital. Six of them died at their residences — possibly homes, but likely several at long-term care facilities. Based on Jackson County Public Health’s data, outbreaks at long-term care facilities have spurred many of the recent deaths.

As of Thursday, officials reported six deaths from Avamere at Three Fountains, one from Avamere Health Services of Rogue Valley, and four from Table Rock Memory Care — all three facilities with dozens of cases among both residents and staff.

Seventeen new cases of COVID-19 have been identified in Josephine County overnight, bringing the county’s total number of cases to 407 in the Grants Pass area.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Oregon has surpassed 400, the highest number since the pandemic began and a 137% increase since the beginning of November, according to state health data released Wednesday.

The Oregon Health Authority said Wednesday that 406 people were hospitalized, with 94 in intensive care. On Nov. 1, Oregon had 171 people in the hospital with COVID-19. A week ago, 290 people were hospitalized. The news came as health officials announced 1,099 new cases of the virus Wednesday and 10 deaths.

The biggest increase in hospitalizations was in the Portland metropolitan area, the Willamette Valley and in Jackson and Josephine counties to the southwest.

The new cases are in the following counties: Baker (4), Benton (16), Clackamas (121), Clatsop (2), Columbia (14), Coos (8), Crook (6), Curry (6), Deschutes (31), Douglas (21), Grant (3), Harney (5), Hood River (8), Jackson (89), Jefferson (10), Josephine (17), Klamath (30), Lake (5), Lane (130), Lincoln (1), Linn (11), Malheur (21), Marion (84), Morrow (1), Multnomah (376), Polk (20), Umatilla (20), Union (8), Wasco (8), Washington (127) and Yamhill (36).

The Klamath County School District will return to comprehensive distance learning on Monday, November 30th, after the Thanksgiving weekend.   

Remember, there is no school for students next week (Nov. 23-27).   And with that, all parents of school children were sent this letter:

Dear KCSD community,

We are sharing with you the latest message from Klamath County Public Health on the impact of rising county COVID-19 cases on our schools.

Please read the below message, and look for updated and more detailed information from the Klamath County School District next week. Remember, there is no school for students next week (Nov. 23-27). We wish all of our families and communities a safe, relaxing, and enjoyable Thanksgiving break.

Message to KCSD from Jessica Dale, assistant director, Klamath County Public Health:

“It is with disappointment that I find myself writing this email tonight. As of close of business today (Nov. 19), we had received enough positive test results for this week to know that when numbers post for the two week lookback on November 23, our rates will exceed 200 per 100,000. As a result, schools will need to return to comprehensive distance learning on Monday November 30, 2020.

“While the return to hybrid learning models for expanded grade levels was short lived this time around, it was undoubtedly beneficial for both the schools and the students. It is such a pleasure to work with all of you and your staff as we continue to pursue the safe return of in person education in Klamath County.

Dale continued: “For schools that were previously operating under the K-3, or rural and remote schools exceptions, Public Health needs to complete case investigations for the cases received today to make an informed recommendation on continued in person instruction under those models. Given the number of cases that need to be investigated, we cannot commit to having that recommendation to you tomorrow, but will have one communicated by Monday, Nov. 23.”

Please join us in thanking Klamath County Public Health for the work they are doing to keep our community safe.

Glen Szymoniak
Superintendent, Klamath County School District

Two people were killed and two were hurt in the fiery head-on crash of a pickup truck and rental van that blocked U.S. Highway 97 near La Pine, officials said. 

The accident was near the Klamath-Deschutes county line. Oregon State Police, La Pine Rural Fire District firefighter-medics and Deschutes County sheriff’s deputies responded to the crash around 12:50 p.m. Wednesday.

Fire Chief Mike Supkis said the pickup collided with a southbound U-Haul rental truck, with two confirmed fatalities and two people taken by ambulance to St. Charles Bend.

Both vehicles caught fire as a result of the collision, which prompted a lengthy closure of the highway for a crash investigation and reconstruction, officials said.

School bus and car collide on Highway 140 Thursday morning

One person died in a fatal crash Thursday morning involving a Klamath County school bus. No children were inside the bus at the time, according to Oregon State Police.  

At about 8:51AM, the bus collided with a passenger car traveling in the opposite direction on Highway 140 E at mile post 15, between Klamath Falls and Bonanza.

Preliminary investigation revealed a Ford Bronco, operated by David Hauck (51) of Beatty, was westbound when it lost control on icy roadways, slid into the eastbound lane and collided with a Klamath County School District bus operated by Stewart Hedges (77) of Klamath Falls.

Hauck sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced deceased.

Hedges received minor injuries.The highway was closed for approximately three hours.

South bound traffic on California Avenue between Mt. Whitney and Doty Streets will be closed today from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. to accommodate tree trimming work. There will be signage and traffic will be detoured down Uerlings Street.  If you would like more information about this topic, please call John at (541) 891-7122.

Ealier this week, the Board of Klamath County Commissioners voiced their concerns over new state COVID-19 regulations saying the 2 week “freeze” will be too much for already struggling businesses to bear.

Klamath County Commissioner Kelley Minty Morris said that the  “statewide approach does not fit Klamath County. We have a robust health care system, and we are confident the relationships in this community would ensure our health care professionals, and public health, would work together to decide what our community needs without the state’s interference. We do not need a top down approach from the State; we believe we can navigate this challenging issue locally.”

Commissioner Don Boyd added that the “Citizens have spoken clearly, this is causing impacts that cannot be ignored, increases in suicide, domestic violence and substance abuse, these are real consequences of shut downs”.

Derrick Degroot added  the board is fearful that “businesses that close may never re-open, it’s already been the case for more than 2 dozen businesses in this county. Another shut down could increase the number of unemployed right before the holidays”.

Sheriff Chris Kaber says, “The Sheriff’s Office will not be enforcing distancing, gathering, or masking restrictions. I have informed the local paper and that decision has been shared on other media platforms. It is the decision I made in the spring and remains consistent even though the governor indicated she is enlisting local law enforcement this time. The Sheriff’s Office is busy responding to calls for service of greater public safety concern”.

Businesses can contact East Cascades Worksource for questions about business assistance at stefanie@ecworks.org and 541-904-5012.

In response to Governor Kate Brown’s “Two Week Freeze” announcement, the downtown Klamath County library is reducing some services starting Wednesday, November 18th.

These rules will be in place through at least Wednesday, December 2nd:They  strongly encourage visitors to limit their stay to an hour maximum. Public computers for adults will be only available via appointment. Appointments start at the top of the hour or at the half hour, and last for 50 minutes. They are also reducing the number of available public computers, to encourage physical distancing.

An “Express Computer” will be available for users who only need to print materials. Use of this computer will be limited to 15 minutes, and available on a first-come-first-served basis. Computers for visitors under 18 are unavailable until further notice.

The Bookie Joint bookstore and the Senior Center Branch Library are also closed until further notice.  These risk reduction measures are critical in limiting the spread of COVID-19, reducing risk in communities more vulnerable to serious illness and death, and helping conserve hospital capacity so that all Oregonians can continue to have access to quality care.

Tis the season! Friends of the Children invites the community to drag this year to the Finish Line in style by rummaging up ugly holiday sweaters and registering for the Friends’ 7th annual Ugly Sweater 5K, to be held virtually, November 27 – December 6.  

Friends has teamed up with Klamath Falls Subaru and Klamath Falls Honda for an event that will provide a COVID-safe fun run for individuals, couples, and families while raising funds for long-term professional mentoring of children facing great life obstacles. Participants are invited to set a 3.1-mile route and walk or run it any time November 27 –December 6, then upload photos of their event to the Facebook event page Klamath Ugly Sweater Run. Registrants will be entered in a raffle for several festive prize baskets, with extra tickets awarded for completing special event challenges. Winners will be announced December 8.

Registration is $20 for individuals, $50 for teams up to four people. For more information and registration, go to tinyurl.com/2020ugly or search Facebook for Klamath Ugly Sweater Run.

The National Weather Service in Medford has issued an Air Stagnation Advisory starting this evening at 6 PM to Sunday afternoon at 1 PM.  

High pressure will build into the area resulting in light winds, strong inversions and limited mixing. These conditions are expected to persist through Sunday morning leading to periods of poor air quality. Klamath and Lake Counties will be impacted by the advisory. Air stagnation conditions will be worse Friday evening through Sunday morning.

Tulelake leaders broke ground on an expansion to the city’s veterans park on Wednesday morning, which Mayor Henry Ebinger called a “community collaboration.”

The project will expand the existing park all the way to the corner of Main Street and include a gazebo, sundial, interpretative panels and an archway featuring the seals of each branch of the military. The archway will be one of the first things people will see as they turn down Main Street from Highway 139. The project came out of a downtown revitalization plan city council started in 2016. The park expansion is one of the first things to come to fruition from that plan. Ebinger said Tulelake’s heritage as a military community was central to the conception of the park.

Fremont-Winema National Forest Christmas tree permits on sale; Free permits for 4th and 5th grade students

LAKEVIEW, Ore. – As the holiday season starts next week, Christmas tree permits are currently available from the Fremont-Winema National Forest.

Permits cost $5 and are nonrefundable.  A maximum of five permits can be purchased and can be used through December 25.

The permits are available for purchase from several vendors in Lake and Klamath counties, online through www.Recreation.gov, and by mail from all Fremont-Winema National Forest offices.

This week fifth graders with an Every Kid Outdoors (EKO) voucher can get a free Christmas tree permit.  This is in addition to fourth graders who can get a free permit with their valid EKO pass.

The Fremont-Winema National Forest provided free passes and permits to area fourth graders.  They are starting to provide the vouchers and permits to fifth graders in Lake and Klamath counties.  For more information or for those home schooling, please contact Public Affairs Specialist Shannon Holt at 541-947-6261 or shannon.holt@usda.gov

EKO passes and vouchers can also be acquired by visiting https://everykidoutdoors.gov and completing the application process.  Recreation.gov has an option for EKO passholders to get their Christmas tree permit online, but there is a $2.50 service charge for the transaction.  Just search for the national forest where you want to cut your tree, check the box for the EKO pass, enter the EKO voucher or pass number and complete the purchase information. 

Each permit is valid to cut one tree and must be secured to the tree in a place visible during transport of the tree from the forest.

Permits purchased in person do not expire, so if weather or other conditions make it impossible to get a tree this year, the permit is still valid for use the next year.  Permits purchased on Recreation.gov are only good for this year.

The permit cost through Recreation.gov is $5, but it is only valid for the 2020 season.  Up to five permits can be purchased and there is a $2.50 service charge per transaction.  The purchase can be done from a computer or mobile device.  Just search for “Fremont-Winema National Forest Christmas Tree Permit”. The permit must be printed to be valid and visible on the vehicle dashboard when transporting the tree.

For those who still want to get their permit from their local Forest Service Office, please call or write to the local office at the number or address listed below.  Customers mailing in a request need to include their name, mailing address, phone number, the number of Christmas tree permits being ordered and a check or money order made out to “USDA Forest Service” for the total purchase.

Christmas tree permits from the Fremont-Winema National Forest are valid for use on the Forest in Klamath and Lake Counties.  It is the responsibility of the cutter to ensure they are not getting their tree from private, state or other federal lands.  Christmas trees also cannot be harvested in Congressionally-designated Wilderness Areas, active timber sales, developed recreation sites or tree plantations.

Some parking areas on the Forest require a Sno-Park permit issued by the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).  Permits are sold at all DMV offices and by permit agents at resorts, sporting goods stores and other retail outlets.  Certain Forest roads are designated as snowmobile trails and closed to wheeled vehicle traffic.

Local Forest offices can answer questions regarding Christmas tree cutting, current conditions and roads.

All Forest offices are open for phone calls Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  The offices will be closed Thursday, November 26 for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Around the state of Oregon

The Oregon Employment Department estimates that up to 70,000 workers could lose their jobless benefits on the day after Christmas, when a major federal coronavirus relief program ends. When Congress passed the CARES Act in March, it extended the period during which people are eligible for regular unemployment assistance from 26 to 39 weeks. Congress also created a new program, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, for self-employed workers and others who aren’t usually eligible for jobless benefits. Both those programs expire at the end of the year, so benefits would end on Dec. 26. That’s because the following week extends past Jan. 1. PUA recipients face a hard cutoff but the employment department said many Oregon workers on the 13-week extension may qualify for 20 weeks from a similar program called Extended Benefits. The employment department says it will move eligible workers to that other program automatically when the 13-week extension expires and send them a letter notifying them of the shift.

On Wednesday, November 18, 2020 at approximately 4:15 P.M., Oregon State Police Troopers and emergency personnel responded to a single vehicle crash on Hwy 42 near milepost 32.

Preliminary investigation revealed that an Audi Q7, operated by Seth Hale (41) from Grants Pass, was eastbound when it went off the roadway and crashed.  

Hale was transported to Mercy Hospital in Roseburg where on November 19, 2020 he was pronounced deceased.

On Thursday, November 19, 2020 at approximately 5:15 P.M., Oregon State Police and emergency personnel responded to a multi-vehicle crash on Hwy 97 near milepost 137. 

Preliminary investigation revealed a BMW, operated by Jonathan Short (39) of Bend, was northbound merging onto Hwy 97 from the Colorado Rd onramp.  The BMW merged through the right (slow) lane and into the left (fast) lane and struck a Chevrolet pickup operated by Kevin Schultz (47) of Bend.  The Chevrolet pickup crossed the center median into the southbound lane and collided with a Ford Transit van operated by Christopher Rodea (37) of Bend.

Two more southbound vehicles were involved in the crash and one more northbound vehicle was involved in the crash.  None of these operators or passengers were seriously injured.

Rodea sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced deceased.

Schultz was transported to St Charles Hospital in Bend with serious injuries.

Short was not transported for injuries.  

Hwy 97 was closed for approximately 8 hours.

OSP was assisted by the Bend Police Department, Bend Fire Department, Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office and ODOT.

On Thursday, November 19, 2020 at approximately 7:25 P.M., Oregon State Police Troopers and emergency personnel responded to a crash on Hwy 99E near SE Boardman Ave in Clackamas County.

Preliminary investigation revealed a Toyota Tundra, operated by Bob Weber (54) of Milwaukie, was northbound when he struck a pedestrian, Tetteh Kofi (35) of Portland,  walking eastbound across Hwy 99E near the intersection of SE Boardman Ave. 

Kofi sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced deceased.

This year the Sunday after Thanksgiving is all about shopping for art. The Oregon Arts Commission is proud to be one of 330 nationwide partners for Artists Sunday, a new national movement to promote local art as holiday gifts on Sunday, Nov. 29.

The movement joins Black Friday, Small Business Saturday® and Cyber Monday to create the biggest shopping weekend of the year. It also supports artists as entrepreneurs at a time when many have suffered great losses as a result of the ongoing pandemic.

Artists Sunday is a day dedicated to encouraging consumers to shop with artisans and craftspeople to give something special, unique and hand-crafted this holiday season. The Arts Commission recognizes the culture artists create and the impact they have on our local community, while adding expression and beauty to our lives.   

“Supporting working artists is an active part of our mission,” said Brian Rogers, executive director of the Arts Commission. “We are excited to be one of the inaugural partners for Artists Sunday in showcasing art as a unique and meaningful holiday gift.”

Artists from across the country, including more than 100 from Oregon (number growing daily) are participating in Artists Sunday, representing a full range of art, hand-crafted items, and performances. The diversity of artisans allows consumers ample opportunity to browse online this Artists Sunday and find the perfect gift for that special someone in their life.

Other Artists Sunday partners in Oregon include: Alberta Abbey Foundation, Portland; Arts & Business Alliance of Eugene; Charlene Larsen Center for the Performing Arts, Astoria; City of Monmouth; City of Troutdale; Clackamas County Arts Alliance; East Winds Virtual Music, Portland; Emerald Art Center, Springfield; Gallery Calapooia, Albany; IN A LANDSCAPE: Classical Music in the Wild, Portland; Josephy Center for Arts and Culture, Joseph; Lane Arts Council, Eugene; Portland Saturday Market, Portland; and Salem Art Association.

The Arts Commission invites you to search and discover Oregon artists. New artist and partner signups are welcome; artist and partner participation is free and includes toolkits for promotion and marketing.

Cancer and rheumatoid arthritis drugs continue to be the most costly

Salem — $43,525 per prescription makes the brand-name drug Yervoy, used to treat melanoma, the most expensive prescription drug for Oregon health insurance carriers, based on data released by the Oregon Division of Financial Regulation.

For the second year in a row, the brand-name drug Humira, commonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, was the most costly prescription drug reported by Oregon’s health insurance companies, as well as the most prescribed specialty drug. Its 17,435 prescriptions in Oregon cost insurance companies approximately $81 million.

The division also released data on the most costly and most prescribed generic medications. These prescriptions typically cost less than comparable brand names. Glatiramer, used to treat multiple sclerosis, was the most expensive generic drug reported, costing insurance companies approximately $2,800 per prescription. Dextroamphetamine, a common drug for attention deficit disorder, was the most costly generic prescription for Oregon insurers, claims for this drug total more than $6 million annually. Levothyroxine, used to treat thyroid activity, is the most prescribed generic with approximately 232,000 prescriptions statewide.

“The data from our insurers is an important piece to understanding which prescription drugs have the biggest effect on our health care costs; we appreciate their willingness to share this information.,” said Andrew Stolfi, insurance commissioner and director of the Department of Consumer and Business Services. “The more data we receive the better informed all of us are, that is why consumer reporting is an important piece of our drug transparency program, especially leading up to the public hearing.”

On Wednesday, Dec. 16, the division will host a virtual public hearing on prescription drug prices. Oregonians are encouraged to participate by asking questions and sharing their stories of how prescription drug prices have affected them. Visit Questions and stories on prescription drug prices to post questions and share your experience.

Responses will be used to prepare for the public hearing. The questions and stories will be shared with legislators at the hearing, but personally identifiable information will be kept anonymous.

The division released lists of the most expensive, most costly, and most prescribed drugs which are reported annually by health insurance companies that offer individual and small group plans in Oregon.  

To determine what insurers paid on average for each prescription and to identify the most expensive prescriptions, the program team examined claims data for drugs prescribed to 10 or more enrollees and compared the total dollars spent by insurers to the corresponding prescription counts for each drug.

To learn more about the program or view the most expensive, most costly, and most prescribed drug lists, visit the program’s website – dfr.oregon.gov/drugtransparency.

To report a specific increase in the cost of a prescription drug:

November 20, 2020 – OnPoint Community Credit Union announced today it will open 20 new branches located within Fred Meyer stores across Oregon and Southwest Washington in 2021.

This is the largest branch expansion in OnPoint’s history and the news reinforces the credit union’s commitment to its members and the Northwest region. As Oregon’s largest credit union, OnPoint currently operates 36 branches, with four locations having opened in 2020 alone, and serves more than 415,000 members.

“As part of our unwavering commitment to Oregon and SW Washington, we are always looking for new ways to expand our services and grow our presence to better assist our members,” said Rob Stuart, President and Chief Executive Officer, OnPoint Community Credit Union. “Fred Meyer serves as a community staple across the region, and when an opportunity arose to work with this local company while at the same time be more accessible to our members, we were thrilled to embark upon this new partnership.”

OnPoint’s new in-store branches will open on a rolling basis throughout the first half of 2021, with construction set to begin in January. Each branch will offer members a complete suite of financial services, including membership enrollment, consumer and commercial lending, mortgages, financial planning, ATMs and notarization.

“We are honored to be selected as Fred Meyer’s community credit union partner,” said Tory McVay, OnPoint’s Senior Vice President and Chief Retail Officer. “Co-locating with a major regional supermarket will provide our growing membership and the communities we serve with convenient one-stop access to essential financial services. We are proud to not only help our members achieve their financial goals, but to also invest more deeply in our region and provide up to 200 new jobs to members of our community.”

OnPoint’s expansion comes on the heels of the credit union adding 15 counties to its charter in June 2020, increasing the total to 28 across Oregon and two in Southwest Washington. With this charter expansion, more than four million Oregonians are now eligible for OnPoint membership. The 15 counties added to OnPoint’s charter are Clatsop, Coos, Curry, Douglas, Gilliam, Hood River, Jackson, Josephine, Klamath, Lincoln, Morrow, Sherman, Tillamook, Wasco and Wheeler.

“We are excited to welcome OnPoint Community Credit Union into our stores,” stated Jeffery Temple, Director of Corporate Affairs for Fred Meyer Stores, Inc. “Our customers rely on Fred Meyer to provide one-stop-shopping, so we look forward to offering a trusted community credit union to fulfill our customers’ financial needs.”

Additional details regarding the new Fred Meyer in-store branches will be shared in January 2021.


OnPoint Community Credit Union is the largest credit union in Oregon, serving over 415,000 members and with assets of $7.7 billion. Founded in 1932, OnPoint Community Credit Union’s membership is available to anyone who lives or works in one of 28 Oregon counties (Benton, Clackamas, Clatsop, Columbia, Coos, Crook, Curry, Deschutes, Douglas, Gilliam, Hood River, Jackson, Jefferson, Josephine, Klamath, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, Morrow, Multnomah, Polk, Sherman, Tillamook, Wasco, Washington, Wheeler, and Yamhill) and two Washington counties (Skamania and Clark) and their immediate family members. More information is available at www.onpointcu.com or 503-228-7077 or 800-527-3932.

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