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Klamath Basin News, Monday, 12/14 – 39 Keno Man Died and Numerous Others Injured as Vehicles Crash on Icy Roads, Klamath-Lake Counties Food Bank Needs Your Help

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, and powered by Mick Insurance.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Klamath Basin Weather

Today- Patchy freezing fog before 10am. Mostly sunny, with a high near 35. Light and variable wind.

Tuesday- A chance of snow between 10am and 1pm, then a chance of rain after 1pm. Patchy freezing fog before 10am. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 39. South southeast wind 5 to 7 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%. Little or no snow accumulation expected.

Wednesday- A slight chance of snow before 10am, then rain and snow between 10am and 1pm, then rain after 1pm. Snow level rising to 4900 feet in the afternoon. High near 42. South wind 5 to 9 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.

Thursday- A 40 percent chance of snow. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 39. New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.

Friday- Mostly cloudy, with a high near 38.

The Oregon Health Authority reported 1,048 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 Sunday, bringing the state total to 93,853.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (4), Benton (21), Clackamas (112), Clatsop (3), Columbia (15), Coos (11), Crook (7), Curry (14), Deschutes (39), Douglas (20), Hood River (13), Jackson (90), Jefferson (17), Josephine (11), Klamath (28), Lake (1), Lane (88), Lincoln (12), Linn (24), Malheur (4), Marion (150), Morrow (4), Multnomah (172), Polk (15), Tillamook (1), Umatilla (36), Union (2), Wasco (9), Washington (108), Yamhill (17).

COVID-19 has claimed six more lives in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 1,155, Oregon Health Authority reported Sunday.

— The Oregon Health Authority responded to the news of The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issuing the first emergency use authorization on Dec. 11th for a vaccine to prevent COVID-19. Officials say the vaccine, made by Pfizer-BioNTech, was found to be 95% effective in Phase 3 clinical trials that involved more than 40,000 participants
and caused only mild, temporary side effects, including pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain and fever. 

OHA says it is working with all hospitals are care providers in efforts to connect with individuals and organizations representing communities of color, tribal communities and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities through a diverse Vaccine Advisory Committee that is co-creating a vaccine distribution plan centering on the experiences of these populations. 

A Keno man died and numerous others were injured as vehicles crashed on icy roads
Saturday in the Klamath Basin.


Overnight snow mixed with morning fog to createtreacherous conditions, according to Oregon State Police Sgt. Bob Fenner. Ralph Brown, 82, of Keno, died after his pickup truck, traveling southbound on Highway 97 near the Oregon/California border about 9:10 a.m., lost control on icy roads. The vehicle crossed the median and slammed into a northbound semi-truck. Thomas Brown, 28, a passenger in the pickup, was seriously injured. According to OSP, the driver of the semi was taken to Sky Lakes Medical Center in Klamath Falls with injuries. As traffic backed
up behind the scene, six more vehicles crashed and more than 10 left the roadway, including numerous semi-trucks.

Just minutes before that collision, Klamath Falls Police Department officers were on the scene of a separate crash on Highway 97 near the Pilot Travel Center in Klamath Falls when a semi-truck lost control and struck three
patrol cars and a fire engine. The truck driver fled the scene and as of Saturday evening had not been apprehended.

The Klamath County School District Board of Directors on Thursday joined a growing
chorus of local district officials calling for Governor Kate Brown to expand in-person
learning for students by revising Oregon’s coronavirus metrics.

Klamath County schools, unlike their counterparts in Jackson County, were able to proceed with K-3 in-person
learning until November, when COVID-19 cases began to surge. Administrators were forced to fall back after Thanksgiving, and all 6,800 KCSD students are now on comprehensive distance learning. The resolution passed on Thursday by Klamath County’s Board is similar to those adopted by Medford and Eagle Point, but it was not
done without reservations. District head nurse Laura Limb told the board that Klamath County Public Health and the CDC recommend testing when there is a strong likelihood of direct exposure, “but does not recommend frequent testing of students.”

An armored vehicle could be on the way to the Klamath Falls Police Department in 2021, pending approval by city council.

Councilors at a Monday work session considered the proposal by Klamath Falls Chief Dave Henslee to buy the vehicle for the city’s SWAT teams. In the past, the city has borrowed the Klamath County Sheriff’s Office’s Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle, though Henslee sees potential for better use with a BearCat. The $300,000-$350,000 BearCat is a lighter, more maneuverable option for the department, with a four-wheel drive platform, according to Henslee.

It could seat 10-12 officers and could be used for a range of high-risk, high-liability calls, including hostage situations. Henslee is hoping, pending council’s approval, to have the vehicle ordered within the next couple of months.

Though the cost of the vehicle is high, Henslee said he would likely be able to cover the cost through salary savings, since the department has been at less than full staff for the past several months.

A 20 year old Klamath Falls man was arrested early Sunday morning and lodged on several charges, including attempting to elude, after police arrested him near Oregon Avenue and Biehn.

Matthew Drake was taken into custody and booked on possession of heroin, second and third degree theft charges, three counts of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, and possession of a stolen vehicle along with the eluding charge. His bail is set at 30-thousand dollars.

Klamath Basin Behavioral Health staff has responded to an increased need for mental
health services this year

While the community grapples with the global effects of COVID-19. KBBH director of clinical services, Amy Boivin, said the organization has seen trends in Klamath County that mirror what agencies are seeing across the country:
more people reporting symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as increased substance abuse. The phones at KBBH have been ringing more than usual this year, with some people calling for services and others just calling to talk, Boivin said.
Required quarantines and shutdowns to help stem the spread of the virus have led to less interaction with friends, family, coworkers and even strangers. That has left a hole in people’s lives that many don’t realize they relied on. Boivin noted that across Oregon and across Klamath County suicide rates are trending lower than last year. Although rates are higher nationally, Boivin is hopeful about the slight downturn in the area this year.

After the signatories to the Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement officially recommitted to removing four dams on the Klamath River last month, local politicians brought up concerns with Oregon, California and PacifiCorp committing more funds to the project.

In a joint statement, Klamath County Commissioner Donnie Boyd, State Representative E. Warner Reschke and State Senator Dennis Linthicum said the parties entering into a Memorandum of Agreement would hold Oregon taxpayers responsible for more unforeseen financial hurdles associated with the project in the future. But how much, exactly, would taxpayers be on the hook for? And how likely is the dam removal project to exceed its $450 million budget in the first place?

The original $450 million is broken down into two parts: $200 million from a surcharge on PacifiCorp’s ratepayers (mostly in Oregon, with a small percentage from California) and $250 million in water bonds authorized by California’s Proposition 1, a $7+ billion fund for watershed ecosystem restoration that the state’s voters approved in 2014.

November’s Memorandum of Agreement pledges an additional $45 million in case the
project runs over budget, split three ways between Oregon, California and PacifiCorp. If
the project exceeds that additional contingency, the three entities have said they will
split those costs evenly.

The Klamath-Lake Counties Food Bank is asking the community to step up their giving
for a nonprofit that’s always ready to give back to them.

The food bank is short between $100,000 and $125,000 worth of food, due to the loss of multiple school and business food drives this year due to COVID-19. Niki Sampson, executive director of the food bank, is hoping to use the funds to feed those in need this holiday season and also in the months to come when donations often decline.

Sampson said she was overjoyed to receive food donated by students and staff at Mazama High School from their “Load the Boat” campaign, which runs until next Wednesday. The drive is open to the community, and Sampson welcomes even more to become involved in the drive and to create innovative ways to give back that are also safe. While the food bank has pivoted and planned to meet the needs of the less fortunate during the pandemic to provide food, the shortfall in school food drives overall coupled with the continuing need for food after
the holidays make the need high.

The 173rd Fighter Wing will conduct night flying operations starting tonight that will run
through Friday, Dec. 18. Operations will take place between approximately 4- 8 p.m.

Night flying is one part of the course curriculum for F-15C Eagle student pilots at Kingsley Field. The majority of the training will occur in the military operating airspace to the east of Lakeview, where the pilots can fly without lights. However, the local community will most likely hear the jets during takeoffs and landings to and from Kingsley Field.



News Release from Oregon Dept. of Consumer & Business Services
Posted on FlashAlert: December 14th, 2020 7:00 AM

OHIM logo

(Salem) – Open enrollment, which began Nov. 1, ends Tuesday, Dec. 15. Oregonians who do not receive health insurance through work, Medicare, or the Oregon Health Plan will need to sign up for health insurance at on or before Dec. 15 if they want to have coverage in 2021.

“We don’t want Oregonians to be left uncovered, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Chiqui Flowers, administrator of the Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace. “2020 has proven how vital health coverage is to the financial and health future of Oregonians statewide.”

Consumers can look at plans and find out how much of a subsidy they are eligible for by going to

“You can get help paying for health insurance based on your income,” said Flowers. “Don’t assume you make too much to be eligible.”

Individuals making $51,040 or less per year, and families of four making $104,800 or less, may get help paying for coverage. In 2020, more than seven in 10 Oregonians who chose plans through got financial help for monthly premiums and out-of-pocket costs. These savings lowered the average premium to just $145 per month.

The Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace, a part of state government, helps people get health insurance when they do not have job-based coverage, and do not qualify for the Oregon Health Plan or another program. The Marketplace is the state-level partner to, and a division of the Department of Consumer and Business Services (DCBS). For more information, go to

COVID-19 outbreak at Oregon Employment Department’s Major Claim Center in Wilsonville.

Oregon Employment Department employees continue to whittle away at backlogs of claims and benefit payments despite a COVID-19 outbreak at its major claims center in Wilsonville.

According to the weekly compilation by the Oregon Health Authority, the center reported 14 cases as of Nov. 28, up from the 11 acknowledged last week by acting Employment Department Director David Gerstenfeld.

It is one of seven state government workplaces reporting outbreaks (minimum five cases) of the 124 statewide on the Health Authority’s list. The others are the Oregon State Hospital in Salem, two prisons in Salem and prisons in Madras, Ontario and Pendleton.

Gerstenfeld says the outbreak spurred his agency to continue to move hundreds of employees toward working remotely. About 600 employees, many hired within the past few months to process the growing workloads, were housed in the 100,000-square-foot building in Wilsonville.

“We were seeing an increase in positive COVID-19 cases among our own employees, an increase that mirrors what has been happening across the country and throughout the state,” he told reporters Wednesday, Dec. 9, during a weekly conference call.

“Fortunately, the disruption to handling our claims is less than we had feared. We are not slowing down, and we will keep confronting every challenge that faces us.”

The Wilsonville building remains open.

Gerstenfeld said claims for unemployment benefits still in “adjudication,” which require further review, were down from 52,000 Sept. 30 to around 12,600. About 22,000 await payment of their waiting-week benefits, down from an estimated 170,000 whose payments required some kind of manual processing. A total of $269 million has been paid to 385,000 people.

Gerstenfeld said he is optimistic that agency employees will be able to complete both tasks by the end of December.

As a result of the two-week business freeze ordered by Gov. Kate Brown that ended Dec. 3, plus seasonal changes, the Employment Department received about 53,000 claims for unemployment benefits, slightly more than the 51,000 it projected. About 19,000 were newly filed claims, and 34,000 were restarts of previous claims, for which the agency has information on file. The normal benefit period is 26 weeks.

Gerstenfeld said the most recent claims backlog for regular unemployment benefits was about 2,200, most being processed within five days of filing. He said the oldest ones date back to Nov. 18.

The agency has paid out $6.2 billion in benefits since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in mid-March. Gerstenfeld said that sum equals the amount that the agency has paid out during the past decade.

Jefferson woman shot husband after argument

AJefferson woman was arrested by the Marion County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday afternoon after allegedly shooting her husband as he attempted to leave their residence following an argument.

Alicia Victoria Torres, 37, is suspected of second-degree attempted murder, second-degree assault and unlawful use of a weapon. Torres was lodged at the Marion County Jail on a no-bail hold on Sunday afternoon, according to the jail’s website. The shooting occurred at about 2:30 p.m. Saturday in front of a home in the 600 block of Union Street, according to a news release.

A deputy who handles the city of Jefferson for MCSO was the first to arrive in the area and detained Torres, who was actively being confronted by neighbors, the news release states. Her husband, Donald Secrest, 43, was transported to a local hospital with injuries that weren’t life threatening. Detectives then responded and preliminary investigation revealed that the disturbance began inside the home, where Torres is alleged to have been the aggressor during an argument with Secrest, according to the news release. Secrest attempted to leave the residence, and Torres reportedly shot him once while he was in his car backing out of the driveway. The couple’s three children witnessed the shooting, the news release states.

Butte Creek Mill sells flour and pancake mix for first time since 2015

EAGLE POINT, Ore. — The Butte Creek Mill is back grounding flour and selling both its flour and its pancake mix.

The mill grounded 3,000 pounds of wheat this week and packaged half of it for sale. Carolers from five local churches sang outside the mill in Eagle Point as the community came out to buy mixes in support of the mill.

This is the first time since 2015 the public has had a taste of the famous products.

“It’s fantastic. It’s emotional. It’s exciting,” Butte Creek Mill board member, Jay O’Neil, said. “This is December again, so it’s five years to the month since the fire and the community has been waiting and waiting for something to happen at this mill and bring this mill back to life,” he added.

Workers will mix and package the other half of the 3,000 pounds next week and make ready for sale. Check the mill’s website this week to see when they’ll be available.

Senior Living Communities Gear Up For Vaccine Distribution

Health care workers, nursing home residents and caretakers are in “Phase 1A’ of vaccine distribution. 

As part of Phase 1A, the Oregon Health Authority said that the first vaccines will go to every hospital in Oregon, as well as emergency medical service providers and long-term care facilities.

Allocations are based upon how many people are in each county and each provider’s storage capacity, along with other health equity considerations.

The Springs at Greer Gardens is a senior living community in Eugene. Founder and CEO of The Springs Living Fee Stubblefield said if all staff and residents get vaccinated, it would be a game changer. However, when we asked him if getting vaccinated will be a requirement to live or work at their facilities he said no. The decision will be voluntary.

“We’re almost to the vaccine,” Stubblefield said. “We could see our staff at The Springs at Greer Gardens in Eugene be vaccinated with the first round in the next week or two. We’re really excited about that. Until then, we will continue to use all the systems that we’ve created and implemented to keep people safe.”

Out of the 260 residents at The Springs at Greer Gardens, none have tested positive for COVID-19. However, 3 staff members have tested positive out of 152.

“When you have a virus that specifically targets vulnerable people, our customers, people that we work hard and care for every day, our parents and our grandparents, it’s a big responsibility. We took it that way,” Stubblefield said.

Amira Fahoum works at Compass Senior Living in Eugene. She said currently she doesn’t know if the facility will require residents and staff to get vaccinated. However, she believes it is their best chance at fighting this virus. 

“The more people who can get vaccinated, the less it will be transmitted,” Fahoum said. “This virus affects our elderly population so much harder. If we can start to protect them and those that care for them, then we have a greater chance of not having the large outbreaks like we’re seeing.”

Lane County Public Health officials said that long-term care facilities make up 44 percent of all active outbreaks in Lane County, and four out of five deaths.

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