Klamath Basin News, Friday, 2/19 – Sky Lakes Medical Hosting Covid-19 Vaccination Clinic Saturday for 75 or Older Residents of Klamath County

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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, February 19, 2021

Klamath Basin Weather

Today Rain and snow showers likely. Snow level 4400 feet. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 43. Total daytime snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible. Tonight, a 50% chance of snow showers, with a low around 27. New snow accumulation of less than one inch possible.

Saturday A 20% chance of snow showers before 10am. Mostly sunny, with a high near 42.

Sunday Partly sunny, with a high near 46.

Monday Mostly sunny, with a high near 52.

Tuesday Sunny, with a high near 45.

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Hiway 97 at LaPine

Today’s Headlines

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Saturday…. tomorrow at Sky Lakes Medical Center, they will be hosting a special COVID-19 vaccination clinic for Klamath County residents 75 or older. The clinic will run 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the first floor of the Sky Lakes Collaborative Health Center on the medical center campus. Vaccinations are by appointment only and can be scheduled by calling 1-833-606-4370, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.

No walk-in slots or on-site appointments are available. Individuals who are 70 and older become eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations next week. Those 65 and older become eligible on Feb. 28, according to the Oregon Health Authority’s phased distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

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Klamath County Public Health officials reported 10 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday. The local case count is 2,746. This week’s total is 24. The reporting week runs from Sunday through Saturday.

There are six new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 2,149.  Oregon Health Authority reported 466 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of yesterday, bringing the state total to 151,713.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (6), Benton (17), Clackamas (31), Clatsop (2), Columbia (6), Coos (8), Crook (9), Curry (4), Deschutes (19), Douglas (25), Harney (1), Hood River (2), Jackson (27), Jefferson (12), Josephine (13), Klamath (6), Lake (3), Lane (41), Lincoln (1), Linn (5), Malheur (3), Marion (46), Morrow (2), Multnomah (66), Polk (13), Tillamook (3), Umatilla (21), Union (2), Wasco (4), Washington (54) and Yamhill (14).

Weekly COVID-19 data and outbreak reports

The Oregon Health Authority’s COVID-19 Weekly Data report, released today, shows sharp decreases in daily cases and increases in hospitalizations and deaths from the previous week.

OHA reported 3,453 new daily cases of COVID-19 during the week of Monday, Feb. 8 through Sunday, Feb. 14 — a 15% decrease from last week. New COVID-19 related hospitalizations increased from 230 to 272. COVID-19 related deaths also increased—from 66 to 114.  

People age 20 to 49 still account for more than half of COVID-19 cases, while people 70 and older have accounted for 76% of deaths associated with the virus.

Today’s COVID-19 Weekly Outbreak report shows 96 active COVID-19 outbreaks in senior living communities and congregate living settings, with three or more confirmed cases and one or more COVID-19 related deaths.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to report COVID-19 vaccine shipments across the country, including in Oregon, are delayed due to severe weather.

Winter weather has hampered shipments of Moderna vaccine out of Memphis, TN. Today, OHA reported that 22,663 new doses of COVID-19 vaccinations were added to the state immunization registry. The number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 across Oregon is 169, which is 21 fewer than yesterday. There are 52 COVID-19 patients in intensive care unit (ICU) beds, which is two fewer than yesterday..

Representative Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario) has had anything but a normal first few weeks in office. Continuing with the theme, he was just named the ranking Republican on the House natural resources subcommittee on water, oceans and wildlife — a rare appointment for someone in their freshman term.

Bentz, who has been a ranch and water lawyer for decades, said he looks forward to applying his experience to legislative activities on the subcommittee. It counts within its jurisdiction federal irrigation projects, hydropower, fishery management and drought response, among many others. Bentz said he’ll likely interact with a great deal of legislation affecting the Klamath Basin in the role. In a statement, Bentz painted himself as an opponent of dam removal, though he said he hasn’t picked a side yet when it comes to the Klamath River.

He promised to keep listening to communities that have a stake in the issue as conversations come up.

Bargaining sessions between Oregon Tech’s faculty and the university resumed yesterday at the Klamath Falls campus, as the faculty attempt to reach the first contract agreement since unionizing in 2018.   

Additional bargaining sessions are anticipated to take place Feb. 25, March 4 and March 11, according to Kari Lundgren, secretary of the Oregon Tech branch of the American Association of University Professors and an associate professor of writing and speech at Oregon Tech. Lundgren said Wednesday she was not optimistic about resolution on Thursday based on current proposals. Health benefits, workload, and salary, as well as policies for evaluation, promotion and tenure are on the bargaining table, according to previous Herald and News reporting.

Around the state of Oregon

Governor Kate Brown said on Thursday that in-person learning has more than doubled since December, and “most” Oregon elementary school students will be in classrooms by the end of April.   

By March, Brown said, more districts plan to have elementary school students on hybrid instruction — including the state’s second-largest district, Salem-Keizer, which includes more than 17,000 elementary students. Brown anticipated that most Oregon elementary students would be in classrooms again by the end of April. Brown said that the state is using $500 million in federal funding to bolster safety measures in schools and purchase PPE for students and staff. According to her, all educators who want the COVID-19 vaccine “will soon be fully vaccinated.” It’s difficult to know for certain how many educators have already received at least their first doses.

As of February 17, the state reported that 707,241 doses of a vaccine had been administered throughout the state, with 205,901 people fully vaccinated.

More than 100,000 customers remained without power Thursday in Oregon, a week after a massive snow and ice storm swept into the Pacific Northwest and brought the “most dangerous conditions” seen by utility workers.  

Maria Pope, the CEO of Portland General Electric, said during a news conference Thursday that she expects power to be restored to more than 90% of the remaining customers who are still in the dark by the end of Friday.\ While Portland General Electric officials are hopeful that all but about 15,000 customers will have power Friday, they also reiterated that there is still a lot of work to do.

Many of the places without power are in more remote areas or have extensive damage, Pope said.

Asante has a name for its new cancer center following a $5 million donation in Medford the largest in the medical provider’s history — from local philanthropists.

The 80,000 square-foot Heimann Cancer Center, named after Mary and Dick Heimann, has been under development since at least 2019. Asante says that construction is currently underway, and the new building is slated to open in early 2022. Asante said that the Heimann Cancer Center will join Spears Cancer Center in Grants Pass as part of the “Asante Regional Cancer Institute,” an effort to put outpatient cancer services under one roof in each region. This includes imaging, radiation, chemotherapy, lab tests and doctor consultations, and supportive services.

Part of the Heimanns’ donation will also go toward a pediatric cancer clinic to help children facing cancer, what Asante calls “the new children’s hospital-within-a-hospital” in the patient pavilion under construction at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center.

Reebok, for a brief moment the kingpin of the athletic footwear industry, is now being cast off by a rival that couldn’t turn the brand around. Adidas said Tuesday that it will sell Reebok after the hoped-for synergy between the two brands never materialized.

Steve Wynne, who headed Adidas America from 1995 to 2000, says “It’s a brand that lost its purpose,” adding,  Reebok produced that beautiful white aerobics shoe that took the market by storm.” The brand spent the next 30 years trying to replicate that magic, without success. The decline of the Reebok brand has been spectacular. Adidas paid $3.8 billion for Reebok in 2006.

It may get $1.2 billion for it now, according to anonymous investment banking sources quoted in industry publications.

Landlords in Oregon whose tenants have fallen behind on rent during the coronavirus pandemic can now apply for relief from the state. Applications for Oregon’s new landlord compensation fund opened Wednesday, nearly two months after state lawmakers allocated $150 million to seed the program.

Landlords can apply for relief to cover 80% of the rent they are owed by tenants dating back to April 2020. However, they will be required to forgive 20% of unpaid rent. Nicole Stingh, a spokesman for Oregon Housing and Community Services, which is administering the fund, said her agency will make $50 million available during the first round of funding. The agency expects to offer at least three rounds of funding before the end of June.

State Provides Insurance Tips for Winter Storm

Department of Consumer and Business Services

If your home or car was damaged from the ice and snow storm, the Oregon Division of Financial Regulation recommends calling your insurance company or agent to ask about your policy coverage, exclusions, and deductibles before filing a claim.

Winter storms can cause several different types of damage. Extensive damage, such as trees falling on a home or car, may require immediate attention. However, minor damage, such as food spoilage, a few missing shingles, or a scratch on a car door, may not exceed your deductible.

Before filing a claim, it is important to know if the amount of your loss is worth the effect filing a claim can have on your premium rates. It may be better to handle repairs yourself, if the loss is less than or close to your deductible.

Review these tips to understand how your coverage may apply and talk to your insurance company or agent to understand your specific policy coverage, exclusions, and deductibles. 

Homeowners insurance

A typical homeowners policy covers damage to the home caused by falling trees or limbs and weight of ice and snow.

For example, if your home sustained severe structural damage from a fallen tree or other storm debris, and it is deemed uninhabitable, you may qualify for additional living expenses, which helps cover the extra costs of lodging, meals, and even pet boarding while you are unable to live in the home.

If your home lost power and received only minor damage, it will probably still be considered safe to live in, so additional living expenses may not apply.

If your home received minor damage, such as the wind blowing a few shingles off your house, your homeowners insurance will probably replace the damaged shingles, but not the entire roof.

Winter storms can also create sudden damage caused by an ice dam on the roof or pipes bursting due to freezing. This type of damage is typically covered, and can be extensive if a pipe burst floods a home or minor, such as a leak from an ice dam causing a stain on a ceiling.  

Coverage may be available for food spoilage due to the power outage. However, be sure to consider if the actual benefit from filing this type of claim is worth the potential effect it can have on your premium. Remember, if the loss is close to or less than your deductible you may not want to file a claim. If you need to file a claim for another type of damage to your home, food spoilage can typically be added to the claim you need to file for repairs.

Auto insurance

There are three coverage options on an auto insurance policy that typically apply to winter storms.  

  • Comprehensive covers damage caused by falling trees or limbs. This includes while your car is parked inside a garage.
  • Collision covers damage to your car that occurs while driving. This includes hitting storm debris or sliding on ice.
  • Liability covers damage you accidentally caused to another person’s property or to a person who is injured in an accident.

Once again, if the cost to repair your car is less than or close to your deductible, you may not want to file a claim.

Remember, the first step is to determine your policy coverage, exclusions, and deductibles. Call your insurance company or agent if you have questions about your policy, and take time to consider if the loss is extensive enough to file a claim.  

If you still have questions or concerns, the division’s consumer advocates are here to help. Oregonians can contact the division’s advocates three ways:

Visit the division’s storm insurance resource page for more information.

About DCBS: The Department of Consumer and Business Services is Oregon’s largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency. For more information, visit www.dcbs.oregon.gov. 

About Oregon DFR: The Division of Financial Regulation is part of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, Oregon’s largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency. Visit www.dcbs.oregon.gov and http://dfr.oregon.gov/Pages/index.aspx. Oregon Dept. of Consumer & Business Services

Oregon Employment Department to Fight Fraudulent Claims

The acting director says the Oregon Employment Department is devoting more attention to preventing and fighting fraud, by hiring more people and training others, as the agency pays out a record amount of unemployment benefits.

David Gerstenfeld says people are being added to the unit that works with police and prosecutors to detect and combat fraud, and current staff members are undergoing additional training to recognize potentially fraudulent claims.

“Unfortunately, this has been a bigger frontier than usual during this pandemic and we have been spending a lot of time focusing on that,” he told reporters on a weekly conference call Wednesday. “We expect it will be an ongoing focus.”

Gerstenfeld has disclosed no figures. He has said he does not want to give any hints that might encourage numerous organized efforts at fraud. But he has said previously that Oregon has nowhere near the degree of losses reported in California, $11.4 billion as of January, and Washington, $600 million, according to a state audit in December.

The agency already has an internet address to report fraud. It’s unemployment.oregon.gov/unemployment-insurance-fraud-id-theft. There’s also a hotline at 877-668-3204.

Gerstenfeld was the director of the unemployment benefits division from 2011 to 2019, when he took a different job within the agency. Gov. Kate Brown named him the acting director of the department on May 31, 2020, after she fired his predecessor over big backlogs resulting from a record number of unemployment claims.

From March 15, 2020, through Wednesday, the agency has paid out $7.6 billion in state and federal benefits — more than it paid during the previous decade — and has gone through 650,000 claims for regular benefits from the state unemployment trust fund. (About 70% have qualified for payment.) The total for the comparable period in 2019-20 was 131,000 claims, about 20% of the recent total.

During the Great Recession a decade ago, the number of claims rose over a 12-month period, as opposed to a two-month period last year, and they were largely federally funded extensions of regular state benefits, up to a maximum of 99 weeks that ended in 2013. For most people applying for those benefits, their applications could be checked against employer payroll records.

In contrast, Congress in the initial CARES Act last spring made self-employed and gig workers eligible for benefits for the first time in the unemployment system’s 85-year history, in addition to supplement payments of $600 weekly to all unemployed workers. Oregon and other states had to obtain information about income and identity from these first-time recipients.

Gerstenfeld said Oregon has paid out $612 million in benefits to 99,000 self-employed and gig workers in the federal program, which is known as Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. Thousands of others have qualified for some regular state benefits, so 68% of applicants have qualified.

Congress added identity requirements for those self-employed and gig workers in the latest 11-week extension of unemployment benefits under the Continued Assistance Act, which became law on Dec. 27.

The U.S. House is now considering another extension of unemployment benefits, which for many will end March 13. The House proposal is for an extension to the end of August; President Joe Biden has proposed the end of September to coincide with the end of the federal budget year.

“The legislation we have seen moving forward does not in it have additional identity verification requirements,” Gerstenfeld said. “There were some additional requirements” as a result of the most recent law, he added, “but Oregon was already meeting what was required by that legislation.”

The Senate also will have to consider the legislation, which mirrors Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic aid plan.

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, the Democrat who now leads the tax-writing Finance Committee, has proposed adding $1 billion to help states improve their delivery of unemployment benefits and connect better with the U.S. Department of Labor, which oversees the system. A spokesman says Wyden also wants the Sept. 30 date Biden has proposed.

“We are ready to begin work programming any benefit extensions and new programs that are passed and signed by the president,” Gerstenfeld said.

2 Dead in Fatal Crash on Hwy 22 in Tillamook County

On Thursday, February 18, 2021 at approximately 10:55 A.M., Oregon State Police Troopers and emergency personnel responded to a two-vehicle crash on Hwy 22 near milepost 1 – east of Hebo.

Preliminary investigation revealed a Ford Ranger, operated by Jonathan Moreland (28) of Tillamook, was eastbound when it crossed into the westbound lane and collided with a Dodge Ram 3500, towing a trailer, operated by Joshua Brown (25) of Newberg.

Moreland and a passenger in the Ford Ranger,  Jimmie Toll (46) of Bay City, sustained fatal injuries and were pronounced deceased.

Two other passengers in the Ford Ranger, Dominic Reeves (18) of Tillamook and Alexis Bacon (20) of Amity, were transported to the hospital with injuries. Brown was not injured.

Hwy 22 was closed for approximately four hours following the crash. 

OSP was assisted by the Tillamook County Sheriff’s Office, Nestucca Rural Fire Department, Oregon Department of Transportation, and the Tillamook County District Attorney’s Office.   

Federal Lease Allows Oregon State’s Offshore Wave Energy Testing Facility to Continue

An Oregon State University-led project to build the nation’s first pre-permitted wave energy testing facility cleared a critical hurdle this week as the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management awarded the university a lease to operate in federal waters about seven miles off the Oregon Coast.

PacWave
Courtesy of Oregon State University

The lease for PacWave South is the first marine renewable energy research lease the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has issued in federal waters off the West Coast. The estimated $80 million facility will be located offshore southwest of Newport, Oregon.

The project still must receive licensing approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission before it can move forward. Obtaining the lease is an essential component of the licensing requirements.

“We appreciate the support of the leadership in the Department of Interior, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Department of Energy who see the value in this important work to develop alternative energy sources and have helped to move this project forward,” said Oregon State University President F. King Alexander. “We are particularly thankful for the consistent support from members of the Oregon federal delegation who have championed PacWave South from the outset, including Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Reps. Suzanne Bonamici and Kurt Schrader.”

Wave energy has the potential to provide clean, reliable electricity to meet the world’s rising energy demands, experts say. Globally, the marine energy market is projected to reach nearly $700 billion by 2050, and the World Energy Council estimates that 10% of the worldwide electricity demand could be met by harvesting ocean energy.

PacWave South will be the first pre-permitted, full-scale, utility grid-connected wave energy test site in the United States. It is designed to allow wave energy developers the opportunity to test different technologies for harnessing the energy of ocean waves.

Oregon State officials have completed the FERC application process and are hopeful the license will be issued soon. Current timelines suggest construction could begin this summer, and the facility should be operational by 2023.

“The PacWave team initiated this collaborative process with several federal and state agencies nearly a decade ago,” said Burke Hales, the chief scientist for the project and a professor in Oregon State’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. “We’re excited for the opportunity to finalize this stage of the project and move a major step closer to construction.”

The PacWave ocean test site will be located about seven miles offshore on a sandy-bottomed stretch of the Pacific Ocean away from popular commercial and recreational fishing reefs. The ocean site will have four different testing “berths,” which combined can accommodate up to 20 total wave energy devices at any one time. Five power and data cables buried below the seafloor will connect the ocean test site to a shoreside facility southeast of Seal Rock.

PacWave South is supported by grants from the U.S. Department of Energy, the state of Oregon and other public and private entities. Oregon State’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences is managing the construction and operation of the facility.

As Soon as it Was Announced Would Run, Rhododendron Festival is Now Cancelled Again This Year

For a time this year it seemed as if one famed and beloved Oregon coast festival would be able to continue in 2021, at least mostly intact. However, after much discussion and reexamination of the current COVID situation, the town of Florence has reversed course on the 114th Rhododendron Festival, set to reappear in its usual May spot after getting canceled in 2020.

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Last year was the first time since World War II the event was shuttered, and even after making arrangements for what would be the 114th installment, the board of directors of the Florence Area Chamber of Commerce opted out for safety’s sake.

The event was scheduled for its traditional date, the third weekend of May, May 12 to 16, 2021.

“People missed the point that we were moving forward with cautious optimism when we announced that our first step was the cancelation of Rhody Court since that’s the earliest aspect of the festival and demanded an early decision,” said Chamber president/CEO Bettina Hannigan. “As quickly and unpredictively as the State issues its edicts for where and what is safe for people to do, and then just as quickly rescinds them, it leaves us trying to hit a moving target while making plans for a huge event in as little time as possible.”

“Vaccines, we’re now told, will roll out much slower than first announced. The rapidity in growth and spread of variants has become too unstable, that complicates matters further,” she added.

Hannigan said the board and other stakeholders agreed there would be no sure way to enforce social distancing and efficient, proper sanitizing. Even the outdoors carnival portion of the event would be far too difficult to do safely.

“The same must be said for distancing at a vendor fair or during a parade. OHA guidelines prohibit large gatherings and we must comply with these restrictions. We are so saddened by another loss for this generational family tradition and its economic impact on Florence for a second year.”

The Rhododendron Festival makes the single largest economic impact on Florence’s tourist-driven economy and serves as the kick-off to the tourism season. Around 1900 people in Florence rely on tourism-based employment, and tourism pumps about $147 million into our community each year.

“Safety really is our top priority and so we’re forced to hold off on promoting the level of tourism our community needs to survive. We are really chomping at the bit to get back up to speed, but it’s just not safe enough to do so yet,” Hannigan explained. “Even though we’ve noticed them, this is not in response to those small pockets of mean-spirited outrage on social media. It’s just the right thing to do in the face of the rapid changes and edicts forced on society.”

However, some ancillary events may be a different story. Rhody Run, the classic car show ‘n’ shine and cruise, the Rhododendron Society’s flower show, and music events, are not organized by the chamber and that the organizers of each will have to make their own decision for how they want to proceed.

Last year’s Rhody Fest, though officially cancelled, did feature a virtual parade coordinated by the City of Florence with short videos submitted by the public and edited for use on social media. Local rhododendron expert, and Chamber ambassador Mike Bones, took it upon himself last year to roll a wheelbarrow packed with rhododendrons along the traditional parade route in lieu of the official Sunday grand floral parade.

A longtime Nevada rancher is suing U.S. regulators over the approval of a lithium mine on federal rangeland he says would violate environmental laws and undermine changes he has made in his own livestock grazing practices to help threatened fish and wildlife.

Edward Bartell and Bartell Ranch LLC say the Bureau of Land Management relied “entirely upon flawed and error-laden findings” in environmental assessments prepared by the mine’s own contractor. Bartell maintains the review masks the real effects that he says would lower the groundwater table, harm the federally protected Lahontan cutthroat trout and imperiled greater sage grouse and “transform much of our private lands into barren desert.”

A consultant for Lithium Nevada Corp., a subsidiary of the Canada-based Lithium Americas Corp., prepared “a one-sided, deeply-flawed” analysis of the project, according to the lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court in Reno.

The Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office says that they have apprehended a suspect connected to a murder that happened on Thursday.

The Sheriff’s Office says that 25-year-old Christopher Castillo was wanted in connection with a stabbing in Dunsmuir, and his vehicle was left behind as he fled on foot. Prior to his capture, the Sheriff’s Office said that Castillo was trying to leave the Dunsmuir area and could be have been hitchhiking, calling for a ride, or trying to catch a bus or train. Castillo’s last known address was in Humboldt County.

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