Klamath Basin News, Monday, 3/8 – Low Faculty Morale at Oregon Tech is Concern of Faculty Staff and Senior Administration Officials

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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.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Klamath Basin Weather

Today Scattered snow showers at times after 11am. Partly sunny, with a high near 44. Overnight, snow showers at times Partly cloudy, with a low around 26.

Tuesday A 50% chance of snow showers, mainly after 11am. Partly sunny, with a high near 44. Southeast wind 8 to 14 mph, with gusts as high as 21 mph. New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible. Overnight a 30% chance of snow showers with a low around 26. New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.

Wednesday A 30% chance of snow showers after 11am. Partly sunny, with a high near 46. New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible. Clear overnight with a low of 26.

Thursday Mostly sunny, with a high near 46. Overnight, clear, with a low around 22.

Friday Sunny, with a high near 53.

Today’s Headlines

There were no new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, the state’s death toll remains at 2,296 the Oregon Health Authority reported yesterday. Oregon Health Authority reported 211 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as today bringing the state total to 157,285.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Benton (10), Clackamas (26), Columbia (1), Coos (4), Curry (8), Deschutes (9), Douglas (12), Hood River (1), Jackson (13), Jefferson (3), Josephine (5), Klamath (1), Lake (3), Lane (16), Lincoln (1), Linn (7), Malheur (2), Marion (17), Morrow (1), Multnomah (23), Polk (8), Tillamook (4), Washington (20), Yamhill (16).

OHA reported one new case in Klamath County. Oregon has now administered a cumulative total of 1,142,035 first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines. To date, 1,362,535 doses of vaccine have been delivered to sites across Oregon. The number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 across Oregon is 116, which is three more than yesterday. There are 34 COVID-19 patients in intensive care unit (ICU) beds, which is five more than yesterday.

Senior Oregon Tech administration officials met with faculty senate president Don McDonnell Friday afternoon regarding low faculty morale at the Klamath Falls campus among other concerns. Afterward, McDonnell shared hints of optimism about moving forward and a need for better communication between administration and employees. Even outside of ongoing union contract negotiations, the working relationship between faculty and senior administration officials at Oregon Tech had reached intensified levels recently and contributed to low morale among staff, according to McDonnell. But the Friday meeting appeared to deescalate some of those tensions amid acknowledgement of the difficulties presented to normal campus life by the pandemic. McDonnell had said prior to meeting with President Nagi Naganathan, morale among faculty is “as low as I’ve ever seen it and I’ve been here 14 years.”

Oregon Tech President Nagi Naganathan announced this week that the university is preparing to launch a campaign to build a new track and has tagged two Olympic Gold medalists to help promote the launch. The “Bringing Home the Gold” campaign will kick off March 10.

Dan O’Brien, who grew up in Klamath Falls and is a graduate of Henley High School, has agreed to be a promoter for the project to construct the track, according to Naganathan. The 1996 gold medalist for the Atlanta Olympic games currently lives in Arizona.

Ashton Eaton, a graduate of University of Oregon, has also shown interest in promoting the project. Eaton, a Bend native, is a two-time gold medalist. He competed at the London and Rio Olympic games.

Citizens for Safe Schools recognized some who are making a difference in young people’s lives through the nonprofit’s “Kids in the Middle” mentorship program. The organization awarded the 2020 title of Mentor of the Year to Aurora Sanchez, who mentors 14 year-old Izzy. The organization also chose Janine Henry for the program’s first Lifetime Achievement Award. Henry has been involved with Citizens for Safe Schools since the organization’s creation in 1999. The accolades were awarded after January was National Mentoring Month. CFSS’s Kids in the Middle program matches a mentor with a student between 4th and 12th grade who could benefit from a positive adult role model.

Klamath County Fire District 1 has chosen a winner of it’s year-long logo design contest. The winner, artist Bill Goloski, is currently living in Oregon City, but his Oregon roots were the design including mountains, trees and the sun, which are all aspects of Klamath County, according to the logo design committee. He was grounded in Klamath Falls where he lived from 2011-2015 “We will wear and display our new logo with pride for our community and the people we serve,” said a release.

Since the onset of the pandemic, Blue Zones Project and the city of Klamath Falls have continued to make progress in efforts toward building an ADA-accessible destination playground in Moore Park. United Evangelical Free Church was an early supporter of the project. Pastor Troy Rife continued to reach out throughout the pandemic and seek ways that his congregation could support the playground. In February, the church donated $4,500 to sponsor equipment for the playground. In October 2019, elementary students were asked to draw and describe their dream playground. Based on the students’ input and drawings, a schematic design was created and unveiled. A focus of this project will be to create a playground that is accessible to all, with rubber surfaces for people who use wheelchairs and structures that are ADA-friendly.

Around the state of Oregon

Governor Kate Brown is directing Oregon public schools to reopen for in-person instruction by a pair of deadlines in March and April. The Governor’s office said on Friday that she will issue an executive order requiring schools to offer “universal access” for in-person learning by March 29 for K-5 students and April 19 for grade 6-12 students. While many districts have already approached in-person learning on their own internally devised schedules since Brown made her COVID-19 metrics “advisory” at the end of December, some districts have lagged behind. Reopening schools has become a refrain for Oregon Republican lawmakers, who released a letter on Thursday urging Brown to “utilize the full authority” of her office to immediately reopen schools. With educators, in some cases, still in line for the COVID-19 vaccine, teacher’s unions have resisted an abrupt return to full in-person learning. However, the Oregon Education Association and local unions indicated on Friday that they would support the Governor’s timeline.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown was vaccinated against the coronavirus on Saturday. She received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot at an OHSU clinic in Scappoose, administered by the Public Health Officer of Columbia County. Brown is 60 years old. Currently, vaccinations are open to people who are 65 years and older, along with other groups such as educators and people from the very first Phase 1A.

Oregon’s suicide rate appears to be on the rise.  A new report from the CDC says Oregon ranks ninth highest in the nation for suicides.  That’s up from 17th the previous year.  The CDC says Oregon saw 62 more suicides in 2019 than the year prior.  On the plus side, youth suicides in Oregon decreased for the first time since 2015.

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The Oregon Health Authority says that it has received a $135,000 grant to aid in establishing a three-digit National Suicide Prevention hotline, set to launch in 2022. The three-digit 988 number will take its place when it becomes active in July of 2022.

Congress passed a bipartisan bill to establish 988 as a three-digit hotline number in May of 2020, and the number was approved by the Federal Communications Commission in July. The FCC stipulated that the number would go into effect nationwide two years later.

The state planning grant for OHA will help the state put together the resources, training, technical assistance, and infrastructure needed to put in place by 2020. The grant requires that Oregon begin planning for the transition this coming Monday.

Oregon State University is planning for mostly in-person instruction this fall.  President F. King Alexander says increased vaccine production and Governor Kate Brown’s announcement that higher education is a priority for vaccination will allow operations to be more traditional.  The university will have predominately in-person instruction, on-site research and extracurricular activities at OSU locations around the state.

Protests at Jackson County Jail Demand COVID-19 Guidelines

Activists gathered Saturday night at Jackson County Jail in response to a recent COVID-19 outbreak at the facility.

Late last month, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office reported that ten people incarcerated in the County Jail had tested positive for COVID-19.

On Saturday evening, around 30 protestors marched around the Jackson County jail with noisemakers and signs, calling for the release of detainees at risk of contracting the virus.

Leona Evans was one of the demonstrators who helped organize the event. She says that although the group wanted to make a statement to the jail staff, they mostly wanted to see if the people inside could hear their support.

“We wanted to come and show some support and really make as much noise as possible so that we could penetrate that wall and see if people could hear us and let them know that people care,” said Evans. “I think that people feel really isolated and alone and like the world has forgotten about them.”

In response to the group’s chanting, several people inside could be seen waving and pressing their faces against cell windows.

The activists want all people awaiting trial to be released, and that cash-bail be suspended for the remainder of the pandemic. They also asked that everyone inside the jail be provided with adequate safety equipment, like face masks.

Activists Jayden Becker and Derek DeForest had been detained at the jail following a previous demonstration. They say when they asked jail staff for masks, their requests were ignored or laughed at.

An outbreak of COVID-19 among jail staff, including Jackson County Sheriff Nate Sickler, was reported in early January. The Sheriff’s office has not provided any updates on contact tracing efforts to either outbreak.

Banners and signs at the events bore slogans such as, “Superspreader Sheriff Sickler” and “Community Care, Not Jails.”

Evans says that, in addition to supporting people in custody, they also wanted to make their demands clear to the Sheriff, who oversees the facility.

“People inside can’t socially distance,” says Evans. “They’re not able to. It’s spreading in jails and prisons like wildfire and folks inside can’t go anywhere. And there’s medically vulnerable people in there and people who are within a couple months of release. This is a death sentence.”

Four hotels and motels in Oregon will pay over 100-thousand dollars in settlements for engaging in price gouging.  The Oregon Attorney General’s Office received more than 560 complaints of price gouging following last summer’s wildfires.  Governor Kate Brown declared an abnormal disruption of the market in September due to the fires.  The hotels and motels who engaged in price gouging are located in Salem, Florence, Corvallis and Roseburg.

Bye-bye, Bismarck. So long, Sheboygan. Goodbye, Bend? Those cities in North Dakota, Wisconsin and Oregon are among 144 that the federal government is proposing to downgrade from the metropolitan statistical area designation, a step that could be more than just a matter of semantics. Officials in some of the affected cities worry that the change could have adverse implications for federal funding and economic development. Under the proposal, a metro area would have to have at least 100,000 people in its core city to count as an MSA, double the 50,000-person threshold that has been in place for the past 70 years. Cities formerly designated as metros with core populations between 50,000 and 100,000 people, like Bismarck and Sheboygan, would be changed to “micropolitan” statistical areas instead. A committee of representatives from federal statistical agencies recently made the recommendations to the Office of Management and Budget, saying it’s purely for statistical purposes and not to be used for funding formulas. As a practical matter, however, that is how it’s often used.

Corvallis and Bend Oregon are among 144 cities that the federal government is proposing to downgrade from the metropolitan statistical area designation.

Corvallis & Benton County COVID-19 News

Officials in some of the affected cities worry that the change could have adverse implications for federal funding and economic development. Under the proposal, a metro area would have to have at least 100,000 people in its core city to count as an MSA, double the 50,000-person threshold that has been in place for the past 70 years. Cities formerly designated as metros with core populations between 50,000 and 100,000 people, like Bend and Corvallis, would be changed to “micropolitan” statistical areas instead.

A committee of representatives from federal statistical agencies recently made the recommendations to the Office of Management and Budget, saying it’s purely for statistical purposes and not to be used for funding formulas. As a practical matter, however, that is how it’s often used.

Several housing, transportation and Medicare reimbursement programs are tied to communities being metropolitan statistical areas, or MSAs, so the designation change concerns some city officials.

In Corvallis, Oregon, the state designates certain funding sources to metropolitan statistical areas and any change to the city’s status could create a ripple effect, particularly when it comes to transportation funding, said Patrick Rollens, a spokesman for the city that is home to Oregon State University.

“I won’t lie. We would be dismayed to see our MSA designation go away. We aren’t a suburb of any other, larger city in the area, so this is very much part of our community’s identity,” Rollens said in an email. “Losing the designation would also have potentially adverse impacts on recruitment for local businesses, as well as Oregon State University.”

If the proposal is approved, it could be the first step toward federal programs adjusting their population thresholds when it comes to distributing money to communities, leading to funding losses for the former metro areas, said Ben Ehreth, community development director for Bismarck.

“It won’t change any formulas … but we see this as a first step leading down that path,” Ehreth said. “We anticipate that this might be that first domino to drop.”

Rural communities are concerned that more micropolitan areas would increase competition for federal funding targeting rural areas. The change would downgrade more than a third of the current 392 MSAs.

Statisticians say the change in designations has been a long time coming, given that the U.S. population has more than doubled since 1950. Back then, about half of U.S. residents lived in metros; now, 86% do.

“Back in the 1950s, the population it took to create a metro area is different than it would be to create a metro area in 2020,” said Rob Santos, president of the American Statistical Association.

Nancy Potok, a former chief statistician of the Office of Management and Budget who helped develop the new recommendations, acknowledged that officials in some cities will be upset with the changes because they believe it could hurt efforts to lure jobs or companies to their communities.

“There are winners and losers when you change these designations,” Potok said. “A typical complaint comes from economic development when you are trying to attract investments. You want to say you are part of a dynamic MSA. There’s a perception associated with it. If your area gets dumped out of an MSA, then you feel disadvantaged.”AD

Officials in some cities said they needed to research the impact of the change. Others were surprised to find their metro was on the list in the first place.

“Perhaps they made a mistake,” Brian Wheeler, director of communications for the city of Charlottesville, Virginia, said in an email.

While the city of Cape Girardeau, which is on the list, has a resident population north of 40,000 people, as a regional hub for southeastern Missouri, it can have a daytime population of more than 100,000 people, said Alex McElroy, executive director of the Southeast Metropolitan Planning Organization.

“It kind of seems misleading,” McElroy said of the designation change.

In a letter to the federal budget office, the mayor of Opelika, Alabama, urged that the proposal be dropped.

“The risk to vital services within our community, our state and the millions of impacted Americans across this country far outweigh any limited statistical value that might be gained from this proposal,” Mayor Gary Fuller said.AD

In a separate proposal, the U.S. Census Bureau is considering a change to the definition of an urban area. The proposal made public last month would use housing instead of people for distinguishing urban from rural. An area will be considered urban if it has 385 housing units per square mile, roughly the equivalent of 1,000 people per square mile, under the new proposal. The current standard is 500 people per square mile.

The Census Bureau says the changes are needed to comply with new privacy requirements that aim to prevent people from being identified through publicly released data and it offers a more direct measure of density.

Some demographers aren’t sold on the idea of changing the definition of a metro area.

“It seems like everything is ad hoc, rather than having been determined by serious research,” said Kenneth Johnson, a senior demographer at the University of New Hampshire. “The definitions have been relatively stable since 1950. All of the sudden, they change these, and at least in my mind, there isn’t a compelling research-based process that has driven this decision.”AD

In Corvallis, Rollens joked that he was intrigued by the possibility of the city becoming a micropolitan area, suggesting the community could benefit from thinking small.

“We enjoy our small-batch craft beers and locally grown produce here in Corvallis, so I have no doubt that we would find a creative way to market our region if we ended up with a ‘micropolitan’ designation,” Rollens said.

Oregon Redistricting Hearings Scheduled

State Senator Tim Knopp encourages his constituents to participate in virtual public hearings regarding redistricting; the process that redraws the lines of legislative and congressional districts based upon census data collected every ten years. Appointed to the Senate Committee for Redistricting as the Vice-Chair, Senator Knopp is committed to a non-partisan legislative process of drawing Constitutional Legislative and Congressional districts that represent our local communities.

“This is one of the most important opportunities to participate in when it comes to our Constitutional Republic. There will be two virtual public hearings coming up that will give people the ability to advocate for districts that represent our community and to help ensure that the districts are drawn with an open and transparent process,” stated Senator Knopp.

The Senate and House Communities on Redistricting created a website that features a  translation tool for Oregonians to read the information in many languages. You can also find a flyer for public distribution here. If you are unsure which district you reside in, you can determine that through this link. The hearings will take place on March 10, 2021 from 5:30 PM until 7:30 PM and March 20 from 1:00 PM until 3:00 PM for residents of Deschutes County.

You can sign to testify by visiting the Senate Redistricting Website following the links to the dates of March 10 and March 20. There you can find the instructions on submitting written as well as oral testimony.

Redistricting is the once-a-decade process of redrawing United State House of Representatives (Congressional) and Oregon State Senate and State House of Representatives (Legislative) district boundaries to account for changes in population.

​​Only sign up for one of the meetings that correspond with the district where you live. If yo​u are unsure of which district you live in, please follow the “Find Your District” link, enter your address at the top, and select the tab labeled “Congress.”

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Oregon Man Arrested For Allegedly Stealing Thousands of Dollars in LEGO Sets

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Tigard police have arrested a man after they say he stole 25 Lego sets from a storage area near Washington Square Mall on Friday.

On Friday morning, a bus driver spotted 40-year-old Nathaniel Nixon shifting cardboard boxes near the city of Tigard’s Washington Square Mall and informed the police. Officers opened the mysterious boxes to find dozens of high-value LEGO sets.

Police have arrested a man in Oregon for allegedly stealing $7,500 of LEGO sets, including multiple copies of 71741 NINJAGO City Gardens.

Police said Nathaniel Nixon, 40, faces charges of burglary, criminal mischief and possession of burglar tools. Nixon is believed to have stolen about $7,500 worth of the toy sets.

Around 6:30 a.m. Friday, police responded to Washington Square Transit Center, near Washington Square Avenue and Blum Road. A Tri-Met driver reported that a man was moving piles of cardboard boxes from a wooded area that backed up to some stores near the bus shelter. The officers found several boxes which had Lego sets in them. They also found a dolly car in the wooded area, as well as several additional Lego boxes nearby.

Among the models inside were LEGO Technic 42115 Lamborghini Sián FKP 37, 10273 Haunted House, and 71741 NINJAGO City Gardens. Police also discovered that the locks to the local LEGO Store’s storage area had been cut, with employees confirming that several items were indeed missing.

Nixon – who apparently already had an arrest warrant in a neighboring county – now faces multiple charges, including first-degree burglary, second-degree criminal mischief, and possession of burglar tools. The missing sets, meanwhile, have been returned to the LEGO Store.

OSU Researchers Use Poop Samples To Monitor Gray Whales Off Oregon Coast in Newport

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Courtesy of Oregon State University

Researchers from OSU’s Geospatial Ecology of Marine Megafauna Laboratory in Newport collected 158 fecal (commonly known as poop) samples from Eastern North Pacific gray whales off the coast of Oregon between 2016 and 2018 and used the samples to assess endocrine levels and establish hormone baselines for stress and reproduction in the animals.

The poop samples are an effective, non-invasive tool for monitoring gray whale reproduction, stress and other physiological responses, a new study from Oregon State University shows.

The study is believed to be the first to use fecal samples as an endocrine assessment tool in Eastern North Pacific gray whales.

Fecal samples can provide a wide range of important information about whale health in a non-invasive way, said Leigh Torres, an associate professor in OSU’s Marine Mammal Institute and director of the lab in Newport.

“Understanding whale physiology is really important to evaluate how human activities impact whales,” Torres said. “But it is really, really hard to study whale physiology. You can’t observe most physiological responses. And you can’t just ask a whale: ‘Are you stressed out?’ So we have to get creative.”

The findings were published in December in the journal Conservation Physiology. The paper’s lead author is Leila Soledade Lemos, who recently completed her doctorate in Oregon State’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and worked with Torres at the Newport lab.

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Most gray whales migrate from breeding grounds in Mexico to feeding grounds in the Bering and Chukchi seas between Alaska and Russia, where they spend the summer. Torres and her team study a distinct population of gray whales known as the Pacific Coast “feeding group,” which spend the summer months in coastal waters of Oregon, as well as northern California, Washington and southern Canada.

Torres and her research team have been observing and conducting annual “health check-ups” on this population since 2016.

To do this, they use a boat or drone to spot a defecating whale, then follow in the animal’s wake and use nets to capture samples. The drones are also used to capture images of the whales, allowing researchers to monitor the animals’ body condition and behavior.

Researchers used the collected fecal samples to analyze four hormone metabolites: two reproductive hormones; a stress hormone; and thyroid, which can indicate nutrition-related stress.

With this data, the researchers were able to see how hormones fluctuated with a whale’s age and sex and establish baseline hormone levels for different cycles of a whale’s life, including during pregnancy.

“This was a first step to understanding how hormones vary through a whale’s life cycle and in times of stress,” Lemos said. “It helps us establish baselines and ranges of hormone levels.”

The researchers also were able to document a stressful event in a specific whale when they collected a fecal sample from a whale within 24 hours of a documented injury from a propeller or vessel strike. The fecal sample collected after the injury showed a spike in stress hormone levels, almost three times higher than this whale’s stress levels on previous days without the injury.

The researchers also captured a fecal sample from a mature male who was engaged in competitive reproductive behavior with another male whale. That whale’s testosterone level was very high and may reflect the typical hormone levels of adult breeding males.

The researchers’ ability to connect fecal samples to specific individual whales adds important context to the data to help understand what drives hormone variation, Torres said.

Researchers have continued to collect fecal samples over the last two summers and will continue to analyze hormones as part of their broader work on whale health.

The researchers’ ultimate goal is to understand how variations in human-generated ocean noise impacts whale health, Torres said. Analysis of fecal samples is emerging as an important new tool for understanding how different stressors impact whale physiology. They also hope to use the endocrine information to better understand the role of nutrition and changes in diet on overall whale health.

“Our ability to link hormone variation to an individual’s condition is really a significant advance for the study of whale physiology,” Torres said. “All of our future work on impacts of disturbance events will build on this foundation. It’s super exciting to be able to use these tools to think about whale life in a holistic way.”

The Oregon Chocolate Festival in Ashland will be Virtual This Year

The 17th Oregon Chocolate Festival goes virtual on March 5th, 2021 with online fun and educational demonstrations, exciting chocolate pairings with wine, cheese and beer, seminars and chocolate production behind the scenes.

In 2021 they are partnering with the Rogue Valley Habitat for Humanity, an organization that directly supports those displaced by the Almeda Fire. 10% of the virtual Oregon Chocolate Festival ticket proceeds will go directly to supporting their efforts.

Fatal Single-Vehicle Crash in Grants Pass

Pedestrian killed in crash on I-5 near Grants Pass - oregonlive.com

On March 6, 2021, at approximately 1:25 AM, 911 dispatchers received a call of a single motor vehicle accident involving a vehicle under a semi-trailer in the 2200 block of NE Industry Drive.  Police Officers and Firefighters from the Grants Pass Department of Public Safety, along with AMR personnel and the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office, responded to the location.

  Upon arrival, the crashed vehicle was located under the front of the parked semi-trailer and the single occupant driver, a 58-year-old male resident of Grants Pass, was pronounced deceased at the scene.  The investigation is ongoing and all names are being withheld until next of kin have been notified.

Anyone with information pertaining to this incident is encouraged to call the Grants Pass Department of Public Safety’s Detective Division at 541-450-6260.  Grants Pass Dept. of Public Safety

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