Klamath Basin News, Friday, March 12 – It’s Blue Zones Day for a Health Klamath Falls!

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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, March 12, 2021

Klamath Basin Weather

Today Sunny, with a high near 54. Overnight, clear with a low around 25 degrees.

Saturday Sunny, with a high near 60. Overnight low of 30.

Sunday A 30% chance of rain after 10am. Snow level rising to 5000 feet in the afternoon. Partly sunny, with a high near 52. Sunday night a 40% percent chance of snow with a low around 27. New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.

Monday A 30% chance of snow showers, mainly before 10am. Partly sunny, with a high near 40. New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.

Tuesday Mostly sunny, with a high near 49.

Today’s Headlines

Blue Zones Day is our opportunity to celebrate Klamath Falls’ success as a RWJF Culture of Health Prize winner and as a newly named certified Blue Zones Community®. Today and this month, we’re be celebrating our community in a socially-distanced, COVID-friendly format with volunteer projects, walking groups and a ribbon cutting on Friday, the 12th at Sugarman’s Corner with Mayor Carol Westfall, Public Health Director Jennifer Little, and County Commissioner Kelly Minty Morris.

Wear your Blue Zones Project t-shirt to show your community pride and join in-person or virtually on Facebook. Register for event updates at www.healthyklamath.org/BlueZonesDay.  

Other Blue Zones-Healthy Klamath events today include the Tobacco Litter Clean-up from 11-12:30pm starting at Sugarman’s Corner, and at 1:30pm the Walk with the team at Steen Sports Park, Geo Trail, Link River Trail, and the walk on the OC&E Trail.

For more info, CLICK HERE FOR BLUE ZONES EVENTS & ACTIVITIES TO KEEP A “HEALTHY KLAMATH!”

Today’s the day Klamath County’s COVID-19 risk level will lower for the second time following a sharp local decline in new virus infections.

Governor Kate Brown announced that the county is one of seven to move into the “moderate risk” category at the end of this week.

To move from “high risk” to “moderate risk,” the county needed to record fewer than 68 new cases of COVID-19 between February 21 and March 6, along with a test positivity rate below 10%. During that time, the county reported 63 new cases and a test positivity rate of 4.8%. Under the “moderate risk” level, indoor social gatherings can increase from six to eight people, and outdoor social gatherings can increase from eight to ten people.

There are 11 new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 2,316. The Oregon Health Authority reported 367 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of today, bringing the state total to 158,644.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (4), Benton (8), Clackamas (39), Clatsop (1), Columbia (3), Coos (14), Crook (2), Curry (5), Deschutes (23), Douglas (21), Grant (1), Jackson (37), Jefferson (2), Josephine (13), Klamath (8), Lane (9), Lincoln (1), Linn (4), Malheur (1), Marion (30), Multnomah (62), Polk (7), Tillamook (4), Umatilla (13), Union (12), Wasco (4), Washington (38) and Yamhill (1). 

Oregon has now administered a cumulative total of 1,235,071 first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines. To date, 1,562,835 doses of vaccine have been delivered to sites across Oregon.

However, new COVID-19 case numbers are trending downward in Oregon. The Oregon Health Authority says the state’s average number of new cases declined 35-percent over the last week. Hospitalizations are also down 15-percent. Meanwhile, the total number of new deaths increased to 86 from 57 the previous week.

Sky Lakes staff hope to provide more than 1,800 second-dose COVID-19 vaccinations at a vaccination clinic next week.

The Friday, March 19 event will be at Mike’s Fieldhouse at Steen Sports Park, 4500 Foothills Blvd. The clinic is for individuals who received their first doses at Sky Lakes in late February and replaces a second-dose clinic originally planned for March 20 at the Sky Lakes.

People who received their first vaccination Feb. 24-25 at Sky Lakes will be scheduled for this event. Additionally, those who received their first vaccination on Feb. 20 at the Sky Lakes Collaborative Health Center will need to reschedule their second-dose appointments by calling 1-833-606-4370.

The call center is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. People who received their first vaccination Feb. 24-25 at Sky Lakes will be scheduled for this event.

Additionally, those who received their first vaccination on Feb. 20 at the Sky Lakes Collaborative Health Center will need to reschedule their second-dose appointments by calling 1-833-606-4370. The call center is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.

Tonite’s Mazama High School football game is LIVE from Eagle Point…heard on THE WINNER 1240AM and 106.5FM from Wynne Broadcasting with Randy Adams, and WATCH the game LIVE on Facebook on Wynne Broadcasting’s BasinLifeMagazine Facebook page!

Mazama High School Vikings take on the Eagle Point Eagles in Eagle Point tonight!….Game time 7PM … Hear the game on CBS Sports Radio 1240AM and 106.5FM The Winner, from Wynne Broadcasting and WATCH the game LIVE on Facebook on the BasinLifeMagazine page here! Go Vikings!

The Friends of Ella Redkey Pool and City of Klamath Falls are seeking funding to make the construction of a new multi-use pavilion and the start of exciting new programs a reality.

They have been fundraising for years with the goal of building a one-of-a- kind outdoor classroom and gathering space at the Pool. The pavilion will be initially constructed as an open-air structure but designed with the capability of being enclosed in the future for year- round use.  The pavilion will facilitate a variety of programs that focus on water safety, active recreation, and healthy living. The pavilion will also serve as a reservable space for family reunions, birthday parties, swim meets, and more.  

Funding for the project has been generously provided by the City of Klamath Falls, Ford Family Foundation, Oregon Community Foundation, Friends of Ella Redkey Pool, Cow Creek Foundation, and Pacific Power Foundation.

With hydrologic conditions in the Klamath Basin on track to be worse than they were last year, the Klamath County Commissioners declared a drought for the Klamath Basin on Tuesday.

The wintry mix of precipitation that rolled into the basin as the declaration was made was a dose of cruel irony. While local precipitation has been slightly higher this winter than last, the extra snow hasn’t been enough to make up for exceedingly dry soils left over from water year 2020, which will soak up a significant portion of the snow as it melts. Inflow forecasts to Upper Klamath Lake are some of the lowest in decades, with 430,000 acre-feet of water expected to enter the lake between March and September at a 50% confidence level from the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s March 1 basin outlook report. That’s 67% of Upper Klamath Lake’s average streamflow for that time period.

As COVID restrictions lessen, Lakeview’s Irish Days festival is back on track for 2021. This year, presiding over the festivities are Irish descendant John Flynn, who was named the “Grand Leprechaun,” and Knox Muller as the “Wee Leprechaun.” Both were named for the 2020 event, which had to be canceled.

Flynn and Muller will be officially introduced during the Irish Days Dinner on Friday at the Lakeview Elks Lodge. Social begins at 5:30 with dinner at 6 p.m. At approximately 6:30 p.m., a short program will begin. Presale tickets are available at the Chamber of Commerce, $20 per person. Flynn will receive a key to the town with a key to the town. The Lake County Chamber of Commerce will have a raffle, bottle pull and other Irish fun throughout the evening.

Project Turnkey Gains More Steam, Creating Diverse Geographic Footprint of Safe Shelter for Displaced Oregonians — $5.6 Million in Latest Grant Awards in Klamath, Medford and Pendleton Brings Total Motel Property Count to Seven

Project Turnkey General Graphic

Project Turnkey Gains More Steam, Creating Diverse Geographic Footprint of Safe Shelter for Displaced Oregonians

$5.6 Million in Latest Grant Awards in Klamath, Medford and Pendleton Brings Total Motel Property Count to Seven and Provides Safe Lodging for Hundreds of People

Klamath, Medford and Pendleton, March 10, 2021 – Oregon Community Foundation (OCF) today announced that Project Turnkey is gaining even more momentum with three additional grants awarded again this week to properties in Klamath, Medford and Pendleton, Oregon.

Klamath County was selected to receive one of the next Project Turnkey grants, in the amount of $1.779 million in state funds to purchase and transform a 29-unit motel and 35-stall RV park along Highway 97 in Klamath Falls, Oregon. “Project Homefront” will initially offer shelter to people vulnerable to or in need of quarantine due to COVID and survivors of the 242 Fire.

Longer term, the property will be used to support people releasing from incarceration under the guidance and operation of Klamath County Community Corrections in partnership with Klamath County Public Health. The RV Park is envisioned to offer veteran’s housing in the future.

“Housing continues to be one of the largest barriers Klamath County faces in our effort to stimulate significant growth. This project brings us one step closer in accomplishing strategic investments that bring us closer to realizing those goals. I want to thank the Oregon Community Foundation for seeing the need and potential in Klamath County and the many individuals that worked tirelessly to make this come together,” says Klamath County Commissioner Derrick DeGroot.

Located at 5225 N Highway 97, Klamath Falls, OR 97601, Klamath County anticipates the facility to be in use beginning in March 2021.

Around the state of Oregon

Oregon Health Authority Announces State Exemption to Federal Prioritization for Some Groups Eligible for COVID-19 Vaccinations

Oregon Health Authority and pharmacies in Oregon providing COVID-19 vaccines confirmed today that the pharmacies in Oregon can continue to serve Oregonians age 65 years and older.

The announcement follows an exemption granted to Oregon by the U.S. President Joe Biden administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Earlier this month the administration set a goal to reopen the nation’s schools by having all educators, childcare workers and other education staff receive at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose by the end of March.

Unlike many other states, Oregon authorized the state’s estimated 152,000 K-12 education workers, childcare providers and early learning workers to be eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines starting Jan. 25. That eligibility expanded to older adults age 80 and older beginning Feb. 8. Over the next four weeks, eligibility in Oregon expanded to other older adults. Today, older adults 65 and older in Oregon are eligible to be vaccinated statewide, including at retail pharmacies.

Five pharmacy chains in Oregon are participating in the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program and receive COVID-19 vaccines at 175 locations around the state. This includes 107 Safeway/Albertsons locations, 44 Walgreens stores, 13 Costco pharmacies, eight Health Marts and three Rite-Aids.

Participating pharmacies use their own scheduling systems, which require people to be eligible under Oregon’s vaccine eligibility guidance. Appointments for vaccinations are provided as vaccines are available. Demand for vaccinations in Oregon continues to exceed available vaccine doses.

OHA appreciates the assistance provided by the CDC and our federal pharmacy partners, who are working to ensure every Oregonian can be vaccinated as quickly as possible.

Eligible Oregonians looking for appointments at a Federal Retail Pharmacy Program participant can find them at the links below:

Costco: costco.com/covid-vaccine.html

Health Mart: healthmartcovidvaccine.com 

Safeway/Albertsons: safeway.com/pharmacy/covid-19.html

Walgreens: walgreens.com/findcare/vaccination/covid-19

Rite-Aid: oregon.gov/oha/covid19/Pages/vaccine-information-by-county.aspx

All Walmart pharmacies in Oregon will begin scheduling COVID-19 vaccines beginning March 10.

If you’re seeking COVID-19 vaccination, things just got a whole lot easier. All Walmart pharmacies in Oregon will begin scheduling COVID-19 vaccines in partnership with the state, beginning March 10. As appointments become available, they will appear in the Walmart scheduler at walmart.com/COVIDvaccine. While supplies last, vaccines will be available to those who meet the current phase of vaccine eligibility in Oregon, which can be found at govstatus.egov.com/OR-OHA-COVID-19.

Murder Suspect Killed in Reedsport was Jailed Hours after Shooting Springfield Caretaker but Released Before Crime Discovered

Police believe a man shot and killed the caretaker at the FOOD for Lane County Youth Farm hours before the suspect was taken into custody on other charges.

“Detectives believe that Marshall had been shot hours prior to Ruozi’s arrest, however the crime was not discovered until the evening of March 1,” Springfield Police said. “Ruozi had been released earlier that same day.”

The suspect in the death of Richard Marshall – 30-year-old David Robert Ruozi – was arrested February 26 on charges of Felon in Possession of a Firearm and Criminal Trespass and booked into the Lane County Jail.

Police found Richard Donald Marshall, 70, dead March 1, 2021, at the FOOD for Lane County Youth Farm in Springfield. Marshall was the caretaker of the garden, police said. (SPD/SBG)

The firearm Ruozi had at the time of his arrest was the same caliber handgun used to kill Marshall, police said.

Springfield Police went to work tracking down Ruozi, spending several days looking for him on the Oregon Coast before locating him Tuesday evening in Reedsport.

Police say that during Tuesday night’s standoff in Reedsport, Ruozi admitted to everything.

“He told us that he killed Mr. Marshall,” said Sgt. Lewis. “He called him by name, actually. He didn’t know him. He claimed, basically, his reason for shooting him was shining a flashlight on him and asking him what he was doing.”

New Oregon Bill Hopes to Curb Escalating Thefts of Catalytic Converters

Bill would make it harder for scrap metal businesses to buy or receive them.

Kent Police warn residents about recent catalytic converter thefts |  iLoveKent

There was an average of 21 catalytic converter thefts per month late in 2020, a spike from the average of 4 earlier in the year. Now, Oregon lawmakers are considering a bill that would make it harder for scrap metal businesses to buy or receive catalytic converters.

A catalytic converter is an emission control device that reduces toxic gases and pollutants from your car’s exhaust.

The bill, requested by Multnomah County DA Mike Schmidt, would require certain personal information be recorded when it comes to the sale of catalytic converters.

“Right now, thieves in Oregon are taking advantage of the fact that there is a thriving gray and black market for the sale of catalytic converters,” said Multnomah County DA spokesperson Brent Weisberg. “It takes just minutes for a thief to steal catalytic converters using cheap and easily transportable and concealable equipment, but the impact to vehicle owners is drastic and very costly. This is an issue plaguing our community and auto industry and we are looking forward to working with legislators to address it.”

A precious metal that costs 15 times more than gold is driving a surge in thefts of catalytic converters. If you start your car in the morning, and it’s a lot louder than it was the night before — chances are you had your catalytic converter stolen.

These devices have been reported as missing left and right to police departments across the country, even right here in Lane County.

Steve Nohrenberg, who owns the Midas auto repair shop in Eugene, said the crime has been happening almost daily now.

“We had this happen six to eight years ago when it got like that,” Nohrenberg said. “They passed legislation, the economy got really good and it kind of went down to nothing. Now it’s crazy again.”

People have flooded in to get replacements.

The converters have precious metals inside that draw quite the attraction to thieves.

The metallic element is housed in a bulbous piece of aluminum, called a catalytic converter, that encases a honeycomb structure that filters fumes. National data is scarce, but news reports point to thousands of catalytic converter thefts over the past year, a crime wave that has risen with the price of one of their essential components: rhodium, a silvery-white chemical element that is a byproduct of the production of platinum and palladium, and is unparalleled in its ability to remove the most toxic pollutants from vehicle exhaust.

A single troy ounce, which is slightly heavier than a regular ounce, of rhodium cost around $27,000 last week — more than a brand new Toyota Prius. That’s up from $1,700 three years ago.

But to understand why those prices, and thefts, are skyrocketing, and to understand how long they might stay that high, we must go back more than a decade to the 2008 global recession and follow its effects until they coincide with last year’s pandemic-driven economic catastrophe in South Africa, where 80 percent of the world’s rhodium originates.

“It’s got platinum and rhodium — there’s only a little bit in it but rhodium is about $30,000 an ounce or something,” Nohrenberg said. “It only takes the smallest amount to make it very valuable. They sell them.”

Some converters can be traded in for around $40 to $50, while others can be valued in the hundreds.

Eugene residents Gwen and Jerry Ditlefsen had two catalytic converters stolen from their car last Friday at about 6 a.m. “I heard a noise like someone was dragging something down the street,” Gwen said. “I got him up, and we couldn’t see anything at first. He saw someone in a little car parked right out front of the fence. When he saw Jerry looking at him, he headed out. It was probably about eight minutes from when I first heard the noise.”

They were unable to get the thief’s license plate because he made it out so quickly. 

Jerry shared his thoughts: “They like the four-wheel drives because they sit up high enough. You just crawl underneath them, cut them off and take them real quick. If it’s a low car, they have to jack them up with a jack so it takes a little longer. They like a little more privacy.”

Eugene resident Amanda Watts also fell victim to this type of theft around 4 a.m. one morning.

“My neighbor alerted us that they saw sparks under our car, and my husband ran out,” Watts said. “There was a man that ran away and cut our converter out.”

She called the police and fingerprints were taken, but tracking down these thieves is far from easy.

“We wish there were better practices to protect people from this because it’s really expensive to have it fixed,” Watts said. “It’s like $1,500. It’s a crime ring that’s going on right now.”

Watts tried to find the converter at a metal recycling spot but was told there’s nothing they could do.

Your car can run without a converter, but you will notice a loud exhaust noise.

“It’s an open exhaust,” Nohrenberg said. “Your car sounds like a 747 going down the road.”

The catalytic converter is the last defense before engine exhaust escapes into the world.

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Nohrenberg said a replacement can run from $1,000 to $3,000.

Drivers are encouraged to park in a garage if possible and to secure their vehicles the best they can.

Others shared to know what is going on in your neighborhood and to continue being aware of your surroundings.

“People who want your catalytic converter will steal it some way,” Nohrenberg said. “They get stolen from parking lots where people are shopping, so you can’t lock it up forever. If you see someone around your car, pay attention to them. They can take one out in minutes.”

These factors, together with the platinum surplus and surging demand, took what was already an expensive, rare metal and drove the price through the roof. The global automotive industry now spends tens of billions of dollars a year on the metals for catalytic converters alone.

“We call rhodium the most precious of all the metals. People are only taking note of it now, but really it has been the top-performing commodity for the last three or four years,” Wellsted said.

He said criminals who stole rhodium-containing catalytic converters usually sold them to a network of scrap merchants. Each converter generally contains about $400 worth of rhodium, he said, in addition to its numerous other components.

The FBI declined to comment on the spate of thefts.

“I call it a pandemic within a pandemic,” said Reichenbach, the mechanic. “Mitsubishis seems to be the thieves’ new hit, and who knows what it’ll be next.”

Paris Hilton Testifies For Oregon Bill That Regulates Restraining Children In Care Agencies

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Paris Hilton spoke to Oregon lawmakers Thursday, testifying in support of Senate Bill 710. If passed, SB-710 would prohibit and regulate restraining children in care by child-caring agencies.

Hilton said she was speaking in solidarity with hundreds of other institutional abuse survivors. The reality star and business mogul shared her story of being taken to an institution against her will.

She says that one night when she was 16 years old, she woke up to two transporters standing over her bed, telling her she could go the easy way or hard way. The hard way, she says, being restrained and taken somewhere unfamiliar.

“It wasn’t until I arrived at the facility the next morning that I knew what was happening. In any other context, we call this kidnapping,” Hilton said. “I challenge you. Is this the process necessary, therapeutic or, in any sense, the way to do it.”

In written testimony, one organization opposing the measure said the organizations often take in kids from families that have been turned away elsewhere, and that restraint and seclusion are tools that help keep workers and clients safe.

The group also say the bill has an overly broad definition of restraint and has no grace period, which would make their services immediately illegal.

Portland Man Charged in 2 Killings That Occurred 2 Decades Apart

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A Portland, Oregon, man accused of killing two strangers who disappeared 20 years apart pleaded not guilty Thursday to murder charges. Cold case DNA evidence led authorities to Christopher Lovrien’s home, where police said they found the dismembered remains of the second victim.

Police arrested Lovrien, 53, in May after forensic genealogy linked him to the 1999 disappearance — and presumed death — of Mark Dribin, an airline cargo worker.

Authorities searching a shed at Lovrien’s home several weeks after his arrest found the dismembered remains of another man, Kenneth Griffin, who had gone missing three months earlier. Dribin’s body has not been found.

Lovrien faces two counts of second-degree murder, one count of abuse of a corpse and six counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Investigators believe the two victims were strangers to Lovrien and to each other.

The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office asked anyone with information about missing people who had been living under the Interstate 205 bridge in southeast Portland between the summer of 2019 and last May and had contact with Lovrien to call police.

Lovrien, a metal fabricator, was not homeless and did not live under the bridge, they said. Authorities declined to say why they were focused on the bridge and on that time period.

In a news conference Thursday, authorities said additional evidence, including statements from Lovrien, indicate there may be other victims, but they declined to provide more details.

Detectives recovered DNA evidence from an unknown suspect in Dribin’s home and car in 1999 but were unable to match it to anyone.

In 2019, cold case detectives submitted the DNA to a private, third-party company for forensic analysis and learned it could be connected to one of several brothers. Police narrowed that lead to Lovrien and obtained a search warrant for a DNA sample from him last year, said cold case lead investigator Brendan McGuire.

The results matched the sample obtained two decades before, he said, and marked a huge break in the case.

“Until he submitted the known DNA evidence … for genealogical analysis, at no time were police looking at Christopher Lovrien as a suspect,” said lead prosecutor Kirsten Snowden.

Dribin disappeared on July 2, 1999, after he called his employer, United Airlines, and asked for the night off for a “personal emergency.” Police who went to his home found that his car and other items were missing and found evidence that suggested he was dead, according to a synopsis of the case released by the Portland Police Bureau when it was still unsolved.

Griffin, who had been homeless but was living with roommates at the time he disappeared, went missing in February 2020, three months after police first interviewed Lovrien. McGuire said nothing suggests Griffin knew anything about the earlier murder.

Oregon Senate Democrats Propose Penalties to Stop More Walkout Protests by Republicans

Oregon Senate Republicans walk out over climate cap-and-trade bill -  oregonlive.com

Oregon state senators who walk out on the job would facing fines of up to $151 under a proposal from Senate Democrats eager to quell future walkout protests.

Introduced on Thursday, the $151 per-day fine currently on the table equals the per diem allowance that state lawmakers currently collect to cover the costs of working in Salem during the session, including meals and housing.

The fine was proposed in response to Senate Republicans’ most recent walkout protest earlier this month. GOP state senators said it was motivated by the desire to see more classrooms reopened and highlight what they described as the state’s failed vaccine rollout for seniors.

“Walking out on Oregonians is unacceptable and it’s an affront to democracy,” said Senate Majority Leader Rob Wagner, D-Lake Oswego. “Even worse, when Senate Republicans walk out, they continue to accept a paycheck and compensation for their daily expenses. Oregonians aren’t paid when they don’t show up for work.”

Senate Minority Leader Fred Girod, R-Lyons, said in reply that no state lawmaker should be receiving per diem allowances while the state legislature continues meeting in-person once a week on average. State lawmakers, Girod said, work too little in Salem already.

“By scheduling minimal floor sessions, they have held up the people’s work for weeks now,” Girod said. “We have important work to do this session, but it is being held up by the Democrats.”

The Oregon state Capitol building has remained closed to the public since the onset of the pandemic and floor activity has been greatly limited as a result. Committee assignments and most other non-floor work has moved online since last year.

Still, state lawmakers are looking to give themselves a pay bump this session in a stated effort to attract more diverse candidates to the state legislature.

Oregon GOP lawmakers have walked out three years in a row. The first two saw Oregon House and Senate Republicans walk out over a corporate activity tax to fund schools. This current session is the first in recent years that saw House Republicans stay put.

Currently, unexcused absences in the Oregon House carry fines of up to $500 per session day.

The proposed fine in the Oregon Senate this session requires a floor vote to be put into effect.

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