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.
Thursday, March 18, 2021
Klamath Basin Weather
Today A chance of rain and snow before 11am, then a chance of rain. Snow level 4300 feet rising to 5600 feet today, with a high near 50. Overnight, a chance of rain and snow between 11pm and 2am, then a chance of snow after 2am. Snow level 5300 feet lowering to 4200 feet after midnight.
Friday Snow showers likely before 2pm, then rain and snow showers likely. Partly sunny, with a high near 46. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.
Saturday A 20% chance of snow showers after 11am. Mostly sunny, with a high near 46.
Sunday Mostly sunny, with a high near 51.
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There are three new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 2,349. Oregon Health Authority reported 239 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of yesterday, bringing the state total to 160,259.
The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (1), Benton (5), Clackamas (15), Clatsop (7), Columbia (2), Coos (10), Crook (1), Curry (1), Deschutes (7), Douglas (8), Grant (6), Jackson (25), Jefferson (2), Josephine (16), Klamath (2), Lane (16), Lincoln (3), Linn (6), Malheur (3), Marion (26), Morrow (1), Multnomah (24), Polk (1), Tillamook (3), Umatilla (13), Union (1), Washington (28), Wheeler (2) and Yamhill (4).
Four new cases were reported in Klamath County.
Under the direction of Governor Kate Brown, outdoor capacity limits are now updated for outdoor recreation and fitness, and outdoor entertainment for Oregon counties. As of today, outdoor entertainment establishments and outdoor recreation and fitness establishments in all Oregon counties may allow the following:
- Lower risk: Maximum 50% occupancy
- Moderate risk: Maximum 25% occupancy
- High risk: Maximum 15% occupancy
- Extreme risk: Maximum 50 people
OHA reported that 15,289 new doses of COVID-19 vaccinations were added to the state immunization registry. Of this total, 7,849 doses were administered on March 16 and 7,440 were administered on previous days but were entered into the vaccine registry on March 16.
The faculty senate at Oregon Tech voted Tuesday night to recommend university president Nagi Naganathan resign, citing his disregard for shared governance between administration and faculty leadership. After months of low faculty morale and faculty claims of being left out of the senior administration’s decision making processes, the faculty senate voted on a resolution affirming that they had lost confidence in Naganathan’s leadership. The resolution calls on Naganathan, who has been in the post for nearly four years, to resign or face a potential faculty-wide vote of no confidence. A faculty vote of no confidence would then head to the Oregon Tech Board of Trustees, a 15 member board appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state senate. The trustees have the power to remove Naganathan, if they choose.
A 2018 Henley High graduate is rising through the ranks of student leadership ranks at Oregon State University in Corvallis, a campus with more than 35,000 students. Dhru Patel, 21, now a third-year student at OSU, was elected as student body president in mid-February and started the transition as president-elect last week. He will take the position of student body president officially on June 1. Dhru is the son of Raj and Dharmishtha Patel, of Klamath Falls. Patel was elected through a virtual campaign in which he and running mate Dylan Perfect earned more than 70% of the vote. Dhru and members of his student campaign team connected — virtually — to students from all walks of life. All candidates were unable to meet voters in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Klamath County School District’s request to adjust physical distancing requirements in classrooms was not part of new state guidance released Monday. Without this change, students will continue attending school under their current hybrid and in-person schedules and models. The KCSD Board of Directors on March 4 approved a resolution asking Gov. Kate Brown and the Oregon Department of Education to adjust the space-per-student from 35-square-feet to 9-square-feet, increasing the number of students allowed in classrooms. The resolution had the support of Klamath County Public Health. School districts in Southern and Central Oregon had joined KCSD in asking the state to adjust the RSSL space-per-student requirements. “We are disappointed that the governor and the Oregon Department of Education did not make the changes to Ready Schools, Safe Learners that would have returned all of our students to classrooms full-time,” said Glen Szymoniak, superintendent of the Klamath County School District. “However, we are hopeful that future adjustments to the guidance will enable us to do so.”
Meanwhile, following new guidance from OSAA, the Klamath County School District is working to maximize the number of people who can attend high school events. The new guidance for outdoor venues will allow for a specific number of spectators depending on the county’s risk levels. If the risk level remains moderate, the school district allows 150 spectators in each of the designated spectator areas at the outside venues. If the risk level increases to high, the number of spectators allowed per area drops to 75. Each of the venues have different capacities based on space and available facilities. Each school will determine how they distribute tickets for spectators at their events. Please contact your school or check your school’s website and social media accounts for details. The schools will also livestream sporting events on YouTube and Facebook. Capacity limitations are determined by county risk level and venue location. Fans must maintain 6-feet of physical distance and wear masks. Fans will be restricted to designated areas. If you show up without contacting your school or without a ticket, you may not be able to enter the venue, says safety officer Steve Johnson.
The city of Klamath Falls has announced there will be rolling lane closures on Lakeshore Drive from California Avenue through Highway 140 beginning March 22nd to April 30th from 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
The purpose of the lane closures will be to accommodate tree pruning/removal along Lakeshore Drive. There will be flaggers present. The city asks everyone to please use caution when driving through work zones. Please contact Amy Wilson at (541) 887-7727 with any questions regarding the described work and lane closures.
Around the state of Oregon
Rollover Crash on Highway 62 in Shady Cove
The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office says that a man was taken to the hospital after a rollover crash along Highway 62 in Shady Cove on Wednesday morning.
Deputies and emergency crews first responded to the crash around 10:30 a.m. According to the Sheriff’s Office, the 29-year-old driver of a 4-door sedan left the roadway and smashed through a tree, with his vehicle coming to rest upside-down near the river.
Firefighters from Jackson County Fire District 4 had to right the vehicle before they could work to extract the driver. He was initially taken by boat to a waiting Mercy Flights ambulance before being taken to a hospital. The extent of his injuries are unknown at this time, but JCSO said that he lost consciousness during the response, which took roughly an hour to complete.
The Oregon Department of Transportation said that the eastbound lanes of Highway 62 were shut down for the emergency response.
Grocery Store Workers Frustrated With Oregon’s Vaccine Timeline
Grocery store employees have been essential workers during the entire pandemic, stocking food and working checkout lines while being exposed to thousands of people. So when they learned they’d be eligible for the vaccine May 1, it was a sigh of relief, but one they felt was long overdue.
“We’ve been pressuring the governor — asking, pleading with the governor — to please move us forward in priority based off the CDC recommendations,” said Miles Eshaia, head of communications for United Food & Commercial Workers Local 555, Oregon’s grocery workers union.
On Wednesday, Eshaia and the union’s 19,000 members learned that now, every adult in Oregon age 16 and older will also be eligible for the vaccine May 1. The announcement came from the Oregon Health Authority and lines up with President Biden’s order for all American adults to be vaccine-eligible by May 1, saying there would be enough doses. Eshaia said that’s of little comfort to grocery workers.
“They have to compete to get an appointment, that’s the challenge,” said Eshaia. “They have to compete with the entire state of Oregon … I don’t want to say it’s a slap in the face, that’s a cliché, but it’s very unfortunate.”
Grocery store workers in Washington don’t have to wait until May 1 for their vaccine. They became eligible on March 17.
“We’re happy!” said Howard Ross who works at a Fred Meyer store in Vancouver. The pandemic has been on his mind every day.
“It can be kind of scary because you don’t know who has it and the things that you hear, and you don’t want to take it home to your family,” said Ross. “Through it all, you have to do your job, so you just stay positive and keep your head up.”
Eshaia said in light of the state moving up universal vaccine eligibility, he hoped the governor would create a path prioritizing grocery workers. Gov. Brown’s office tells KGW they are currently reevaluating Oregon’s vaccine timelines and expect to have more information to share on Friday. They said the governor is committed to equitable distribution of vaccine, including for front-line workers. Oregon Health Authority (OHA) officials discussed possible prioritization on Wednesday.
“We may end up moving up front-line workers and those with pre-existing conditions so they have access to vaccine before the general population,” said OHA Director Patrick Allen.
Eshaia says practically speaking, that just makes sense, and he believes it’s the right thing to do. “These are essential people. They’re not disposable, and they’re being treated as such,” said Eshaia. “It’s not okay.”
Oregon Zoo Fighting To Save Western Monarch Butterflies
In the fight to save the western monarch butterfly from extinction, the Oregon Zoo is hosting a live Q and A session Thursday.
The session will feature Senator Jeff Merkley and a pollinator expert. It will be hosted by Bob Lee, the Oregon Zoo’s general curator, who joined AM Extra to discuss the details.
Pollinator scientists and advocates are fighting to save the western monarch butterfly as it draws perilously close to extinction.
Learn more at a live Q&A session featuring U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley and pollinator expert Sarina Jepsen of the Xerces Society.
This discussion, moderated by the Oregon Zoo, will be livestreamed on Thursday, March 18, at 1:30 p.m. PDT on the Oregon Zoo, Senator Jeff Merkley and Xerces Society Facebook pages.
The conversation will explore the threats faced by the western monarch butterfly, and how we can save this iconic pollinator.
The session will be held on the Oregon Zoo’s Facebook page.
Billions in Funding Coming To Oregon From COVID Relief Package
With the American Rescue Plan now signed into law, Oregon will soon be receiving more than $4.2 billion in coronavirus relief funds. Unlike provisions in last year’s CARES Act, much of that funding will be going directly to local city and county governments.
President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package last Thursday after it passed both chambers of Congress. While the precise amount of aid that will be doled out to municipalities in the coming days is likely to fluctuate somewhat, the National League of Cities has been working to calculate the approximate amounts that each area will receive.
All told, Oregon is slated to receive more than $4.2 billion — $2.6 billion of which will go to the state government to fund agencies impacted by COVID-19, with another $155,000 going to capital projects. Almost $1.5 billion will be split among counties, cities and towns throughout the state.
So what does this mean for governments our area? The NLC came up with these early estimates…
- Ashland – $4.41 million
- Brookings – $1.32 million
- Central Point – $3.84 million
- Eagle Point – $1.95 million
- Grants Pass – $9.34 million
- Klamath Falls – $4.43 million
- Medford – $18.34 million
- Talent – $1.35 million
- Yreka – $1.42 million
NOTE: Municipalities receiving less than $1 million have been omitted for brevity in this report, but many of them are eligible for their own funding in the relief package.
- Curry County – $4.45 million
- Jackson County – $42.85 million
- Josephine County – $16.97 million
- Klamath County – $13.23 million
- Lake County – $1.53 million
- Siskiyou County – $8.44 million
The National League of Cities came to these numbers after using the formulas set out by the bill on how much money each city in the country can get. For municipalities over 50,000 people, population, poverty, and housing instability all contribute to the monetary value given to each local government. Cities with less than 50,000 will get money from the state that will be sub-allocated from funding through a simple per capita formula.
According to the legislation, half of the relief money will be given out this spring and summer and the other half will be given out in 2022.
Oregon Wildfire Recovery Update
The Oregon State University’s Forest and Natural Resources Extension Fire Program is hosting a free webinar series to help Oregonians prepare for future wildfire seasons. https://extension.oregonstate.edu/fire-program
Oregon’s Recreation Site Status Map shows federal and state outdoor recreation openings and closures. — Oregon Office of Emergency Management
Income Tax Filing, Payment Deadlines for Individuals Extended to May 17
Salem, OR—The Department of Revenue is joining the IRS and automatically extending the income tax filing due date for individuals for the 2020 tax year from April 15, 2021 to May 17, 2021. Both the IRS and the Oregon Department of Revenue will be providing formal guidance in the coming days.
Individual taxpayers can also postpone state income tax payments for the 2020 tax year due on April 15, 2021 to May 17, 2021 without penalties and interest, regardless of the amount owed. This postponement applies to individual taxpayers, including individuals who pay self-employment tax. Penalties and interest will begin to accrue on any remaining unpaid balances as of May 18, 2021. Individual taxpayers will automatically avoid interest and penalties on the taxes paid by May 17.
Individual taxpayers do not need to file any forms or call the Department of Revenue to qualify for this automatic tax filing and payment relief. Individual taxpayers who need additional time to file beyond the May 17 deadline can request a filing extension until October 15 by filing federal Form 4868 through their tax professional or tax software or by using the Free File link on IRS.gov. Oregon recognizes a taxpayer’s federal extension. An extension to file is not an extension to pay. Additional extension information is available on the Revenue website.
To get tax forms, check the status of your refund, or make tax payments, visit www.oregon.gov/dor or email email@example.com. You also can call 800-356-4222 toll-free from an Oregon prefix (English or Spanish) or 503-378-4988 in Salem and outside Oregon. For TTY (hearing- or speech-impaired), we accept all relay calls. — Oregon Dept. of Revenue
OSU Puts New President F. King Alexander on Probation
The release of LSU’s internal investigation has now affected another college program as Oregon State has placed school president F. King Alexander on probation, the school announced on Wednesday.
Alexander will be on probation until June 1 following his role in allowing Les Miles to foster a hostile work environment during their time together at LSU. This all came to light following a lengthy internal investigation at LSU that was released publicly by the school in recent weeks.
Despite former LSU AD Joe Alleva recommending Miles be fired, Alexander refused to take action.
Following the release of the report from LSU, Kansas fired Miles and AD Jeff Long.
“Significant concerns have been raised about trust and commitment to OSU values from many aspects of the community,” Oregon State trustee Michele Longo Eder said of Alexander according to USA Today. “We need to find a way to see if it’s possible to address those going forward.”
LSU’s investigation also found that the program suffered “serious institutional failure” related to Title IX cases during Alexander’s tenure at the school.
Oregon State now plans to independently review the report with its own legal counsel before determining Alexander’s fate at the school.
At this time, many faculty members and students at Oregon State are calling for Alexander to lose his job in Corvallis.
University Of Oregon Gender Pay Lawsuit
A federal appeals court has revived a University of Oregon professor’s lawsuit alleging the university has failed to address a ”glaring” pay gap between her and male colleagues.
The Oregonian/OregonLive reports psychology professor Jennifer Joy Freyd argued that the university paid her several thousand dollars less per year than it paid the male professors though they were all of equal rank and seniority.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals held this week that a reasonable jury could find Freyd and her male colleagues performed a common core of tasks and did substantially equal work yet the men drew significantly higher wages. — The decision sends the case back to the trial court.
Utility Worker Freed After Hours in Collapsed Utility Trench
A man trapped in a caved-in utility trench was rescued after about three hours stuck in dirt and mud Monday in the 12000 block of Southwest Bowmont Street in Cedar Hills.
The man, who was trapped about 15 feet below the surface, was taken to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center. His medical condition was not released. Two other workers from Apollo Excavation who were also in the trench were not taken to the hospital.
The men were not identified.
Leonard Gebbie, whose home faces the trench, said two workers were replacing a sewer line when dirt collapsed onto them. A third worker went in to help them, Gebbie said.
Firefighters from Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue and Portland Fire & Rescue arrived at the scene just before 11 a.m.; close to 40 emergency responders eventually were at the scene.
One worker was able to free himself. Crews extricated a second man quickly, but the third was stuck in waist-high mud and dirt. Responders had to create tools to aid in the rescue. A City of Portland truck arrived to suction mud and dirt out of the trench.
Rain started to come down hard as emergency crews continued working to rescue the man, forcing them to put a tent and a blue tarp over the trench and bring in an extra lamp.
Meanwhile, the man, who had mentioned problems with feeling his legs, was given oxygen and sports drinks by emergency responders who took turns going into the trench to assist him and check his pulse. Crews also lowered an IV bag in a bucket. The man remained alert and conscious, at one point even helping dig out the dirt.
When the man was free, the emergency responders clapped and then lowered a combined harness and backboard into the trench. The man was strapped to the harness-backboard and emergency responders used a crank to lift him to the surface.