Klamath Basin News, Monday, 4/19 – Mackenzie Peterson Named Miss Klamath County in Weekend Ceremony and Pageant

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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, April 19, 2021

Klamath Basin Weather

Today Mostly sunny, with a high near 70. Overnight a 20% chance of showers, low of 41.

Tuesday Mostly cloudy, then gradually becoming sunny, with a high near 66. Overnight low around 35.
Wednesday Sunny, with a high near 68. Overnight mostly clear, with a low around 35.
Thursday Sunny, with a high near 68.
Friday Mostly sunny, with a high near 72.
Saturday A slight chance of rain. Snow level 6100 feet rising to 7200 feet in the afternoon. Partly sunny, with a high near 65.

Today’s Headlines

Mackenzie Peterson

The 2021 Miss Klamath County Pageant was held over the weekend.  Named Miss Klamath County, is the popular Mackenzie Peterson.

Other Title holders include: Miss Klamath County’s Outstanding Teen, Bailey Damrow; Miss City of Sunshine’s Outstanding Teen, LeOna Santos; Miss City of Sunshine, Payton Idrogo.

All will now advance to the Miss Oregon pageant later in the year in Seaside.

The Oregon Health Authority on Sunday reported 628 new COVID-19 cases in the state but no new deaths from the disease.

Klamath County reported 37 new cases yesterday.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (9), Benton (7), Clackamas (79), Clatsop (3), Columbia (6), Coos (6), Crook (15), Curry (3), Deschutes (59), Douglas (7), Grant (25), Hood River (3), Jackson (54), Jefferson (3), Josephine (29), Klamath (37), Lake (2), Lane (57), Lincoln (6), Linn (20), Malheur (1), Marion (63), Morrow (5), Multnomah (88), Polk (13), Tillamook (3), Umatilla (9), Union (2), Wallowa (1), Wasco (6), Washington (69) and Yamhill (8). 

Rising numbers of cases in recent weeks have been reported despite rising numbers of people getting vaccinated. Today, 32,287 new doses of COVID-19 vaccinations were added to the state immunization registry. Of this total, 20,973 vaccine doses were administered on April 17 and 11,314 were administered on previous days but entered into the vaccine registry on April 17.

Today, everyone over age 16 in Oregon will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

The health authority reports that Oregon has administered 1.3 million first and second doses of the Pfizer vaccine, 1.1 million first and second doses of the Moderna vaccine and 88,405 single doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been temporarily paused “out of an abundance of caution” because of rare but dangerous blood clots.

Ponina Fire burning near Beatty, 1200 acres, no containment

BLY, Ore. – The Ponina Fire is currently burning on Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) protected private land and the Bly Ranger District of the Fremont-Winema National Forest approximately 5 miles north of Beatty.

The fire is estimated to be approximately 1,200 acres with no containment.  It is primarily wind-driven and burning in mixed conifer and brush.  The cause is under investigation.

There are multiple structures threatened.  Evacuations are being conducted by Klamath County Sheriff’s Office.  Residents in the area should be prepared to evacuate if necessary.

Electrical transmissions lines in the area are threatened by the fire.  Smoke is highly visible in the surrounding area, including Oregon State Highway 140.

Firefighting resources from ODF Klamath-Lake District and the Fremont-Winema National Forest are working on the fire.  While additional resources are on order, there are challenges due to how early in the season a wildfire this size is occurring.

Temperatures this weekend have been unseasonably warm and summerlike.  With a dry spring, little snowpack and spring winds, these conditions can result in dry fuels and fire carrying quickly.  The public is urged to use extreme caution with fire on private and wildlands, especially as the area is already seeing early wildfires. 

The Klamath Drainage District began deliveries of water Thursday night after its board voted to operate under a state permit, the legality of which is in question.

According to a news release from KDD, the district acquired the permit from the Oregon Water Resources Department in 1977 for the use of live flow from the Klamath River for irrigation. The supplemental water right has historically been treated as independent from “Project” water, according to the district. However, Jared Bottcher, acting area manager for the Reclamation’s Klamath Basin Area Office, sent a letter to White on Friday directing KDD to “immediately cease diversions from the Klamath River.”

Bottcher cited an email from KDD Counsel Reagan Desmond earlier this week, which argued that the district has the authority to make irrigation deliveries not through the Klamath Project but through its 1977 state permit.

Significant hurdles remain over issues of compensation, benefits and workload, but tentative agreements reached Thursday night show signs of progress between Oregon Tech administration and its faculty union.

Andria Fultz, an associate professor of communication and member of the Oregon Tech-American Association of University Professors executive committee, said agreements were reached on issues like association rights, notices of appointment and discipline, but she cautioned that “more work needs to be done.”

According to the union, no progress was made on the issues of compensation, benefits, and workload, which they consider the core of the disagreement. Oregon Tech vice president of institutional advancement Ken Fincher said the administration’s bargaining team is optimistic about the progress made and will continue to work hard toward a contract agreement regardless of a strike. 

Christopher Syrnyk

Christopher J. Syrnyk, associate professor of communication at Oregon Tech, was received appointed to president of the Western Regional Honors Council.

The WRHC is comprised of approximately 300 honors colleges and programs at accredited institutions of higher learning located in the 13-state region served by the WRHC.  In addition to his faculty role, Syrnyk is director of the Oregon Tech Honors Program.

Syrnyk will serve as president for one year, then as past president for one year, and after this service will have the option to continue as the at-large board member on the executive board.

Mitchell Monument

It has been a year since the 75th anniversary of the tragedy at Mitchell Monument, but the Bly Community Action Team, Standing Stone Church of the Christian and Missionary Alliance and the Fremont-Winema National Forest have continued to work on a remembrance.

Mitchell Monument, located east of Bly, marks the site where Reverend Archie Mitchell’s pregnant wife, Elsie, and five local Sunday school students were killed by a Japanese balloon bomb, also known as a fugo, on May 5, 1945. They were the only World War II casualties as a result of enemy action on the continental United States.

There was an event when Weyerhaeuser dedicated the monument in 1950, and again at the 50th anniversary on May 5, 1995. The event originally scheduled for May 5, 2020 at Mitchell Monument for the 75th anniversary was postponed and ultimately canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, the event planning committee still feels it’s important to have something to mark the anniversary.

A commemorative program was designed and is being printed for distribution.

The segments originally planned for the event were recorded, compiled and will be available as a DVD.

Around the state of Oregon

Oregon State University’s Board of Trustees has confirmed the university’s new interim president. Becky Johnson, confirmed Friday, is currently the vice president of OSU Cascades — the university’s Bend campus, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.

She will resign from that position to step into her role leading the entire university. Board Chair Rani Borkar said Friday the choice to put Dr. Johnson forward was informed by extensive community engagement.

Rates of youth suicide have been rising since 2011, but this week state legislators are taking action, passing legislation they say will change that.

Mental health is an even bigger concern during the pandemic, and this bill aims to help teens in crisis. That bill passed with almost unanimous support and will now move on to the state senate. Over a year of life in quarantine is taking a toll, especially on Oregon’s youth.

Oregon Health Officials Are Considering Keeping Mask and Social Distance Mandates Indefinitely

A top health official is considering indefinitely extending rules requiring masks and social distancing in all businesses in the state.

As states around the country lift COVID-19 restrictions, Oregon is poised to go the opposite direction — and many residents are fuming about it. The proposal would keep the rules in place until they are “no longer necessary to address the effects of the pandemic in the workplace.”

Michael Wood, administrator of the state’s department of Occupational Safety and Health, said the move is necessary to address a technicality in state law that requires a “permanent” rule to keep current restrictions from expiring. “We are not out of the woods yet,” he said.

But the idea has prompted a flood of angry responses, with everyone from parents to teachers to business owners and employees crying government overreach. Wood’s agency received a record number of public comments, mostly critical, and nearly 60,000 residents signed a petition against the proposal.

Opponents also are upset government officials won’t say how low Oregon’s COVID-19 case numbers must go, or how many people would have to be vaccinated, to get the requirements lifted in a state that’s already had some of the nation’s strictest safety measures.

“When will masks be unnecessary? What scientific studies do these mandates rely on, particularly now that the vaccine is days away from being available to everyone?” said state Sen. Kim Thatcher, a Republican from Keizer, near the state’s capital. “Businesses have had to play ‘mask cop’ for the better part of a year now. They deserve some certainty on when they will no longer be threatened with fines.”

Wood said he is reviewing all the feedback to see if changes are needed before he makes a final decision by May 4, when the current rules lapse.

Oregon, a blue state, has been among those with the country’s most stringent COVID-19 restrictions and now stands in contrast with much of the rest of the nation as vaccines become more widely available.

At least six states — Alabama, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota and Texas — have lifted mask mandates, and some never implemented them. In Texas, businesses reopened at 100% capacity last month.

Besides mask and distancing requirements, Oregon’s proposal includes more arcane workplace rules regarding air flow, ventilation, employee notification in case of an outbreak, and sanitation protocols.

It dovetails with separate actions issued by Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, using a state of emergency declaration, requiring masks in public statewide — and even outside when 6 feet (1.83 meters) of distance can’t be maintained — and providing strict, county-by-county thresholds for business closures or reductions in capacity when case numbers rise above certain levels.

More than a third of Oregon’s counties are currently limited to indoor social gatherings of six people, and the maximum occupancy for indoor dining, indoor entertainment and gyms is 25% capacity or 50 people, whichever is less. And many schools are just now reopening after a year of online learning.

The workplace rule is “driven by the pandemic, and it will be repealed,” Wood said. “But, it might not need to go away at exactly the same time the State of Emergency is lifted,” he said, referring to Brown’s executive orders.

Amid pandemic frustration and deprivation, the issue has gained a lot of attention. A petition on change.org opposing the rule gained nearly 60,000 signatures and spread on social media, drawing even more interest to the proposal.

More than 5,000 public comments were sent to the agency, smashing its previous record of 1,100.

“The majority of comments were simply hostile to the entire notion of COVID-19 restrictions,” Wood said. “The vast majority of comments were in the context of, ‘You never needed to do anything.'”

Justin Spaulding, a doctor at the Cataract & Laser Institute of Southern Oregon, is among those who raised concerns about the proposal in public comments.

“I do not understand these new guidelines for business. If we put these into effect we will only continue to blunt the recent drop in business,” he wrote. “We have a large subset of patients that are unwilling (or) hostile with the current guidelines, and making them permanent will only make it worse.” For Thatcher, the GOP state lawmaker, the most concerning part is “OSHA’s lack of clarity” on when the rules will be lifted.

Officials said they have every intent to repeal the rule, and that decision will be made based on a complex mix of factors, including case counts, vaccination rates, case severity and advice from the Oregon Health Authority.

“It will be a complicated assessment when we do it, and I would say it is impossibly complicated to do in advance,” Wood said.

Many People Are Refusing the COVID-19 Vaccine in Oregon

As the novel coronavirus continues to spread across the globe, several variants of the virus have emerged. Some of the newly circulating variants spread more easily and more quickly than their predecessors, therefore adding a new urgency to vaccine distribution.

The Biden Administration’s ambitious plan to vaccinate 300 million Americans by the end of the summer faces multiple challenges — and not all are related to distribution or production. According to a recent survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, 38,560,000 Americans — or 15.5% of the 18 and older population — say they will either probably or definitely not get the vaccination when given the opportunity.

The majority of Americans who are against personally taking the vaccine cite one of three reasons: concern about possible side effects, wanting to wait to see if it is safe, or thinking others would benefit more than themselves from a vaccination. Others cite different reasons.

Nationwide, 16,820,000 people, 6.8% of the eligible population, do not trust the COVID-19 vaccines, and another 7,550,000, or 3.0%, are anti-vaccines in general. Additionally, 14,430,000 American adults, 5.8% of those eligible, will likely refuse a vaccination because they do not trust the government.

In Oregon, an estimated 444,500 adults, or 13.5% of the eligible population, say they will likely refuse the vaccine. Of all adults in the state, 4.7% will refuse because they do not trust the COVID-19 vaccine specifically, 2.8% because they are against vaccination in general, and 5.4% because they distrust the government.

Perhaps due in part to pockets of resistance, Oregon is struggling to vaccinate its population rapidly. So far, 24.1% of Oregon’s population are fully vaccinated, compared to 24.6% of all Americans.

Meanwhile, the virus continues to spread. In the last week alone, another 3,740 Oregon residents tested positive for the virus. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been 171,398 confirmed cases of the virus in the state, and a total of 2,446 residents have died as a result.

All survey data used in this story was published by the Census on April 7, 2021. All data related to COVID-19 infections, fatalities, and vaccinations is current as of April 15, 2021.

These are all the counties in Oregon where COVID-19 is slowing (and where it’s still getting worse).

New Hampshire10.6%27.4%89,6051,257
New Jersey11.2%28.5%959,92124,945
New Mexico10.7%31.3%194,1643,988
New York10.8%27.4%1,969,55051,024
North Carolina17.2%23.9%936,42512,305
North Dakota25.7%28.4%105,2151,474
Rhode Island11.8%30.9%142,7742,640
South Carolina17.7%22.4%564,9319,304
South Dakota14.8%30.1%120,1541,947
West Virginia16.2%25.5%146,7902,747

Jackson County Reports Fifth Week in A Row of Increased Covid-19 Cases

Jackson County Department of Public Health

On Sunday, Jackson County Public Health reported 20 new cases of coronavirus, taking last week’s total to around 280 cases. This means for the fifth week in a row, Jackson County has experienced a rise in new Covid-19 cases.

According to reports taken by Jackson County Public Health, Jackson County has seen a steady rise in new Covid-19 cases dating all the way back to the week of March 14.

In that time, going from March 14 till last week, Jackson County has reported 168, 195, 229, 267 and now 280 cases.

To find the last time that Jackson County experienced five weeks in a row of cases increasing, you’d have to go all the way back to October. During that streak, cases had increased every week over a six-week time frame and hit all-time Covid records for the county.

Jackson County is also 77 cases away from reaching 10,000 total cases since the start of the pandemic. But even with new Covid-19 cases rising, vaccinations in Jackson County are increasing.

According to data collected by the Oregon Health Authority, Jackson County health officials have vaccinated almost 70,000 Oregonians throughout the county. That’s more than one in every four residents have recieved at least one shot of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Jackson County is also making progress when it comes to getting people fully vaccinated. OHA says that of the 68,435 people in Jackson County that have been vaccinated, 43,389 of those people are fully vaccinated.

The Portland International Airport is reporting a higher than expected travel turnout over spring break.  The airport saw 545-thousand passengers, which is 22-percent higher than forecast.  That’s over four times more passengers than during last year’s spring break.  Airport officials are expecting a total of more than 800-thousand passengers for the month of April.

Investigators Stumped Over Mysterious Oregon Cattle Mutilations

'Not One Drop Of Blood': Cattle Mysteriously Mutilated In Oregon : NPR

Detectives with the Crook County Sheriff’s Office, longtime ranchers and a Prineville veterinarian who reviewed evidence from an ongoing case say they’re stumped by the “unnatural” deaths.

The udders appeared to have been removed with precision — straight, even cuts, as if made by a sharp object. The reproductive systems had been cut out cleanly as well, and without disturbing other organs.

There was no indication of predator activity and perhaps strangest of all, scavenging animals appeared to have hardly touched these six cow carcasses found in a seven-day span this year on ranchland in rural Crook County.

But the mutilated cattle might be more ordinary than they seem, according to Brian Dunning, a Bend-based podcaster committed to deflating wild claims. “This reads like a very typical case,” he said.

Crook County Sheriff John Gautney said his office has no leads but cautioned there’s “no reason to panic.”

“We’ve had cases like this over the years,” Gautney said. “They seem to come in groups and then go away. We are not speculating on how these are happening, as we try to keep an open mind and look at all possibilities.”

Mutilated cattle have been reported in the American West since at least the 1960s. There have been multiple recent cases of bull mutilations in Harney, Wheeler and Umatilla counties in Eastern Oregon. But now, beef cattle have turned up dead in the remote ranchlands outside Prineville bearing signs common to the cattle mutilation phenomenon.

The current string of cases began Feb. 27, when Crook County Sheriff’s Office deputy Scott Durr was dispatched to suspicious circumstances at the 96 Ranch on SE Van Lake Road. Owner Rickey Shannon said one of his herd had been discovered dead two days earlier with an odd cut down its spine.

Shannon, who lives on the ranch with his two sons, reported no predators or birds had touched the cow. There were no tracks, and no blood surrounding it. The cow’s left cheek, tongue and three of its teats had been cut away cleanly. But the eyes, usually the first body part to be scavenged after death, were untouched. There were no bullet holes and a scan of the cow by a metal detector turned up none.

The cow was about 200 yards from the road, near the edge of a field and some juniper trees. There were no vehicle tracks near the dead animal, no footprints of any kind.

The mystery deepened a few days later. On March 4, Casey Thomas, manager of the GI Ranch on Lister Road in Paulina, reported that one of his herd of around 5,000 appeared to have suffered a strange death.

Crook County detective Javier Sanchez arrived to find a deceased Black Angus cow lying on its side. Hair had been removed near the stomach. All four udders were cut off and its left cheek, tongue and sex organs removed. Between the front legs an uneven patch of hair was missing and in the middle was a prick mark, Sanchez wrote in his report.

The next day, Crook County’s Sgt. Timothy Durheim was dispatched to a report of a wolf kill at the McCormack Ranch on SE Bear Creek Road. But it was apparent no wolf took down this cow.

Durheim noted several straight incisions on the animal. One udder had been removed and a circular cut was made around the anus and the reproductive organs removed without puncturing the gut. The left cheek, left eye and tongue had been removed.

“Again, I noted straight, clean incisions where the cheek had been,” Durheim wrote in his case report.

Durheim examined the carcass and found a puncture wound between the neck and shoulder. He found no bite marks.

“There were no apparent animal or human tracks immediately surrounding the carcass, and only minimal blood in the area,” Durheim wrote. “I know from personal experience that if an animal is killed or scavenged by predators, there is typically a large bloody messy area surrounding the carcass.”

On March 6, Casey Thomas called police back to report finding another dead cow bearing the same strange injuries. This one was more badly decomposed than the first but its left cheek was also removed and a 2-inch patch had been cut into the hair on its neck.

Detectives took photos of the dead cows to Prineville veterinarian Dr. Taylor Karlin for her perspective. She agreed the deaths appeared unnatural and her opinion was included in a search warrant request filed in the case to scan for cell phone activity near where the cows were found.

Charges in any of the cases could include trespassing and aggravated animal abuse. With the cattle valued at $1,250 to $1,400 each, criminal mischief might also be charged.

As a vet with an interest in large animals, Karlin has performed many post-mortem examinations on deceased livestock. When, and if, another mutilated cow turns up in Crook County, Karlin has agreed to perform an appropriate necropsy so she can personally examine a fresh specimen if another turns up.

“I wish I had an answer,” she said. “We’re kind of at a loss.”

One possible explanation is these were, in fact, natural deaths.

Podcast host Dunning’s long-running show Skeptoid devoted an episode to debunking cattle mutilation in 2015. Dunning, who read the 28-page search warrant request, called the recent Crook County case typical of numerous accounts often attributed to aliens or satanic rituals.

“This is almost certainly the same kind of bird predation we’ve seen in so many similar cases,” he wrote to The Bulletin. “In my opinion, there is nothing here that suggests anything but normal and expected bird predation had occurred, and … no justification for a search warrant to seek out an apocryphal human responsible for the wounds.”

Dunning said he’s learned there’s actually a short window of time between when the animal dies and when its body is scavenged when it’s obvious what killed the animal.

“Most particularly birds, and also some insects, will always go first for the exposed soft tissue: eyes, tongue, lips and mouth area, genitals. The animal is dead with zero blood pressure so there is never significant bleeding from post mortem wounds. The body is in the process of drying and decaying, so skin pulls tight from around the excised area, giving the impression of a perfect surgical cut.”

Karlin is awaiting the results of liver and blood samples she’s sent away for lab testing. Police have sent hair samples to the state crime lab on the chance they don’t belong to the bovine.

Last year, the FBI in Oregon started receiving questions about cattle mutilations in Central and Eastern Oregon, according to Beth Anne Steele, spokesperson for the FBI Portland office. But despite sporadic media inquiries, the office does not have a current role in the cattle mutilation investigations, Steele wrote to The Bulletin.

Pedestrian Struck and Killed on Hwy 101 in Tillamook County

A pedestrian was struck and killed on Highway 101 in Tillamook County on Saturday, according to Oregon State Patrol.

Troopers responded to a report of a pedestrian struck near milepost Z49 at approximately 11:51 p.m.

According to an initial investigation, Quinten Hoptowit, 23, of Warm Springs, was lying in the roadway when he was struck by a vehicle driving northbound. The vehicle was described as a dark color crew cab pick-up with a short box, open bed and a broken side tail light.

The driver left the scene. Hoptowit was pronounced dead at the scene.

Anyone with information regarding this incident or the described vehicle is asked to call Oregon State Police Northern Command Center at 1-800-442-0776 or *OSP and leave information for Trooper Jace Huseby case # SP21-100770.

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