Klamath Basin News, Wednesday, 8/11 – Brown Announces New Statewide Indoor Mask Requirements…Again

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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 Insuranceyour local health and Medicare agents.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Klamath Basin Weather

Heat Advisory in effect from August 11, 01:00PM until August 13, 09:00PM
Air Quality Alert

Today Widespread haze and areas of smoke, sunny and hot, with a high near 101.Overnight cloudy and a low around 64. 

Thursday Mostly sunny and hot, with a high near 99.
Friday Mostly sunny and hot, with a high near 99.
Saturday Mostly sunny and hot, with a high near 97.
Sunday Mostly sunny, with a high near 94.

Today’s Headlines

Brown orders safety measure to wear masks again, indoors at all businesses.

Governor Kate Brown late yesterday announced she will be issuing two new health and safety measures to address the spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations being driven by the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant: a vaccination requirement for state employees and statewide indoor mask requirements.

Governor Brown also announced she will be holding a press conference today to announce new statewide indoor mask requirements.

Brown says “Masks are a simple and effective way to make sure you are not unknowingly infecting your friends, family members, neighbors, and colleagues. After a year and a half of this pandemic, I know Oregonians are tired of health and safety restrictions. This new mask requirement will not last forever, but it is a measure that can save lives right now”.

Brown added: “Vaccines are safe and effective, and they are the surest way to prevent Oregonians from ending up in intensive care units.  I am taking action to help ensure State of Oregon workplaces are safe for employees and customers alike, and I am strongly encouraging all public and private employers to follow suit by requiring vaccination for their employees. The only way we can stop the spread of COVID-19 for good is through vaccination.”

All evacuation notices related to the Bootleg and Walrus fires were lifted Monday, as firefighters continued mop up and containment work on the fires.

For nearly two weeks, the size of the Bootleg Fire has remained unchanged at over 413,000 acres. Over the weekend, firefighters reached 96 percent containment. Grid and mop up work continues in the northeast area of the fire near Silver Creek, a press release stated.

Containment on both of the smaller burns on Bly Mountain — Walrus and Yainax — crept up over the weekend as well.

The 75-acre Walrus Fire is 65 percent contained, while the 84-acre Yainax Fire is 50 percent contained. The last evacuation notice for the Yainax Fire was lifted Saturday evening. Crews are “well into the mop-up phase” on both of those fires.

Firefighters have constructed containment lines and laid hose around both fires. The Oregon National Guard on the Bootleg  left the fire yesterday. Additionally, firefighters are removing pumps, hose and other suppression supplies no longer needed on the fire.

Several wildfires across Oregon and California, including locally, are contributing to periods of thick smoke and haze.

The wildfire smoke will continue to impact parts of the region this week and could become more widespread again next week. Air quality could be very bad at times in the days ahead. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued an air quality advisory on Tuesday for southern Oregon and eastern Lane and Linn counties due to unhealthy levels of smoke from fires in the Oregon Cascades and Northern California.

Other areas of the state may see intermittent smoke and haze, but likely will not experience prolonged periods of unhealthy smoke.

For southern Oregon, the advisory covers Curry, Josephine, Jackson, Klamath, Lake, and eastern Douglas counties. Unhealthy levels of smoke are expected to remain for the next several days, and DEQ said that the advisory could last until at least Friday afternoon.

The latest Covid numbers are troubling. There are nine new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 2,912. Oregon Health Authority reported 2,329 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of yesterday, bringing the state total to 232,436

The 2,329 cases reported today includes new cases that were reported to some counties over the weekend.

The number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 across Oregon is 635, which is 60 more than yesterday. This is the highest number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients that Oregon has recorded to date.

Klamath County reported 46 new cases just yesterday alone.

Around the state of Oregon

Responding to the ravages of COVID-19 in nursing homes, senior Democratic senators Tuesday introduced legislation to increase nurse staffing, improve infection control and bolster inspections.

The bill, from a group led by Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, is part of a broader overhaul of long-term care just getting started. Separately, President Joe Biden is seeking $400 billion to expand home and community based care as an alternative to nursing homes in the giant domestic agenda bill Democrats are pushing in Congress. His COVID relief law already provided a down payment. Nursing homes and long-term care facilities house a tiny proportion of the U.S. population but they’re estimated to account for about 3 in 10 deaths from COVID-19.

Vaccines have finally brought relief, dramatically reducing cases and deaths, but concerns remain. The Congressional Budget Office has not put a price tag on the bill, but it could reach tens of billions of dollars.

Meantime, following Multnomah County’s lead, the Lane County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to issue an emergency public health advisory calling on the public, businesses and employers to take immediate action against the Delta variant.

The order calls for indoor masking in shared spaces for all Lane County residents ages 5 and up; youth as young as 2 should be masked, if possible.

County Administrator Steve Mokrohisky said the county’s emergency public health advisory calls on businesses and individuals to “reinstate those practices that we had in place to start to slow – it is really the only tool we have aside from continued vaccination.”

The county also urges people to resume physical distancing from people outside their household and adhere to proper handwashing and sanitation.

Jackson County continues to break records for new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, with public health officials reporting at least 267 cases on Tuesday, a new record.

Hospitalizations for patients infected with the virus also continued to rise locally, hitting unprecedented levels. Jackson County’s last daily record was set less than two weeks ago on July 30, with 188 cases.

Across hospitals in Jackson and Josephine counties, Oregon’s Region 5, officials reported 136 people hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Tuesday morning. Of those people, 38 were in an intensive care unit and 14 were on a ventilator. Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center is also dealing with an outbreak of the virus among staff, with more than 60 cases linked to the medical center since early July. A sampling of these cases were sent out for genomic sequencing, and the Oregon Health Authority said that all were identified as the Delta variant.

About 64 percent of Asante employees are unvaccinated.

Also, Governor Kate Brown also says she supports the decision by Multnomah County to require masks in public indoor spaces.  

Brown says local governments are now in control of how they handle the pandemic, and she’s urging local leaders to take action to institute mask requirements.  Brown says there’s a limited number of hospital beds, and if local leaders don’t act and hospital beds become full, she’ll consider statewide health measures to stop the Delta variant from spreading.

Governor Kate Brown on Tuesday issued a state of emergency declaration stretching from August 10 through 20 as much of the region braces for a return of triple-digit temperatures.

A similar heatwave in late June resulted in the deaths of 116 people. With the emergency declaration, state agencies are activated to help local and Tribal governments in providing for the health and safety of their residents — not just for the direct impacts of heat, but for potential hits to critical infrastructure like utility outages and transportation disruptions.

Brown’s office said that she has directed the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) to activate the state’s Emergency Coordination Center to coordinate “essential protective measures,” and requested that state agencies provide any assistance requested by OEM to support the response.

Here in  southern Oregon, cities are working to open cooling shelters once more so that people without anywhere else to go can get a break from the heat. Shelters in Medford and Talent will be open at least into the weekend, but Josephine County is still looking for help from community organizations to open a similar shelter.

So far, 19,957 Oregonians have enrolled in health coverage since the COVID-19 special enrollment period started April 1, 2021.

The special enrollment period ends Aug. 15, 2021, and is open to all people who qualify to shop. People throughout Oregon are finding that substantial savings are waiting for them through the Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace.

Anyone not currently enrolled in health coverage can apply and enroll by Aug. 15 to get health coverage with these extra savings for the rest of 2021. No one who enrolls through the Marketplace will pay more than 8.5 percent of their income towards their monthly health coverage premium.

Current Marketplace enrollees can log in to their HealthCare.gov account and update their information to receive the additional savings now available thanks to the American Rescue Plan. If you don’t take action, the system may automatically redetermine the amount of financial assistance you receive on Sept. 1, using information most recently given in the HealthCare.gov application.

Employers now have a free and flexible resource to help them comply with rules aimed at protecting workers from wildfire smoke, thanks to an interactive online training course developed by Oregon OSHA.

The course – Wildfire Smoke Training Requirements – is designed to help employers meet certain training requirements found in Oregon OSHA’s emergency temporary rule, which addresses wildfire smoke in the The temporary rule addressing wildfire smoke took effect Aug. 9 and will remain in effect for 180 days.

The rule requires employers to comply with employee training provisions by Aug. 16. They must do so for employees who may be exposed to wildfire smoke where the ambient air concentration for fine particulate matter (also known as PM2.5) is at or above an Air Quality Index (AQI) 101, which is unhealthy for sensitive groups.

Moreover, employers must ensure workers who may be exposed to AQI 101 have been trained in a manner and language they understand. The training requirement applies unless the employer predetermines that operations involving wildfire smoke exposure will be suspended before employees are exposed to an AQI 101.

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