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, your local health and Medicare agents.
Wednesday, September 7, 2021
Klamath Basin Weather
Air Quality Alert
Red Flag Warning in effect from September 8, 2:00 PM until September 8, 07:00PM
Today Widespread smoke. Partly sunny, with a high near 91. Light south wind becoming southwest 8 to 13 mph in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 20 mph. Overnight, plenty of smoke, mostly cloudy, with a low around 56.
Thursday Patchy smoke. Mostly sunny, with a high near 89.
Friday Patchy smoke. Mostly sunny, with a high near 85.
Saturday Patchy smoke. Mostly sunny, with a high near 86.
There are 54 new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 3,326. Oregon Health Authority reported 5,821 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday, bringing the state total to 289,649.
The totals reflect data reported by local health officials over four days, between Sept. 3 and Sept.6. The number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 across Oregon is 1,140, which is 12 fewer than yesterday. There are 300 COVID-19 patients in intensive care unit (ICU) beds, which is 10 fewer than yesterday.
There were 65 new cases were reported in Klamath County during this time period. 458 new cases were announced in Jackson County.
Josephine County announces more deaths of COVID-19 patients
Josephine County now has a total of 161 COVID-19-related deaths. Of those patients, 160 died from complications relating to COVID-19 infections. Of the 161 COVID-19 patients who died, 141 were unvaccinated.
The new cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (33), Benton (56), Clackamas (453), Clatsop (27), Columbia (98), Coos (38), Crook (15), Curry (19), Deschutes (404), Douglas (421), Harney (12), Hood River (25), Jackson (439), Jefferson (28), Josephine (262), Klamath (65), Lake (2), Lane (647), Lincoln (77), Linn (302), Malheur (21), Marion (602), Morrow (24), Multnomah (772), Polk (71), Sherman (5), Tillamook (69), Umatilla (91), Union (57), Wallowa (19), Wasco (26), Washington (550), Wheeler (1) and Yamhill (90).
Sky Lakes Medical Center continues to report it is currently operating on “surge” status after indicating last week that it was experiencing some the worst numbers it has seen throughout the entire pandemic.
Sky Lakes said surge status means, “all resources are limited or exceeded resulting in admission delays, ER boarding, and possible limitations to providing lifesaving care to all who need it.” 17 patients are reported hospitalized with Covid, three of those in intensive care as of Monday. A
ll three in ICU are unvaccinated. All but three of the total are vaccinated.
Sky Lakes public information officer Tom Hottman said Sky Lakes has submitted a request to the state for additional assistance and resources, but as of yesterday, had received none. On the other side of the state, officials with Oregon Health and Science University say the state could be reaching the peak in COVID-19 hospitalizations. Based on their latest models, they say a peak could have come this weekend but they’re waiting to see whether the Labor Day weekend has brought a spike in cases.
Right now, OHSU officials say they’re operating at 95 percent capacity.
On August 13, Gov. Brown announced that state executive branch employees must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18. The mandate also pertains to workers in a variety of fields, from law enforcement to medical professionals. In Klamath County, nurses at Sky Lakes Medical Center and firefighters stationed at Kingsley Field Air National Guard Base in Klamath Falls are taking a public stand against the state vaccine mandate.
Friday, the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 3340-Kingsley Fire Fighters Association joined with the Fraternal Order of Police as well as nine Oregon State Police troopers, in a lawsuit filed in Jefferson County Circuit Court against Gov. Brown. The lawsuit hopes to stop the state’s enforcement of the vaccine mandate. While the firefighters union made it clear that it does not oppose vaccination, they believe there should be personal choice on the matter.
The mandate allows employees to apply for certain exemptions to getting the vaccine, and if accepted, those employees will be exempt and appropriately accommodated in their workplace.
In a related story, A spokesman for the Oregon State Police confirms that the agency has launched an investigation into possible violations of its policies after a trooper posted a video on Instagram vowing to defy the state’s mask and vaccine mandates. O
SP Trooper Zachary Kowing posted the video on Instagram at the end of August. Kowing, dressed in his uniform and seated in his police cruiser, vocally opposes both the state’s mask mandates and the requirement that educators, healthcare workers, and many state employees get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Kowing’s video went viral, particularly among groups already in opposition to the vaccine mandates and other COVID-19 countermeasures. OSP later confirmed that Kowing has been placed on administrative leave while an investigation determines whether he violated agency policy. OSP’s social media policy prohibits personnel from “making any statements, speeches, appearances, and endorsements, or publishing any materials, when such activities could reasonably be considered to represent the views or positions of this Department without authorization.”
In recent years, Oregon has become fertile ground for illegal marijuana grow sites, and law enforcement has now confirmed some in Klamath County have ties to international criminal organizations.
In most local cases, law enforcement has found illegal growers from out of state lease local properties, cultivate and produce marijuana, and then distribute it to other parts of the country — turning millions of dollars in profit. In the process, growers use tremendous amounts of water, acquired either by illegally taking it from area rivers and wells, or buying it from locals hoping to make a buck.
Grow sites can then be quickly abandoned — after the yield is harvested by migrant laborers — and landowners are left cleaning up the mess. The cycle continues each year with renewed vigor, and until recently there wasn’t much law enforcement could do about it. But earlier this week, a local consortium of law enforcement drug officials raided three grow sites.
Still, the size and remoteness of much of Klamath County means there are not enough resources to address the full weight of the issue.
The Bureau of Reclamation began releasing water from the Klamath River to Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge on Friday afternoon.
Advocates hope it will improve wetland habitat on the refuge for migrating birds this fall. Last week, California Waterfowl Association officially purchased approximately 3,750 acre-feet of water from Agency Ranch in the Wood River Valley, above Upper Klamath Lake, having announced the purchase and fundraising effort this spring.
Lower Klamath has been plagued by insufficient wetland habitat due to a lack of deliveries from the Klamath Project for the past 20 years. All wetland habitat on Lower Klamath is dry save for Unit 2, on the northwest part of the refuge. It contains Sheepy Lake, the last piece of open water on the refuge, which had been drying up all summer, stranding molting waterfowl and making them prone to predation by raccoons and coyotes. Water is now headed there through the Ady Canal. However, not all 3,750 acre-feet will enter the refuge this year.
Because the water right only allows for diversion through September 30 at a maximum rate per day, only about 700 acre-feet will be available to divert this summer. But CWA’s release said the full amount will be available in future years, and that it provides a proof of concept for other water rights holders who are interested in selling some of their water to help the refuge.
Visitation is winding down following one of Crater Lake National Park’s most unusual summers.
Despite many days of often extremely poor air quality, visitation has remained high, but generally below last year’s record-setting marks. After spring months when visitation neared record highs — numbers in March and April were the second and third highest in park history while May set a record with 56,746 — numbers increased significantly in the early summer.
June saw 95,515 visitors, the fifth highest, while July recorded 194,172 visits, the fourth highest. Visitation figures for August are not yet available but, according to Denniston “it was definitely quieter.”
In recent years August has been the park’s most active month, including an all-time record for any month of 222,368 visitors in 2020.
Two forms of visual art created by a pair of sisters is on display through September and October in the Klamath County Museum’s Modoc Gallery.
Dorothy Gale, a longtime art instructor in Klamath Falls, is exhibiting a collection of her paintings. Gale works in watercolor, pastel and pencil. Her style is realistic, focusing on animals, wildlife, still lifes and portraits.
Also on display are photos by Gale’s late sister, Linda Shingler, whose work focused on florals and patterns, with a particular interest in reflections. An opening reception will be held at the Museum, 1451 Main St., from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 11.
Around the state of Oregon
Joining Governor Kate Brown in a press briefing on Tuesday, Oregon Department of Education director Colt Gill outlined the agency’s latest efforts in response to the spread of COVID-19 throughout the state.
Rather than bringing any new mandates or restrictions, the new ODE strategy will include the issuing of periodic school health advisories “to maintain the continuity of instruction” and ensure that in-person learning can continue.
Educators are covered under Governor Brown’s vaccine mandate, and will be required to be fully vaccinated by October 18, and masks are required in Oregon schools for both students and staff.
The introduction of these advisories came with a raft of initial advisories, set to remain in effect from September 7 through October 1, unless otherwise updated:
The U.S. Forest Service will begin gathering 600 wild horses from the Devil’s Garden Plateau wild horse territory on Sept. 15.
The 2021 population census in the area counted 1,926 adult horses on and around the territory. Reducing overpopulation helps address unsustainable impacts on aquatic resources, wildlife, hunting, grazing and other traditional cultural practices, according to the USFS.
The Modoc National Forest has contracted Cattoor Livestock Roundups to conduct the gather. Due to the confined nature of viewing blinds, viewing of gather operations will be offered for two stakeholders a day on a first-come-first-served basis.
Please call 530-233-8738 to make an appointment.
It’s now been one year since the Almeda Fire burned north from Ashland and destroyed much of Talent and Phoenix, Oregon.
According to the Ashland Police Department, there are still no definitive answers in the investigation into how it started. Ashland Police has been the lead investigative agency on the case since the beginning, with help from the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, Oregon State Police, Medford Police, and consultation from the FBI.
According to APD, the investigation has included help from 18 different law enforcement agencies between Oregon, Washington, California, and Alabama.
More than 200 people have been interviewed over the course of the investigation, including multiple polygraph examinations.
The fire started around 11 a.m. that Wednesday near a subdivision on the north end of Ashland, not far from the Ashland BMX Park and city wastewater treatment plant. Buffeted by unusually strong, sustained winds, the fire raced northwest along the Bear Creek Greenway between I-5 and Highway 99, eventually expanding beyond the bounds of both and into the surrounding communities. Three people died in the Almeda Fire, two of them identified.
Governor Kate Brown issued a proclamation on Tuesday, marking September 7 as a day of remembrance for the wildfires that devastated multiple Oregon communities after Labor Day weekend of 2020.
While the Almeda, South Obenchain, and Slater fires of southern Oregon and northern California flared to life on September 8, some of the fires that would eventually march through several western Oregon communities were already burning prior to that day. The historic winds that lashed the region September 8 ultimately fueled much of the destruction.