Klamath Basin News, Friday, 10/22 – New Covid Cases Troubling for Klamath County; Sky Lake Medical Center Consistently at Capacity Every Day

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Friday, October 22, 2021

Klamath Basin Weather

Today Rain before 8am, then showers, mainly between 8am and 11am. High near 52. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New precipitation amounts between a quarter and half of an inch possible. Overnight a 50% of showers with a low of 36.

Saturday Rain much of the day. High near 49. Overnight low around 37. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New precipitation amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch possible.
Sunday Rain. High near 51.
Monday Showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 50.
Tuesday Showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 50.

Today’s Headlines

Oregon reports 1,407 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 40 new deaths

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (10), Benton (29), Clackamas (108), Clatsop (1), Columbia (16), Coos (31), Crook (40), Curry (2), Deschutes (146), Douglas (46), Gilliam (1), Grant (5), Harney (16), Hood River (5), Jackson (75), Jefferson (15), Josephine (15), Klamath (67), Lake (6), Lane (113), Lincoln (8), Linn (49), Malheur (22), Marion (98), Morrow (4), Multnomah (190), Polk (37), Tillamook (5), Umatilla (50), Union (11), Wallowa (3), Wasco (10), Washington (144) and Yamhill (29). 

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are down in Oregon over the last week, but the number of deaths is up.

The Oregon Health Authority released that assessment yesterday. The agency says 183 people died with COVID-19 over the last week, which is the highest weekly death toll since January. New cases declined eleven-percent, and hospitalizations were down nine-percent. The number of positive COVID-19 tests dropped to seven-point-six percent. Health officials want that number to be below five-percent.

Though Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have been steadily dropping statewide since the Delta variant surge in August and September, Sky Lakes Medical Center reports that it has been consistently at capacity, in part due to the number of COVID-19 patients, halfway through the third full week of October.

As of Wednesday morning, Sky Lakes reported having 25 total COVID-19 patients — 19 hospitalized in non-ICU beds, and 6 in intensive care. Just two of the non-ICU patients are considered fully vaccinated against coronavirus. The other 23 patients, including all the intensive care patients, were unvaccinated.

Sky Lakes is not a particularly large hospital. Public information officer Tom Hottman said that they currently have overall patient numbers in the 80s or 90s, so the COVID-19 patients account for a quarter or more of the total patient population.

Unlike their neighbors in Jackson and Josephine counties, the number of daily COVID-19 patients at Sky Lakes since the beginning of October simply hasn’t dropped — if anything, it has gone up slightly since the end of September.

Hottman indicated that this tracks with the number of positive COVID-19 tests that Sky Lake sees every day, which has plateaued somewhere between the upper 40s and lower 50s each day.

Oregon’s death toll from COVID-19 will jump by roughly 550 in the coming weeks due to a “technical error” that kept some fatalities from the notice of state epidemiologists, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

As of Wednesday’s daily OHA report, 4,235 people in Oregon had died due to COVID-19. OHA said that most of the unreported deaths occurred between May and August of this year. The state’s reporting of coronavirus-related deaths is generally done manually by reconciling death records and case records, but OHA said that it has been working to automate the process — resulting in “periodic backlogs” that account for the report on Thursday.

Oregon has had the sixth lowest death rate from COVID-19 in the nation, but OHA said that this dramatic increase in deaths will likely push the state down past several other states. OHA attributed the state’s comparatively low mortality rate to vaccinations, mask wearing, and other measures that Oregonians have adopted “to a greater extent than residents of many other states.”

After more than five months, the 2021 fire season will come to a merciful end on Friday for both Klamath and Lake counties.

Fire management personnel from the Oregon Department of Forestry, Klamath-Lake District and Walker Range Patrol Association plan to declare the end of the 2021 season at 12:01 a.m. on October 22. The area has been in “fire season” since May 15. The ending of fire season lifts the ban on open debris burning in both Klamath and Lake counties.

Logging operation requirements — including watchman services and fire equipment on site — that had been in effect on private, county, and state lands have also been lifted.

A special personal use firewood cutting area is now open on the Chiloquin Ranger District of the Fremont-Winema National Forest.

The Fort personal use firewood piles area includes numerous firewood piles on identified landing sites located on the Forest northwest of Chiloquin.

The piles are the result of timber operations within the Two Four Two Fire area. Firewood cutters must have a valid personal use firewood permit and a copy of the cutting area map to cut and gather firewood from the piles in this area.

Permits are available for $5 per cord, with a minimum purchase of four cords for $20. Each household may purchase up to eight cords per year. Permits expire on December 31.

Permits and maps are available by contacting Fremont-Winema National Forest offices. The Fort piles area will be open until wet weather and snow prevents access. Access is only permitted while roads are dry enough that rutting doesn’t occur. Users may be cited for damage if they cause rutting on roads. Vehicles are restricted to Forest Service Roads and firewood cutting in this special firewood cutting area is restricted to landing piles only. Cutting of standing, dead trees is strictly prohibited.

Oregon State Police arrested two California men just outside of Klamath Falls earlier this week after discovering that they were smuggling methamphetamine north through Oregon, according to the agency.

On Tuesday afternoon shortly before 2:30 p.m., an OSP trooper pulled over the driver of a blue Honda civic northbound on Highway 97 between the Klamath River and Highway 140 for an undisclosed traffic violation.

OSP said that the trooper saw “signs of criminal activity” during the stop and developed probable cause for a search. During the search, the trooper found an ice chest with a false bottom, concealing four pounds of suspected methamphetamine. The agency said that at OSP drug detection K-9 helped at the scene.

Troopers arrested two men, driver 37-year-old Antonio Nicolas Navarro-Medica of Gilroy, California, and passenger 49-year-old Trinidad Rodriguez of San Jose, California. Both were charged with possession and delivery of methamphetamine.

LAKEVIEW, OR — The Fremont-Winema National Forest is removing or replacing toilet facilities at several sites in Lake and Klamath counties in the coming weeks.

Work started this week to remove the vault toilet at Aspen Cabin on the Lakeview Ranger District and replace it with a new vault toilet.  That work is expected to be completed early next week.

Work at Spring Creek Day Use Area and Campground on the Chiloquin Ranger District is expected to start around October 26 and be completed by October 29.  The flush toilet at the day use area is being replaced with a new vault toilet and all above ground infrastructure is being removed at the campground.  The campground has been decommissioned for more than 10 years and this is the final step to reclaim and restore the site.

The final sites are located on the Klamath Ranger District.

Rocky Point Boat Launch will be the next priority, starting work October 29 and completing replacement of the vault toilet by November 2.

Finally, work will be done at Great Meadows Sno Park to remove the existing vault toilets November 3 through 4.

Most of the recreation sites are closed for the season.  There will be barricades installed at Rocky Point Boat Launch to close the site while work is occurring.  Area residents and visitors are advised to avoid these areas while work is being done. 

Great Meadows Sno Park is the only site that is still open for the season.  The east side of the parking lot will not be accessible, but the work should not impact access to most of the site.

All work is expected to be complete by Friday, November 5.  The work is being done through a contractor and is a coordinated effort across the Forest to complete these four projects efficiently.  The four projects have been in various stages of planning and funding approval over the past several years.

Around the state of Oregon

State of Oregon Significantly Increases Child Care Assistance for Working Families

New Information to know

  • Child care copays through the Employment Related Day Care program have decreased to an average of $16 per month for working families.
  • Approximately 8,200 working families receive child care assistance through the Employment Related Day Care program.
  • Working families can apply for child care assistance and other government supports at One.Oregon.Gov

(Salem) – Finding affordable, quality child care has long been a struggle for families, and the pandemic has only made this situation worse. Working families who participate in the Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS), Employment Related Day Care Program (ERDC) will see their child care costs significantly decrease, making child care more accessible across the state.  

ERDC helps eligible working families pay for child care, including registration and enrollment fees. ERDC is a subsidy program, which means some families, depending on their income, may be required to pay a copay. 

These changes will support working families by: 

  • Decreasing the average family copay to $16 per month.
  • Reducing the family copay to $0 for families who make 100% or less of the federal poverty level (an annual income of $21,960 for a family of three).
  • Limiting family copays to no more than $130 a month.

“For many families the cost of child care can be a barrier to entering and staying connected to the workforce,” said Dan Haun, director of the ODHS Self-Sufficiency Programs. “This copay decrease will support working families across Oregon as they continue to deal with the many challenges facing families in today’s world.”

These changes are effective for families renewing or applying for the ERDC program on or after Oct. 1, 2021. 

From March 2020 through September 2021, the federal government temporarily permitted ODHS to offer $0 copay child care assistance to families participating in the ERDC program during the COVID-19 pandemic. These temporary COVID-19 changes expired on Sept. 30, 2021. 

Prior to the temporary COVID-19 copay changes, the average family copay was approximately $250. The lowest possible monthly family copay was $27. 

In addition to copay reductions, the Early Learning Division (ELD) has been using federal relief funds to provide grants directly to child care providers to stabilize our existing child care supply and help providers stay in business.

“We know that access to quality, affordable child care that meets families’ needs continues to be out of reach for many families across the state,” said Alyssa Chatterjee, Early Learning System Director of the Early Learning Division.  “Reducing the copays for eligible families will not only allow more families to find care, but also provide additional stability for our child care providers who accept subsidies.”

Working families who earn 185% of the federal poverty level, or $40,626 annually for a family of three, may be eligible to enroll in the ODHS Employment Related Day Care program. 

Oregonians can apply online for Employment Related Day Care Assistance and other government supports online at One.Oregon.Gov or by phone at 1-800-699-9075 or TTY 711.

The copay reduction is made possible by additional funding provided by the federal government through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act; the 2021 Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act; the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021; and the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Child Care Development Fund. 

Resources to help meet basic needs

The Oregon Department of Human Services, Self-Sufficiency Programs operates the Employment Related Day Care program. The Employment Related Day Care program helps working families pay for child care, including registration and enrollment fees. It also works with partners statewide, including the Early Learning Division, to help families find quality child care. — Oregon Department of Human Services

Douglas County Follows Jackson County’s Call for Emergency Help Due to Illegal Marijuana Grows

It turns out that when Oregon voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2014, southern Oregon saw a surge of illegal marijuana farms posing as legal hemp farms. The Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission recently reported that nearly 50% of registered hemp farms inspected by the state grow marijuana with THC content above the legal limits.

Legalizing recreational marijuana was always bound to cause unintended consequences, including more traffic accidents, addiction, and worse mental health issues. But Southern Oregon has added another downside to the list: severe water shortages.

With marijuana “legal” in Oregon now, these illegal farms operate with near impunity next to Oregon’s highly regulated marijuana market. And now that Western states have been hit with a drought, these illegal farmers are illegally stealing water from the surrounding creeks and wells that legal fruit and nut farmers have been using for generations. One illegal cannabis farm recently raided by authorities was illegally drawing water from the Illinois River to feed over 72,000 marijuana plants.

It has gotten so bad that last week the Jackson County Board of Commissioners has declared a state of emergency warning of “an imminent threat to the public health and safety of our citizens from the illegal production of cannabis in our county.” It has asked the governor for more resources to address the problem since the Oregon Water Resources Department only has four full-time employees dedicated to handling complaints in Jackson County.

The governor has since promised help from the state police. “These are criminal enterprises that deplete water resources while our state is in drought, hold their workforce in inhumane conditions, and severely harm our legal cannabis marketplace,” a spokesman from the governor’s office told reporters.

The Douglas County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously on Wednesday to declare a state of emergency over illegal marijuana operations too.

In a letter, the commissioners said more than 300,000 cannabis plants have been confiscated and destroyed in the county this year alone. A decade ago, 100,000 was reportedly a “big year.”

These illegal operations have an impact on waterways and jeopardize public health and safety, according to the commissioners.

“This is important work for us to do! The amount of calls and concerns that our office receives regarding illegal marijuana growing operations is staggering. When residents call in, they are scared. They are scared about where they live, afraid of what’s going on around them and in many cases, they are afraid to leave their homes. Nobody in our county should ever have to live in fear!” said Commissioner Tim Freeman.

Among the issues cited in the letter are:

  • Possible poor working conditions, unfair treatment and lack of pay for workers
  • Chemicals associated with marijuana production ending up in rivers and creeks
  • Garbage and hazardous materials leaching into soil and streams and creating a haven for rodents and disease
  • Known ties to large drug cartels in the US and Mexico

Commissioners also claimed that while the passage of Ballot Measure 91, which legalized recreational marijuana in Oregon, was meant to weaken the grip of cartels, the situation has only worsened.

Along with the declaration, commissioners are pushing for help from the state to provide enough personnel or funding to employ enough personnel to enforce drug laws, as local resources are reportedly being spread thin. They also are asking for the Oregon National Guard to be called in to assist.

The declaration will be in effect through Dec. 20 next year unless rescinded or extended

The Washington State Attorney General is filing a lawsuit against a Corvallis, Oregon company accused of illegally using robocalls to sell a robocall-blocking service.

Global Grid Telecom is accused of making over 54-thousand calls to Washington residents with 46-thousand calls to numbers on the Do Not Call registry. One person received 23 calls. The company was selling a service to CenturyLink customers that was already available from CenturyLink.

The lawsuit seeks to return money to Washingtonians who paid for the service.

Gov. Kate Brown has commuted the sentences of more than 70 people convicted of felonies while juveniles, but the action doesn’t automatically mean they are about to be released.

The governor’s commutations earlier this week granted some adults in custody who committed serious crimes as juveniles the opportunity to appear before the Oregon State Board of Parole and Post Prison Supervision to argue for their release after 15 years in prison, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported Thursday.

The list includes people convicted between 1988 and 2019 for crimes such as murder, assault, rape and manslaughter while juveniles. A 2019 bill made changes to the mandatory minimum sentences for minors sentenced on or after Jan. 1, 2020.

While the legislation was not retroactive, Brown’s commutations effectively apply part of Senate Bill 1008 — known as a second-look hearing — to the list of 70 people currently in prison.

Gov. Brown Commutes Sentences of 70 People Convicted When Juveniles

Gov. Brown has commuted the sentences of more than 70 people convicted of felonies while juveniles, but the action doesn’t automatically mean they are about to be released.

The governor’s commutations earlier this week granted some adults in custody who committed serious crimes as juveniles the opportunity to appear before the Oregon State Board of Parole and Post Prison Supervision to argue for their release after 15 years in prison.

The list includes people convicted between 1988 and 2019 for crimes such as murder, assault, rape and manslaughter while juveniles.

A 2019 bill made changes to the mandatory minimum sentences for minors sentenced on or after Jan. 1, 2020. While the legislation was not retroactive, Brown’s commutations effectively apply part of Senate Bill 1008 — known as a second-look hearing — to the list of 70 people currently in prison.

Warning of Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Tainted Onions

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned people Wednesday to check their vegetables after more than 650 people were diagnosed with salmonella linked to onions imported from Mexico.

Cases were reported in 37 states with at least 158 cases in Texas alone. Two people had become ill in Oregon as of Thursday, officials said.

Still, the CDC recommended everyone, businesses and consumers alike, check their onions. The outbreak has been linked to red, yellow and white onions from the brand Prosource Inc. originating in Mexico.

If any onions in your home or business have packaging indicating they are from Prosource and originated in Mexico, throw them away, the CDC said. If you are unable to tell the brand and source of the onions, play it safe and toss them anyway.

Officials also said to wash any surfaces or containers the onions may have come in contact with using hot, soapy water.

Symptoms of salmonella include diarrhea, stomach cramps and fever, which can begin anywhere from six hours to six days after consuming tainted food.

The CDC recommended contacting your doctor if you experience severe diarrhea with a fever over 102 degrees, diarrhea for three days or longer or bloody diarrhea. Other concerning symptoms include vomiting and dehydration.

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