Klamath Basin News, Tuesday, 11/30 – Rite-Aid Pharmacy Closed Indefinitely in Klamath Falls; Santa’s Reindeer To Appear at Coastal, Thursday 2PM-6PM, Dec. 2nd

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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Klamath Basin Weather

Today Sunny, with a high near 58. Overnight, mostly clear, with a low around 30. 

Wednesday Sunny, with a high near 61. Light and variable wind.
Thursday Sunny, with a high near 59.
Friday Mostly sunny, with a high near 56.
Saturday Mostly sunny, with a high near 53.

Today’s Headlines

Customers of the Klamath Falls Rite Aid pharmacy are out of luck after the pharmacy announced they will be closed indefinitely, though the store remains open for business.

Some customers are confused because even though the pharmacy is closed for undisclosed reasons, some customers are getting automated phone messages telling them their prescription is ready to be picked up. The pharmacy closed on Thanksgiving Day and has been closed since then.

Repeated calls and e-mails to Rite Aid headquarters were not returned to clarify what a patient should do if they need their script refilled.

Coastal Farm and Ranch store has teamed up with Purina to bring Santa’s reindeer to Klamath Falls on Thursday, December 2.

The annual family-friendly event runs 2-6 p.m. at Coastal and is free and open to the public. Complimentary hot cocoa and candy canes will be served, and Santa will also be accompanying his reindeer for the four-hour event.

“This is one of our most popular events and we were heartbroken last year when we couldn’t bring the reindeer to local kids,” says Coastal President Lori McKinnon. “We are so excited to bring them back and hope this event will make everyone’s holiday merry and bright.”

When these reindeer aren’t working with Santa, they can be found at Timberview Farm, located in Springfield, Oregon.

More details can be found at  CoastalCountry.com/about/events. Coastal’s store is located at 1776 Avalon Street in Klamath Falls.

Oregon reports 2,598 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 27 new deaths

There are 27 new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 5,142. The Oregon Health Authority reported 2,598 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 390,066.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (17), Benton (32), Clackamas (300), Clatsop (29), Columbia (54), Coos (27), Crook (22), Curry (9), Deschutes (282), Douglas (87), Gilliam (1), Grant (2), Harney (2), Hood River (6), Jackson (136), Jefferson (25), Josephine (77), Klamath (23), Lake (1), Lane (177), Lincoln (35), Linn (123), Malheur (6), Marion (230), Morrow (1), Multnomah (417), Polk (28), Tillamook (20),Umatilla (11), Union (18), Wallowa (7), Wasco (1), Washington (340) and Yamhill (52). 

The number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 across Oregon is 396, which is 21 more than yesterday. There are 91 COVID-19 patients in intensive care unit (ICU) beds, with no change from yesterday. 

There are 68 available adult ICU beds out of 679 total (10% availability) and 368 available adult non-ICU beds out of 4,092 (9% availability). 

The total number of patients in hospital beds may fluctuate between report times.

Oregon has now administered 3,568,720 doses of Pfizer Comirnaty, 64,464 doses of Pfizer pediatric, 2,245,750 doses of Moderna and 286,453 doses of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines. 

As of today, 2,942,427 people have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 2,655,974 people have completed a COVID-19 vaccine series. 

Here’s what we know today about Omicron

The news of the Omicron variant emerging in several countries may cause many people anxiety about the unknown. The news comes on top of pandemic fatigue, as cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue, and as we continue to deal with nearly two year’s worth of disruptions to our daily lives. 

And while it may feel like we are back at square one, we are not. We now have highly effective tools to protect ourselves and our loved ones from infection. 

Read this complete story at Oregon Vaccine News

Graphic repeats information in the full article on what we know about the new Omicron variant.

The Oregon Employment Department reports this holiday season that Oregon’s healthcare and social assistance providers are hiring “at an unprecedented rate.”

OED says about 15,000 job vacancies in Oregon’s healthcare community are causing “an urgent, statewide need to fill health care and other positions that support the healthcare industry, like food service, facilities, and business administration.”

Officials at several major healthcare providers in southern Oregon have underlined that there has been a shortage of skilled workers in the industry for years.

The stress and upheaval of the Covid-19 pandemic and the state’s vaccine mandate for healthcare workers has only exacerbated that shortage. In September, Providence Health & Services began a major hiring push, offering bonuses and other incentives for both new recruits and caregivers who remained with the company.

OED says its WorkSource Oregon can help connect employers and qualified applicants interested in the health care field. It says its WorkSource Oregon centers are open and taking appointments to provide one-on-one help with job applicants.

WorkSource offices are available in Medford, Grants Pass, Klamath Falls, Brookings and Roseburg.

A virtual tour of selected graves in Linkville Pioneer Cemetery will be offered via Zoom at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 2.

The presentation will recap a “Night at the Cemetery” tour of the graveyard presented in October by the Klamath County Museum. The theme of this year’s cemetery tour is “Lives cut short – tragedy and foul play at Linkville.” Each of the historical figures to be reviewed had their lives cut short by illness, accidents or violence. Examples include toddlers who died from illness or drowning, two ranch women who were murdered, and a bank president who took his own life.

To sign up for the presentation on Zoom, send a request to bill.lewis1960@gmail.com. For more information contact the Klamath County Museum at 541-882-1000.

Around the state of Oregon

For the Oregon Department of Forestry’s wildland firefighters, summer is showtime and winter is a slow time — but for their comrades at the Oregon Department of Transportation, the seasons are flipped.

As a result, the two agencies partner up on a joint staffing program known as “Fire and Ice,” sharing staff when they’re needed.

The program has been going on since the 1980s, with the goal of retaining experienced employees while providing opportunities in career advancement, leadership, and relationship building. The positions covered by the program respond to dangerous situations in extreme conditions no matter the season, and Griffin says that it’s ideal to have consistency season to season and year to year.

Right now, the program gives ODOT much-needed hands as they suffer from a shortage in staff needed to maintain roadways. Nine ODF firefighters are working as winter road maintenance specialists this winter, covering jobs from driving snowplows to operating equipment that de-ices or sands roadways. In late spring, these firefighters will return to ODF to resume fire suppression work in Jackson and Josephine counties.

Though the firefighters currently working with ODOT will help to bridge the staffing gap, state officials warn that the shortage could still result in longer timeframes for clearing roads, so travelers are encouraged to plan accordingly.

Medford School District to Lobby Governor Brown For Greater Local Control Of Covid-19 Rules

The Medford School District is going to take another bid for local control of coronavirus countermeasures in school after getting the go-ahead to remove outdoor masking requirements last week.

MSD Superintendent Dr. Bret Champion told reporters on Monday that while the end of outdoor masking was a positive step and one that the District implemented immediately, administrators were hoping for a more significant relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions.

“We’re grateful for the outdoor mask thing, appreciative that test-to-stay is a thing, but we would want it to go a step further and allow us to work with our local health department to talk about what other next steps might be,” Champion said.

Alongside the lifting of outdoor mask requirements, the Oregon Department of Education introduced “test to stay” last Tuesday. It gives unvaccinated students or staff who were exposed to Covid-19 at school the option of getting tested twice during the seven days following that exposure, avoiding the required week-long quarantine period if they test negative on both occasions.

Dr. Champion expressed frustration with the test to stay rules, which do not provide the same option for unvaccinated students or staff who were exposed outside of school. Exposures on school grounds during school hours have been uncommon, Champion said, and the test to stay option is thus not very useful.

“As it stands right now, if we’ve got a kid who was a direct contact at a sporting event or practice, we don’t get to use test to stay,” Champion said. “We would love to talk to Jackson County Public Health about being able to do that, but right now we can’t. The state says ‘nope’ — it only applies to this incredibly narrow, incredibly narrow group of kids who get exposed at school. A sporting event is not considered at school.”

The ODE rules say that the extracurricular exposure is excepted because masking is optional outside of school, and “the risk of transmission within the cohort is greater.”

“I believe the best decisions are made locally, with local input, local data, and local conversations with folks who are charged with our particular context,” Champion said. “Trying to make a singular decision for the entire state of Oregon is sometimes very necessary, and I don’t disrespect that at all.

“We have now been at the Covid thing since March of 2020, we’re coming up on over 18 months, about to be two years come March, and we have managed to handle Covid mitigation strategies incredibly well in the Medford School District with our local health department.”

Champion confirmed that there is a draft letter requesting more local autonomy in the works, though it has not yet been adopted by the school board or sent to the state.

The Medford School District pushed back against Governor Kate Brown and state officials in early August after all K-12 schools were placed under a mask mandate, but ultimately complied with the mandate. MSD was one of several local districts lobbying Governor Brown for local control, but the protests faded away as the Delta variant spread rapidly and Jackson County became a locus for cases and hospitalizations in the state of Oregon.

In an update on Monday, Jackson County Public Health reported that there were 243 new Covid-19 cases last week, marking a 36% decrease from the week prior. Statewide weekly cases were down 25% last week, the lowest level since July. 

This continued progress was overshadowed somewhat by the news of a new “variant of concern” on the horizon, Omicron, which was first identified in South Africa but has since been detected in multiple other countries.

“It is important to be aware that there is a new variant of concern, but it is too early to know the implications this new variant may have,” said Dr. Jim Shames, Health Officer for Jackson County Public Health. “We want to encourage people that there are actions that everyone can take to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Assuring that you are fully vaccinated and taking known precautions, such as wearing a mask, are the best initial strategies that everyone can take.”

Among adults, Jackson County’s vaccination rate was just over 66% as of Monday. Its overall vaccination rate, including all ages, was just above 57%.

Police Seek Public’s Help: Myrtle Creek woman, 77, missing since early Saturday morning

Police made a public appeal for help locating a woman who left home early Saturday morning and hasn’t been heard from since.

Myrtle Creek Police say Bonnie Jo Short, 77, left her residence around 1:30 a.m. on Nov. 27, 2021. She is about 5-foot-4 and weighs around 110 pounds with grey hair and brown eyes. She was last seen wearing blue slacks, a grey and black striped sweatshirt, black boots and a grey robe.

Short was driving a silver 2015 Ford Escape bearing Oregon license plate 900MLJ.

“It is unknown where Bonnie may have gone, and her cell phone appears to be shut off,” police said. “If you have any information regarding Bonnie’s whereabouts or have seen her vehicle, please contact the Myrtle Creek Police Department immediately at 541-440-4471.”

OSP Find Cocaine Worth Hundreds Of Thousands Of Dollars In Dog Crate

Oregon State Police say they found drugs inside a dog crate on Monday in Marion County. Its estimated street value is $228,000.

Courtesy- OSP

At around 11:00 a.m., a trooper stopped a van traveling northbound on Interstate 5 for a traffic violation. During the stop, the trooper observed signs of criminal activity.

The driver of the van gave consent to have their van searched. OSP K-9 Titan was used and found the presence of controlled substances he’s trained to detect.

Six kilograms of cocaine were found in the back of the van hidden inside the dog crate. The driver was identified as 63-year-old Humberto Alzarez Plascencia of Chino, California.

Disputes over payment for car repairs can sometimes cost vehicle owners and auto mechanics money, time and in some situations the car itself.

The 2021 Oregon Legislature passed a law to create some financial breathing space for these disputes under House Bill 2311. The new law will take effect Jan. 1, 2022.

Car owners don’t need to do anything, but automobile repair businesses need to prepare. Under current Oregon law, if an auto repair business does not receive payment for repairs to a vehicle, it has the right to apply for a possessory lien through DMV and to sell the vehicle to recover its costs.

This “mechanic’s lien” is based on Oregon Revised Statute 87.152. Under HB 2311, as of Jan. 1, 2022, auto mechanics must first have a surety bond or an irrevocable letter of credit in the amount of $20,000 filed with DMV before they can apply for a mechanic’s lien. This protects vehicle owners in case a mechanic’s lien is found to be invalid.

As of Jan. 1, DMV will not accept mechanic’s lien applications without the bond or letter.

Researchers Ask Oregonians To Take Photos To Help Document Sea-Level Rise During King Tide Event

The Oregon Coast is set to experience higher-than-normal tides this weekend, and researchers are asking Oregonians to take photos to help document sea-level rise as climate change worsens.

From Friday through Sunday, the Oregon Coast will be experiencing some of the highest tides of winter, known as king tides. King tides occur when the moon, earth, and the sun align at the closest points to each other, leading to enough gravitational pull to create larger-than-usual tides.

The Oregon King Tides Project is asking anyone with a camera to safely take and share pictures of the king tides, which can add about 3 feet to average tides. The resulting photo collection will help document and inform researchers on the impacts of sea-level rise, flooding, and erosion — all of which are becoming worse as global warming continues to play out.

The continued burning of fossil fuels is creating greenhouse gas emissions that are contributing to climate change. Those greenhouse gases are trapped in the atmosphere, raising average temperatures and in turn, melting glaciers and ice sheets around the world. That is adding more water to the ocean and increasing sea levels. The Pacific Island nations are already experiencing significant damage from sea-level rise.

The Oregon Coastal Management Program is one of two organizations involved with the Oregon King Tides Project. Coastal Shores Specialist Meg Reed said documenting king tides now gives us a glimpse of what we can expect for the future as climate change worsens and be better prepared.

“They can have big impacts on communities,” she said. “They can create erosion, flooding, have impacts to the natural infrastructure as well as human infrastructure and it’s important to look at those impacts and see how we can start adapting as a community to sea-level rise.”

She said king tides create the highest of high tides and the lowest of low tides, and they are predictable—which makes it a perfect opportunity to learn more about sea-level rise in our region.

“With sea-level rise, we just expect the same hazards that we already experience on the coast to get worse,” Reed said. “So potentially those flooding and erosion events that we already experience will maybe become more frequent will happen more often in the winter or they might become more extreme.”

Reed said some areas of concern are places like Rockaway Beach which experiences lots of flooding during a king tide event, as well as downtown Nehalem. Other areas include oceanfront properties and even areas like airports and railroads that are low-lying are areas of concern.

Vehicles were wading to get through the intersection of highway 101 and 7th Street. Taken at the peak of the King Tide Saturday Nov. 6, 2021.
Vehicles were wading to get through the intersection of Highway 101 and 7th Street. Taken at the peak of a king tide on Nov. 6, 2021.Tyler Sloan / Oregon King Tides Project

Right now, the Oregon Coastal Management Program is currently working on a sea-level rise planning guide for coastal cities to begin to think about how cities, residents and businesses can begin to adapt to sea-level rise and move those projects forward.

Short-term options include putting up structural measures like seawalls or riprap. Other options include preventing certain types of development from being built in hazardous areas and proactively removing structures that are on the coastline if possible.

The Oregon King Tides Project photo account currently has more than 3,000 images. Residents can submit their photos on the Oregon King Tides Project website. The project is a collaboration between the Department of Land Conservation and Development’s Oregon Coastal Management Program and the Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition.

Police in Washington County are using bait packages in an attempt to catch so-called “porch pirates” this holiday season.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office says it’s working with volunteer residents who have previously been victimized by package thieves to carry out the sting. The packages are placed on the volunteers’ doorsteps and include a normal product along with a GPS tracking device that allows police to track anyone who steals it.

A man is facing several charges following a police pursuit in Springfield.

Police say an officer was patrolling near 42nd and Main Street early yesterday morning when they noticed a car driving carelessly and tried to pull it over. Police say the driver refused to pull over, leading to a car chase that ended when police disabled the driver’s vehicle in the parking lot of International Paper. The driver then allegedly got out of the car and fled on foot into a nearby cattle field.

Police brought in a K-9 unit to track him down and arrest him. Police identify the suspect as 36-year-old Trask Austin Phelps.

A large sea lion is safely back in the water after wandering through a neighborhood in Lincoln City, Oregon Friday evening.

Police and firefighters named her Tiffany and used fish donated by a local market in an attempt to lure her back to a nearby river, but she refused to budge. They got pieces of plywood and formed a corral to slowly move her back to the river where she waited for high tide.

It’s rare for sea lions to travel so far from the water, but there have been other instances in the Northwest when it’s happened.

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