Klamath Basin News, Monday, 1/17 – Martin Luther King Jr. Day; 173rd Fighter Wing Members Deployed to Assist at Oregon Hospitals

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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.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Klamath Basin Weather

Today, M.L.King Day Mostly sunny, with a high near 47. Overnight, cloudy with a low around 26.

Tuesday Mostly sunny, with a high near 47.
Wednesday Partly sunny, with a high near 46. Calm wind.
Thursday Mostly sunny, with a high near 51.
Friday Mostly sunny, with a high near 48.
Saturday Sunny, with a high near 48.

See Road Camera Views

Hiway 97 at GreenSprings Dr. (Bi-pass)
Lake of the Woods   
Doak Mtn.   
Hiway 97 at Chemult   
Hiway 140 at  Bly
Hiway 97 at LaPine

Today’s Headlines

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Oregon reports 8,672 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 13 new deaths

There are 13 new COVID-19-related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 5,883, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) reported 8,672 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 513,391.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (36), Benton (196), Clackamas (806), Clatsop (40), Columbia (58), Coos (179), Crook (96), Curry (56), Deschutes (746), Douglas (79), Gilliam (1), Grant (5), Hood River (50), Jackson (424), Jefferson (99), Josephine (150), Klamath (122), Lake (10), Lane (590), Lincoln (116), Linn (246), Malheur (153), Marion (787), Morrow (38), Multnomah (1,660), Polk (202), Sherman (4), Tillamook (29), Umatilla (249), Union (42), Wallowa (3), Wasco (47), Washington (1,184) and Yamhill (169).

Pediatric cases rise

COVID-19 cases continue to rise sharply among children ages 0 to 17 with the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant, according to the latest weekly dashboard report of pediatric COVID-19 case data in Oregon. In the most recent full week’s data, published today, hospitalized pediatric case rates are increasing for children ages 0 to 4 and 12 to 17. OHA will continue to monitor trends in pediatric case hospitalizations.

Oregon OSHA Announces Stance on Federal Vaccine-or-Test Standard

On January 13, 2022, the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division (Oregon OSHA) announced that because the Supreme Court of the United States has stayed the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), it “will not move forward with adopting the same or similar standard in Oregon.”

Oregon operates an OSHA-approved state plan that applies to both public and private employers. Accordingly, Oregon employers are subject to the state OSHA’s standards rather than the federal OSHA standards and were awaiting Oregon OSHA’s release of its own ETS.

Although Oregon OSHA will no longer implement a vaccine-or-test standard, the COVID-19 workplace rule remains in effect. The protections under that rule include infection control planning, exposure risk assessments, infection notification protocols, and sanitation.

Oregon employers are also required to follow the Oregon Health Authority’s (OHA) masking requirements for indoor spaces, which provides that individuals, regardless of vaccination status, are required to wear a mask, face covering, or face shield when in an indoor space unless the individual is in a private individual workspace or is actively eating or drinking.

A private individual workspace means “an indoor space within a public or private workplace used for work by one individual at a time that is enclosed on all sides with walls from floor to ceiling and with a closed door.” The rule allows for other limited exceptions to the indoor mask requirement.

Employers may want to revisit their COVID-19 policies and workplace practices to consider whether they are complying with Oregon OSHA’s COVID-19 workplace rule and OHA’s indoor masking requirements. Employers may also want to keep in mind that employees are protected from discrimination or retaliation for opposing any practice forbidden under the Oregon Safe Employment Act, including Oregon OSHA’s COVID-19 workplace rule.

New Recommendations Limit Contact Tracing In Oregon Schools

New guidance from the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Education could end contract tracing when a student tests positive and was in close proximity to other students as long as all were wearing masks.

In an email sent Friday, the director of the state Education Department, Colt Gill, advised schools that they would not be expected to investigate any potential student exposures to Covid-19 unless they occurred in situations in which students weren’t wearing masks, such as in cafeterias, in band classes and in some athletic classes or while practicing sports.

This move means students that wear masks at school and their families will not get a call from a school official, investigating the infection. Until now, officials have interviewed students, trying to trace the source of the infection to prevent it from spreading further. Gill said the change will ease the burden on school officials, at a time when the omicron variant is widespread across the state, causing about 8,000 cases a day in Oregon.

But under the new guidance, officials will only investigate a case  if the infected student was around peers who weren’t masked.

Gill told school administrators in the email that “the vast majority of transmission has occurred following indoor unmasked contact.” He said few infections have stemmed from classroom situations in which students are masked.

Right now, all students, staff and volunteers have to wear masks at school. They’re only allowed to take them off while eating in the cafeteria, during band practice if they play an instrument such as a trumpet or trombone or sing, or while playing sports and in some athletic classes. Students and staff are still expected to maintain a distance of 3 to 6 feet in schools when possible. Scientists say that the 6-feet advice is not enough to prevent transmission of omicron, which appears to be the most infectious variant of the novel coronavirus yet.

School staff and students can report positive cases to the Health Authority’s Case Support Hotline at 866-917-8881 or Positive COVID Test website.

With the news earlier this week that Governor Kate Brown would deploy as many as 1,200 Oregon National Guard members to support hospitals amid the latest COVID-19 surge, airmen from Kingsley Field prepared to ship out — though they may not have to go very far.

The 173rd Fighter Wing in Klamath Falls said Friday that 55 airmen had been activated this week to assist with logistical operations at hospitals in Southern Oregon — including in Medford, Grants Pass, Ashland, and Klamath Falls. More airmen are slated to be activated later this month.

Gov. Brown initially mobilized 500 Guardsmen, but increased the number to 1,200 this week. They’ll be supporting 40 hospitals across the state.

While healthcare staff will still be doing all of the clinical work, National Guard members have been charged with patient transport, logistics, food services, equipment inventory, and sanitization.

The last activation coincided with the Delta variant surge, beginning in August of 2021 and ending in December. During that mobilization, Kingsley Field airmen served as far away as Eugene.

Local basin public school officials have largely been able to keep schools in Klamath Falls and Klamath County open this school year, despite the myriad of challenges presented by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

With the highly contagious omicron variant spreading rapidly across the country and Oregon, both superintendents for the Klamath County School District and Klamath Falls City Schools said this week that they are seeing upticks in cases and exposures around local schools.

Still, both districts will aim to keep schools open while continuing to lean on a “layered” mitigation approach to reduce virus spread. Hard-earned lessons learned from having classrooms open for parts of last school year and all of this past fall, amid the Delta surge, will play a big part.

Per the Oregon Department of Education, layered mitigation includes increased cleaning, regular hand-washing, plus using COVID testing and contact tracing to quarantine exposures while also requiring indoor face coverings. Generally, it’s recommended that kids who are feeling sick stay home from school. Required vaccination — or a valid exemption — is already in place for Oregon school employees and anyone aged 5 years and older are eligible for the shot.

The Gilchrist School did have to temporarily switch to online learning in November. Multiple cases in the Gilchrist community forced staff shortages and the school remained online from the beginning of November through the Thanksgiving break, according to the county school districts’ online cohort quarantine tracker.

But generally, quarantines have been done in smaller groupings, Klamath County School District Superintendent Glen Syzmoniak said, with just individuals or cohorts of students going into quarantine rather than whole classes, grades or schools. A cohort quarantine would occur when there were one or more cases within a defined population of students, such as a sports team.

A trip to the pharmacy used to be a quick stop in a day full of errands. But recently, it has become a much longer affair. Some local basin residents say they are spending an hour or more in line waiting to get their prescription.

The local pharmacy crisis is a result of Bi-Mart closing its local pharmacy and nearby Rite Aid’s limited staffing and operation hours. That has pushed an influx of customers toward the remaining local pharmacies such as Albertsons, Fred Meyer, Walmart and Sky Lakes Medical Center.

It’s a phenomenon that is taking place statewide, one that threatens patient safety. Part of the solution could involve pressuring the state legislature to take action.

If the legislature takes action, it could free up funds for pharmacies to hire more workers — both pharmacists and technicians — which would allow them to catch up on filling the statewide backlog of prescriptions.

The scholarship committee of the Klamath County Ousley Scholarship Fund announced the availability of applications for the 2022-2023 academic year.

Applications for both new and renewing applicants as well as scholarship requirements and information are available at the fund’s website: www.OusleyEdFund.org.

Students must have graduated from a high school in Klamath County or received a G.E.D. by July 1, 2022 and may elect to attend any private non-profit or public college, university, community college, vocational or technical school in the United States.

Students must have a good scholastic record (3.0 or better GPA) and demonstrate a need for financial assistance. In the 14 years since the inception of the scholarship committee, the fund has awarded over $2.4 million to Klamath County graduates. The fund annually distributes approximately 90 scholarships, averaging $2,000 per scholarship for the academic year.

Klamath County Sheriff’s Office Asks for Public’s Help in Search For Trucker Suspect

Please share!!! This is the first real clue to come in on this missing person case in the area. Help Klamath Falls Oregon Sheriff Office ID this trucker.

He was the last to see this woman alive and could be the key to not only solving this woman’s disappearance but a number of the hundred other women missing in PNW. IF you have any information, please call (541) 883-5130.

Around the state of Oregon

Mass Shooting at Eugene Concert Venue Leaves Six People Injured

Oregon police investigators are searching for a suspect who shot a total of six people Friday (Jan. 14) at a rap concert.

The shooting occurred just outside the venue WOW Hall in downtown Eugene, Oregon, around 9:30 p.m. local time, on Friday night (Jan. 14). Eugene Police Department received at least 30 calls reporting the shooting.

According to a news release by the police department, Six people were hospitalized following the shooting, with one victim sustaining critical injuries. The rest are in stable condition. One of the victims was a walk-in at the local hospital, while the rest were transported from the concert venue. Two of the victims were female and the other four were male.

Officers said they arrived at a “hectic scene of people who had been shot near the back entrance of the venue.”

We’ve got multiple victims with gunshot wounds,” Eugene Police Chief Chris Skinner said in a press conference early Saturday morning (Jan. 15). “I think this is about as close as you’re going to get and certainly one of the highest profile shootings that we’ve had in the city of Eugene.

Chief Chris Skinner News Briefing Wow Hall from EPD PIO on Vimeo.

Skinner continued, “all we know at this point is we have a male in a hoodie that was seen running westbound on 8th right after the shooting. We think that’s our suspect.”

Police are actively working the investigation. There is no suspect in custody at this time and we ask the public to call with any relevant information. 541.682.5111. 

DMV Asks You To Check Online Before Going To Office

Staff with the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles said residents should check online before going to a DMV office, even if they have an appointment.

A release said this is especially important this winter when DMV offices may need to close without notice due to weather or staffing, or both.

DMV Administrator Amy Joyce said weather and staffing challenges can cause occasional office closures every winter. She said, “This winter DMV is experiencing the same kind of staff shortages and hiring challenges that other retail and service industries are seeing”.

The release said the current surge in COVID-19 infections also might limit access to DMV offices. Masks continue to be required inside DMV offices and during test drives.

When a DMV office needs to limit the number of people in the lobby, close an office or reduce business hours, that office’s page will be updated at: https://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/DMV/Pages/index.aspx

Online services remain available 24/7, every day of the year.

Motorcyclist Dies in Fatal Crash on Hwy 42-Douglas County

On Friday, January 14, 2022 at approximately 5:25 PM, Oregon State Police Troopers and emergency personnel responded to a two-vehicle crash on Highway 42 near milepost 75. 

Preliminary investigation revealed that a 1999 Ford Ranger Pickup, operated by James Chittum Jr. (75) of Roseburg, was southbound on Landers Avenue approaching the Highway 42 intersection. The Ford Ranger entered Highway 42 and into the path of a westbound Harley Davidson Motorcycle, operated by Brian Porter (54) of Roseburg. The Harley Davidson motorcycle crashed with the Ford Ranger causing Porter to be ejected from the motorcycle. Two eastbound passenger cars, a Toyota Avalon, operated by Max GODEK (73) of Winston, and a Honda Civic, operated by Sylas Moore-Fain (28) of Dillard, collided with Porter in the roadway. 

Porter sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced deceased. Porter was wearing a helmet and all others involved were wearing safety belts.

OSP was assisted by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, Winston Police Department, Douglas County Fire District 2, Winston-Dillard Fire Department and ODOT. Oregon State Police

Pedestrian Dies in Fatal crash on Hwy 58-Lane County

On Saturday, January 15, 2022, at approximately 6:46 PM, Oregon State Police and emergency personnel responded to report of a motor vehicle versus pedestrian crash near milepost 35 on Hwy 58 near milepost 35.

Preliminary investigation revealed a westbound white Kia Soul, operated by Robert Anthony Fraser (53) of Oakridge, struck a pedestrian, Dale Michael Roberts (71) of Oakridge, who was crossing the lanes of travel. 

Roberts sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced deceased while being transported to an area hospital. Investigation revealed FRASER displayed indicators of impairment and was subsequently arrested for Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants. Further charges will be determined by the Lane County District Attorney at the completion of the investigation. 

OSP was assisted by Oakridge Police Department, Oakridge Fire Department and ODOT. Oregon State Police 

The Oregon Employment Department reports 24-million-dollars in fraud during the first year of the pandemic. More than seven-billion-dollars in total benefits were paid and the fraud accounts for three-tenths of one percent of all benefits.

Three-million-dollars were the result of identity theft cases and 21-million dollars were from unemployment insurance fraud. Investigators have been able to get one-million dollars back from people who received fraudulent over payments.

The Cedar Pass Snow Park, one of California’s oldest ski areas, will not open for this season because of problems with the T-bar that transports skiers and snowboarders.

Nicole Battram, the snow park’s past president, said in a statement that ski hill managers have to replace the T-bar cable before the tramway inspector will give approval. A new cable has been ordered, but will not arrive until mid-February because it is being sent from Switzerland to Los Angeles, then trucked to Modoc County.

Located 17 miles east of Alturas and 10 miles west of Cedarville near the summit of Highway 299, Cedar Pass began seeing skiers in 1932. As interest grew, Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) spent portions of two years clearing runs. The area was used extensively, but it wasn’t until Feb. 23, 1941 that the first rope tow was installed and allowed skiers to ride, not walk, up the hill.

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The Tsunami Advisory for the Oregon coast has been canceled.

Saturday evening the National Weather Service office in Medford advised, “The tsunami advisory for the Oregon coast has been cancelled.”

The tsunami advisory by the National Tsunami Warning Center followed an underwater volcanic eruption near Tonga this morning.

The local NWS update followed an statement from the National Weather Service Tsunami Warning Center in Parker, Alaska canceling the tsunami advisory. It says no Pacific Coast tsunami danger presently exists from the Oregon/California border to the Washington/British Columbia border.

One such tsunami wave reached the coast before 9 AM, measuring 1.1 feet above sea level at Port Orford. The entire coastline of Oregon, Washington and California was under the advisory.

Vehicle Found but Suspect Still at Large in Medford Homicide Investigation 

On January 15th, 2022, at 12:36 p.m., officers were dispatched to a residence in the 800 block of Pennsylvania Avenue for an assault with a firearm. Upon arrival, the suspect, who is known to the victim, had fled the scene. The victim was beyond help and pronounced deceased.

Update: Saturday night around 9:00 pm, the vehicle was located near I-5 at the California / Oregon border. Lamberto Barboza-Valerio’s vehicle has been found, but was empty when police arrived.

Police have informed the media that the White 2007 Chevy Silverado was located at the I-5 California/Oregon border Saturday night around 9 p.m. Police have confiscated the vehicle for evidence and have stated that it is believed that Valerio was picked up in the area. The suspect remains outstanding.

The identity of the victim is not being released at this time. Detectives are actively investigating the case, and are being assisted by the Oregon State Police Crime lab and the District Attorney’s Office. More information will be released as the case unfolds. 

In 2021, Medford Police investigated seven homicides, all of which resulted in an arrest.  

Anyone with information on this case is asked to phone 541-770-4783, case 22-843. Medford Police Dept.

Ashland I-5 Emergency Evacuation Ramp Construction Begins Tuesday

Interstate 5 Mountain Avenue overpass Ashland (ODOT photo)

A road construction project that became especially pressing in the wake of the Almeda Fire is set to begin Tuesday. The Oregon Department of Transportation said that crews are set to begin building an emergency evacuation ramp from Mountain Avenue to I-5 southbound.

ODOT says that the $100,000 project will help address Ashland’s evacuation needs in the case of an emergency — another major wildfire, earthquake, or some other disaster that requires citywide evacuation.

The project will provide a one-way ramp from Mountain Avenue to the interstate, giving Ashland residents an evacuation route to I-5 between the two I-5 Exits, 14 and 19.

“The need for the evacuation ramp became apparent after the 2020 Almeda Fire, which began in north Ashland,” ODOT said. “The ramp will be gated and locked when not in use for emergencies.”

The state agency said that it will be working with City of Ashland crews to build the on-ramp as weather permits so that it will be ready in time for the coming Fire Season.

The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to slowly transition to an endemic once the world is able to effectively stop the spread of the virus.

The big question is when will we get to that point and what has to happen before the pandemic is considered “over”.

In the U.S. the average annual seasonal flue fatality, according to Chi, has been around 40,000 to 50,000 a year; that’s the reference point and right now we are far from it.

Eventually, there won’t be as much focus on cases and the focus will transition to hospitalizations and deaths.

Right now, the main strategy against COVID-19 is vaccination but we could see more options in the coming year.

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