Klamath Basin News, Wednesday, 1/26 – KCSD Pushes Governor Brown For Local Control Over COVID-19 Requirements to Recommendations; KCSD Wants To Work Directly with Klamath County Public Health on Issues

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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Klamath Basin Weather

Air Stagnation Advisory until Saturday, January 29, 04:00AM.

Today’s Headlines

A Kansas City, Missouri, hospital executive will be the new chief executive officer at Sky Lakes Medical Center, John Bell, chairman of the Sky Lakes Board of Directors announced yesterday.

David A. Cauble, a 25-year veteran of the healthcare industry and currently the Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at Children’s Mercy Hospital, will assume the responsibilities as Sky Lakes CEO effective March 7, 2022.

Cauble will fill the vacancy created by the retirement of long-time Sky Lakes CEO Paul Stewart. Cauble has been at the 367-bed Children’s Mercy since 2016 after five years as an Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at St. Vincent’s Health System in Birmingham, Alabama. He also has executive leadership and financial experience at other health systems in the South.

Sky Lakes Medical Center is a community-owned, internationally accredited acute-care hospital.  It is licensed for 176 beds and offers a full range of inpatient and outpatient services, a home health agency, primary care clinics and a variety of specialty physician clinics.

The Sky Lakes family also includes the award-winning Sky Lakes Cancer Treatment Center and Cascades East Family Medicine Residency.

Oregon reports 6,904 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 41 new deaths

There are 41 new COVID-19-related death in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 5,994, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) reported today. OHA reported 6,904 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of today, bringing the state total to 597,172.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (16), Benton (217), Clackamas (505), Clatsop (21), Columbia (71), Coos (85), Crook (58), Curry (30), Deschutes (505), Douglas (238), Gilliam (7), Grant (1), Harney (16), Hood River (53), Jackson (520), Jefferson (173), Josephine (99), Klamath (130), Lake (29), Lane (362), Lincoln (71), Linn (286), Malheur (170), Marion (841), Morrow (52), Multnomah (750), Polk (193), Sherman (7), Tillamook (37), Umatilla (208), Union (36), Wallowa (18), Wasco (165), Washington (683), Wheeler (21) and Yamhill (230).

The Omicron variant of COVID-19 is here and cases are surging throughout the county, region and state. What should a person do to help mitigate the spread of Covid-19? One of the most important things is to stay home if you feel sick.

Health officials from Klamath County Public Health say that if you suspect you have COVID-19, stay home for five days. Some people might experience fever longer than five days; they should be fever-free for 24 hours before leaving home. Each day everyone makes decisions that affect their health.

During this surge time, which is also flu season, drink plenty of water, eat nutrient-rich food, and use all of the tools available to promote your health.

While Sky Lakes Medical Center is reporting fewer cases, officials say it could be several weeks until health care workers are less focused on cases for Omicron.  The overall census is down today versus last week and last week was down versus a few weeks before that at Sky Lakes Medical Center according to public information officer Tom Hottman .  He adds the hospital is here all the time, and are  open to take care of patients and their medical needs.”

The Klamath County School District Board of Directors sent a third resolution to Gov. Kate Brown this week, urging the state to change COVID-19 requirements to recommendations and allow the district to work directly with Klamath County Public Health to determine appropriate mitigation strategies for its schools.

The board unanimously approved the resolution, which is similar to two other resolutions approved and sent to the state in August and September. It reiterates the need for local decision-making so the district can best educate students in its 21 geographically and culturally diverse schools. Read the full resolution here:


“This resolution is not a request for or against masks, vaccinations, testing, or school closures,” said KCSD Board Chair John Rademacher. “It is a request to allow us to best serve our students and staff by applying appropriate measures to deal with specific school situations.”

Board member Steve Lowell said he is concerned that with the current omicron surge the state will increase requirements, basing the ability to continue in-person instruction on the number of positive cases in the county like it did last year.

“Local control will allow KCSD and the county health department to set our parameters and keep our students learning in school buildings,” he said.

A letter to the governor, dated Jan. 24 and signed by the board and KCSD Superintendent Glen Szymoniak, states in part: “It is critical to note that the Klamath County School District Board members feel strongly that they need to advocate for their community and feel disenfranchised from the current process of governing education in their community. While some school districts may have had input into the decision making process, our Board has not been involved. It would be a great move forward if the governor’s office could begin a dialogue with the Klamath County Board of Directors about how best to serve our students.”

Read the full letter here:


The district’s focus is keeping schools open to in-person learning as much as possible while prioritizing the safety of staff and students.

On Sunday at approximately 4:30PM Klamath County Sheriff’s Office deputies were dispatched to a residence in the 6000 block of Shasta Way.  

The reporting party stated that a known assailant had forced entry into the home with a knife and a physical fight was in progress. Multiple deputies responded and observed a vehicle driven by Ryan Joseph Decker of Klamath Falls, crash through a fence on the property and leave the area.  

Deputies pursued the vehicle to a house in the 6700 block of Eberlein Ave. The female victim suffered non-life-threatening injuries.  

Decker was taken into custody and is lodged at the Klamath County Jail on charges including: • Attempting to Elude Police Officer • Burglary I • Assault IV • Menacing • Criminal Mischief I • Warrants for Failure to Appear x5

Through a partnership between Sky Lakes Medical Center and the City of Klamath Falls, the Everyone Swims program makes a triumphant return to Ella Redkey Pool this spring.  

The Everyone Swims program provides ALL third graders in Klamath County the opportunity to participate in a week of FREE swim lessons.

Participants receive individualized instruction, develop skills, build confidence, and learn life-saving skills, all while havingfun with their peers in the water.

Drowning is one of the most common causes of accidental death in children, being able to swim is a life-saving skill. Learning to swim promotes health and fitness from an early age. Water activity gets the heart pumping and builds endurance; it increases strength and flexibility while improving balance and posture.

Swimming is also a great stress-reliever, the buoyancy of the water offers relaxation andthe exercise performed improves overall mood. Swimming is also social, giving many opportunities to interact, play, and exercise with peers. Most importantly, the ability to swim can be life-saving.

For more information on the Everyone Swims program please visit, ellaredkeypool.com.

48 Henley High School students earned the FEMA Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) certification Jan. 20, qualifying them to volunteer to help during emergencies and natural disasters.

The new Teen CERT program, part of the Henley’s Health Occupations Career and Technical Education (CTE) program, is a collaboration between the high school and Klamath County Community Emergency Response.  

Members of Klamath County Fire District No. 1, the Klamath County Sheriff’s Office, CERT, and Kingsley Field helped students learn the material, and several were on hand to congratulate students when they received their certifications. Klamath County CERT team leader Rick Benjamin told students that they now have the skills to save lives.

Klamath County School District Superintendent Glen Szymoniak, who has trained school principals and others in emergency response for many years using the Incident Command System, attended the ceremonies to congratulate the students

Around the state of Oregon

Oregon Has More Job Openings Than Workers To Fill Them

The pandemic forced closures and layoffs. Many filed for unemployment for the first time, trying to make ends meet while dealing all the other COVID-related challenges. Now, state economists say things are on the rebound in a big way. In fact, there are more job openings now than there are people to fill them. 

State economists say there are seven unemployed people for every ten job openings in our state and across the country.

“The economy right now is honestly in really good shape, mostly because households have income. They have money. They are trying to spend it,” explained Josh Lehner, an economist with the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis. “The biggest constraint in the economy right now is labor. It is harder to find workers today than it was two, three years ago.”

“Hiring has really been at full steam, particularly since summer when Oregon employers reported a record number of 107,000 job openings – just in the summer,” said Gail Krumenauer, an economist with the Oregon Employment Department. 

She explained 2021 ended with more than 100,000 job openings in the state. Prior to the pandemic recession, the largest number of job openings they’d even seen was about 67,000 in summer 2017. 

“What that means if you’re a job seeker is likely, if you’re looking for a job, you could get multiple job offers and have the opportunity to take the one that has the best combination of wages, benefits, perks and flexibility for you.”

With the current unemployment rate at 4.1%, things look great for people looking for a position, but more difficult for the businesses trying to find workers. The demand has driven up wages across the board, according to Lehner’s latest Economic Analysis report.

“One of the tools they have been using readily is raising wages to attract workers. The average wage in Oregon since the start of the pandemic is up 17%. On a full-time basis, that is equivalent to around $7,000 or $8,000 a year for the average Oregon worker – which is just a really big increase.”

Krumenauer said each industry has different difficulties in finding, and retaining, workers right now. 

“For some of them, it’s just a lack of applicants. Employers are saying that they have had two few or no applicants for their jobs. In other industries, when we talk about healthcare – it’s a good example – they are more likely to require some sort of education beyond high school.”

For the rest of 2022, Lehner predicted a steady statewide wage increase, though a bit slower than what we saw during the pandemic.

“We do think that labor supply, the number of people actively looking for a job, will increase this year and next.”

Some of the industries with the most openings include leisure and hospitality, healthcare, and construction, as well as warehousing and transportation. 

Oregon Resumes Rental Assistance Program

Oregon Housing and Community Services is once again accepting applications for their emergency rental assistance program, aimed at helping tenants facing eviction for nonpayment of rent.

OHCS says it will be a “limited reopening” expected to run 3 to 5 weeks, with roughly enough funding to provide assistance to 6,700-9,300 additional applications.

As of 8 a.m. January 26, the portal to submit an application on the state of Oregon’s website is down though it is scheduled to be open.

For the last six weeks, OHCS has been on pause while they go through a backlog of applications to see if any money from the nearly $400 million in federal assistance and special session allocation was left to give out.

OHCS is first processing applications received before the Dec. 1 pause.

Households with the most need will have priority in accessing these resources, not a first-come, first-served basis.

Then, applications received on Jan. 26 will be processed after that, using the same means of identifying need to determine the order of processing.

Tenants who apply on Jan. 26 or after may receive safe harbor protections that prevent landlords from evicting tenants until their application is processed.

All safe harbor protections expire on Sept. 30, 2022.

The state provided the following information for renters who apply on or after Jan. 26 when the portal reopens

  • Tenants who apply on Jan. 26 or after can receive safe harbor eviction protections that prevent landlords from evicting tenants until their application is processed. Tenants must show proof to their landlord that they applied for the program to receive the protections. Tenant applications will be paid based on the remaining funding available and are not guaranteed.
  • Applications still awaiting landlord/tenant response at the time of closure are subject to funds remaining when application is finalized and approved, and prioritization scoring is applied and are not guaranteed for payment.
  • Tenants at immediate risk of eviction should apply for rental assistance right away to access safe harbor protections and should contact a legal organization.
  • Oregon Law Center’s Eviction Defense Project: 888-585-9638 or evictiondefense@oregonlawcenter.org
  • Oregon State Bar: 503-684-3763 or legalhelp@oregonstatebar.org
  • Tenants should expect a delay prior to processing and payment but can count on accessing their safe harbor eviction protections immediately.

OHCS and local program administrators (LPAs) have paid $235.4 million in federal emergency rental assistance to 33,770 households, up from $222.4 million and 31,816 applicants last week, through OERAP.

Oregon Lawmakers Introduce Bill To Make Self-Service Option At Gas Stations

A bipartisan group of Oregon lawmakers has introduced a bill that would make self-service just as permissible at gas pumps in the state as service from an attendant.

Supporters of the bill say that it would ensure access for people with disabilities and those who prefer service from an attendant “without any loss of existing jobs.”

These days Oregon is one of just two states that broadly require gas be pumped by attendants, though the state made exceptions through a bill passed in 2015 for rural areas and along the coast at night.

The bill is being promoted by a group called Oregonians for Choice at the Pump. The Oregon Fuels Association, a political action committee consisting of locally-owned gas stations and fuel distributors, supports the group. According to the group, gas station owners report that the change is “desperately needed” due to ongoing labor shortages.

Oregon State Police says that a 19-year-old driver was killed in a rollover crash along I-5 near Phoenix in the early hours of Monday morning.

OSP troopers and emergency crews responded just before 12:30 a.m. to reports of a single-vehicle crash on I-5 near milepost 24. The initial investigation found that 19-year-old Renee Sliger of Medford was heading northbound in a Toyota 4Runner when the vehicle drifted off the roadway and rolled.

OSP said that Sliger was ejected from the vehicle. Ambulance crews took Sliger to Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center for treatment, but she was later pronounced dead. OSP was assisted at the scene by the Talent Police Department and ODOT.

Monday afternoon at about 12:48 P.M., Oregon State Police Troopers and emergency personnel responded to the report of a two-vehicle crash on Highway 199 near milepost 10. 

Preliminary investigation revealed that a white Toyota Corolla, driven by Eddie Bartley (72) of Grants Pass was driving north on Highway 199 and crossed into the oncoming, southbound lane of travel for unknown reasons. The Corolla impacted the front driver side of a blue Hyundai Elantra, driven by Kelly Martin (49) of Dallas. 

Bartley sustained fatal injuries as a result of the crash and was pronounced deceased.

Martin suffered severe injuries and was transported to Rogue Regional Hospital by ambulance.  Hwy 199 was completely closed for approximately 1 hour following the crash and traffic was reduced and controlled by Oregon Department of Transportation for approximately 3 hours upon opening the highway.

OSP was assisted by the Oregon Department of Transportation, Josephine County Sheriff’s Office and Rural Metro Fire.

Oregon Health Authority director Patrick Allen, one of the primary public health communicators in the state since the COVID-19 pandemic began, was hospitalized over the weekend after a “serious fall.”

According to an OHA statement, Allen had to be taken to the hospital early Sunday morning after the fall. He is also undergoing evaluation for subsequent heart issues, the agency said, but should be discharged home “soon.” The agency said that Allen was not positive for coronavirus. OHA deputy director Kris Kautz will be temporarily overseeing the agency’s operations for at least this week during Allen’s absence, officials said.

Along with state epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger and often Governor Brown herself, Allen has been a frequent host of video-based press briefings on the state’s ongoing response to COVID-19.

Joint Task Force Serves Search Warrant Outside Grants Pass in Child Porn Investigation

The Southern Oregon Child Exploitation Team (SOCET) joint inter-agency task force alongside Josephine County Sheriff’s Office detectives, served a search warrant Tuesday morning at a residence in the 1000 block of Plumtree Lane on the outskirts of Grants Pass.

Investigators discovered multiple images of child exploitation were uploaded from the residence. Investigators are interviewing possible witnesses and involved parties, and investigations are ongoing.

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) tips started the investigation, which led to subpoenas, followed by the search warrant at the residence. During Tuesday’s search warrant, digital devices were seized, and will be forensically examined by the Southern Oregon High Tech Crimes Task Force for further evidence of child exploitation. 

SOCET is a joint inter-agency task force that started in June of 2020 to combat child exploitation and human trafficking. The task force consists of investigators from Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, Oregon State Police, Medford Police Department, Grants Pass Police Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Homeland Security Investigations; as well as prosecutors from our local, state and federal law enforcement partners in Jackson and Josephine County.

Single Arrest By Medford Police Clears More Than 70 Graffiti Cases

According to the Medford Police Department, they have arrested the city’s most prolific producer of graffiti.

The suspect, 24-year-old Shylo Ramirez is “no stranger to law enforcement,” was also arrested in August on criminal mischief for previous graffiti cases, MPD said.

Ramirez was also accused of being a felon in possession of a stolen handgun. He was allowed out on conditional release in this case pending trial.

“We know what many may be thinking ‘What is the big deal with graffiti cases?'” the agency posted on Facebook. “Well, when it starts showing up on every street corner, its a problem. Many have reached out to us after noticing graffiti all over town, and we have determined that one person, Shylo Ramirez, was responsible for approximately half of the cases.”

Ramirez was arrested on January 23, this time for his alleged involvement in about 70 different graffiti cases. He remains in custody more than a month later, held on $150,000 bail and charged with three counts of first-degree criminal mischief.

Probable cause statements filed by arresting officers in this and Ramirez’s prior case claimed that he was connected to tags with the words “lady dreamer,” “dreamer,” “drmr,” and “lyric” on buildings throughout the city.

“Graffiti is not only a hassle to the property owner, but it invites more crime into the area with the perception that ‘no one cares,'” MPD continued. “So please, if you’ve become a victim of graffiti, file a police report and get it removed as soon as possible.

“We all need to help keep our community clean and safe. The Medford Police Department will continue to aggressively investigate and arrest suspects for graffiti.”

ODOT Seeks Public Opinion on Use Of Federal Flexible Money

Oregon transportation officials want to hear from the public about how the state should spend more than $400 million in flexible funds from the federal government over the next five years.

The $400 million is part of the $1.2 billion that Oregon will receive for transportation from the federal infrastructure bill, which President Joe Biden signed on Nov. 15. Oregon will get more money for other programs, such as water and sewer lines and broadband connections, that does not go through the Oregon Department of Transportation.

In fact, $200 million of the $1.2 billion for transportation will go to TriMet and other public transit agencies. Much of the rest is earmarked for specific work by ODOT, such as bridge repairs and charging stations for electric vehicles.

The Oregon Transportation Commission will offer four scenarios for public comment through Feb. 17, when it plans a two-hour seminar. Chairman Robert Van Brocklin of Portland said the panel isn’t wedded to the numbers in any of them, but is likely to tailor its own plan after hearing from the public.

“It’s difficult to say there is one scenario I feel comfortable with,” commission member Julie Brown, who is the general manager of the Rogue Valley Transportation District, said at a Jan. 20 meeting. “We have to weigh all of these things.”

Even before the meeting, ODOT received public comments adding up to 300 pages on how to spend the federal money. The agency also interviewed 1,500 people in 2021 — it conducts these surveys every couple of years — about what they would like to see from the transportation system.

Though the money would flow into three general categories, as described below, the commission would have to approve specific projects as soon as this spring. It plans a decision on the broad allocations on March 30.


• Scenario 1: About $107 million would go into Fix-It, a list of maintenance projects for roads and bridges, and the rest evenly split between enhanced state highways and two other programs. For Safe Routes to School, ODOT has received $4 in requests for every $1 in available money. A new program of Great Streets would improve state highways that also function as main streets in communities.

The aims of Fix-It are to maintain 85% of the state’s 8,000 miles of highways at fair or better pavement condition and 78% of the 2,750 state highway bridges. Even with an infusion of new federal money, bridge conditions are projected to deteriorate because so many of them were built during the interstate highway era of the 1950s and 1960s and are past the 50-year mark.

• Scenario 2: About half would go into Safe Routes to School and Great Streets, as described above, and the rest evenly split between Fix-It projects and enhanced highways.

• Scenario 3: About half of the funds would go into enhanced highways — the current state money is scheduled to decline after 2024, seven years after the state’s 2017 law funded the latest round of projects — and the rest evenly divided between Fix-It and the school and street programs.

• Scenario 4: Each of the three categories would get an equal share of $214 million.

Plan for the rest

ODOT officials have proposed the rest of the flexible funds ($198 million) for these programs:

• $100 million for ODOT to carry out new access projects to comply with a 2017 settlement of a lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

• $40 million to help offset a projected shortfall in agency operations and maintenance.

• $40 million to enable Oregon to compete with other states for a share of $100 billion that the U.S. Department of Transportation will award for other projects. Possible Oregon contenders are two projects on Interstate 5: Rose Quarter widening and partial capping and a new bridge over the Columbia River to connect Portland with Vancouver, Washington.

• $15 million to help communities with planning for climate change, including the transportation planning rule that seeks to reduce the need for travel between home, work and other activities. The rule dates back to 1991, but was updated in 2012.

• $3 million to boost business and the workforce required for construction projects.

“What you have learned is that there is a need for money all across the transportation system,” said Travis Brouwer, an assistant ODOT director.

In the 2021 survey, large majorities gave priority (90% or better) to six of 13 points, in descending order: Maintain roads and bridges, improve safety, reduce traffic congestion, protect the environment, seismic improvements, provide transportation for seniors and people with disabilities. For more information on how ODOT is planning to invest these federal infrastructure dollars, visit https://www.oregon.gov/odot/Pages/IIJA.aspx.

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