Klamath Basin News, Monday, 2/7 – The Peak of Omicron Wave Has Left Southern Oregon; Sky Lakes Reports Just 27 In-Patient Cases of Covid Over Weekend

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Monday, February 7, 2022

Klamath Basin Weather

Today’s Headlines

The peak of the Omicron wave has finally come and gone in Southern Oregon. Health Officials in Klamath and Jackson County continue to report a high amount of new COVID-19 cases, more than 1,200 cases from Tuesday through Friday, but at a lesser rate than last week, more than 1,800 cases in the same time-frame.

Yet despite a decrease in cases, hospitalizations from the virus are continuing to stay relatively high. For weeks, medical professionals say that even once the peak of the Omicron wave comes and goes, it will take awhile before cases and hospitalizations will slow down to what they were before the Omicron variant hit. 

Another study comes from Oregon Health Sciences University.  It says the state might have reached its peak yesterday (Sunday) with 11-hundred-69 patients hospitalized from the omicron variant. The record in Oregon stands at 11-hundred-78 hospitalizations set last fall.

Sky lakes Medical Center in Klamath Falls reported 27 in-patient cases of Covid this weekend.  9 of those 27, or 33%, are vaccinated patients, and two are boosted as well as vaccinated but hospitalized after contracting the virus.

The hospital says on its Facebook page that a forecast in December predicted hospitalizations could possibly exceed 3,000, and it clearly appears the total number from this latest surge will not approach the forecast numbers.

Meanwhile, applications for their RN-1 Residency program is open and still accepting applications at Sky Lakes.

The next cohort start date is March 7, 2022. If you recently graduated from nursing school and are looking to begin practicing as a nurse you should check out the nursing residency program.

At Sky Lakes they offer a one-year nurse residency program that prepares new nurses to be successful in the hospital setting.  This program provides hands-on experience in different care departments.

Applicants will be paired with an experienced RN who will provide support, guidance, and feedback every step of the way. All new graduates in the program can bid for an open RN position during the second half of the program. Once hired into your permanent unit, the applicant will begin the process of transitioning into that department under the guidance of an experienced preceptor.  

If this sounds like you, a loved one, or a friend, you or they can learn more about the program at https://www.skylakes.org/employment/nurse-residency-program/ or by calling training and development at 541.274.6470.

For the past week, Klamath Falls residents have been baking cookies and signing cards to show their appreciation for the staff at Sky Lakes Medical Center as the COVID-19 pandemic enters its third year and continues to stress the local healthcare system.

Each afternoon, a small assembly line has formed at the Daily Bagel: Volunteers fill goody bags with three types of baked goods and $5 gift cards to Dutch Bros Coffee, attaching notes that thank every employee at Sky Lakes — from physicians to janitors — for helping to keep the community safe. Hospital staff said the bags have been a bright spot during an often-overwhelming time to work in healthcare.

Longtime Klamath Falls resident Lisa Kochenderfer came up with the idea several weeks ago, after a cousin in Los Angeles who is an emergency room nurse told her about the burnout hospital workers are experiencing due to the current Omicron variant surge. Kochenderfer asked how folks outside the hospital walls like herself could lend their support, and her cousin said a thank-you would be nice — or maybe some cookies.

Between the free drinks, Dutch Bros gift cards and baked goods, Kochenderfer estimated that more than $10,000 has been spent on thanking the folks at Sky Lakes.

Some people in Klamath and Lake counties have heard rumors that the Bootleg Fire was human caused. After talking with fire officials, these rumors are false

The Bootleg Fire was caused by lightning in the Fuego Mountain area. A lightning storm occurred in the area about two weeks before the Bootleg Fire was spotted.  

The US Forest Service says holdover fires are fairly common and can last for several weeks.  Fire investigators even looked at the possibility that the fire was a flare-up from the Fuego Fire but found that the Bootleg Fire’s origin point was too far away. While the Bootleg Fire has been officially ruled as naturally caused by lightning, there is a fire from last summer that is considered human caused: the Cougar Peak Fire.

Fire investigators are still looking for any leads on who or what caused the Cougar Peak Fire and ask that if you have any information about what started the fire to call 541-947-2151.

Plenty of sports include both man and animal. Horse racing features horse and jockey. A bullfight requires both a matador and bull.

But few, if any other competition, features four different types of animals in the ring at the same time: Stock dog trials are that sport. A human competitor on horseback teams up with a herding dog try to coax cows through a variety of obstacles to score points.

Klamath Falls had its latest exhibition of the contest on Thursday at the Klamath Bull Sale where a few hundred spectators turned up to watch locals and out-of-towners alike show off the skills of dog and rider.

Most stock dogs are border collies.  If he’s raised a dog from a puppy, he’ll usually start training them when they’re about eight months old. Like many rodeo-related sports, stock dog trials were born from actual ranch work, where a border collie often helps move sheep and cattle.

Around the state of Oregon

Oregon reports 4,872 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 33 new deaths

There are 33 new COVID-19-related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 6,214, Oregon Health Authority (OHA) reported today. OHA reported 4,872 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 654,343.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (23), Benton (98), Clackamas (377), Clatsop (25), Columbia (46), Coos (84), Crook (48), Curry (24), Deschutes (258), Douglas (79), Grant (15), Harney (24), Hood River (28), Jackson (240), Jefferson (40), Josephine (129), Klamath (133), Lake (5), Lane (517), Lincoln (120), Linn (262), Malheur (46), Marion (563), Morrow (8), Multnomah (524), Polk (169), Sherman (1), Tillamook (40), Umatilla (107), Union (43), Wallowa (5), Wasco (31), Washington (641) and Yamhill (119).

Earlier this week, Alek Skarlatos (scar-LOT-ohs) filed as a Republican candidate for Oregon’s 4th Congressional District for the 2022 primary election.

In 2020, Skarlatos ran for the 4th Congressional District and lost to Peter DeFazio. DeFazio, the 4th District’s representative for the past 36 years, will not seek re-election in 2022. Skarlatos is perhaps best known as being one of four people who intervened to stop an armed person on a train bound for Paris from Amsterdam in 2015.

Skarlatos, from Douglas County, is the only candidate so far to file as a Republican candidate for the primary election to be held on May 17, 2022. The general election will be held on November 8, 2022. Six people have filed as Democrats.

Prosecutors have asked for a closed bail hearing for Redmond murder defendant Ian Mackenzie Cranston, drawing objections from his attorney and advocates for press freedom.

Cranston is accused of the Sept. 19 shooting death of Barry Washington Jr., a 22-year-old Black man, during a late-night dispute outside a downtown bar in Bend.

The shooting angered many in Bend and prompted candlelight memorials, vocal courthouse gatherings and a rare evening press conference near the site of the shooting by Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel.

Cranston has been held without bail in the Deschutes County jail since Hummel announced a grand jury had indicted him on Sept. 30. Claiming self-defense, Cranston pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and other charges. His trial is not scheduled until November. But his defense lawyer, Kevin Sali, filed a motion in December in Deschutes County Circuit Court seeking Cranston’s release on bail. The issue of bail is scheduled to be considered at an all-day hearing Monday (today) that could provide the public with the clearest view yet of the shooting.

Evidence that could be presented at the hearing includes grand jury testimony and security footage from several cameras outside The Capitol bar that captured the incident.

University of Oregon extended their booster requirement for students and employees to Friday, March 18.

Previously, the deadline was January 31.  Another update is the temporary policy that allows instructors the option to request moving courses remotely that are experiencing 20 percent of more COVID-related student absences. This deadline has been extended to Monday, February 14.

On Friday Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler announced an emergency declaration, prohibiting camping along freeways and designated high-crash streets within the city of Portland.

The order directs the Impact Reduction Team that cleans up homeless camps to prioritize them for removal.

“This is a matter of urgency. People are dying. That is why I’m using my executive authority,” said Wheeler, who promised other executive actions addressing livability issues in the near future.

The order follows the release of a report by the Portland Bureau of Transportation on Wednesday that said homeless people accounted for nearly one-third of all traffic fatalities in Portland in 2021 according to the Portland Police Bureau.

Wheeler said the city has seen unsanctioned camping in “clearly unsafe locations, sometimes jarringly close to roads and freeways.”

“You don’t need to be a traffic engineer to sense that that’s not safe,” he said. “Now, the traffic engineers confirm our instincts.

The order took effect at 3 p.m. Friday. It was challenged by a coalition of 22 advocacy groups even before Wheeler announced it.

“[We] strongly object to the emergency declaration to sweep encampments and further displace unhoused community members from alongside our most dangerous roads. The presence of unhoused people does not make our streets unsafe; rather poor roadway design, ongoing neglect and deferred maintenance, recklessness in the form of speeding, operating a vehicle while impaired by drugs or alcohol and other dangerous behavior are all well-documented reasons why there is this alarming uptick in deaths,” said a letter sent to Wheeler before his news conference and signed by groups that include Oregon Walks, Central City Concern, The Street Trust, Urban League of Portland and Northwest Pilot Project.

Where are the homeless supposed to go now? Wheeler responded, “The answer I have is ‘somewhere safer.'”

The bureau said that 63 people were killed in crashes on Portland streets last year, the highest number in three decades. Nearly one-third of them — 19 — were homeless. They accounted for 70% of the 27 pedestrians killed in 2021.

Suspect Arrested for Rape, Sex Abuse, Assault of Elderly Central Point Woman

Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) deputies took a report of a rape and assault of a woman in her 70s that occurred late Saturday night at her home on Blackwell Road. Her son, who lives nearby, confronted the suspect and he fled the scene. JCSO deputies arrived to investigate and the victim went to an area hospital for a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) exam.

The suspect was known to the victim and was contacted and taken into custody. Based on the evidence, Michael Dean Gates, 62, of Central Point, was lodged at the Jackson County Jail for first-degree rape, first-degree sexual abuse, and fourth-degree assault. His bail is set at $400,000. Investigations are ongoing. Further information will come from the Jackson County District Attorney’s office.

Grants Pass Police Department Raises More Than $5,000 In Saturday’s ‘Dunk A Cop’ Event

Even though Saturday was a cold yet sunny day in Grants Pass, many people turned out for the Grants Pass Police Department’s ‘Dunk A Cop’ event making it a success.

In their second ever ‘Dunk A Cop’ event, organizers raised $5,269 dollars, $2,600 from the public, which will go to supporting Special Olympic athletes.

From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, the public got a chance to swing by and take a throw at dunking one of many Grant Pass officers into the freezin’ tank.  

One throw equaled a $5 dollar donation, three throws for a $10 donation and for $25, participants were given a guaranteed dunk! The Grants Pass Police Department stated that this year, the department would match the money donated during the event. 

Labor Day 2020 Fire Survivors in FEMA Housing Granted 6 Month Extension

An extension granted by the state gives survivors of the 2020 Labor Day wildfires in Southern Oregon an extra six months of FEMA housing.

FEMA guidelines call for housing assistance only up to 18 months after a declared disaster, giving the survivors of the 2020 fires until mid-March to find new homes.

FEMA spokesperson Paul Corah said finding permanent housing for people is slow going in an area with low housing inventory.

Typically extensions are given in three-month increments, but the severity of the damage in the Rogue Valley prompted the six months. Of 190 units supplied to fire survivor families, 154 are still in use in Jackson County.

Housing programs in Marion, Lane, Lincoln and Linn Counties were given similar extensions.

Residents have been able to stay in the FEMA units while paying only utilities, but those who stay beyond April 1 will start paying a sliding-scale rent.

“FEMA’s working with the survivors about what that scale is. The minimum is $50,” Corah said.Corah said FEMA also has a sales program, allowing residents to purchase the units.

The Oregon wildfire season in 2020 destroyed more than 4,000 homes, killed nine people and tore through 1.1 million acres (445,154 hectares). Almost all the damage occurred over a dramatic 72-hour period. It was a wake-up call for the Pacific Northwest as climate change brings destructive blazes to wet places and urban landscapes.

The price tag for already expensive goods may be going up with a new bill proposed in Oregon.

Lawmakers are currently discussing hundreds of bills, and one of them would tax certain luxury items to help some low-income families.

From a snowmobile to designer clothes and handbags to a firearm– if House Bill 4079 passes, there would be a three percent sales tax on these kinds of items and more.

The money collected would then fund the Oregon Freedom Pilot Program, which is established in the Department of Human Services. The funds would be given to more than 2,000 people who have aged out of the foster youth program.

This includes low-income pregnant women. A recent study from the National Academy of Sciences cites poverty as a risk factor for lower brain activity in infants. Low-income families would receive a monthly stipend of $750 for three years.

If the bill passes, it will go into effect starting Jan. 1, 2023. Currently, Oregon lawmakers are in session and plan to adjourn on March 7.

Jeremy Beaumont was named on Friday as the next superintendent of Warner Creek Correctional Facility in Lake County.

Beaumont began his career at Snake River Correctional Institution in 2009 as a correctional officer. He promoted through the security ranks to correctional lieutenant in 2017. During this time, he also became a member of the statewide Honor Guard for the Oregon Department of Corrections. Before working for DOC, Jeremy served four years in the U.S. Navy on the USS Peleliu as a work center supervisor, receiving an honorable discharge in 2007. He studied criminal justice at Treasure Valley Community College. Jeremy worked on several statewide projects at SRCI while assigned to special housing and Snake River Correctional Minimum.

Beaumont said in a release that he is excited for his new role at WCCF and the opportunity to work with the team. He looks forward to implementing new projects and continuing the development of leadership at WCCF. The new position became effective Feb. 1. WCCF is a minimum-security facility located four miles northwest of Lakeview. 

Jackson County Sheriff’s Office Investigating Savage Creek Road Shooting

JCSO Case 22-0685 — Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) is investigating a shooting that occurred on the 600 block of Savage Creek Road Sunday evening. One subject is being questioned for their involvement. There is no threat to the public at this time. Investigations are ongoing by JCSO detectives. More information to follow. Jackson Co. Sheriff’s Office 

Shooting in Medford off Biddle Road

Medford Police are investigating a shooting near the Quality Inn and Elmer’s Restaurant on Biddle Road MPD says the call came in around 7:40 pm Sunday night about a man who was shot at in the parking lot outside of the Purple Parrot Lounge.

The man was treated on scene for non-life threatening injuries. A suspect has not been identified at this time. Police are still investigating and working to find more details at this time.

Seven People Arrested in Salem Area Illegal Marijuana Growing Operation

 Police in Keizer said Saturday they have arrested seven people in what they call an extensive illegal marijuana growing operation.

The operation was growing cannabis plants in six houses in residential areas of Salem and Keizer and children were living in two of the homes, the Keizer Police Department said.

Authorities seized 273 1-pound packages of marijuana, with a street value of about $278,000, and 4,085 plants.

The plants, once matured, could have yielded marijuana worth at least $8 million.

All of those arrested were charged with unlawful manufacture of marijuana, unlawful possession of marijuana and attempted delivery of marijuana. They have an initial court appearance March 3.

The arrests stemmed from an investigation that began in October when police were tipped off to possible illegal activity at one of the homes. An investigation found that marijuana was being grown there and at the five other homes, police alleged.

Police seized and destroyed a total of 2,100 pounds of processed marijuana and plant material from the homes.

Scientists Carefully Monitoring Oregon’s Volcanic Region

In a USGS Hazard Notification statement Monday, Cascades Volcano Observatory announced their scientists have tracked an increased rate of ground uplift in the Three Sisters volcanic region found in the southwest corner of Oregon.

Using satellite radar images and GPS units, USGS scientists have tracked an increased rate of uplift for a 12-mile diameter region, 3 miles west of the South Sister volcano. According to USGS, the data suggests the ground rose 0.9 inches (2.2 cm) from June 2020 to August 2021.

Scott Burns , a geology professor at Portland State University, told Nexstar’s KOIN that while episodes of increased uplift have been observed in this region before, the cause is what local scientists are excited about.

“The Three Sisters area is an area that we’ve been studying for the last 25 years,” Burns explained. “It’s very exciting because magma is moving up underneath the volcano … the last major volcanic eruption in Oregon, which was 2,000 years ago, was right there in that area.”

While the catalyst for the current uplift is unconfirmed, geologists have been able to credit previous soil shifts at the South Sister location to small pulses of magma accumulating approximately 4 miles below the earth’s surface.

According to Burns, increased uplift is not the only thing impacted by the observed magmatic intrusion. “We believe that the magma is rising about four miles below the surface. And, and so associated with that, a lot of times you’ll have very small earthquakes,” Burns said. “In December and in January, we had a series of very small earthquakes, showing that there is some movement of magma. The question is, what type of magma is it going to be, and what type of volcano?”

Before the recent increase, the USGS stated the rate of uplift at the South Sister location had reportedly slowed down since scientists first recognized the phenomenon in the mid-1990s.

“From 1995 to 2020, the area rose approximately 12 inches (30 centimeters) at its center,” USGS stated in a recent release. “Although the current uplift rate is slower than the maximum rate of about 2 inches per year measured in 1999-2000, it is distinctly faster than the rate observed for several years before 2020.”

Despite the excitement, USGS and Burns have said that the public is not in any immediate danger. The volcano status is currently listed as “green,” and there is no sign of an imminent eruption.

“While any magmatic intrusion could eventually lead to a volcanic eruption, an eruption would likely be preceded by detectable and more vigorous earthquakes, ground movement (deformation), and geochemical changes,” stated USGS. “In general, as magma moves upward during an intrusion, it causes continued or accelerated uplift, fractures rock to generate swarms of earthquakes, and releases significant amounts of volcanic gases, such as carbon dioxide. We do not detect any of these signs currently.”

Burns says a team of scientists with Cascades Volcano Observatory will continue to closely monitor uplift at the site and will be ready if a threat is detected.

“We have great maps for the whole Three Sisters area,” Burns explained, “So if [the volcano] does come back to life, we will know which people are going to have to get out of the way and be prepared for it.”

He continued, “The good news is we’re prepared for it … We’re still at ‘green,’ but things are coming back to life now. Mother Nature writes her own history book, so it will be interesting to see what she will come up with this time.”

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