Klamath Basin News, Thursday, 2/17 – Covid Cases Dropping Statewide, But OHA Says To Follow Guidelines for Safety

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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.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Klamath Basin Weather

Today Sunny, with a high near 55. Overnight, cloudy a low around 29.

Friday Sunny, with a high near 60, with an overnight low of 29.
Saturday Sunny, with a high near 59. Slight chance of snow overnight with snow level lowering to 4200 feet after midnight . Partly cloudy, with a low around 30.
Sunday A slight chance of snow before 10am, then a chance of snow showers, mainly between 10am and 4pm. Partly sunny, with a high near 43. Overnight a slight chance of snow showers.

Today’s Headlines

Nominations for the 29th annual Klamath Country Volunteer of the Year are due by noon on April 1 to the United Way of the Klamath Basin at 136 N. Third Street in Klamath Falls, according to a release.

Due to on-ongoing COVID-19 health concerns, a large public celebration luncheon will not be held this year, but every nominee will receive an award and be highlighted in a special Volunteer Appreciation tabloid published during national week on Friday, April 22 in the Herald and News.

Nomination forms can be obtained by contacting the United Way at 541-882-5558, or can be downloaded from United Way’s home page at www.unitedwayoftheklamathbasin.org.

According to officials, nomination forms can also be e-mailed or sent to you via U.S. postal service. The categories for Volunteer of the Year include youth, adults, senior citizens, public safety/public service, and education.

The 2021 volunteer of the year was Norma Jean Wilder, founder and director of the “Blessing Pot” program that provides meals to 375 to 400 Chiloquin area residents every Tuesday through the Klamath Christian Center.

Last year, 37 nominations of individuals and organizations were received and everyone was recognized with a special award. Finalists for Volunteer of the Year in 2021 included Donna Marie Kness, Grace Berardino, Saira Blevins, Daniel McVay, Aurora Sanchez, Emma Tibay, SMART Reading, Sky Lakes Medical Center Voulnteers, and the Klamath County Search & Rescue Unit.

National Volunteer Week will be held from April 17 through April 23.

Oregon reports 1,728 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 23 new deaths

There are 23 new COVID-19-related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 6,416, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) reported at 12:01 a.m. today.  OHA reported 1,728 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of 12:01 a.m. today, bringing the state total to 682,566.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (10), Benton (60), Clackamas (132), Clatsop (14), Columbia (18), Coos (24), Crook (12), Curry (12), Deschutes (71), Douglas (50), Grant (3), Harney (5), Hood River (5), Jackson (145), Jefferson (11), Josephine (48), Klamath (23), Lake (5), Lane (213), Lincoln (28), Linn (105), Malheur (14), Marion (187), Morrow (2), Multnomah (208), Polk (42), Sherman (1), Tillamook (9), Umatilla (24), Union (4), Wasco (24), Washington (191) and Yamhill (28)

The number of new known COVID-19 cases in Oregon continues to drop now for some 25 days, finally on Tuesday dropping below the average recorded during the height of the delta surge late last summer. The rolling seven-day average of new cases was 2,195, below the peak reached during the delta surge of 2,329 cases on Sept. 2. Tuesday’s average also was far below the omicron-fueled peak of more than 8,200 average cases per a day recorded on Jan. 21. The precipitous decline was driven by yet another day of decreasing cases: 1,613 new known infections reported on Tuesday. The state also reported 20 new deaths, although some of them occurred last fall. Public health experts, however, warn that cases are still very high and residents should continue taking precautions, such as wearing masks.

The state’s indoor mask mandate is set to end by March 31 or when the number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 drops to 400. Oregon appears on track to beat the March end date, with the number Tuesday dropping to just above 800 — putting Oregon roughly two and a half weeks ahead of a forecast by Oregon Health & Science University that initially projected hospitalizations wouldn’t hit 400 until right around the end of March.

Dutch Bros announces that $1 from every drink purchased on Friday, Feb. 18 will be donated to the Klamath-Lake Counties Food Bank. Each dollar creates eight meals for families struggling in this economy, along with seniors, kids, cancer and hospice patients and others, according to the organization.

Dutch Bros donates in this annual events, but does year round volunteer work at the food bank. Employees sort, stack and box food for distribution to those in need.

The Klamath County Emergency Food and Shelter Program will receive a total of $122,007 to support local public and/or private non-profit organizations with existing programs that provide emergency food (meals and food boxes), shelter (mass shelter or rent), and utility assistance (gas, electric and water service) for needy individuals throughout Klamath County, according to a news release.

Oregon counties will receive a total of $1,663,261 for FEMA Phase 39 of the program. Klamath County will receive $29,825 of this.

Oregon counties will receive $5,140,383 from the American Rescue Plan Act and Klamath County will receive $92,182. In fiscal year 2021, FEMA awarded to the national board of the Emergency Food and Shelter Program $400 million made available under the American Rescue Plan Act and $130 million in annual funding for Phase 39 was made available under the Consolidated Appropriations Act. These two awards will run concurrently.

Local funding determinations will be made in early March by the Klamath County FEMA board chaired by Frank Hernandez and administered by the United Way of the Klamath Basin. FEMA funds cannot be used as seed money for new programs.

Around the state of Oregon

The Oregon Department of Forestry has issued $20 million in grants authorized by Senate Bill 762.

Awards are to landscape-scale projects for reducing hazardous fuels on forestland and rangeland across ownership boundaries.

This funding will support nine projects submitted by non-profit organizations and community partners to treat over 156,000 acres across Oregon’s landscapes at highest risk for catastrophic wildfire. This state-funded grant program will also bring over $15 million in matching funds from federal, state, private, and like-kind investments.

The department convened a work group of diverse stakeholders that included federal land partners and representatives of the timber industry and environmental conservation communities to establish grant criteria and evaluate proposals.

The work group recommended their top ranked projects to ODF, which was followed by a public comment period. Grant agreements are now underway and work on some projects will begin in spring 2022 ahead of wildfire season. Most restoration work will occur between the 2022 and 2023 fire seasons. All work must be completed by June 30, 2023.

The tensions between Russia and Ukraine are causing prices to rise at the pump.

Triple-A reported the average in Oregon is up three cents to three-dollars-98-cents. Oregon is now in the top 5 of gas prices in the nation. The national average is up four cents over the last week to three-50 a gallon. Both averages are at the highest prices since the summer of 2014.

Northwest Natural is giving customers 40-million dollars in credits. The credits will appear on bills in January, February, and March.

The credits are because of efficient pipeline capacity management and effective use of the company’s underground natural gas storage facility. The average residential customer will receive a credit of around 13 dollars a month, and small commercial customers will have around 60-dollars trimmed from their bills.

With wildfires becoming more extreme in Oregon and the Pacific northwest,  the U.S. Department of Interior has launched the modernization of the states’ firefighter workforce.

Interior says that this initiative will give employees more stability with their job and allow them to grow within their positions, as well as improving the department’s ability to address more extreme wildfire activity and meet the wants for physical and mental needs.

The reform will begin a hiring process that offers seasonal, temporary, and more full-time positions along with additional improvements to salary. Over the next five years the Interior Department will receive $1.5 billion for wildland fire management including $164 million towards workforce improvements through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This includes a new wildland firefighter classification series, additional training, and mental health support.

Busy Week for Local Child Exploitation Task Force

The Southern Oregon Child Exploitation Team (SOCET) joint inter-agency task force has been busy this week throughout the Rogue Valley. Monday, SOCET went to several addresses throughout Medford to follow-up on tips that child porn was uploaded from the locations.

Tuesday morning, SOCET investigators along with Oregon State Police (OSP) detectives made an arrest after an eight-month long investigation into child exploitation imagery uploaded at a residence in Grants Pass. Wednesday morning, SOCET investigators along with Eagle Point Police Department (EPPD) patrol officers served a federal search warrant in Eagle Point. 

Each case started after SOCET received tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) that numerous images of child exploitation were uploaded from the residences. 

Yesterday’s arrest stemmed from a NCMEC tip SOCET investigators received in the summer of 2021 that child exploitation images were uploaded at a residence on the 2300 block of Azalea Drive in Grants Pass. During the investigation a digital device was seized.

While forensically examining the device, Southern Oregon High Tech Crimes Task Force detectives discovered more images of child exploitation, leading to additional charges. The suspect, Timothy Allen Beck, 25, of Grants Pass, was taken into custody and has been charged with five counts of encouraging child sexual abuse in the second degree. He was lodged in the Josephine County Jail on $100,000 bail. 

Wednesday morning, SOCET investigators along with EPPD patrol officers served a federal search warrant at a residence on the 600 block of Teakwood Drive in Eagle Point. During today’s search warrant, digital devices were seized, and will be forensically examined by High Tech Crimes for further evidence of child exploitation. NCMEC tips started the investigation, which led to subpoenas, followed by the search warrant at the residence. Investigators are interviewing possible witnesses and involved parties, and investigations are ongoing.

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, OSP, 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. Jackson Co. Sheriff’s Office

Prison Inmate On The Run After Escaping Oregon State Penitentiary

A prison inmate walked away from a laundry sorting building on the grounds of the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem Wednesday morning and remains at large.

The Department of Corrections says 40-year-old Bohanna McQuiston was last seen around 6 a.m. at the laundry sorting building.

McQuiston is 160 pounds, 5-foot-11 with hazel eyes and red hair.

He was last seen wearing blue jeans, a blue shirt and a blue denim jacket.

McQuiston entered prison custody on January 11, 2021, on two counts of burglary out of Clackamas County and one count of burglary out of Washington County. His earliest release date on those charges is February 6, 2024.

McQuiston was housed at Santiam Correctional Institution and was working as a laundry worker for Oregon Corrections Enterprises.

Anyone with information on his whereabouts should contact the Oregon State Police at 1-800-452-7888, the non-emergency number of their local police department, or the DOC Fugitive Apprehension Unit at 503-569-0734.

Corvallis Man Attacks Woman in Shower Shortly After Being Arrested and Released Twice

An Corvallis man allegedly broke into a home and attacked a woman in her shower just 90 minutes after being arrested and released for a string of other crimes, police said.

Garrett W. Caspino III, 29, is accused of slipping into the home in Corvallis at 12:30 p.m. last Saturday and ripping open the shower door.

Caspino, who had his pants pulled down to his knees, allegedly grabbed the woman by her shoulders, shoved her against the wall and started choking her, according to police.

The woman’s boyfriend ended up chasing Caspino out of the home before calling 911. Caspino was nabbed nearby a short time later, cops said.

Authorities determined that he’d had several other brushes with the law earlier that morning.

His alleged crime streak started just before 11 a.m. when police received a 911 call that he was sitting in the driver’s seat of a stranger’s unlocked vehicle, acting “totally out there.”

Caspino was arrested for criminal trespass but didn’t meet the criteria for being booked into jail — so he was issued a citation at the local police station and released.

About an hour later, Caspino was found trying to hide behind a pillar in a restricted area at the police station. The suspect was cited, again, for criminal trespass.

Following his third arrest for the alleged shower attack, Caspino was booked into the Benton County Jail on charges of first-degree burglary, menacing, strangulation, coercion, harassment, and attempted first-degree sexual abuse.

Nearly 40,000 Oregon households facing pandemic hardship receive over $282 million in rental assistance relief 

SALEM, Ore. — Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) announced that as of Feb. 14, the emergency response program has paid out $282.4 million in federal emergency rental assistance (ERA) to 39,797 households, up from $278.3 million and 39,303 applicants last week, through the Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program (OERAP). 

OERAP continues to be one of the nation’s top-performing programs and is ranked fourth in the nation, in the percentage of federal ERA funds paid out and obligated, as tracked by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

OHCS is currently accepting new applications following our portal reopening on Jan. 26, 2022. Tenants can apply for OERAP at oregonrentalassistance.org or call 211 if they have questions. New applications will start getting reviewed for payment once the portal closes to new applicants.

Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Requesting Public Comment On Drone Rules in Parks and Beach Sites

Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) is requesting public comment on proposed Oregon Administrative Rules guiding take-off and landing of drones in state parks and along the ocean shore. The deadline for comments is 5 p.m. April 7, 2022.

The proposed rules are intended to provide clarity for drone pilots, hobbyists and the general public to know where drone take-off and landing is allowed and prohibited within a state park and along the ocean shore.

Two virtual public meetings are scheduled to take comments:

6 p.m. March 30: Agenda covers changes to park area rules. Registration is required for anyone wishing to testify at https://us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_MamTCi_uRpKJOX_DG9L3HA

6 p.m. March 31: Agenda covers changes to ocean shore rules. Registration is required for anyone wishing to testify at https://us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_ZX3XNt0eTt-iMaoUQ7HiaA

Both hearings will be streamed live at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkqL6iVPBrfCTO27cNmCTwg

After reviewing public comments, agency staff will present final amended rules for consideration by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission later this spring.

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