Klamath Basin News, Thursday, 2/24 – Oregon to Lift Indoor Mask Requirements for Public Spaces and Schools March 19th

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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 24, 2022

Klamath Basin Weather

Today Sunny, with a high near 41. Northwest wind to 8 mph. Overnight, mostly clear with a low near 15 degrees. North northeast wind 3 to 6 mph.

Friday Sunny, with a high near 43.
Saturday A slight chance of rain and snow after 4pm. Mostly sunny, with a high near 50. Chance of precipitation is 10%. Mostly cloudy overnight with a lowaround 31.
Sunday A chance of snow before 10am, then a slight chance of rain. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 51.

BREAKING NEWS: Russian Defense Ministry says its ground forces are working into Ukraine, planning to capture the city of Kiev…

Russia’s attack on Ukraine is echoing around the globe today as Ukrainian civilians are caught in the crossfire in many cities at Russian soldiers pounce on Ukraine with airstrikes and shelling. 

The Ukrainian government calling it a “full-scale war” that could rewrite the geopolitical order. How far will Russia’s President Vladimir Putin go, as he warns the west that interference would “lead to consequences you have never seen in history.”

Biden administration officials have signaled that two of the measures they were considering most strongly include hitting Russia’s biggest banks and slapping on new export controls meant to starve Russia’s industries and military of U.S. semiconductors and other high-tech components. 

Stay tuned for more here on BasinLife.com and catch the latest news at the top of every hour on Wynne Broadcasting’s KFLS AM1450 / 102.5FM.

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There are 35 new COVID-19-related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 6,519.  OHA reported 1,160 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of yesterday, bringing the state total to 690,481.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (2), Benton (19), Clackamas (78), Clatsop (6), Columbia (23), Coos (17), Crook (13), Curry (24), Deschutes (69), Douglas (42), Gilliam (1), Harney (3), Hood River (5), Jackson (118), Jefferson (24), Josephine (13), Klamath (11), Lake (3), Lane (87), Lincoln (14), Linn (38), Malheur (17), Marion (107), Morrow (4), Multnomah (166), Polk (27), Tillamook (12), Umatilla (22), Union (19), Wallowa (2), Wasco (26), Washington (120) and Yamhill (28).

The number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 across Oregon is 579, which is 18 fewer than yesterday. There are 110 COVID-19 patients in intensive care unit (ICU) beds, which is one more than yesterday.

Emergency departments in Oregon are under significant strain. If you have a medical condition that doesn’t require emergency care, contact your provider. An urgent care center may also help you get the care you need and will save emergency departments from added strain.

However, Sky Lakes Medical Center in Klamath Falls said on their Facebook page yesterday that they are now down to 20 total hospitalized patients with Covid-19, the lowest it has been in several days.  They say it’s an improvement in the region as they remain at strain status.

Some 11 new cases were reported in Klamath County yesterday.  Jackson County reported 118 new cases.

Oregon to lift mask requirements for indoor public spaces, schools March 19

Oregon will lift mask requirements for indoor public places and Oregon’s schools on March 19, Oregon Health Authority (OHA) announced today, as hospitalizations drop and are projected to reach levels below those at the start of the Omicron surge.

Earlier this month, OHA announced that the general indoor mask requirement would be lifted by March 31, with the option of lifting it sooner if conditions improved enough.

Originally, OHA announced that the K-12 indoor mask rule would lift on March 31. Feedback from school districts around the state indicated that preparations for the transition could be completed earlier.

By that date, it was expected, 400 or fewer people per day in Oregon would be hospitalized with the virus, a level the state experienced prior to the arrival of the Omicron variant. A recent modeling report by Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) predicted the state would reach that total around March 20.

Daily COVID-19 hospitalizations have declined 48% since peaking in late January. Over the past two weeks, hospitalizations have fallen by an average of more than 30 a day. Yesterday, there were 579 people hospitalized with COVID-19 across the state.

Reported COVID-19 infections also have dropped precipitously in recent weeks. Over the past month, new infections have declined by more than 80%. The seven-day moving average for new cases is 84% lower than at the peak of the Omicron surge.

“We are able to take this important step, earlier than anticipated, because of the collective diligence and the shared sacrifice that people in Oregon have demonstrated in getting vaccinated, wearing masks and limiting their gatherings,” said Dean Sidelinger, M.D. MSEd, health officer and state epidemiologist. His videotaped statement is here.

“Based on the feedback from local leaders and communities, OHA and ODE are partnering to develop practical updates to safety protocols for quarantine, contact tracing, and testing that meet the current conditions of the pandemic,” said Colt Gill, director of the Oregon Department of Education and deputy superintendent of public instruction.

“These guidelines will continue to support our North Star goal of providing in-person learning for every student, all day, every school day and will focus on specific supports for students, staff, and families that may be at more risk from COVID-19 than others in the school population.”

The March 19 date continues to give local communities time to prepare for the transition, and it allows district and school leaders to take necessary actions to ensure students can safely remain in their classrooms.

State officials highly recommend that people in high-risk groups continue to wear masks in indoor public settings even after the restrictions are lifted.

With sunny days, high temperatures upwards of 60 degrees and 95% of the Klamath Basin’s wildlife refuges dry and cracked, 2022 wasn’t a normal year for the Winter Wings Festival.

Peppered among last weekend’s photography workshops and birding trips were frank discussions of why the Klamath’s bird populations have plummeted — and what could be done to recover them.

Klamath Basin Audubon Society, which helps organize Winter Wings, included programming at this year’s festival targeted explicitly at the issues facing the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges, which haven’t received enough water to create wetland habitat for waterbirds for more than two decades.

The festival included seven presentations and field trips — six of them brand-new for 2022 — describing how the refuges have gotten into this situation and the efforts being made to save them.

Klamath County Museum Manager Todd Kepple led a Friday morning tour of sites near Klamath Falls that illustrate colonization’s impact on the basin’s once-abundant wetlands and the myriad species and societies they supported. Before the caravan left the Oregon Institute of Technology, he gave an introductory presentation on the Klamath’s water crisis.

Kepple has led this program a few times in the past at Winter Wings, especially as the situation on the refuge has gotten more dire, but he said this was the first year he brought climate change into the conversation.

Though the basin’s water woes ultimately stem from the destruction of its ecosystems, drier summers and less snowy winters make water management especially tight.

The Ross Ragland Theater stage welcomes back “Dancing With Your Klamath Stars” at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 25.

After its final rendition was announced in 2018, then returned the following year due to popular demand, the event was forced into hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year marks its return to the historic Ross Ragland stage, all in the name of a good cause. Modeled after the smash hit television series combining celebrities with professional dancers, Klamath County’s rendition brings prominent community members together to strut their stuff in a friendly competition on behalf of regional charities.

Participating in the dance competition, once again, is the Utah Ballroom Dance Company accompanying six selected Klamath County residents in a fun-filled evening of glitz and ballroom glamour. At stake, as with past competitions, is $500 for the winning charity, with additional proceeds benefiting the Ross Ragland Theater general operations fund.

This year’s competitors include Amanda Blodgett with Klamath Health Partnership, competing for 4-H of Klamath County; Ray Holliday the owner of Holliday Jewelry, dancing on behalf of the SMART Reading program; Brittany Montjoy with Cascade East Family Medicine, dancing for CASA of Klamath County; CJ Riley with Oregon Institute of Technology, participating for the Klamath Trails Alliance; Rhiannon Kerr with Klamath Union High School, dancing for Klamath Hospice; and Ryan Wheelock owner of Steel Sensations, representing the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association.

Tickets for Dancing With Your Klamath Stars are $29 for adults, discounted senior and military tickets are $26, student tickets are $19, and box seating is $49.

Contact the Ross Ragland Theater Box Office to purchase tickets, or visit www.ragland.org for more information and to purchase tickets online.

Around the state of Oregon

The U.S. Navy says today four people have died in the crash of a contractor’s helicopter on the Hawaii island of Kauai.  The helicopter was flown by Croman Corporation of White City, Oregon, in support of a training operation, the military’s Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) said in a news release.

PMRF said the aircraft crashed on the north side of its installation along the western shore of Kauai shortly after 10 a.m. There were no survivors. The names of those killed were not yet available.  PMRF said, “Information on casualties will be released once available.  The helicopter was flying in support of a range training operation.  An investigation will commence to determine the cause of the accident.  More details will be provided as they become available.”

Croman offers helicopter services for aerial fire suppression, logging and heavy lift construction.

The National Transportation Safety Board said in a tweet the agency is investigating the crash of the Sikorsky S-61N helicopter.

The Sikorsky S-61N was built from 1959 to 1980 by Sikorsky Aircraft, now part of Lockheed Martin. It was designed to carry a substantial freight or passenger payload.  The helicopters were optimized for use over water, and versions were also used by all branches of the U.S. military. 

Josephine County voters will have their chance to vote on the Greater Idaho idea this May. The Board of Commissioners of that Oregon county voted unanimously today to refer a non-binding advisory question regarding Greater Idaho to the county’s May ballot. 

The question reads “In your opinion, should Josephine County, along with other rural counties, separate from Oregon and become part of Idaho?”

The Greater Idaho movement proposes to move the Oregon/Idaho border so that eastern and southern Oregon would be governed by Idaho. Eight counties of rural Oregon have voted in favor of the movement’s ballot initiatives so far. 

Three counties will vote on Greater Idaho ballot measures this May: Douglas, Klamath, and Josephine Counties.  If Douglas County and Klamath County approve the measures, they will create an unbroken line of counties that have voted in favor  of the idea, from Reedsport, on the Pacific Ocean, all the way to Ontario on the Oregon/Idaho border. 

Southern Oregon also hosts a movement to create a new state called “State of Jefferson,” but McCarter said that the Oregon Legislature is more likely to approve a plan that does not add two Republicans to the US Senate, adding “we sign their State of Jefferson petitions and they sign our petitions, so we should vote in favor of anything that would free us from Salem’s grip.”

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Most Oregonians who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits will receive emergency allotments in March. 

The federal government has approved emergency allotments every month since March 2020. This gives SNAP recipients additional support during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In March, approximately 386,000 SNAP households will receive approximately $62 million in extra food benefits in addition to their regular SNAP benefits.

Current SNAP households will receive emergency allotments on March 11. Emergency allotments will be issued March 31 or April 2 for households who did not receive benefits in the first monthly issuance.

SNAP recipients do not have to take any action to receive these supplemental benefits as they will be issued directly on their EBT cards. 

Questions about your SNAP benefits should be directed to the ONE Customer Service Center at 1-800-699-9075.

Deadline For Rent Assistance 2/28

The deadline for Oregon renters to pay rent accrued from April 2020 to June 2021 is fast approaching. That date is Feb. 28.

Since June last year, the state has paid more than $280 million to about 40,000 households through the Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program. People can still apply for rental assistance through the program.

As the deadline approaches, the Executive Director of the Springfield Eugene Tenant Association is urging people who need help to apply.

“Even if you’re not 100% sure if you qualify or not, we really recommend to look into that and to apply for those rent assistance programs,” Timothy Morris said.

He said the deadline means some renters who’ve been struggling financially throughout the pandemic will not be able to maintain their housing.

“We could be talking about thousands of families. We could be talking about hundreds of community members that are just suddenly displaced and without places to go and without the money to go anywhere,” Morris said.

Once a tenant applies, they are in a protected state where the landlord cannot take any action against them for non-payment of rent,

Jackson County Sheriff’s Department Search and Rescue rescued several stranded drivers between Ashland and Eastern Jackson County since the weekend due to severe winter weather trapping them on the road. 

Sgt. Shawn Richards said, two rescues have been made since Tuesday, but at one point earlier, the team had to rescue seven people in a row because they were not aware that the weather would be changing rapidly. 

Richards recommends people drive prepared with tools, emergency kits, and a cell phone in case they do become stuck. He said, sometimes, it’s safer to just stay at home until snow on the roads has been cleared. 

“Do some planning ahead to where whoever is going to call 911 and report you as missing, they have some general idea of where you were going, so we can get to you as quickly as possible.”

Richards says though the team has nearly 120 volunteers, who get called on a case-by-case basis, they do not provide towing services.

He says often times, drivers will be able to get picked-up, but their cars will have to stay where they are until they’re able to get a tow.

On Monday, local towing companies had to help out several people during an I-5 back-up from Milepost 0-11.

333 Towing in Ashland said, though some tows have been made recently because of this severe weather system, it doesn’t compare to the number of tows that were done by the company towards the end of December 2021 in Jackson County’s high elevations.

A cause is being determined for an explosion that caused a massive fire at a food plant in Hermiston.

A boiler explosion apparently caused the fire at Shearer’s Foods. Two people were injured by the blast. Nearby Highway 207 was closed and Union Pacific closed a nearby rail line. Residents in the area were on standby to evacuate if the smoke plume became a threat.

Oregon WIC warns participants about recall of contaminated formula due to bacteria

PORTLAND, Ore. – Oregon Health Authority is warning Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program participants to be on the lookout for powder infant formulas that may be contaminated with Cronobacter or Salmonella bacteria.

The Food and Drug Administration last week announced a voluntary recall of certain powder formulas manufactured by Abbott at its Sturgis, Mich., facility due to the presence of Cronobacter sakazakii or Salmonella newport bacteria.

Products included are all sizes of these powdered formulas:

  • Similac Advance
  • Similac Sensitive
  • Similac Alimentum
  • Similac Total Comfort
  • Similac for Spit up
  • EleCare Infant
  • EleCare Junior

Oregon WIC, which is among state WIC programs across the country that have contracts with Abbott for infant formulas, recommends participants check Abbott’s website at www.similacrecall.com or call 1-800-986-8540 to see if their formula is affected. Participants can take affected products to the store where they bought them for exchange or refund.

Those concerned about their infant’s health should immediately contact their health care providers. Oregon WIC also recommends parents and caregivers never dilute infant formula, or make or feed homemade infant formula to infants.  

The WIC Shopper App that participants use to purchase supplemental foods includes all information about the recall in multiple languages. The WIC Shopper App is available in the Apple Store or Google Play: https://ebtshopper.com/download/. — WIC participants can contact their local WIC agency for assistance.

When Tatsuo Inouye was taken at gunpoint from his barracks at the World War II Tule Lake Segregation Center, he didn’t know why or for how long he’d be held at the camp’s primitive stockade.

For the next three months — from Nov. 13, 1943 to Feb. 14, 1944 — Inouye, one of 16,000 Japanese Americans incarcerated at the camp, wrote about his thoughts, fears and observations in a daily journal. It’s taken nearly 78 years, but a book based on his diary, which Inouye was reluctant to share, has made its way into print.

During his ordeal, Inouye chronicled his thoughts in a daily diary. He wrote about meager meals, refusals from camp authorities to explain why he and others were imprisoned, the lack of proper medical treatment as well as threats and forms of intimidation by guards.

In his daily reflections, Inouyi emerges as a strong-willed, stubborn and sometimes arrogant individual. He expresses obvious feelings of pride for “the great country of Japan” and believes Japan will win the war.

An environmental group wants to study the feasibility of building bridges or tunnels to help wild animals safely cross Interstate 5 in southern Oregon and along the Oregon-California border.

The Southern Oregon Wildlife Crossing Coalition says many animals are killed trying to cross the interstate and I-5 also disrupts the ecosystem by blocking access to key areas used by various species.

The group is looking at seven sites between Ashland and the California border, from a fish passage at Neil Creek to a steel culvert under the roadway or even a bridge.

The creation of the wildlife crossing is dependent on the passage of a bill before the Oregon Legislature that would set aside $7 million for such projects.

The woman who was killed in a shooting Saturday night during a demonstration at Normandale Park in Portland also worked on City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty’s campaign. Hardesty says the suspect, 43-year-old Benjamin Smith, is known to have supremacist sympathies. He has a history of violence against activists, including Hardesty. June Knightly helped collect signatures for Hardesty’s re-election. Hardesty says she’s pausing her campaign to review safety protocols and that the shooting has a chilling effect on civic engagement.

Oregon Small Enterprise Fund (SEF) has reopened for financial relief to Oregon businesses excluded from federal pandemic relief assistance programs due to the owners’ immigration status.

The non-profit Oregon Worker Relief (OWR) will administer the fund as crucial aid for those businesses. The Small Enterprise Fund has $1.5-million for one-time relief grants to Oregon businesses excluded from federal relief assistance such as the Paycheck Protection Program. Call center agents have started contacting people on the fund’s waitlist since it first opened March 2021. 

SEF will take new applications starting today, Feb.  22.  Eligible immigrant-owned small businesses owners can call 1-888-274-7292 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday to apply for the fund. 

The Democratic majority in the Oregon State Capitol may extend Republicans a peace offering to use on their own priorities.

House Speaker Dan Rayfield says Democrats could set aside 100-million dollars in the surging revenue forecast for the minority to use as they see fit. The goal from state lawmakers is to ease partisan battles that have dominated previous legislative sessions. Leaders in both parties are still working out how the move could impact issues both parties agree on before finalizing the decision.

The Brother of MAX Train Murderer Jeremy Christian Is Suspect in February 16th Fatal Shooting in Portland

The brother of Jeremy Christian, who is serving life in prison for murdering two people and seriously injuring another on a crowded MAX train in 2017, is suspected in a Feb. 16 North Portland homicide.

“I can confirm that the name of the individual involved in the Feb. 16 shooting is David Christian,” said Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Elisabeth Shepard. “This case is an open investigation, and we are unable to provide further comment at this time.”

On Monday, the Portland Police Bureau identified the victim of the Feb. 16 shooting as 30-year-old Zachary Steven Moore. Police have not yet released the suspected shooter’s name. The bureau said in a press release last week that, at 12:20 am on Feb. 16, officers responded to a shooting call in the St. Johns neighborhood near the intersection of North Mohawk Avenue and Fessenden Street.

“When officers arrived they located a male victim who was deceased,” PPB said. “A person involved in the shooting remained at the scene and is cooperating.”

David Christian is not in custody, and it does not appear as though police consider him dangerous: “At this time, police are not looking for any suspects and there is no threat to the community,” PPB said in its press release.

The DA’s office did not confirm that David Christian, 47, is related to Jeremy Christian, now 39. But public records indicate that the two are indeed siblings.

Separate court records from 2017 for Jeremy Christian and David Christian, whose name also appears as Jonathan David Christian, list the same North Portland residential address. Court records for David Christian dating back to 2005 also list that address.

A recognizance release from 2017 for David Christian says his mother is Mary Christian. Multiple news articles about Jeremy Christian identify his mother as Mary. And Multnomah County property records show that Mary Christian and Donald Christian are the homeowners of the property that Jeremy and David listed as their residence in court records.

A November 2017 psychiatric evaluation report for Jeremy Christian says he is “the third of four sons born to the marriage of his parents.”

“He has been variously residing in his parents’ home or staying with friends when not in custody since his release from the Oregon Department of Corrections in 2010,” the evaluation says. “His brothers also reside in the family home or with extended family.”

The 84th annual Oregon Logging Conference will be held Thursday Feb. 24 – Saturday Feb. 26 at the Lane Event Center and Fairgrounds.

This year’s theme is “Family, Friends and Forestry 2.0” a nod to last year’s event which was held virtually. This year’s event will return to the traditional in-person format.

This year’s keynote speaker will be Blake Manley, a Natural Resources teacher at Sweet Home High School and creator of the Manley Jobs YouTube series, Chair of the Oregon Natural Resources Teachers Association and a logger.

Seminars and panel discussions will be offered on a range of topics.

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