Willamette Valley News, Wednesday, 10/14 – Covid-19 Outbreaks Continue to Worry Lane County Health Officials

The latest news stories and stories of interest in Eugene-Springfield area and around the state of Oregon from the online digital home of the valley, WillametteValleyMagazine.com.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Willamette Valley Weather

Today A 20% chance of showers today, with a high near 65.

Thursday Sunny, with a high near 65. North wind 5 to 11 mph, with gusts as high as 18 mph.

Friday Sunny, with a high near 68.

Saturday Patchy fog before 8am. Otherwise, mostly sunny, with a high near 66.

Today’s Headlines

COVID-19 has claimed six more lives here in the state of Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 605.   Oregon Health Authority reported 321 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of yesterday, bringing the state total to 37,780.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Benton (10), Clackamas (37), Clatsop (5), Columbia (1), Crook (1), Curry (4), Deschutes (2), Douglas (1), Jackson (13), Jefferson (1), Josephine (3), Klamath (5), Lake (1), Lane (39), Lincoln (5), Linn (20), Malheur (14), Marion (35), Multnomah (45), Polk (3), Tillamook (1), Umatilla (11), Union (2), Wasco (1), Washington (50), and Yamhill (11).

Lane County public health officials say there have been a total of 56 COVID-19 outbreaks since the pandemic began at the end of February.  These outbreaks involve 401 cases, including those who are no longer infectious or have recovered. Outbreaks include workplaces, long-term care facilities, and child care centers — as well as those in the college-age cluster.

This week alone, Summit Bank on East Broadway have five employees testing positive for coronavirus. LCPH said that they do not believe that transmission with the public occurred.

Officials said that contact investigations will be conducted. Summit Bank has been working closely with public health officials and is following recommendations.

Also, college students are in need of a reminder say officials.

“We have had some difficulty,” said Jason Davis said. “A lot of that difficulty from what we’ve heard stems from the fear that some students have that they will get in trouble for testing positive for COVID or that they will get a friend in trouble by identifying them as an exposure. Additionally, we have had some concerns over actually isolating in quarantine because if they do so people will see that that’s happening and they will be identifiable.”

Davis said that there is still a lot of work to do to get the message across to college-age residents, some of them students at the University of Oregon. UO cases make up more than 26.3% of the outbreaks. There’s been a total of 368 COVID-19 cases within the UO community since June 1.

“No one should be getting in trouble simply because of a diagnosis,” Davis said. “It’s really the behavior, I think, the university is looking at and certainly Lane County Public Health is looking at. Once you’re sick, our priority is making sure the case stops with you.”

There have been 17 deaths associated to outbreaks, making up the majority of the 22 deaths in the county so far. The average age of cases tied to outbreaks is now lower than before at 31. Residents shared their thoughts on this data.

“It’s unfortunate to see the numbers rising in Oregon, but there are a number of factors there with young people going back to school, people loosening up and getting cabin fever and going out and doing things they probably shouldnt be doing,” Eugene resident Jim Westcott said.

Westcott said that it is critical to protect not just yourself, but also those around you.

“If you’re around anyone, you should really be masked because you don’t know which person is going to spread it,” Westcott said. “You could be asymptomatic and not know youre sick. The person you pass by could be sick and isn’t going to say anything.”

Health officials continue to urge the community to follow public health guidelines to isolate this virus and to prevent even more comment members from the danger it can bring.

On Tuesday, The University of Oregon announced winter classes will be a mixture of online, remote, and in-person.

University President Michael Schill sent a letter to the campus community with the announcement. He said the decision was made after monitoring COVID-19 indicators and the increase in cases. The structure of the winter quarter will be similar to that of the fall quarter.

In-person classes will mostly be labs, studio, creative classes, and physical education. All other classes will be taught remotely or online.

President Schill said in the letter, the winter term class schedule is scheduled to be released on Nov. 16. All classes will be marked with ‘web’ or ‘remote to indicate the format.

When it comes to spring term, President Schill said he hopes there will be more in-person classes but it will require the university community to continue to be vigilant in fighting the virus.

Some of the last debris crossing the Santiam HIghway 22. Road is now open for traffic says ODOT.

Oregon Highway 22 through the Santiam Canyon now open for traffic

“Sections of the highway have been closed to traffic or controlled with pilot cars since Sept. 7 when a wind storm and series of wildfires caused devastating damage to communities and creating a series of hazards for travelers,” the Oregon Department of Transportation said.

ODOT estimates that over 30,000 hazard trees have been removed along a 40-mile stretch of the highway that was heavily impacted by the winds and wildfires.

“Hazard trees are dead, dying or leaning trees that were damaged by the wildfires, and would likely come down on the highway posing a risk to travelers,” ODOT said.

ODOT said travelers should be aware of the following:

  • The speed limit is reduced to 40 mph between Gates (milepost 33) and Pamelia Creek Road (milepost 63).
  • Significant work continues in the canyon and travelers should expect delays throughout the burn area.
  • Utility companies are working throughout the corridor to repair power lines. Utilities and ODOT continue to cut down hazard trees.
  • In addition to the ongoing work zones, hazards to travelers include damaged guardrail, roadside log decks and slash piles from the hazard tree removal, as well as the potential for falling rocks.
  • With fall and winter rains beginning, slides and debris flows are a particular concern, especially in areas where the vegetation, tree roots and underbrush have been stripped away.
  • Since many businesses and other facilities were damaged or destroyed by the fires, there are limited services available throughout the Santiam Canyon. Fill your gas tank, pack enough water, food and other supplies for the journey.
  • Travelers are urged to use extreme caution while traveling through the burn area. Add extra travel time or consider using an alternative route.
  • Access for pedestrians, including those with disabilities, will be available and identified through or around the work zones.

In Lebanon, Oregon, a 13-year-old boy is in custody for allegedly stabbing a complete stranger in the back on Monday night.  Lebanon city police said it happened at Monday afternoon. at the Ixtapa Mexican Restaurant at 25 North Santiam Highway. Officials said the victim was conscious and alert when she was taken to a Corvallis hospital.

The youth was found after he returned to the scene and was taken into custody, police said. The boy was taken to the Linn-Benton Detention Facility on charges of attempted murder, first-degree attempted assault and second-degree assault.

It was later determined that the youth and the victim did not know one another. Police said the youth’s name is not being released at this time. There is no immediate threat to the public. 

Around the state of Oregon

In a split opinion, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has restored a court injunction that bans federal law enforcement from using force, threats or dispersal orders against journalists and legal observers who are working at protests in Portland, Oregon.

The 2-1 ruling issued Friday restores an injunction issued by U.S. District Court Judge Michael H. Simon. That injunction was put on hold when the Trump administration challenged Simon’s order. The ruling by the 9th Circuit restores the ban while it considers the U.S. government’s appeal.

The federal agencies “assert a very important public interest, but the record fully supports the district court’s conclusion that the Federal Defendants’ interest does not require dispersing plaintiffs,” according to the majority opinion. “They have not threatened federal property, and the journalists, in particular, provide a vitally important service to the public.”

The Oregon DMV is continuing to improve its services by adding more appointments, expanding online services and retrofitting offices to catch up with its backlog. However, customers who need DMV services this fall and into 2021, should start early to set an appointment. You can schedule, change or cancel an appointment using the DMVs has a new online appointment scheduling tool.

DMV2U, DMV’s Online Service Center, is the place to go to schedule appointments, replace your card, change your address, purchase permits and other DMV services. This Oregon Department of Transportation press release also offers helpful tips for using the DMV.  

Though Jackson County accounts for fully half of the buildings destroyed by fire in Oregon during the fire events of September, officials said on Monday that they have seen alarmingly few applications for assistance from the federal government and the Red Cross.

Jackson County’s acting director of Emergency Operations, John Vial, led a press briefing on Monday with the primary purpose of urging those displaced by the Almeda and South Obenchain fires to sign up for help from FEMA and the Red Cross.

Of all the buildings damaged or destroyed in Oregon’s recent spate of devastating wildfires, Vial said that Jackson County alone accounts for roughly half. However, only 3,310 applications to FEMA —about 34 percent of applicants — have come from displaced Jackson County residents.

Last Friday, FEMA approved Jackson County for direct housing assistance, saying that it would work with state agencies to provide temporary housing for those displaced by fire while they consider long-term options. The program will only be open to those who register with FEMA.

 Oregon’s jobless rate saw a slight drop in September, keeping close to the national average amid the coronavirus pandemic. The state’s employment department said went from 8.5% to 8% unemployment as non-farm employment rose by 5,100 jobs in September.

That is close to the national average of unemployment, which fell from 8.4% to 7.9% last month. Most of the job gains were in the leisure and hospitality, financial, healthcare and social assistance, and information job sectors.

Oregon’s total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 5,100 jobs in September, following a revised gain of 16,200 jobs in August.

Over the past three months the rate of job growth slowed, with 39,000 jobs added in that time, following more rapid growth in May and June, when 83,100 jobs were added. Despite the recent slowdown, Oregon employers added jobs in each of the past five months, and the state has recovered 45 percent of the jobs cut in March and April.

Over-the-month job gains in September were largest in leisure and hospitality (+2,600 jobs); financial activities (+1,600); health care and social assistance (+1,600); retail trade (+1,500); and information (+1,200). Two industries cut a substantial number of jobs in September: construction (-2,600 jobs) and private educational services (-1,400).

Leisure and hospitality continues to be the industry most impacted by the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Its employment bounced back substantially in May and June, but job gains have slowed over the past three months. Employment totaled 163,200 in September, which was down 53,400 jobs, or 24.7%, since its peak month of February.

Manufacturing lost a substantial number of jobs this spring and hasn’t rebounded. Employment stood at 180,000 jobs in September, which was close to its level of the past five months. Since September 2019, manufacturing cut 18,100 jobs with losses widespread throughout most component industries.

Health care and social assistance added 2,300 jobs over the past two months and was only 8,200 jobs, or 3.1 percent, below its recent high in February. Over the past 12 months, social assistance cut 4,900 jobs, or 8.4 percent. However, health care declined only 800 jobs in that time.

An Indiana man has been charged after allegedly using a metal baton to smash out windows at the Oregon Historical Society and Portland State University during protests throughout the city on Sunday.

Malik Fard Muhamad was charged with one count of unlawful possession of a firearm, one count of possession of a loaded firearm in public, one count of criminal mischief in the first degree and one count of riot.

Activists called for people to march Sunday for an “Indigenous Peoples Day of Rage,” the day before the federally recognized Columbus Day. Police declared the protest a riot after the group of about 300 people vandalized businesses and toppled statues of Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

Law enforcement identified Muhamad as part of a group of people wearing all black and vandalizing buildings, according to a news release from the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office. Muhamad ran from police as they attempted to arrest him, the release said.

Officials say the damage from Sunday night’s riot in Portland will exceed 50-thousand dollars.  The City of Portland says it’ll cost 20-thousand dollars to repair damage to the Roosevelt statue that was pulled over plus another ten-thousand dollars to repair the Lincoln statue.  

The front windows of the Oregon Historical Society were broken, and replacing them will cost 20-thousand dollars.  Windows were also broken on other businesses and at Portland State University.  While Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler insisted on Monday he doesn’t support, condone or will tolerate violence in the city, he has done nothing to stop it.

The alt-right group Patriot Prayer is claiming responsibility for stealing a statue erected by Black Lives Matter protesters.  

The so-called “Nightmare Elk” was set up near Southwest Main Street and Third Avenue in place of the Elk sculpture and fountain that was damaged during demonstrations.  On Twitter, Patriot Prayer posted a picture showing members posing with the makeshift statue strapped to a flatbed trailer.

Following vandalism to the Oregon Historical Society’s (OHS) downtown facility on the evening of Sunday, October 11, the museum is set to open for regular museum hours on Wednesday, October 14.

Current museum hours are Wednesdays – Saturdays from 10am – 5pm and Sundays from 12pm – 5pm. While the building is currently boarded up due to the extensive damage done to the windows on the building’s front entrance and exterior, visitors will be able to safely enter the building through the 1200 SW Park Avenue entrance.

OHS released a statement yesterday in response to the vandalism, thanking the community for the outpouring of support and sending gratitude that no staff or visitors were harmed. While the building repairs will be extensive, the statement noted that the greatest concern was surrounding the Afro-American Heritage Bicentennial Commemorative Quilt, which was taken from its display on Sunday evening and thankfully recovered early Monday morning by local police. Each square of the quilt, crafted in the mid-1970s, honors a Black individual or moment in history. The quilt was sewn by 15 Black women from Portland, who donated it to OHS and entrusted it to the Society’s care. It was on temporary display for the month of October in the OHS pavilion so that it would be freely accessible to view by all as part of a collaboration with Portland Textile Month.

Unfortunately, OHS has had to remove the quilt from public display to allow OHS collections staff to assess care needs. While the quilt was recovered intact, as it was wet there has been color bleed of the fabric due to moisture, which will require the attention of conservation specialists. While the quilt will not be able to return to public display for the remainder of Portland Textile Month, we invite community members to learn more about this important piece of local African American history through this recent blog post and by joining community members for a virtual panel discussion on the quilt’s significance on Thursday, October 15 at 12pm. 

EUGENE, Ore.—A California woman pleaded guilty today to participating in a complex multistate credit card “bust- out” conspiracy that funded an illicit Interstate Marijuana Operation, and defrauded banks for over a $1,500,000, announced U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams.

Mariam Gevorkova pleaded guilty today to Conspiracy to Commit Bank Fraud, Aggravated Identity Theft, and a Drug Trafficking Conspiracy.

            “The defendant and her co-conspirators built a house of credit cards fueled by a bottomless pit of greed.” said U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams, “The sheer scale and amount of the fraud exposed by the dedicated and determined law enforcement investigators on this case is astounding and took years to unravel. This prosecution signals the end of the line for this criminal enterprise and all those involved”

“This fraud funded a lavish lifestyle of luxury goods and vacations while also supporting an illegal marijuana grow operation that was not licensed in Oregon and sent pot out of the state,” said Renn Cannon, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Oregon. “While Gevorkova and her co-conspirators used the Corvallis Cannabis Club as a legal front they cost the victim banks hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses.”

“Gevorkova and her co-conspirators took advantage of the U.S. Mail to commit bank fraud and identity theft in furtherance of the distribution of illegal narcotics while acting under the guise of a legitimate business. This abuse of the U.S. Postal Service allowed them to finance a lavish lifestyle at the expense of honest Oregonians. The Postal Inspection Service works tirelessly to hold criminals who misuse the U.S. Mail accountable.” said Tony Galetti, Inspector in Charge, Seattle Division, U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS).

Gevorkova faces maximum penalties of 30 years imprisonment for the Bank Fraud Conspiracy, 20 years imprisonment for the Drug Trafficking Conspiracy, and a mandatory two years imprisonment for Aggravated Identity Theft, a $2,250,000 fine and five years of supervised release. She will be sentenced on March 11, 2021 before U.S. District Court Judge Michael J. McShane.

DROP, COVER AND HOLD ON! MAKE A PLAN WITH YOUR FAMILY TO PREPARE FOR AN EARTHQUAKE

It’s easy to forget about earthquake safety amid a global pandemic and ongoing wildfire recovery; however, Oregon is still earthquake territory. The Great Shakeout, an annual earthquake preparedness drill, takes place at 10:15 a.m. on October 15. This two-minute practice is an important safety drill that can be incorporated into homes, offices and virtual classrooms.

Oregon has many crustal faults that can cause earthquakes and substantial localized damage. In addition to the local faults, the off-shore Cascadia Subduction Zone extends from British Columbia, Canada to southern California.  Cascadia can produce very large earthquakes and tsunami that will likely affect the entire West Coast. Residents can prepare for even these very large disasters by taking small actions over time. Practicing your safety actions makes you more prepared.

Oregon’s Office of Emergency Management works with local communities to share information on what to expect and how to be prepared before, during and after an earthquake. This includes encouraging all Oregonians to participate in the Great Shakeout, a time when everyone can practice “drop, cover and hold on” – the number one safety action to take during any type of earthquake. 

“This year, with many working from home and students taking classes online, it’s a great opportunity to discuss earthquake safety and have an earthquake drill at home with your family,” said Andrew Phelps, OEM director.

Other earthquake safety tips include strapping down your home’s water heater and locating your home’s gas and water lines to shut them off quickly should it be necessary. When meeting with your household, take a walk around your home to identify heavy objects that are on high shelves that could fall; relocate those items to lower shelves and make sure that heavy furniture items are braced for safety. Also discuss the best place to meet should you become separated during the event and make a plan to communicate with loved ones. Identify the best place for your preparedness items and make sure everyone in the household knows where those items are located. 

“After a large-scale event, such as a Cascadia quake, it could take some time for formal response resources to be available,” said Phelps. “That’s why it’s crucial to make plans with your family and neighbors to be prepared for at least two weeks.”

For tips on how to be “Two-Weeks Ready” visit our website at https://www.oregon.gov/OEM/hazardsprep/Pages/2-Weeks-Ready.aspx

Participants can register for the Great ShakeOut at https://www.shakeout.org/oregon/

Videos are available to help households identify priorities for preparing for an earthquake:
Life Happens Fast – You can be prepared for unexpected emergencies
Life Happens Fast (Water)
Life Happens Fast (Food)
Life Happens Fast – Great ShakeOut

The Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training is pleased to announce the graduation of its 400th Basic Police Class.

The Basic Police Class is 16-weeks in length and includes dozens of training areas including survival skills, firearms, emergency vehicle operations, ethics, cultural diversity, problem solving, community policing, elder abuse, drug recognition, and dozens of other subjects.

Basic Police Class 400 will graduate during a private ceremony at the Oregon Public Safety Academy in Salem, Oregon on Thursday, October 22, 2020 at 1:30 p.m.

Due to the COVID 19 pandemic and the need for social distancing the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training regret that this ceremony will be closed to the public. However, we would like to publicly congratulate Basic Police #BP400 on their successful completion of basic training

An Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC) adult in custody (AIC) died October 13, 2020. He was incarcerated at the Snake River Correctional Institution and passed away at a local hospital. He tested positive for COVID-19. He was between 70 and 80 years old.

As with all in-custody deaths, the Oregon State Police have been notified, and the Medical Examiner will determine cause of death. Department-wide, this is the fourteenth AIC to die who tested positive for COVID-19.

For more information on COVID-19 cases inside Oregon’s prisons, please visit DOC’s COVID-19 website. The agency is responsible for the care and custody of 14,000 adults in custody who are incarcerated in 14 institutions across the state.

DOC requires employees and AICs to wear masks if they cannot maintain six feet of social distancing. Wearing masks is mandatory at all times in health services areas, some work areas, and in food services areas. Cloth masks have been provided to AICs and staff. If an AIC becomes ill and exhibits flu-like symptoms, CDC and OHA guidance for supportive care are followed.

Institutions continue to clean and disinfect numerous times a day. DOC asks AICs to report symptoms of COVID to medical staff. Posters are in all DOC institutions encouraging individuals to maintain proper hygiene and to uphold appropriate social distancing to the extent possible. Health screening processes are in place before staff are allowed to enter facilities. This screening includes a temperature check and a screening questionnaire. Visiting remains closed until further notice.

HINES, Ore. – The Bureau of Land Management announced today a subcommittee of the Steens Mountain Advisory Council has scheduled a fall meeting. The public is welcome to attend Thursday, October 22, at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters, 36391 Sodhouse Lane, Princeton, Oregon, and Friday, October 23, at the Bureau of Land Management, Burns District Office, 28910 Hwy 20 West, Hines, Oregon.

The October 22 agenda includes a presentation on carp management on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and the Donner und Blitzen River, a short field tour to a fish trap area on the Refuge, and a brief discussion about the Page Springs Weir.

On October 23, the council will hear an update from the Designated Federal Official, discuss the SMAC’s definition of ‘reasonable access’, receive an update on the Nature’s Advocate Inholder Access Environmental Assessment (EA), discuss the Pike Creek Parking Area EA, hear information about Travel Management Planning for the Steens Mountain area, review sections of the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Act of 2000 referencing the Burns Paiute Tribe, and share information from constituents. Any other matters that may reasonably come before the subcommittee may also be included.

Public comment periods are available on Thursday, October 22, at 4:00 p.m. at the Refuge, and Friday, October 23, at 12:30 p.m. at the BLM office in Hines. Unless otherwise approved by the subcommittee chair, the public comment period will last no longer than 30 minutes, and each speaker may address the subcommittee for a maximum of 5 minutes.

Sessions may end early if all business items are accomplished ahead of schedule or may be extended if discussions warrant more time. A call-in opportunity may be available and will be announced online along with the full meeting agenda at: https://www.blm.gov/get-involved/resource-advisory-council/near-you/oregon-washington/steens-mac

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