The latest news stories and stories of interest in the Willamette Valley from the digital home of Southern Oregon, from Wynne Broadcasting’s WillametteValleyMagazine.com
Monday, October 11, 2021
Willamette Valley Weather
Today– Mostly sunny, with a high near 55. Calm wind becoming north around 6 mph in the afternoon.
Tuesday– Widespread frost, mainly before 9am. Otherwise, increasing clouds, with a high near 57. Southeast wind 3 to 6 mph.
Wednesday– A 30 percent chance of showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 56. West southwest wind around 5 mph becoming calm in the morning.
Thursday– Mostly sunny, with a high near 61.
Friday– Mostly sunny, with a high near 65.
Customers Complaining of Long Waits at Local Pharmacies
Customers at local pharmacies have reported extremely long wait times and reduced hours at multiple local pharmacies.
“They just have not been able to fill prescriptions like they used to,” a customer of the Walgreens on River Road in Eugene, said.
“They said they were 900 prescriptions behind,” the customer said in reference to the pharmacy at the same location. But she said she doesn’t blame the pharmacists filling the prescriptions. “It’s just really sad, I could see how understaffed they are and we’re ready to find a different pharmacy although I don’t know if it’s going to be any better at other pharmacies.”
Staff at both the River Rd. and Coburg Rd. Walgreens said the pharmacies were operating at reduced hours due to staffing shortages.
Ironically, Bi-Mart just sold all of its pharmacies to Walgreens.
Bi-Mart Sells All Its Pharmacies to Walgreens
Bi-Mart announced Thursday 9/30 that the company will leave the pharmacy business, selling all 56 of its pharmacies in Oregon, Idaho, and Washington state to Walgreens.
The sale includes all of Bi-Mart’s prescription files and inventory. Bi-Mart stores aren’t going anywhere, but the company’s pharmacies will either shut down and transfer prescriptions to nearby Walgreens locations or remain operating under the Walgreens brand in “select areas where Walgreens does not have nearby stores,” primarily in rural Oregon.
Bi-Mart said that pharmacies in the Portland metro area and in several other markets have already been closed, with prescriptions transferred to Walgreens. Transfer of most prescription files is set to begin in October and be completed by January, “subject to customary closing conditions.” Pharmacists and pharmacy staff at Bi-Mart locations will have an opportunity to apply for open positions at Walgreens. Patients whose prescriptions are being transferred will be notified by mail, the companies said, and both Bi-Mart and Walgreens pledged to work together on a smooth transition for patients.
Crash Closes Highway 34 Near Lebanon
All lanes of Highway 34 between Lebanon and Interstate 5 were closed following a serious crash between a semi-truck and a car, Oregon Department of Transportation said.
The crash happened at about 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Officials said they expected a lengthy closure for cleanup and reconstruction. Drivers were encouraged to use U.S. 20 as a detour.
Accident on Eugene’s Beltline Causes Traffic Light Outage
A vehicle accident at the intersection of Roosevelt Blvd and Beltline Hwy caused the traffic lights to go out, leading to delays in the area. The accident took place on Saturday night, but crews worked in the area until Sunday afternoon to restore the signals.
Three Car Crash on Hwy 99 near Junction City
Four people were taken to RiverBend hospital after a three-vehicle crash along Highway 99, Junction City fire officials said.
Three people suffered serious injuries and the other person suffered moderate injuries, officials said.
The crash happened at about 3:40 p.m. Sunday while all three cars were traveling along Highway 99 between Ayres Ln. and Link Ln., officials said.
Woman Stabbed in Springfield
One woman was taken to the hospital after she was stabbed at a home in Springfield Friday night, Springfield Police said. Police responded to the incident on the 5000 block of Main Street at about 6:30 p.m Friday.
One juvenile was arrested in connection with the stabbing, according to police. Police said the injured woman required multiple stitches.
OSU Has Plan to Hire New President
Oregon State University’s Board of Trustees staff has outlined a plan to have a new president chosen by May 2022. Oregon Public Broadcasting reports the preliminary plan was outlined by staff in a meeting Friday.
The board is hoping to manage a process and presidential hire that can build trust after a scandal forced out the previous president of Oregon’s largest university. OSU’s previous president, F. King Alexander, resigned in March following criticism of the way he handled sexual misconduct allegations at Louisiana State University.
The current head of OSU is interim president Becky Johnson who was elevated from her vice president role at OSU-Cascades in April.
Oregon reports 1,580 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 3,982. The Oregon Health Authority reported 1,580 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 341,113.
The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (6), Benton (26), Clackamas (95), Clatsop (9), Columbia (28), Coos (25), Crook (51), Curry (6), Deschutes (142), Douglas (41), Harney (9), Hood River (11), Jackson (68), Jefferson (21), Josephine (23), Klamath (76), Lake (12), Lane (133), Lincoln (10), Linn (141), Malheur (25), Marion (136), Morrow (8), Multnomah (172), Polk (18), Tillamook (2), Umatilla (59), Union (28), Wallowa (11), Wasco (11), Washington (125), Wheeler (12) and Yamhill (40).
Newest COVID-19 modeling report projects decrease in daily cases and hospitalizations
Today, OHA released its latest COVID-19 forecast showing a continued decline in daily cases and hospitalizations through mid-October.
According to the report, the effective reproduction rate — the expected number of secondary cases that a single case generates — was estimated at .91 on Sept. 22, which is higher than last week’s projection.
At that level of transmission, the report estimates 425 cases per 100,000 people, or an average of 1,275 daily cases and 78 hospitalizations for the two-week period between Oct. 13 and Oct. 26.
The report also estimated the potential impact from the projected spread of the disease from Sept. 16 through 22, which closely tracks the reported data during that week.
At that rate of transmission, new daily cases and hospitalizations are expected to decline more steeply, with an estimated average of 350 per 100,000 people, projecting an average of 1,050 new cases and 62 hospitalizations through Oct. 26.
The report also indicated that hospitals across the state are seeing declines in COVID-19 hospitalizations and COVID-19 intensive care admissions.
The report also noted no increase in high-risk behaviors.
Vaccinations remain the most effective shield against COVID-19. Oregonians should wear masks in indoor public spaces and when outdoors among crowds.
Cooler temperatures, increased humidity, and a few autumn storms are providing enough relief to allow further reduction in restrictions and fire danger in South Central Oregon.
Effective today, Monday, October 11th, the agencies of the South Central Oregon Fire Management Partnership (SCOFMP) will be lowering the Fire Danger from “High” to “Moderate”. Despite this change, fuels remain dry and caution is needed to prevent wildfires.
The Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) Klamath-Lake District Regulated Use Closure (RUC), which regulates things like the use of campfires, chainsaws and other activities that could start a wildfire, are being lifted tomorrow, Monday, October 11.
While the RUC is being lifted, Fire Season is still in effect and regulations are in place restricting debris burning and timber harvest operations. All outdoor debris burning is still prohibited.
Forest operations on State and private lands that require a Permit to Operate Power Driven Machinery are required to have fire tools, onsite water supply, and watchman service. The release of sky lanterns, discharge of exploding targets or the discharge of tracer ammunition is also prohibited while Fire Season is in effect.
“The recent light moisture and cooler temperatures we received last week going into this week is assisting us but not near enough to put us out of declared fire season,” said Randall Baley, ODF Protection Unit Forester in Klamath Falls. “As hunting season and other fall outdoor activities arrive, please be fire safe and careful at all times.”
Public Use Restrictions, on the Fremont-Winema National Forest, Sheldon-Hart Mountain and Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complexes and most of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Lakeview District were lifted on October 1.
Public Use Restrictions remain in place on BLM lands in the Klamath River Canyon.
The Industrial Fire Precaution Level (IFPL) is lowering Monday, October 11 from Level II to Level I. This means fire precaution requirements are still in effect, including a 1-hour fire watch following work that could spark a wildfire. Under IFPL I, chainsaw use is permitted any time of day on federal lands, including the Fremont-Winema National Forest and Lakeview District BLM.
Personal and commercial woodcutters are reminded of their responsibility to stay informed of current IFPLs and all restrictions that apply to activities conducted on public lands. Failure to comply with precautionary fire requirements may result in the issuance of a Violation Notice.
Area residents and visitors are also reminded that the Emergency Fire Closure Orders for the Bootleg and Cougar Peak Fires are still in effect on the Fremont-Winema National Forest. Both orders are available at www.fs.usda.gov/fremont-winema.
“The SCOFMP agencies are still seeing wildfires this fall, including a small lightning fire Friday on the Lakeview Ranger District,” said Interagency Deputy Fire Management Officer Coley Neider. “While we are still prepared for these fires, fuels are still very dry and can carry fire. We need the continued efforts of the public to prevent wildfires this fall.”
Area residents and visitors can help prevent wildfires by doing the following:
- Make sure campfires are never left unattended and are dead out and cold to the touch before leaving. Use plenty of water to drown the fire.
- If you are using a portable stove, make sure the area is clear of grasses and other fine fuels. Prevent stoves from tipping and starting a fire.
- Ensure chainsaws and other equipment, including generators, are maintained and have an approved spark arrester in good condition.
- Make sure off-road vehicles have a properly functioning catalytic converter or approved spark arrester.
- Never park a vehicle over dead grass and avoid driving through tall grass – your vehicle can ignite the fuels and start a fire.
- If towing a boat or trailer, ensure safety chains are properly secured and not dragging.
Oct. 11th – Oregon is celebrating its first-ever Indigenous Peoples’ Day today, a day intended to recognize and honor the contributions that Indigenous and Native peoples have made to the state’s history and culture.
The second Monday in October, long celebrated as Columbus Day, will now officially be recognized as Indigenous Peoples Day in Oregon — a recognition of the Native American communities here long before Christopher Columbus set foot in the Americas.
Massive Marijuana Bust in Klamath Falls
Klamath County Deputies stumbled Wednesday into the most significant illegal marijuana operation in Klamath County history. The 27,000-square-foot potato shed south of Klamath Falls was filled with marijuana in various stages of processing: drying in giant strands that stretched from the roof to the floor, buds pruned and stuffed into 40-pound bags, hundreds of those bags stacked against a wall, and years of discarded marijuana waste in piles ready for disposal.
Sheriff Chris Kaber said Friday he had never seen anything like it in 30 years of police work. And it wouldn’t have been found if a single car hadn’t thrown up enough dust that a neighbor mistook it for a wisp of smoke.
Klamath County Fire District crews and county deputies arrived at the location, west of Highway 39 not far from Klamath Community College, after a 911 call about possible smoke in the area was made about 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Deputies noticed the back of a nearby building was open and they could clearly see marijuana inside. And there was more of it than any of them had ever seen before.
The scale of this operation was so massive, Kaber said it changed his perception of the extent of the problem locally. After securing the area and identifying some of the people on the premises, officers documented the property and made sure everything stayed put. And then a number of county agencies got to work removing the incredible amount of marijuana, which will take days if not weeks. The Sheriff’s Office conservatively estimated the street value of the marijuana inside the shed to be worth in excess of $100 million. No weapons or cash was found.
Many illegal grows in the county are operating on property owned by local landowners, who tend to lease their property to strangers who claim they want to grow legal hemp. In reality, people growing illegally are getting a good price for a place to grow at the expense of the landowner, who assumes most of the risk, the sheriff said.
The grows often require a staggering amount of water, stolen from local wells and rivers, in order to feed the crops. The issue has plagued many Klamath County residents, in addition to the smell and sometimes threats of violence from those operating and protecting the grows.
Oregon Warns Consumers of Mortgage Scam
The Oregon Division of Financial Regulation is warning consumers about fraudulent activity from an alleged Internet-based mortgage lending and consumer finance company that is committing an advance fee scam, as well as impersonating a legitimate company.
The division has received five complaints from victims of the advance fee scam. Four of the five complaints were filed in the past year. The scammers have co-opted the name and address for a real Portland-based company named Canyon Investments. The real Canyon Investments has nothing to do with the lending scam.
The fraudsters, whose identities the division has not been able to determine, have set up an imposter website to make it look like the real Canyon Investments. They use Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP), phone apps, spoof emails, and stock photos to give the appearance of a legitimate company offering funding for real estate purchases
and investments. The real Canyon Investments does not have a website and does not offer loans to consumers.
Oregon Employment Department Finally Getting Calls Answered
Have a question for the employment department? It’s now, after 19 months, back to normal when calling the employment department. That was one of the least productive things you could do for the first several months of the pandemic when the Oregon Employment Department was essentially inaccessible by phone.
New state data, though, shows that calls are finally getting answered. The employment department says it’s now answering more than 90% of calls within 15 minutes. Nearly 80% of calls are answered within five minutes. That’s within spitting distance of the state’s goal of answering 90% that quickly.
Four Alarm Fire in Mt. Angel
The Mt. Angel Fire District said a four-alarm fire broke out in the early morning hours on Saturday. At 12:48 a.m., officers from the Mt. Angel Police Department discovered that a building in the 200 block of South Main Street was on fire. The officers called in what they had found, and the Mt. Angel Fire District was dispatched to respond.
At 12:48 a.m., officers from the Mt. Angel Police Department discovered that a building in the 200 block of South Main Street was on fire. The officers called in what they had found, and the Mt. Angel Fire District was dispatched to respond.
Upon arrival of the first engine, the building was fully engulfed in flames. Additional alarms were called, and the fire eventually went to four alarms.
There were 35 fire apparatus that responded with nearly 120 firefighters battling the flames. Over a million gallons of water were used to knock the fire down.
There were 4 buildings damaged or destroyed by the fire. Damage estimates have not yet been done. The businesses affected by the fire were The Blackbird Granary, KP Harvesttime, Wood Pellet Stoves and Hiddenbed of Oregon.
There were no injuries as a result of this fire and the efforts to extinguish it. The cause at this time is unknown and is currently under investigation.
Oregon State Parks seeks input on several new rules being considered regarding park usage
The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) is requesting public comment on three proposed amendments to the Oregon Administrative Rules that govern state parks, as directed by legislation passed during the 2021 session.
The deadline for comments is 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10, 2021.
One change prohibits individuals convicted of a bias crime on public property or state waterways from entering state park property for up to five years, as per Senate Bill 289. The proposed amendment establishes a process for issuing exclusion notices.
The second change implements Senate Bill 794, which increases fees for RV campsites by 25% for out-of-state residents. Under the current system, out-of-state campers just pay the RV site rate. Oregon residents with RVs pay both the RV site rate plus an RV license plate fee, some of which goes to state park operations. Additional revenue from this surcharge will go to pay for day-to-day operations and repairs to state parks. With a system nearly 100 years old, those costs go up every year.
The third amendment under consideration adds a requirement that members of the Outdoor Recreation Advisory Council be appointed by the Governor, as per House Bill 2171. The council will advise the Office of Outdoor Recreation on outdoor policy and priorities.
Public Hearing: A virtual public meeting set for 6 pm. Oct. 27. Registration is required at http://oregon.gov/OPRD/PRP/Pages/PRP-rulemaking.aspx
A full copy of the proposed amendments is available on the Proposed OPRD Rules web page.
After reviewing public comments, agency staff will present final amended rules for consideration by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission at its November 2021 business meeting.