Willamette Valley News, Friday 5/20 – Eugene Police Seize Fentanyl Pills And Other Drugs In Largest Raid In History Of Department, Avian Quarantine Put Into Effect For Part Of Lane County After Bird Flu Detected

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

Friday, May 20, 2022

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Eugene Police Seize Fentanyl Pills And Other Drugs In Largest Raid In History Of Department

In what the Eugene Police Department called the largest fentanyl raid in the history of the department, they recovered roughly 11,000 pills of suspected fentanyl and other drugs Tuesday.

Two were arrested and arraigned on charges including possession, manufacturing and child neglect, in one of the larger seizures in the history of Lane County, according to department spokeswoman Melinda McLaughlin.

Several members of EPD’s street crimes unit first heard in March about significant amounts of drugs and guns being held at a residence in the 2700 block of Royal Avenue, McLaughlin said in a news release Thursday.

After identifying the suspected involved residents as Joe Anthony Harker and Shayla Kay Lawray Bennett, police applied for and served a search warrant on the house, along with members of Oregon State Police, along with EPD’s drone team, a SWAT team, and others.

During the raid, the street crimes unit recovered more than six pounds of methamphetamine, more than a pound of heroin, approximately 11,000 suspected fentanyl pills McLaughlin said would be tested at a lab due to the dangers of fentanyl. They also recovered more than a pound of cocaine. It’s estimated the seized drugs are worth $110,000 in street value.

Some suspected stolen items were also seized including a gun and several loaded magazines for handguns, McLaughlin said.

Harker, 38, was arraigned Wednesday on charges for first-degree child neglect, unlawful meth and cocaine possession, unlawful possession of a controlled substance, and the manufacture or delivery of a controlled substance. Bennett, 27, was charged with child neglect and unlawful meth possession.

The child neglect charges were for Harker and Bennett allegedly allowing a child younger than 16 to stay in a home where controlled substances were being criminally delivered or manufactured for profit, according to court documents.

There was a significant uptick in fentanyl-related overdose deaths in May 2021, with many of the deaths linked to fake prescription drugs that were actually fentanyl. McLaughlin did not want to disclose how many deaths there were. There were 33 calls coded as overdoses in Eugene and Springfield through May 1-18 last year, and 15 calls that turned out to be an overdose that month.

Eugene Police Street Crimes Unit – The SCU has been focusing on prolific offenders, who are identified through intelligence-based policing, public tips and other sources. They have been proactively responding across the city to quality of life issues as they arise, using all available resources and partners such as community groups, neighborhood associations and city services. SCU is dedicated to targeting immediate and acute community safety system issues while working toward mission-critical enhancements that need to be addressed through a longer-term and broader community safety initiative. The unit currently consists of a lieutenant, a sergeant and five officers, including one officer with a drug detection K9.

Avian Quarantine Put Into Effect For Part Of Lane County After Bird Flu Detected

Just two days after state officials said bird flu had been detected in the region, an avian quarantine has been put in place for parts of Lane County.

On Tuesday, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife announced that multiple Canada goose goslings collected from Alton Baker Park in Eugene had tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza. State officials said a case of the disease was confirmed by the USDA.

Earlier in the month, officials in Oregon and Washington announced they had detected bird flu in some residents’ backyard flocks.

The quarantine will keep anyone from transporting any species of bird and prevent the movement of poultry in the designated area of the county. While the disease can devastate poultry trade, officials have said there is no immediate danger to the public.

The area includes large portions of Eugene and encompasses both sides of I-5 north of the city, extending as far north as Harrisburg.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture has uploaded the area to an interactive map online where residents can enter their address to see if they are included.

An outbreak of bird flu was also detected in Linn County near the I-5 and Route 34 junction. Its radius extends several miles out and is also visible on ODA’s map.

ODA did not give an expiration date for the the avian quarantine but said it will last long enough for state and federal officials to study the area and ensure no more HPAI cases exist.

Lane County to hold online information session on American Rescue Plan Community Grant opportunity on Monday, May 23rd

An online information session about Lane County’s American Rescue Plan Community Grant opportunity will be held next Monday, May 23, at 12:00 p.m. Visit www.LaneCounty.org/ARPA for the Microsoft Teams link to join the meeting. 

The information session is for those interested in applying for a grant. Participants can ask questions and receive answers during the session. Afterward, all questions and answers will be posted on the website as a “Frequently Asked Questions” document.

Lane County will award $3 million in grants to assist nonprofits and public agencies that did not receive direct American Rescue Plan allocations as they recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Awards will range from a minimum award of $10,000 and maximum award of $500,000 (limit one award per organization). Final awards will be determined by the Board of County Commissioners.

To apply, submit the required information contained in the Request for Applications packet found at www.LaneCounty.org/ARPA. Applications are due no later than 5:00 p.m. PST on Wednesday July 6, 2022. 

Areas that will be prioritized for funding arose from community input, including the 1,800+ responses from a community survey. Areas of focus include affordable housing, mental health services (especially for youth), projects that serve rural Lane County, and projects that demonstrate innovation. 

Lane County is prioritizing communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 public health emergency for ARPA-funded investments. Applications eligible for ARPA funding will be evaluated using various criteria, one of which is equity.

To date, Lane County has allocated over $110 million in ARPA funding:

  • Housing – $22 million
  • Homelessness – $13.8 million
  • Aid to Nonprofits – $9.1 million
  • Public Health – $8.3 million
  • Public Safety – $17.5 million
  • COVID Response and Government Services – $19.7 million
  • Infrastructure – $19.7 million

For more information, visit www.LaneCounty.org/ARPA.

We want to keep you informed about COVID-19 in Oregon. Data are provisional and change frequently. For more information, including COVID-19 data by county, visit our dashboard: http://ow.ly/JEsM50Jcvvm

Screen shot of linked dashboard shows an increase trend in cases and test positivity. Hospitalizations show an increase. Vaccinations have plateaued. Please visit healthoregon.org/coronavirus for more.
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Oregon’s Unemployment Rate Edges Down to 3.7% in April

Oregon’s unemployment rate edged down to 3.7% in April, from 3.8% in March, reaching its lowest level in more than two years. The rate is now close to Oregon’s record low of 3.4% which occurred in each of the four months of November 2019 through February 2020. The U.S. unemployment rate was 3.6% in both March and April 2022.

Throughout the past two years, Oregon and the nation have experienced similar trends as their economies and labor markets have recovered from the pandemic recession. Both saw their unemployment rates spike to unusual highs of more than 13% by April 2020, followed by a drop to below 7% six months later. For the past 21 months, Oregon’s unemployment rate has been within a half percentage point of the U.S. unemployment rate.

Payroll employment trends have also been similar for Oregon and the U.S., with both losing roughly 14% of payroll jobs between February and April 2020, then recovering roughly a third of those jobs three months later, followed by a more gradual recovery leading up to April 2022. However, Oregon has slightly lagged the U.S. jobs recovery overall, with the U.S. adding back 95% of jobs lost during the pandemic-induced recession, while Oregon has only recovered 88% of the jobs. 

In April, Oregon’s seasonally adjusted nonfarm payroll employment rose by 4,200 jobs, following a revised gain of 7,000 jobs in March.  Over-the-month gains were largest in health care and social assistance (+1,800 jobs), manufacturing (+1,300), and professional and business services (+1,300). The only major industry to cut at least 1,000 jobs was other services (-1,000 jobs).

Professional and business services has grown rapidly and consistently over the past two years. In April, employment reached 261,700, another record high for the industry. Recent revisions to the jobs tallies boosted the past six months’ employment upward by about 3,000 above original estimates.

Next Press Releases — The Oregon Employment Department plans to release the April county and metropolitan area unemployment rates on Tuesday, May 24, and the next statewide unemployment rate and employment survey data for May on Wednesday, June 15.

Notes: All numbers in the above narrative are seasonally adjusted.

The Oregon Employment Department and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) work cooperatively to develop and publish monthly Oregon payroll employment and labor force data. The estimates of monthly job gains and losses are based on a survey of businesses. The estimates of unemployment are based on a survey of households and other sources.

The Oregon Employment Department publishes payroll employment estimates that are revised quarterly by using employment counts from employer unemployment insurance tax records. All department publications use this Official Oregon Series data unless noted otherwise. This month’s release incorporates the October, November and December 2021 tax records data. In addition, data for July through September 2021 were revised by a total of up to 2,600 jobs per month. The department continues to make the original nonfarm payroll employment series available; these data are produced by the BLS.

The PDF version of the news release can be found at QualityInfo.org/press-release. To obtain the data in other formats such as in Excel, visit QualityInfo.org, then within the top banner, select Economic Data, then choose LAUS or CES. To request the press release as a Word document, contact the person shown at the top of this press release.

To file a claim for unemployment benefits or get more information about unemployment programs, visit Oregon.gov/employ.

The Oregon Employment Department (OED) is an equal opportunity agency. Everyone has a right to use OED programs and services. OED provides free help. Some examples are: Sign language and spoken language interpreters, written materials in other languages, braille, large print, audio and other formats. If you need help, please call 971-673-6400. TTY users call 711. You can also ask for help at OED_Communications@employ.oregon.gov.

OHA Update on the Baby Formula Shortage

National baby formula maker Abbott Laboratories has reached a deal with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to restart production at its shuttered Michigan facility. A federal judge approved the deal, which means Abbott could restart production in a couple of weeks, filling up store shelves six to eight weeks later.

Meanwhile, the FDA is taking steps to increase the supply of baby formula in the United States. In Oregon, members of the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program can use their benefits to purchase other brands.

Visit OHA blog to learn more about your options and how to spot potentially contaminated baby formula, as well as why we warn against feeding babies homemade formula or cow’s milk: https://covidblog.oregon.gov/update-on-the-baby-formula-shortage/?fbclid=IwAR3g3bVm34ZL4fkA9kJgoNSKoWRYVn1lSCtytqG3TVSceDssIdmnpKSAaVA

Suspect Kills Self after Randomly Shooting During Police Pursuit in Klamath Falls on Monday

Details have finally been released almost four days after an incident in Klamath Falls that left a man dead and resulted in shots being fired at city police officers.

Police in Klamath Falls attempted a traffic stop on Monday afternoon, May 16, 2022, after witnessing behavior they considered concerning in a vehicle driven by Garrett Turnham.

Turnham ignored the commands from police and sped away. With police in pursuit, Turnham drove through a fence and the playground at Mills Elementary, where a female passenger got out of the car.

Turnham then headed South on East Main, and eventually onto 6th Street, heading west. Near the 6th Street viaduct, Turnham began shooting a gun from his vehicle.

The pursuit and shooting continued to Klamath Avenue, and into the commercial district near Spring and Commercial. Turnham stopped at Commercial and 7th near Eagle Ridge High School and was pronounced dead at the scene.

According to Klamath County District Attorney Eve Costello, the initial investigation suggests that Turnham suffered an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. A subsequent search revealed a handgun and AK-style rifle.

This investigation is ongoing. Anyone with additional information is encouraged to call the Oregon State Police.

Pain at the Pump

The pain at the pump continues. High gas prices have surpassed the $5 per gallon mark on average in Oregon, Washington and Alaska and the $6 per gallon mark statewide in California.

That is according to AAA’s Fuel Gauge Report from Tuesday, May 17. AAA reports the average price of gas in Oregon is $5.06 per gallon statewide. That is an all-time record high with prices up 41 cents per gallon over the past month and $1.69 per gallon since last year.

The average prices of gas stands at $5.04 per gallon in Klamath County, $5.14 in the Medford-Ashland area and $5.23 in Grants Pass, according to AAA. Gas prices are highest in on the west coast, according to Marie Dodds, director of government and public affairs for AAA in Oregon and Idaho. In California, gas prices average $6.02 per gallon and diesel averages $6.56 per gallon. Both are records, according to AAA.

When in Doubt, Stay Out

Increasing temperatures create potential for toxins in water

PORTLAND, Ore.—As summer approaches, and more communities and recreational areas around the state begin reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Oregon Health Authority (OHA) reminds people heading outdoors to be on the look-out for cyanobacteria blooms that can produce toxins in Oregon lakes, rivers and reservoirs. 

Cyanobacteria are beneficial bacteria found worldwide in all freshwater. Under the right conditions—when weather, sunlight, water temperature, nutrients and water chemistry are ideal—cyanobacteria can multiply into blooms in any water body. Many blooms are harmless, but some can produce cyanotoxins that make people and animals sick. 

Exposure to cyanotoxins occurs when water is swallowed while swimming, or when water droplets are inhaled during high-speed activities such as water-skiing or wakeboarding. Symptoms of exposure to cyanotoxins include diarrhea, cramps, vomiting, numbness, dizziness and fainting. Although cyanotoxins are not absorbed through the skin, people with sensitive skin can develop a red, raised rash when wading, playing or swimming in or around a bloom.  

Children and pets are particularly sensitive to illness because of their size and activity levels. Dogs can get extremely ill and even die within minutes to hours of exposure to cyanotoxins by drinking the water, licking their wet fur or eating the toxins from floating mats or dried crust along the shore. Similar to dogs, livestock and wildlife can become ill and die after drinking from waterbodies, troughs or other sources of drinking water affected by blooms and potential toxins. 

Only a fraction of freshwater bodies in Oregon are monitored for cyanotoxins. Due to continued staffing and safety concerns related to COVID-19, OHA expects less frequent visual monitoring and sampling of affected water bodies than normal. For this reason, it will be even more important as more recreational areas open and the summer recreation season begins for people to visually observe any water body they choose to recreate in before taking the plunge.  

OHA recommends that everyone stay out of water that looks foamy, scummy, thick (like pea-green or blue-green paint) or where brownish-red mats are present. If you are unsure, follow OHA’s guidance of “When in doubt, stay out.” 

Open recreational areas where blooms are identified can still be enjoyed for activities such as camping, hiking, biking, picnicking and bird watching. By being aware of signs of a bloom and taking appropriate precautions to reduce or eliminate your exposure, you can also enjoy water activities such as canoeing, fishing and boating, as long as speeds do not create excessive water spray and fish are cleaned appropriately. 

To learn if an advisory has been issued or lifted for a specific water body, visit the Harmful Algae Bloom website or call the Oregon Public Health Division toll-free information line at 877-290-6767. 

For health information or to report an illness, contact OHA at 971-673-0440. For campground or lake information, call the local management agency. 

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