Willamette Valley News, Tuesday 11/23 – Officers Injured As Suspect Runs From Stolen Car In Eugene, Rat Problems Up In Eugene This Year

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

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Willamette Valley Weather

Today– Showers likely, mainly before 10am. Partly sunny, with a high near 50. South southwest wind 7 to 9 mph becoming west northwest in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation is 60%.

Wednesday– Patchy frost before 9am. Otherwise, partly sunny, with a high near 50. Calm wind becoming north northwest around 5 mph in the afternoon.

Thanksgiving Day– A 10 percent chance of rain after 4pm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 49. Light south wind.

Friday– Rain likely, mainly before 4pm. Cloudy, with a high near 54. Chance of precipitation is 70%.

Saturday– A chance of rain, mainly before 10am. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 61.

Officers Injured As Suspect Runs From Stolen Car In Eugene

Three Eugene Police officers were injured during a foot chase Monday morning after a suspect in a stolen car rammed a patrol vehicle and took off on foot in the heavily forested South Hills of Eugene.

The investigation started when a federal Bureau of Land Management officer on his way to work just after 8 a.m. spotted a suspicious vehicle along Dillard Road in South Eugene.

The federal officer ran the plates, the Lane County Sheriff’s Office said, and the Nissan Maxima came back as stolen. The officer called in backup from the county and Eugene Police.

Law enforcement officers found a man reclined in the car. Eugene Police and sheriff’s deputies pinned the vehicle in with patrol cars.

“In a coordinated effort with BLM, Lane County Sheriff’s Office and Eugene Police, the vehicle was pinned on both sides and the suspect tried to elude, putting officers nearby in danger,” Eugene Police said. “Due to officers’ counter movements, the suspect was not successful in fleeing in the vehicle and instead fled the scene on foot into the woods.”

The suspect was eventually taken into custody. “The suspect’s resistance, combined with icy and uneven terrain, led to three EPD officers being injured while taking him into custody,” police said. “Two officers had minor injuries, and a third officer was transported to a local hospital for treatment of a non-life threatening injury. “

The suspect was also taken to the hospital for evaluation. The scene was near the Mount Baldy trailhead for the Ridgeline Trail, surrounded by wooded areas and homes in the urban-wildland interface near the city limits of Eugene.

Rat Problems Up In Eugene This Year

Rat problems are on the rise in Eugene. Many homeowners are seeing the rodents running through their yards or even worse, in their attics.

Since January of this year, there’s been a 40% increase in rat sightings in Eugene. It’s something pest technician Ronda Shifflett deals with daily.

“There’s a lot of different reasons; there’s a lot of movement with the fires that we had last year and COVID. We’ve had a lot of businesses that have shut down and that takes away from the rodents’ normal food sources,” Shifflett said.

She also said composting plays a role in the increase.  Shifflett said now these rodents are looking for food in homes. In order for this increase to go down, she said people need to be educated and know how to secure their home.

“Go ahead and walk around your home, take a look at all vents, see if there are any rips or holes within the wire mesh that’s on those and you can go ahead and get those sealed up with steel wool,” Shifflett said.

She said it’s also important to keep all the food in your pantry tightly sealed, especially dog food. Rats are attracted to chicken and bird feed as well.

Shifflett also says what a lot of people don’t recognize is that a small rodent like a mouse or a rat only needs a quarter of an inch to be able to squeeze into a space and call it home for the winter. She also encourages you to get your house sprayed at least every other month.

ODOT Says to Expect Busy Roads over Thanksgiving Holiday Weekend

If your holiday travel plans this year include heading over the mountains make sure to use extra caution and watch out for changing weather. We always need to be especially alert when traveling over the four-day Thanksgiving weekend, one of the busiest travel weekends of the year. But wet weather and the potential for snow at higher elevations this year could spell problems.

AAA Oregon/Idaho projects 652,000 Oregonians will hit the road over the Thanksgiving holiday this year, an increase over 2020 and close to 2019 pre-pandemic levels. That’s a lot of vehicles on the road, especially on the busy
holiday weekend travel days Wednesday and Sunday.

Holiday travelers on Interstate 84 should expect rolling slowdowns Wednesday in both directions between Cascade Locks and Memaloose State Park, east of Mosier, between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. These slowdowns create 20-minute windows with no traffic during rock blasting for the new 655-foot Mitchell Point Tunnel. The Wednesday work is the only scheduled slowdown during the Thanksgiving weekend.

If there’s snow, ODOT’s current staffing shortages mean we may need a little more time to clear roads. This is a continuation of a trend we saw last year. We’re working hard to fill vacant positions and will shift resources as
needed when we see significant snow on our roads.

Our crews will be on duty through the weekend to keep the roads safe and ready to clear problems as quickly as possible.

Here are some travel tips for the weekend.

  • Know before you go. Visit com and find out conditions all along your route, start to finish.
  • Remember that many Tripcheck cameras include temperature, elevation and other critical details about road conditions.
  • Drive for conditions. Rain, snow, or extra traffic – slow down and give space for stopping time.
  • Keep your vehicle in good operating shape, checking brakes, lights, tires and wipers regularly.
  • Watch out for bicyclists and pedestrians. In wintry conditions, visibility drops.
  • Pay attention to roadside message signs. They contain critical information about conditions on the road ahead.
  • Use patience, wear your seat belt, pay attention to conditions and keep a sober driver behind the wheel to help ensure a safe arrival for holiday activities.

And remember that Oregon and Oregon State will play football in Eugene on Nov. 27, the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Expect slow traffic along Interstate 5 Saturday in the Willamette Valley both before and after the 12:30 p.m. game.

TRIP CHECK: https://tripcheck.com

Oregon reports 1,753 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 103 new deaths

There are 103 new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 5,017. The Oregon Health Authority reported 1,753 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 385,790.

The 103 new deaths and 1,753 new cases reported today include data recorded by counties for the three-day period between Nov. 19, Nov. 20 and Nov. 21.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (4), Benton (29), Clackamas (204), Clatsop (12), Columbia (35), Coos (29), Crook (10), Curry (4), Deschutes (190), Douglas (58), Harney (6), Hood River (9), Jackson (105), Jefferson (17), Josephine (38), Klamath (19), Lake (2), Lane (145), Lincoln (53), Linn (99), Malheur (2), Marion (123), Morrow (10), Multnomah (288), Polk (31), Tillamook (7), Umatilla (16), Union (4), Wallowa (1), Wasco (1), Washington (168), Wheeler (1) and Yamhill (33).

Media briefing on COVID-19

OHA Director Patrick Allen, Health Officer and State Epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger and Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill will be available to speak to the media on developments in the COVID-19 pandemic at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 23.

A livestream — with an American Sign Language simulcast — will be available for the public on YouTube.

Oregon records more than 5,000 COVID-19 related deaths

Today, Oregon health officials reported 103 new COVID-19 related deaths, bringing the state’s death toll to more than 5,000 COVID-19 related deaths since the start of the pandemic. As of Nov. 22, Oregon has recorded 5,017 COVID-19 related deaths.

Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen issued the following statement marking Oregon’s tragic losses:

“Today Oregon marks more than 5,000 lives lost to COVID-19. As we head into the second Thanksgiving holiday since the start of the pandemic, too many Oregon families will see empty chairs around their holiday dinner tables, making this latest tragic milestone all the more heartbreaking.

We’ve lost mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers. Coworkers and neighbors. Bridge partners and fishing buddies. Teachers, grocery workers and first responders. Each death leaves a hole in someone’s home and someone’s heart that will never be filled again.

These losses are especially painful because nearly all our most recent deaths could have been prevented by COVID-19 vaccines, which remain the best protection against serious illness and death.

As we gather for the coming holidays, look around your table. Consider the family and friends in your life. Let’s make sure the loved ones you care about and count on are there to share next Thanksgiving with you. And all the important celebrations in your life.

The Delta variant remains a danger to people who aren’t vaccinated or need a booster. Hospitals remain full of people who are unvaccinated and gravely ill with COVID-19.

But you have the power to protect yourself and the people around you. This holiday, you’re at less risk if you’re vaccinated and if you get a booster when the time is right. Smaller gatherings are less risky than large gatherings, especially indoors. Take care around older adults. Think hard about wearing a mask if you’re indoors with people who aren’t vaccinated, especially older people.

Vaccinate children who are 5 and older to protect them and keep them in school. And remember, if you’re just now choosing to be vaccinated, you won’t be fully protected by Thanksgiving, so please wear a mask if you are spending time with others.

Since the start of the pandemic, Oregonians have come together so many times to protect each other. More than eight in 10 adults are vaccinated. And Oregonians wear masks in public more frequently than people in most other states. You’re vaccinating younger children at higher rates than the national average. Thank you for taking action to stop COVID-19 from spreading. Together, we can save more lives and keep the virus from claiming more people of all ages.”

A video of Director Allen’s statement can be found here:

The Conquer Covid in Klamath campaign announces its winner for the week.

David Wiles of Klamath Falls won $2,500.00. David was selected in a random drawing of all Klamath County residents that have entered at conquercovidinklamath.com. Each week the prize changes and this week it is a brand new Snowblower, a propane firepit and a $500 Gift Certificate.

The drawing for this weeks prize will take place on Monday morning. There is a different prize each week along with the Grand Prize, which is the winners choice of a new Dodge RAM pickup or a new Dodge Durango SUV. There are
numerous runner up prizes as well.

To enter Klamath County residents can go to conquercovidinklamath.com — There is nothing to buy and no charge whatsoever to enter. The site also lists prizes, rules and vaccination sites.

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State health officials take steps to bolster Oregon’s healthcare workforce

State health officials have expanded measures to ease staffing constraints among Oregon’s health care workforce, maintain adequate staffing through the end of the year, and support health care workers.

This fall, Oregon has spent more than $140 million to help health care workers.

Hospitals, clinic and other health care programs continue to grapple with the strains of a recent surge as the Delta variant rages among unvaccinated people. While new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are expected to decline in coming weeks and months, hospital beds remain in high demand across the state. State health experts remain cautious in the face of case increases elsewhere in the nation and the coming holidays, when many people will gather indoors.

Oregon has extended the term of approximately 1,000 crisis response and other medical personnel for understaffed hospitals throughout the state, which was set to expire today, Nov. 22, 2021. Governor Brown approved a contract extension with Jogan Staffing through mid-January 2022. The contract will cover pediatric and adult behavioral healthcare residential treatment programs, emergency staffing for hospitals with acute COVID-related needs, emergency medical services, long-term care facilities, vaccine hubs, homes for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and other programs. To date, Oregon has spent more than $90 million to provide emergency staffing needs across the state.

Governor Brown approved continued Oregon National Guard deployments to the understaffed hospital missions and the Oregon State Hospital through the end of December. Guard members who have been serving at the hospital have a two-week break from Nov. 14 to Dec. 1, 2021, but will return to serve until Dec. 31, 2021.

The steps taken this week are part of larger efforts to support the state’s behavioral health workforce, which has long been understaffed and, like the healthcare workforce in every state, has experienced increased resignations due to compassion fatigue, increased pressure, and childcare issues throughout the pandemic

Oregon has made more than $50 million available to behavioral health providers in recent months, as a surge in COVID-19 cases, driven by the Delta variant, impacted the workforce while the demand for mental health and substance use treatment increased.

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) has awarded $6 million in grants available with an additional $9 million being provided soon to help behavioral health residential providers retain direct service staff. Funds can be used to pay for: hiring and retention bonuses for current, newly hired, or returning staff for up to $2,000 per staff person; additional staff for supervision or relief shifts and other investments to improve working conditions.

In addition, the state has paid approximately $30 million in vacancy payments to residential behavioral health programs to ease financial burdens due to the inadequate staffing and social distancing challenges that providers have confronted during the pandemic. These payments will go through Dec. 31, 2021, and Oregon is considering an extension. The state is requesting to extend a 10 percent rate increase for residential treatment programs through the end of the year. To date, Oregon has expended approximately $13 million in funds in temporary rate increases.

Steve Allen, OHA’s Director of Behavioral Health, said: “Counselors and other workers in behavioral health programs across Oregon are a lifeline for people and families grappling with depression, substance use and many other issues. They do lifesaving work every day. We owe them our gratitude and support. We’re doing everything we can to recognize and reward their vital work.”

Forestry Department issues call for proposals to support small forestland owners and Firewise USA communities

The Oregon Department of Forestry issued a call for projects today for $5 million in grants funded by Senate Bill 762. 

The Small Forestland Grant Program, authorized by Section 24 of Senate Bill 762, will award $5 million to projects supporting small forestland owners across Oregon. Approximately $4.25 million will focus on projects treating multiple land ownerships to reduce the risk of wildfire and increase forest resiliency on private properties. Approximately $750,000 will support active Firewise USA communities to reduce hazardous fuels and protect community infrastructure.

Grant criteria, applications, and instructions are available on ODF’s website. Proposals can be submitted to odf.sfgp@oregon.gov and must be received by Friday, January 21, 2022. 

A virtual event to discuss the program with potential applicants will be held from 2–3 p.m. Monday, December 6. It will include an overview of the grant program and time for questions and answers. You can access the virtual event on Zoom.

Senate Bill 762 is comprehensive legislation passed with bipartisan support that will provide more than $220 million to help Oregon modernize and improve wildfire preparedness through three key strategies: creating fire-adapted communities, developing safe and effective response, and increasing the resiliency of Oregon’s landscapes. The bill is the product of years of hard work by the Governor’s Wildfire Council, the Legislature, and state agencies.

Additional information about Senate Bill 762 is available on ODF’s website.

The Oregon Supreme Court on Monday dismissed two challenges filed by Republicans to new state legislative districts approved by the Legislature in September.

The lawmakers passed new legislative and congressional boundaries that included a new, sixth U.S. House seat. The ruling Monday was specifically about the 90 state legislative districts that will likely enable Democrats to continue to hold majorities in the House and Senate but will not guarantee the party the three-fifths supermajorities it currently holds.

Republicans throughout the redistricting process accused Democrats of gerrymandering. They filed petitions challenging the maps, Republicans alleged that Democratic lawmakers drew districts for partisan political gain and to help incumbents. In its ruling, the Supreme Court said the GOP failed to show that the new districts violated state law. This contentious redistricting year was marked by a broken power-sharing deal.

A Klamath Falls woman was sentenced to 30 months in prison after allegedly hitting and injuring a pedestrian in the Fred Meyer parking lot and then speeding away. 

On Oct. 8, Samantha Huber, 33, was driving through the Fred Meyer parking lot “at a dangerous speed,” before hitting the victim and fleeing the scene, the Klamath County District Attorney’s Office said in a release Friday.  Witnesses reported that Huber then drove around the victim and fled at a high rate of speed,  The victim suffered a concussion,
bruised ribs and various scrapes and bruises.

Huber had previously left treatment without authorization and an active warrant out for her arrest at the time of the accident, the release said. Huber had been charged several times for unlawful use of methamphetamines, according to court documents filed in Klamath and Jackson counties.

Oregon State Treasury Auctioning Off Contents Of Unclaimed Safe Deposit Boxes

The Oregon State Treasury hopes you’ll see what Oregonians have left inside their old safe deposit boxes this Black Friday.

Pre-bidding for the state’s Online Auction of Unclaimed Property is happening now until 11 a.m. on Black Friday. That’s when the live auction kicks off, hosted by Capitol Auction & Estate Services.

The auction will feature 89 lots of unclaimed property, items once cherished but now unclaimed or forgotten. Included in the auction is a five-piece silver coin set featuring members of the Portland Trail Blazers’ 1990-91 team. There are also gold watches, silver bars, collectable stamps and graded baseball cards.

“We’ve had these for almost four years now and the banks had them for two to five years before they send them to us,” said Claudia Ciobanu, trust property director at the Oregon State Treasury. “So at some point it’s just unmanageable to hang on to all of them, but our preference is that we give the owners their contents intact.”

Past auctions have fetched $120,000. Money raised goes into the state’s Common School Fund. There, the principal amount from each sale is held for the rightful owners. Interest earned goes to Oregon’s K-12 public schools.

One thing the state will never sell or dispose of are military medals. Instead, they’ll post photos on the treasury’s website where people can search for them.

“We really hope that either the medal earners themselves or their families come forward and get those,” said Ciobanu.

Around $80 million in unclaimed funds are reported to the state every year. To see if any of it belongs to you, just go to treasury’s website and look up your name

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