Willamette Valley News, Monday 12/6 – Union Workers At Mckenzie-Willamette Medical Center in Eugene on Five-Day Strike, Springfield Christmas Parade Celebrates 69th 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

Monday, December 6, 2021

Willamette Valley Weather

Today– Occasional rain. Patchy fog between 10am and 11am. High near 48. East wind 5 to 8 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%. New precipitation amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch possible.

Tuesday– A slight chance of rain before 11am, then a slight chance of rain after 5pm. Patchy fog before 1pm. Otherwise, mostly cloudy, with a high near 55. Light and variable wind becoming west southwest around 6 mph in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

Wednesday– Rain, mainly before 1pm, then showers likely after 1pm. Snow level 3500 feet lowering to 3000 feet in the afternoon . High near 49. Southwest wind around 7 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible.

Thursday– Showers. Snow level 2000 feet. High near 43. Chance of precipitation is 80%.

Friday– A chance of showers, mainly before 11am. Snow level 2000 feet rising to 2500 feet in the afternoon. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 46.

Union Workers At Mckenzie-Willamette Medical Center in Eugene on Five-Day Strike

Over 300 McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center workers are gearing up for their second unfair labor practice strike.

This includes including certified nursing assistants, MRI technicians, respiratory therapists, pharmacy technicians and more.

The five-day strike will begin on Monday at 7 a.m. when those participating will walk out. The union workers will strike Monday until 1 p.m. and Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Organizers say this comes after they took a strong stand in October with a two-day Unfair Labor Practice strike alleging unfair labor practices by the hospital, saying that management is interfering with their rights as union members.

They say that despite several bargaining sessions with a federal mediator following the strike, workers allege management has not addressed their safety concerns for patients and workers and also allege that management has engaged in more unfair labor practices.

The members of SEIU Local 49 are working to settle a new union contract with management that includes safe staffing, fair wages, COVID protections, contained healthcare increases, and helps keep good jobs at the hospital.

They are also striking understaffing, high turnover, low wages, lack of affordable healthcare and lack of adequate COVID protections.

“It’s extremely disappointing that McKenzie-Willamette management continues to ignore our safety concerns and to stonewall bargaining when so much is at stake,” said Aaron Green, CNA2. “We take great pride in providing quality care for our patients and serving our community. And when you’re not safe, you have to stand up and do something about it. You cannot ever bargain away your safety and the safety of your patients.”

A spokesperson for McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center shared the following statement with reporters:

“On Thanksgiving, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) notified McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center (MWMC) of its intention to strike and picket beginning at 7 a.m. on Dec. 6 until 7 a.m. on Dec. 11. Hospital operations will continue uninterrupted. We are prepared to execute our contingency plans during the SEIU strike. All departments will be appropriately staffed. All inpatient, outpatient, and emergency services will remain available.”

The statement continued on to say that MWMC has been in an active mediation with the SEIU since October, seeking a resolution and new overall contract which expired Aug. 31. They said they remain hopeful for a “mutually beneficial agreement.”

“The hospital remains focused on what matters most—safely caring for our patients in a healing environment,” the statement said.

Springfield Christmas Parade Honoring Local Heroes Celebrates 69th Year

Families flocked to Springfield’s Main Street Saturday afternoon to celebrate Oregon’s oldest Christmas parade.

This was the 69th year of the parade. The event is hosted by the Oregon Rider’s Society, and with the outdoor mask restrictions lifted, the festivities returned to their classic format this year.

Thousands of families and children came together in support of this year’s theme – honoring local heroes and first responders.

Man Dies Unloading a Truck In Eugene’s Bethel Neighborhood

Eugene Police said one man was killed in a truck unloading accident in the Bethel neighborhood on Saturday night.

Officials responded to the 4000 block of Souza Street around 8:25 p.m. They said a truck being unloaded from a trailer fell on a person and it killed him.

Police said the accident was not a crime. The case is in the hands of the medical examiner’s office. 

The identity of the man will not be released until the next of kin is notified, police said. But they said he was a man in his 20’s and he’s not from Oregon. 

Fatal Crash on Hwy 99E-Marion County

On December 4, 2021 at approximately 6:02 PM, Oregon State Police and emergency personnel responded to a fatal motor vehicle collision involving a pedestrian on Hwy 99E near MP 29.

Preliminary investigation revealed that a pedestrian, Salomon Orobio (68) of Hubbard, was crossing the highway when he was initially struck by a southbound Ford Explorer, operated by Jose Escobara (42) of Beaverton. Orobio as subsequently struck by two additional southbound vehicles; a Chevrolet van, operated by Felimon Zuniga (46) of Gervais, and a Subaru wagon, operated by Jack Tucker (71) of Woodburn. All three involved drivers remained on scene and cooperated with law enforcement. 

Orobio sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced deceased at the scene.

Hwy 99E was closed for approximately 4 hours.  OSP was assisted by Hubbard Fire Department, Hubbard Police Department, Woodburn Police Department and ODOT. 

Early morning single vehicle fatality in southeast Salem

Patrol officers responded to a single vehicle crash at approximately 6:00 a.m. today, Sunday, December 5, 2021, in the 5700 block of Gaffin RD SE.

The preliminary investigation suggests the driver of a mid-size SUV was traveling eastbound on Gaffin RD and could not negotiate a slight bend in that portion of the road. Ultimately, the vehicle left the roadway and struck a tree.

The driver, Salomon Leyva-Ramirez, age 23, and sole occupant, was pronounced deceased at the scene by fire personnel. The Salem Police Traffic Team is completing the investigation. 

Oregon reports 1,352 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 16 new deaths

There are 16 new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 5,243, Oregon Health Authority (OHA) reported OHA reported 1,352 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 394,569.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (3), Benton (21), Clackamas (95), Clatsop (7), Columbia (21), Coos (40), Crook (45), Curry (8), Deschutes (74), Douglas (45), Grant (6), Harney (8), Hood River (14), Jackson (63), Jefferson (19), Josephine (35), Klamath (22), Lane (181), Lincoln (16), Linn (92), Malheur (2), Marion (105), Multnomah (150), Polk (55), Sherman (2), Tillamook (4), Umatilla (3), Union (12), Wallowa (1), Wasco (9), Washington (159) and Yamhill (35).

The likely arrival of the new omicron variant and questions about its strength and speed are clouding an otherwise cautiously optimistic outlook of the course of COVID-19 in Oregon, according to a new state report.

The forecast from Oregon Health and Science University, released late Thursday, shows the delta variant spike that hit Oregon over the summer and peaked around Labor Day continues a steady if the stubbornly laborious decline in the state.

New infections, hospitalizations and deaths are falling, if not as quickly as forecast a month ago. But projecting trends into the future is more difficult with the arrival of the omicron variant. 

First reported by South African researchers on Nov. 25, it has now been found in more than 20 countries. No cases have been reported yet in Oregon, though it’s unlikely the virus would somehow skip the state. But continuing delta’s drop is the main focus of public health officials until more is known about omicron.

“We don’t think it’s a big threat in Oregon because we don’t yet have a confirmed case and it will take time for it to spread,” said Peter Graven, director of OHSU’s Office of Advanced Analytics.

Scientists have been rushing to find out if the new variant is more contagious, more severe and can get around vaccinations or natural immunity from earlier exposures.

“It really comes down to vaccination,” Graven said. “If the vaccines work, we’re fine. If they don’t work at preventing hospitalizations, we may have to go back to protecting our vulnerable populations until we get a booster that effectively neutralizes the omicron variant.”

South African researchers reported Friday that omicron spreads twice as rapidly as the delta variant. But they differed on whether the cause was just rapid contagion or that omicron was getting around defenses of vaccines and earlier natural exposures.

Graven said that the infection situation in Oregon was quite different. About 82% of Oregonians have immunity, which includes both those vaccinated or recently infected. At about 85%, Graven estimated the delta variant would be unable to create another spike because of the low number of unprotected people.

The Oregon Health Authority reported this week that about 28.7% of new infections were in people who had been vaccinated — so called “breakthrough” cases. But the vaccines have kept the percentage of severe cases and death much lower than in unvaccinated people.

Those who have been inoculated account for about 4.4% of cases requiring hospitalization and just over 1% of deaths. The deaths of vaccinated people were primarily in those over age 80.

The delta variant, which drove a spike in infections, remains the main threat to Oregonians who are not vaccinated or were exposed naturally to the virus. 

Several new high-volume COVID-19 vaccinations sites are opening up across the state of Oregon, including one in Jackson County.

According to the Oregon Health Authority, the site at the Jackson County Expo will be open Monday through Thursday from noon to seven at night. On weekends, the site will be open on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. along with a family fun clinic.

On top of that, several of sites including the site of the former Multnomah Greyhound Park in Wood Village will be running as a high-volume Oregon Health Authority COVID-19 vaccination site starting today

The site is one of nearly a dozen high-volume COVID-19 vaccinations sites OHA has opened, or will be opening, around the state this month – in partnership with local public health authorities and community-based organizations – as part of its effort to increase immunizations against the virus.

All three approved COVID-19 vaccines – Pfizer, Modern and Johnson & Johnson – will be available, as well as booster and pediatric doses (younger children are only eligible for the Pfizer vaccine). The clinics are walk-in/drive-in only, and no appointment is required. All vaccines are offered at no cost, and no medical insurance coverage required.

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Plane Crash Bursts into Flames at Valley Chevrolet Across From Rogue Valley-Medford International Airport

 One person is dead after a plane crashed and burst into flames near the Chevrolet dealership in Medford across from the Rogue Valley-Medford International Airport early Sunday evening.

Medford Police officers, firefighters, and rescue personnel responded to the crash site in a parking lot adjacent to Airport Chevrolet, 3001 Biddle Road

Initial information indicates that one person was aboard the plane when it crashed, and they did not survive.

The Medford Airport tower notified its fire department just before 5 p.m. that an “Alert Three” had been issued, which usually means that a local plane had experienced an incident.

Airport Fire Chief John Karns told reporters that he believed the plane had just taken off from the airport with only one person on board immediately prior to the crash. Karns said he believed that the plane was not a local aircraft.

Karns said he understood the plane to be a Piper Navajo, which is a twin-engine, gas-powered aircraft. First responders had described it as a 9-passenger propeller plane. Karns said that the National Transportation Safety Board has been notified of the incident.

The fire chief for the Medford Fire Department, Eric Thompson said the call came about a possible explosion which was then upgraded to an ‘Alert Three’. Thompson said the alert indicates there is an aircraft emergency and a possible crash.

“Upon arrival, we had at least 20 vehicles that were fully involved,” Thompson said. “We know that the aircraft took off from the Medford airport, they just filled up with fuel they had 128 gallons of fuel onboard, and the incident occurred only a few minutes after they took off.”

Major news channels across the country have covered the story too. This is an ongoing story and additional details will be posted once they are available.

With the holiday shopping season in full effect after Black Friday, it’s also that time of year that brings a rise in robbery and shoplifting cases nationwide.

Law enforcement officials encourage several tips for shoppers to keep in mind before heading to stores especially now as the days get darker earlier in the day,

Preferably park your car in a well-lit area, as well as close to the store or shopping center as possible.

Place shopping bags or any packages in the trunk rather than upfront, to prevent people from looking through the windows and finding the urge to break in.

Make sure to have you’re car keys and phone in an accessible place as you make you’re way from or to the car in case something were to happen.

The FBI in Portland is warning shoppers to beware of fake shipping notices.

They often contain links that can download malware on computers or cell phones. The FBI says that if you’re expecting a delivery to use the website where you bought the item to track its location.

Gov. Brown wants Oregonians to quit wasting food to help reduce greenhouse gases.

Gov. Brown wants Oregonians to quit wasting food to help reduce greenhouse gases. The initiative to do so took Brown halfway around the world to the United Nations l Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, last month.

The Oregon governor explained the state’s drive to cut down on food waste as a panelist at the international gathering called COP26. For Brown and the state, reducing food waste isn’t about clearing out the refrigerator crisper. It’s about paring back on carbon emissions by not growing and transporting food that won’t get eaten.

Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge Finally Getting Water

After a summer spent drying up, Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge finally began receiving a measurable flow of water, thanks to the start of the winter irrigation season on December 1.

The refuge can receive up to 11,000 acre-feet of water between December and February depending on how Upper Klamath Lake is filling.

Water began flowing into the refuge’s Unit 2 wetland through the Ady Canal on Wednesday and was flowing at around 60 cubic feet per second at 5 p.m. Friday. It was the only significant inflow to the refuge since last winter other than roughly 750 acre-feet transferred from the Wood River Valley by the California Waterfowl Association in September.

However, 2021’s disaster of a water year continues to wreak havoc on Water Year 2022. In August, the Bureau of Reclamation had to ‘borrow’ 9,300 acre-feet from the flow of the Klamath River to stabilize the only remaining wetland unit on Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

The agency must now pay that water back to Iron Gate and Copco Reservoirs, which were drawn down to facilitate the transfer while keeping lake levels and Klamath River flows in line with Endangered Species Act requirements. Reclamation says that means water must once again stop flowing to Lower Klamath (and to the adjacent
Klamath Drainage District, where farmers flood irrigate their fields during the winter) — at least temporarily.

The agency has directed all diversions from the Klamath and Lost rivers to cease by December 6, according to a statement posted on the Klamath Basin Area Office’s website Friday.

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