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, January 10, 2022
Willamette Valley Weather
Today– A 50 percent chance of rain, mainly before 10am. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 51. Calm wind becoming east southeast around 6 mph.
Tuesday– Mostly cloudy, with a high near 55. Southeast wind around 6 mph becoming west southwest in the afternoon.
Wednesday– Widespread dense fog, mainly before 7am. Otherwise, mostly cloudy, with a high near 56. South wind 3 to 5 mph.
Thursday– A 30 percent chance of rain before 10am. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 51.
Friday– Partly sunny, with a high near 50.
Police Seeking Suspect in Armed Robbery Last Seen In West Eugene
Eugene Police are looking for an armed robbery suspect last seen in west Eugene Sunday afternoon.
Police said they responded to an armed robbery at Diamond Deli on the 700 block of Danebo Avenue around 3 p.m.
They said upon arrival they contacted the store manager who was working at the time.
The store manager reportedly told officers the suspect is a white man in his early 20’s, around 5’6″ and 120 pounds. He was seen wearing a black beanie, blue face mask, black hoodie, white shirt, blue jeans, and white and black sneakers.
According to police, the manager said the suspect demanded cash and threatened the manager with a firearm. The suspect then reportedly took an undisclosed amount of money from the cash register and left the scene on foot.
Police said there is no ongoing threat to the community. They are working on recovering surveillance footage from the scene. Anyone with information can call 541-682-5111.
Suspect Now in Custody After Fatal Hit-and-Run that Killed Pedestrian
A suspect is now in custody after a woman was killed in a crash involving a van and a pedestrian Saturday afternoon, according to officials.
Police said the crash happened on West 11th Avenue near Oakpatch Road in Eugene at about 5:25 p.m. Saturday. They said a white, full-sized van, possibly a Chevrolet, went eastbound on West 11th Avenue following the crash.
The suspect vehicle was located near the intersection of Clear Lake Road and Territorial Highway on Sunday, police said. Eugene Police officers, K9 unit and Drone Team operator responded and observed an individual inside the van.
The suspect was reported to be suicidal, and had access to a firearm, police said. Officers hailed the occupant, which was later confirmed to be the suspect.
The suspect reportedly complied with commands and detained without incident. A firearm was recovered.
The suspect, Parker Volberg, 29, was lodged at Lane County Jail on a charge of felony hit and run.
Oregon reports 10,451 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 33 new deaths
There are 33 new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 5,761, Oregon Health Authority (OHA) reported 10,451 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 bringing the state total to 459,700.
The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (27), Benton (301), Clackamas (1,132), Clatsop (55), Columbia (66), Coos (127), Crook (35), Curry (23), Deschutes (940), Douglas (103), Gilliam (3), Grant (9), Harney (5), Hood River (1), Jackson (291), Jefferson (63), Josephine (96), Klamath (63), Lake (6), Lane (578), Lincoln (42), Linn (237), Malheur (40), Marion (1,286), Morrow (24), Multnomah (2,380), Polk (183), Sherman (2), Tillamook (19), Umatilla (170), Union (12), Wallowa (5), Wasco (26), Washington (1,891) and Yamhill (210).
Media availability highlights impacts of the Omicron variant
Last week’s media briefing, featuring Oregon State Health Officer Dr. Dean Sidelinger, included an update on the sharp rise in cases tied to the spread of the infectious Omicron variant and measures OHA and the state are taking to assist Oregon hospitals in managing the anticipated surge. Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill discussed steps needed to prevent the possibility of moving temporarily to short-term distance learning in Oregon’s schools.
Peter Graven, Ph.D, director of the Oregon Health & Science University Office of Advanced Analytics, estimated that the expected surge could lead to more than 1,650 hospitalized patients with COVID-19 by the end of January. The forecast model projects this would be 30% higher than the peak numbers recorded during the surge from the Delta variant this summer. Find talking points for today’s briefing here.
Oregon’s hospitals are expected to be overwhelmed by the end of this month even though the highly contagious Omicron variant tends to be less severe, said OHSU Office of Advanced Analytics director Dr. Peter Graven in a press briefing alongside state health and education officials on Friday. With COVID-19 cases in the state skyrocketing this week, Dr. Graven said that his latest modeling shows a steep incline in hospitalized patients ahead, reaching an estimated 1,652 COVID-19 patients by the end of January — 30% higher than during the Delta variant peak.
Omicron infections do tend to be less severe, Graven said, and hospital stays tend to be shorter. Nonetheless, Omicron’s sheer transmissibility means that a high number of more vulnerable people will require this level of care. Vaccinations continue to be effective in preventing severe illness, but Graven acknowledged that Omicron is spreading rapidly among vaccinated people as well as the unvaccinated.
Oregon reported 10,451 new cases on Friday, breaking a single-day pandemic record for the fourth time this week, according to state epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger. Despite COVID-19 transmission raging this week, with the 7-day average of new cases increasing 373% over the week prior, Dr. Sidelinger said that Oregon will embrace the CDC-recommended shortening of quarantine periods from 10 days to 5 after someone tests positive for COVID-19 for people without symptoms.
Oregon Health Authority Issues Triage Tool For Hospitals
Oregon Health Authority (OHA) recently provided the state’s hospitals with an interim crisis care tool to help them prioritize treatment if they reach a point when critical care beds, specialized equipment, such as ventilators, and other resources become scarce due to surging COVID-19 admissions.
Oregon hospitals may activate crisis standards of care if their critical care resources are severely limited, the number of patients presenting for critical care exceeds capacity, and there is no option to transfer patients to other critical care facilities.
Hospitals may implement OHA’s interim crisis care tool — or one of their own that is consistent with Oregon’s Principles in Promoting Health Equity in Resource Constrained Events – if they have taken specific steps to extend their capacity to deliver care. Those steps include stockpiling supplies, delaying non-urgent care, and repurposing existing beds and staff that are not typically used to provide critical care.
Under the interim triage tool, all patients who can potentially benefit from treatment will be offered care, if health care resources are sufficient. If hospital staff, beds and treatment are insufficient, all patients will be individually assessed according to the best available objective medical evidence. According to the tool:
- No one will be denied care based on stereotypes, assumptions about any individual’s quality of life, or judgement about an individual’s “worth” based on the presence or absence of disabilities.
- Care decisions should be based on the likelihood of survival to hospital discharge.
Under Oregon’s interim crisis care standards, state health officials expect providers to treat all patients with respect, care and compassion. Hospital clinicians may not base care decisions on an individual’s use of past or future medical or social resources. They should apply reasonable modifications to any triage scoring criteria when considering individuals with underlying disabilities or certain underlying health conditions.
Triage decisions will be made without regard to morally or scientifically irrelevant considerations such as income, race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, immigration status, health insurance coverage or other factors.
OHA developed the interim tool based on several existing triage tools, such as those published by Arizona, Massachusetts and Washington state. State health officials made adjustments according to Oregon’s health equity principles of non-discrimination, patient-led decision making and transparent communications.
State health officials consulted a limited group of clinicians, medical ethicists, disability advocates and others before releasing the interim triage tool.
Oregon remains committed to developing a permanent tool based on broader community input. Dana Hargunani, M.D., OHA chief medical officer, said, “Right now, we want to put a triage tool in the hands of clinicians who are likely to face very difficult decisions in the coming weeks, as the Omicron variant takes its toll and puts more patients in the hospital. This interim tool isn’t perfect, but it ensures that clinicians can be confident they are using criteria firmly grounded in Oregon’s values of non-discrimination and health equity as they face these gut-wrenching decisions.”
At the same time, OHA also is calling for applicants today to serve on a new Oregon Resource Allocation Advisory Committee.
The Oregon Resource Allocation Advisory Committee’s role will be to:
- Review and inform updates to OHA’s Principles in Promoting Health Equity During Resource-Constrained Events, which ensures health equity in decision-making when resource shortages occur.
- Review and inform future amendments or changes to the interim crisis care tool.
- Guide development of any additional necessary resources – including triage tools, guidance, best practices – to ensure these principles can be readily applied in Oregon during a resource-constrained event.
- Inform the norms and expectations regarding patient communication and transparency when health system allocation decisions are necessary due to resources constraints.
OHA is seeking applicants representing: the state’s health care delivery system, including hospitals, health care providers and local public health agencies; and organizations and community members who can speak to community needs, especially communities of color, tribal communities and people with disabilities, including people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The committee will meet virtually once or twice a month over nine to 12 months and will be supported by a project team and a contracted facilitator. Care will be taken to support a trauma-informed, collaborative and inclusive process that recognizes the diversity of professional and lived experiences among committee members.
For individuals with disabilities or individuals who speak limited English, OHA will provide free help during advisory committee meetings, such as with sign language and spoken language interpreters, real-time captioning, braille, large print, audio, and written materials in other languages.
Those interested in applying to serve on the committee should complete this form by Jan. 28, 2022. If you have questions about the committee or need assistance completing the application, contact OHA at OHAResourceallocation@dhsoha.state.or.us. OHA will select members and communicate to all applicants in February. Members will be selected to ensure diverse community representation, health care delivery expertise, geographic diversity and lived experience.
Five days left to enroll in health coverage for 2022, savings still available!: Deadline to enroll for 2022 health coverage through OregonHealthCare.gov is Jan. 15
142,783 people in Oregon have enrolled in health coverage through the Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace as of Dec. 15, 2021. There is still time to enroll if you have not yet taken action. The deadline to get health coverage with financial help is Jan. 15, 2022.
The American Rescue Plan Act (2021) has made health insurance purchased through the Marketplace more affordable than ever. Individuals and families will pay only a certain percentage of their income on health insurance thanks to financial help available through OregonHealthCare.gov.
“Even if you think you make too much money, you should look into your health coverage options through the Marketplace,” says Chiqui Flowers, administrator of the Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace. “Eligibility rules have changed and we have heard many people are surprised to see how much they can save on health coverage now.”
Every Oregonian, whether uninsured, enrolled in COBRA, or enrolled directly through an insurance company, should look into Marketplace coverage, even if they were not previously eligible. More than 75 percent of people who signed up in 2021 received financial help for plans that include essential benefits such as doctor visits, prescriptions, emergency care, and mental health services.
- A 40-something couple in the Portland area making $70,000 can get health coverage for as low as $300 per month.
- A 26-year-old living in Eugene making $28,000 per year can get health coverage for as low as $1 per month.
- Parents who are 30-something and have two children in La Grande earning $80,000 can get health coverage for as low as $145 per month.
Oregonians can preview plans and savings available to them by answering a few short questions at OregonHealthCare.gov. The website is also the best place to find a health insurance experts who can give one-on-one help with the application and enrollment process by phone, email, or in person. Visit OregonHealthCare.gov today to get started.
The Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace, a part of state government, helps people get health insurance when they do not have job-based coverage, and do not qualify for the Oregon Health Plan or another program. The Marketplace is the state-level partner to HealthCare.gov. For more information, go to OregonHealthCare.gov. — Oregon Dept. of Consumer & Business Services
Nearly 32,000 Oregon households have received rental assistance relief due to hardship from pandemic
State issues checks for more than $222 million in federal emergency rental assistance
Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) announced that as of Jan. 5, OHCS and local program administrators (LPAs) have paid $222.4 million in federal emergency rental assistance to 31,816 households through the Oregon Emergency Rental Assistance Program (OERAP).
OERAP continues to be one of the nation’s top-performing programs and is ranked sixth in the nation in the percentage of federal Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) funds paid out and obligated, as tracked by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
Emergency rental assistance for 2021
At the close of 2021, 31,264 Oregon families received federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program resources totaling more than $217 million in relief payments. Combined with $200 million in state funds allocated in late December of 2020, more than $411 million in rental assistance was distributed to Oregonians in need last year. Local program administrators paid out more than $10 million a week during the last five weeks of 2021, shattering previous records. For comparison, OHCS delivered $80 million for households in all of 2020.
U.S. Department of the Treasury informed OHCS late last week that due to high performance and demonstrated ongoing need, $1.1 million in additional rental assistance will be allocated to OHCS over the coming weeks.
Progress and updated numbers
Through its three-point plan, OHCS and its processing partner, Public Partnerships LLC (PPL), have made significant strides in the past several weeks to speed up application processing. Currently, 265 PPL staff are focusing on processing applications. In the past week alone, PPL processed 1,698 applications, far exceeding its target of 1,000. This is in addition to the applications processed by LPAs working across the state to finish paying out ERA 1 funds.
To date, OHCS and LPAs:
- Paid $222,407,625 to landlords and tenants to help 31,816 Oregon households, close to 76% of ERA 1 and 2 funds.
- Currently reviewing for payment 5,693 applications.
- Need applicant or landlord response for 12,803 applications.
Visit the OERAP dashboard for more data.
Gov. Brown Appoints Policy Adviser To Oversee $5 Billion In Infrastructure Spending
Gov. Brown appointed one of her policy advisers to oversee the spending of more than $5 billion in federal infrastructure money in Oregon over the next five years, Brown announced Friday.
The White House earlier this week asked each state to appoint a high-level employee to coordinate with the federal government and various state and local agencies that stand to receive money for transportation, broadband and water needs under the $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure law passed last fall.
Brown picked Leah Horner, who now works as her policy adviser on jobs and the economy and is her director of regional solutions.
“I have worked closely with Leah over the past several years, and I am confident she will be able to help implement the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law here in Oregon,” Brown said. “She brings strong strategic planning abilities, all done with a collaborative approach.”
Horner will convene a group, the state infrastructure cabinet, to coordinate agencies receiving federal funds, according to Brown’s office.
“This infrastructure bill gives us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to not only invest in crucial needs for our communities, but to also assess investments with a racial justice lens,” Horner said in a statement. “I look forward to taking the Regional Solutions approach of streamlining government and removing barriers to get us to the outcomes Oregonians need.”
Horner has a master’s degree in economic development and entrepreneurship from the University of Houston, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Hawai’i, according to Brown’s office.
Oregon stands to receive about $5 billion in new federal money from the new law, including $3.4 billion for roads and highways, $268 million for bridges and $747 million for public transportation. The state will also receive $529 million for water infrastructure, $39 million to mitigate wildfires and $100 million to expand broadband access in rural areas.
Fungal Infection Appears to Just Be Localized in Salem
As reported last week, it now appears an outbreak of a dangerous fungal infection at Salem Health Hospital has been limited to three patients. Candida auris is difficult to treat, and is resistant to some medications. Officials say no new patients have been found and there have been no new detections of the infection in the hospital. Salem Health continues to take several steps to reduce risk of transmission and they’re notifying secondary facilities that receive patients about the need to watch for the fungus.
Modoc Nation Purchases Property To Restore Ecosystems
With the Modoc Nation’s recent purchase of an overgrazed ranch near Sheepy Ridge, bison may be headed to the Klamath Basin — along with, tribal leadership hopes, cultural healing.
The 496-member tribe, based in Miami, Okla., includes the descendants of 155 Modocs who the U.S. government transported on cattle cars from Fort Klamath to Oklahoma after the Modoc War in 1873. Recently, the tribe has
purchased several properties in the Tulelake area, intending to develop a presence on lands they were forcibly removed from. During the last three years, the tribe purchased two adjacent properties at the foot of Barntop Mountain, in the sagebrush uplands that separate Lower Klamath Lake from Tule Lake.
The tribe intends to restore these ecosystems, which have been overgrazed for decades after nearby hunting lodges
began leasing land to ranchers. Ken Sandusky, the Modoc Nation’s newly-appointed resource and development director, said the area has a deeper meaning, too.
During the Modoc War, when the two massive lakes blocked most overland travel between Linkville and the Lava Beds, wagons could only carry supplies to the U.S. Army through this corridor.
The tribe hopes to work with both the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on restoration efforts — both on the property and the adjacent public lands. The bison would come multiple years down the road after the land has had a chance to regroup. And the tribe hopes to manage them in a way that will further ecosystem recovery.
Central Oregon Water District Plan for Water Shares
Getting water to central Oregon farmers who need it most takes time and investment, mainly in the form of new pipelines that are replacing leaky canals. But irrigation districts are also coming up with innovative ways to share water around the Deschutes Basin.
The newest idea is a water bank pilot program that will provide a cash payment to central Oregon Irrigation District patrons who “volunteer not to use irrigation water for the 2022 irrigation season,” according to the Deschutes River
Conservancy, which is facilitating the program.
The unused water will be sent to North Unit Irrigation District, a junior water rights holder that has experienced limited water resources during the current drought. Once in the hands of North Unit, the water will be added to the district’s overall supply for the summer of 2022.
The program is potentially lucrative for landowners who don’t want to use their water rights — it’s free money for patrons who may not want to water their property or have no crops or livestock to water.
A 17-year-old was reported missing in Salem and detectives say the teen might be the victim of an online catfishing scheme.
Ezra Mayhugh, 17, was last seen on October 15, 2021 after being dropped off in downtown Salem by a friend, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said. He was reported as a runaway the following day when he did not return home.
Investigators say he might be in Washington or California. They hope to reunite Ezra safely with family members.
He’s described as about 5-foot 11-inches tall, weighing 130 pounds, with blonde hair and brown eyes.
If you have had contact with Mayhugh since October 15 or have other helpful information on his whereabouts, the sheriff’s office asks you to contact Detective M.J. Sphoon at 503-588-6808 or to submit a tip by texting TIPMCSO and your tip to 847411.