Willamette Valley News, Monday 11/14 – Parts of Eugene Without Power This Morning, OSU Working on Developing New Battery Technology

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, November 14, 2022

Willamette Valley Weather

Parts of Eugene Without Power This Morning

A large part of Eugene is suffering a power outage Monday morning, as crews work to restore electricity.

According to the Eugene Water and Electric Board’s website, just over 6,500 customers are without electricity in an area between Highway 105, Cal Young Road, Interstate 5, and East Seventh Avenue.

EWEB says the outages were first reported near the Oakway substation at about 7 a.m. on November 14, and the rest of the area was reported without power shortly afterwards. EWEB says crews are evaluating many of the outages but does not have a timeframe for when the situation will be resolved.

YOU CAN CHECK OUTAGE MAP HERE: https://www.eweb.org/outages-and-safety/power-outages/power-outage-map

Motorcyclist Dies In Crash In Springfield

Springfield Police confirmed one man is dead following a single motorcycle crash in Springfield.

Emergency crews and officers responded around 1:50 p.m. Saturday to the crash near the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway and Riverbend Dr. Roads were closed for three hours while the major accident team investigated. The cause of the crash is under investigation.

Oregon State University Working on Developing New Battery Technology

An Oregon State University research team is planning to develop a new rechargeable battery that could reduce the need for environmentally destructive mining of rare minerals like nickel and lithium and accelerate the clean energy transition.

The U.S. Department of Energy awarded OSU $3 million to explore the development of a new rechargeable battery technology that would accelerate the clean energy transition without relying on rare finite minerals such as lithium, cobalt and nickel. OSU chemistry professor Xiulei “David” Ji, who will lead a battery research team, said it could be a game-changer.

“It’s a new paradigm,” he told Oregon Public Broadcasting. “We are very excited and very grateful to have this opportunity to work on this project.”

As the world transitions from fossil fuels to clean energy to reduce contributions to climate change, there is a growing need for batteries to store renewable energy and power electric vehicles. The resulting battery boom has generated environmental concerns because of the impacts of mining battery materials such as lithium, and it has driven up prices and demand for the minerals used to make batteries.

According to the International Energy Agency, an organization that provides data analysis for global energy policies, the world could face lithium shortages by 2025. The price of lithium has soared, tripling in 2021. Nickel, a mineral used for lithium-ion batteries, has also grown in demand and seen price hikes.

Ji, who will lead a team of researchers from Howard University, the University of Maryland and Vanderbilt University, said depending on these minerals is unsustainable and expensive. He said meeting clean energy goals soon will require a move away from relatively rare, finite minerals.

His plan is to explore anion batteries that provide the necessary components without using limited minerals like the ones lithium batteries use and that could potentially increase how much energy a battery can hold.

“The new battery chemistry does not have to rely on these elements,” Ji said. “That’s the benefit of the new chemistry. It’s a game changer.”

As EV production is ramping up, Connolly said, batteries need to be sustainably sourced and recycled to reuse the raw materials.

Oregon is one of many states providing generous incentives and rebates to switch from gas-powered vehicles to electric. Recently, the state started offering qualified residents up to $7,500 for a new EV. So far, more than 50,000 EVs are registered in the state. Oregon is also investing $100 million in building out charging infrastructure on major roadways and in rural areas to meet the demand of electric vehicles on the road.

Federal Award Of $46.4M To Help Oregon’s Low-Income Pay Heating Costs

Oregon will receive $48.4 million in funding to help low-income families and individuals pay for home heating costs this winter and cover unpaid utility bills.

The funding will be delivered through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance program (LIHEAP), and includes support from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and extra funding passed by Congress to address rising energy costs in 2023.

In addition to covering home heating costs and unpaid utility bills, the funds awarded to Oregon will help families make cost-effective home energy repairs to lower their heating and cooling bills.

“Keeping homes warm in the winter is essential to the well-being of Oregonians,” Oregon U.S. Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici said. “Many prices have increased and so has financial pressure for many families and individuals. I am grateful that Oregon will receive extra funding to help low-income households cover energy costs. No one should have to choose between paying their utility bill and other necessities like food or rent.”

“It is unconscionable that families should be forced to ration their essential utilities, especially during seasons of extreme heat or cold,” Oregon U. S. Congressman Peter DeFazio said. “This funding, made possible in part by my bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, will help Oregon families mitigate rising costs and ensure their homes and families are protected this winter.”

“Low-income energy and heating assistance funding is vital for thousands of Oregonians,” Oregon U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer said. “The Biden Administration understands this. For people who are struggling with higher prices for gas and groceries, having extra help with winter heating bills this year is crucial. I appreciate the timely delivery of these funds so that families can keep their lights on and homes warm this winter.”

“With snow already having fallen here in parts of Oregon and a cold snap in the forecast, this extra help for vulnerable Oregonians to cover home heating costs is timely and important,” Oregon U.S. Senator Ron Wyden said. “I’m gratified our state has secured this assistance for Oregonians walking an economic tightrope. And I’ll keep battling to provide all the assistance that low-income Oregon households need to stay safe this winter throughout our state.”

“As so many Oregonians face rising costs for basic goods and tighter household budgets, it’s critical that we ensure everyone is able to keep their heating on this winter,” Oregon U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley saiod. “This crucial federal funding for energy and heating assistance will help give households across Oregon the financial support they need to stay warm and safe in the cold months ahead.”

Individuals interested in applying for energy assistance can visit energyhelp.us or call the National Energy Assistance Referral (NEAR) hotline toll-free at: 1-866-674-6327.

A fact sheet about 2023 LIHEAP funds for Oregon from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) can be found at https://liheapch.acf.hhs.gov/search-tool/

Throughout the pandemic, Bonamici said she led her colleagues in efforts to strengthen LIHEAP to prevent debts from piling up during the public health crisis. Bonamici also serves as Chair of the Civil Rights and Human Services Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over LIHEAP.

Oregon Prepares For A Potential Surge Of COVID-19 And Other Viral Infections

Oregon public health officials are keeping an eye on a trifecta of illnesses as winter approaches and Oregonians spend more time indoors: COVID-19, a respiratory virus that’s affecting children and influenza.

This will not be a respiratory illness season like the last two, when the focus was on COVID-19, a virus that primarily affects adults. This year, Oregon health officials are also concerned that a rise in a respiratory virus known as RSV that affects children and infants could squeeze the state’s pediatric bed capacity. And with the pandemic-era lockdowns and mask mandates no longer in force, the state could see more influenza cases.

The Oregon Health Authority is recommending Oregonians to take the precautionary measures to preserve hospital capacity. Those steps include staying up to date on COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots, getting a flu shot and taking hygiene-related precautions like hand-washing, covering coughs and sneezes, Dr. Tom Jeanne, the authority’s deputy health officer and deputy state epidemiologist, said in a Thursday press briefing.

“We don’t expect this winter’s COVID wave will be as extreme as last year’s Omicron wave,” Jeanne said, stressing that other illnesses like influenza and a respiratory virus also factor into the picture.

In a forecast, Oregon Health & Science University predicted that COVID-19 hospitalizations in Oregon could peak at about 280 by early December, Jeanne said. There are currently 229 people with COVID in Oregon hospitals.

Oregon also is seeing more respiratory syncytial virus cases, also called RSV. The virus causes lower respiratory infections primarily among infants and children, Jeanne said. Symptoms can include a fever, runny nose, coughs and sneezing. Others at risk include adults 65 and older and those with weakened immune systems. The virus is especially deadly for seniors and children younger than 6 months.

There were 227 positive RSV tests in Oregon and southwest Washington the week of Oct. 30 to Nov. 5, health authority data show. That’s up from 29 in the first week of October.

As a result, health officials are carefully monitoring infections — and pediatric bed capacity.

“Pediatric capacity is currently limited in Oregon and is expected to be heavily strained based on forecasted levels of RSV activity,” Jeanne said.

Statewide, Oregon has about 534 pediatric hospital beds for children, state data shows. As of Thursday, the state had 36 available beds in neonatal intensive care units, 34 for pediatric non-intensive care and four available pediatric intensive care beds.

In a Wednesday advisory to hospitals, the health authority urged hospitals to prepare for more demand by identifying staff with pediatric experience to work in pediatric units, turning single rooms into double rooms and potentially limiting elective procedures to maintain enough statewide pediatric bed capacity.

“We need to work together and protect hospital capacity so all of us have access to critical care when we need it,” Jeanne said.

In a statement, Becky Hultberg, president and CEO of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, said hospitals are getting ready for a surge of pediatric patients.

“Meeting the needs of all patients is the number one priority of Oregon’s community hospitals and clinics despite the current and anticipated spike in hospitalizations,” Hultberg said. “Our hospitals stand ready to care for everyone in need, and we plan for an increase in respiratory illness each year as we approach the fall and winter seasons. While there is no vaccine for RSV, we recommend that parents ensure that children are current on recommended vaccines.”

Young children and older adults at risk of contracting RSV should consider wearing a mask indoors, health officials said.

Health officials advised Oregonians to put together a care plan in case they become ill and said those who develop mild symptoms to contact their health care provider before going to a hospital emergency room.

Oregon voters approved a strict gun measure. Some sheriffs say they won’t enforce it. 

Measure 114 — a ballot initiative mandating permit-to-purchase and banning the sale of high-capacity magazines, among other restrictions — narrowly passed last week, but its implementation still faces several hurdles.

Lawmakers and state police have to write regulations for issuing permits, and at least three sheriffs say they won’t enforce it. Gun rights groups are also preparing to mount legal challenges.

Salem Police and School District Response to Snapchat threats involving local schools 

Salem, Ore. — At 3:32 PM on 11/13 several citizens reported they were receiving messages on Snapchat alleging threats to Parrish Middle School will take place on Monday. The Salem Police Department responded and started investigating the various calls coming in. 

At approximately 7:20 PM, a new message was reported to the Salem-Keizer Public Schools (SKPS) however, the school named was changed to Houck Middle School.  

The Police Department and SKPS have been working together to ensure parents are properly notified and a safety plan is put in place. 

As of this time the threats do not appear to be credible, however, in an abundance of caution SKPS will have additional security on campuses and the Salem Police Department will be spending extra time around local schools throughout the day. 

Anyone with information should contact the Salem Police non-emergency line at 503-588-6123. 

Only Two Counties Voted For Psilocybin Centers

Thousands of voters across Oregon have decided to ban or block the rollout of psilocybin treatment centers.

But two counties bucked that trend:  In Deschutes and Jackson counties, voters rejected the proposed bans and chose to move ahead with Measure 109, which passed statewide in 2020 and legalized the limited use of psilocybin in state-regulated treatment facilities.

The measure allowed local authorities to opt-out of Measure 109 by forwarding to voters either two-year moratoriums or bans on psilocybin services.

The Oregon Health Authority will oversee the state’s psilocybin program.

Authorities in 27 Oregon counties and 114 cities and towns asked voters to consider two-year moratoriums or bans. Among the latter, only two – Phoenix in Jackson County and Wheeler in Tillamook County – authorized psilocybin services.

Nevertheless, most of Oregon’s most populous counties and cities have cleared the way for psilocybin production by authorized facilities. Supporters of psilocybin services say that therapy with the hallucinogen will be locally available to nearly 3 million Oregon residents beginning in 2023.  In all, 17 of Oregon’s 20 most populous cities are allowing psilocybin services along with 11 Oregon counties.

Measure 109 supporters said much work remains to ensure access to psilocybin services throughout the state, especially in rural areas. The advocates said education is a key to breaking down resistance.

Sam Chapman of the Healing Advocacy Fund, a nonprofit organization working to roll out psilocybin services throughout the state, said that if people track the research into the hallucinogen and begin to hear “stories of healing right here in Oregon,” they’ll begin to understand the potential benefits of psilocybin.

This map from Psychedelic Alpha, a group that supports treatment centers, shows which areas have approved treatment centers.

The measure made Oregon the first state to legalize its use, though voters in Colorado also approved the use of psilocybin on Tuesday. In both states, it will be restricted to state-licensed facilities with trained counselors administering the drug. In Colorado, residents will be able to possess and grow psychedelic mushrooms in their own homes. Oregon’s law does not create a market for psilocybin, and possession, consumption and manufacturing of the drug outside licensed facilities will remain illegal.

A survey earlier this year by the Oregon Health Authority found that nearly 4,200 people among about 4,400 who responded were interested in seeking treatment for their well-being.

Researchers in Maryland at Johns Hopkins University, which has led psilocybin research in the U.S., have found the drug to be effective against PTSD, depression, and anxiety.

Also known as magic mushrooms, psilocybin has long been used recreationally in the U.S. but it comes from Indigenous cultures who’ve used it in sacred ceremonies for hundreds of thousands of years. It comes from certain types of mushrooms that are indigenous to tropical and subtropical regions of South America, Mexico and the U.S. Only one species, which is also one of the best known  – Psilocybe cubensis – will be allowed under rules proposed by the Oregon Health Authority.

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