Oregon Beach News, Monday 1/10 – Astoria Bridge Closed for Hours After Drunk Driving Crash, Coastal Agencies Still Cleaning Up After Storms

The latest news stories across the state of Oregon from the digital home of the Oregon coastal cities, OregonBeachMagazine.com

Monday, January 10, 2022

Oregon Beach Weather

Today– Rain likely, mainly before 11am. Cloudy, with a high near 51. South wind 6 to 8 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible.

Tuesday– A 20 percent chance of rain. Cloudy, with a high near 54. South wind 7 to 14 mph, with gusts as high as 22 mph.

Wednesday– A 20 percent chance of rain. Patchy fog before 9am. Otherwise, mostly cloudy, with a high near 55. South southeast wind 8 to 11 mph.

Thursday– A 30 percent chance of rain before 11am. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 52.

Friday– Partly sunny, with a high near 51.

Astoria Bridge Closed for Hours After Drunk Driving Crash

An Astoria man was arrested Friday night for drunken driving following a multi-vehicle crash that closed the Astoria Bridge for several hours.

Norbel Lopez Sereno, 36, was arrested for driving under the influence of intoxicants, reckless driving and reckless endangerment.

Officials say the incident started when a Chevrolet Camaro driven by Sereno crossed into the northbound lane, crashing head-on into another vehicle.

A third vehicle rear-ended the vehicle in the northbound lane, and a semi-truck then crashed into the Camaro, pushing it into another vehicle.

Sereno was extricated from the vehicle and taken to Columbia Memorial Hospital in Astoria with serious injuries. Officers found an odor of alcohol and open containers inside the Camaro, officials say.

Coastal Agencies Still Cleaning Up After Storms

Agencies are still cleaning up after the storms and The National Weather Service (NWS) flood watch issued on Thursday which lasted until Friday afternoon, was issued as high water situations continue to impact roads and travelers not only along the Oregon Coast but into the Willamette Valley and the I- 5 corridor leading to Portland. 

The issue for local drivers is no longer icy conditions, but rising waters which have continued to accumulate in lower elevations. Mapleton School District delayed school opening on Friday for two hours while the Siuslaw School District opened on time.

“Excessive runoff may result in flooding of rivers, creeks, streams and other low-lying and flood-prone locations. Creeks and streams may rise out of their banks,” the NWS said.

Central Lincoln Public Utility District has been working since the weekend storms to return service to their customers and released a statement sharing the state of repairs as of Friday.

“Thankfully, nature was kind last night, and the latest squall didn’t cause a large number of new outages,” CLPUD stated. “We’ll be tackling the ones that did pop up today. That beautiful yet extremely rugged area near Cape Perpetua and south has three line crews and a tree crew toiling away there to end this very stubborn outage. Lines are down, and must be re-strung while standing on extraordinarily steep hillsides — and between canyons.”

According to CLPUD, crews “still have a lot of work to restore power in this area.” 

Some customers have been without power for several days, since the weekend’s winter windstorm led to downed trees and powerlines. 

“We are reminded of the ‘Snowzilla’ freak snowstorm of March 2012, when this same area was without power for seven days,” CLPUD said. “The damage included broken poles.”

Work on Friday included work in both the Florence and Reedsport areas.

CLPUD also offered advice for people to be ready for future storms.

“We cannot emphasize the need to be prepared for additional outages enough. Please stock up on batteries for flashlights and radios, fill fuel tanks for generators, have water and non-perishable food on hand, extra blankets, hats, gloves, food for your pets and back-up for medical needs sooner rather than later,” the PUD posted to its Facebook account. “Some customers have been out of power for four days and could possibly be out for five. Now that another high wind warning is in effect, this could happen all over again. Please take the time to prepare now.”

The City of Florence has also continued storm cleanup throughout the week, as well as responding, along with local emergency response groups, to an accident on the Siuslaw River Bridge, which led to a bridge closure on Jan. 4.

People can learn about how to report storm related issues through the links provided at www.ci.florence.or.us/publicworks/report-storm-related-issues.

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.

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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

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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.

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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.


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