Fire causes significant damage to Redmond home

A house on Juniper Ave. in Redmond caught on fire around 10:00 a.m. Thursday and caused power lines in the front yard to collapse, according to Redmond Fire & Rescue.

Remond firefighters worked to put out the fire from the front of the building until it was extinguished, according to the press release. All people in the house made it out of the house without injuries.

The fire department suspects an unattended candling burning in a bedroom was the cause.

▶️ COVID adds another, potentially lethal, layer to homelessness

Homelessness during a pandemic.

It can be hard to understand how the COVID-19 crisis is impacting the lives of people already in a vulnerable population.

Service providers say the virus adds yet another layer to the plight.

It’s making resources, stretched thin, even thinner.

Central Oregon Daily’s Cody Rheault takes us to a homeless camp near Bend and talks with service providers about the new challenges they all face.


La Pine woman arrested on drug, weapon charges after chase

A 34-year-old La Pine woman was arrested Thursday on weapon and drug charges after leading deputies on a forest road chase, the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office said.

Sgt. Kent Vander Kamp said the incident started around 10 a.m. when a deputy was monitoring traffic at the intersection of Highway and 97 and State Recreation Road in the La Pine area.

At the same time a dodge pickup driving east on State Rec Road crossed over the highway speeding and ignoring the stop sight, Vander Kamp said. The truck, driven by Emma Pickett, narrowly avoided a collision with traffic heading south, and headed east onto Forest Road 9735.

After watching this, the deputy tried to pull over Pickett as she sped away on the forest road, Vander Kamp said.

The deputy chased Pickett for six miles into the forest before her truck became stuck in some snow. Speeds ranged between 35-55 mph and no other traffic was around, Vander Kamp said.

He said deputies found a user amount of meth and a large dagger at the scene.

Pickett was taken into custody at the scene, but released on her own recognizance. She was charged with attempt to elude by vehicle, reckless driving, felon in possession of a prohibited weapon and possession of meth.

▶️ ‘I cried’… School closure hitting local teachers hard


“I cried,” said Jaime Speed, a 4th and 5th-grade teacher at Juniper Elementary in Bend. “I could cry now.” 

Gov. Kate Brown’s announcement Wednesday, that Oregon schools will remain closed for the rest of the year, was expected. 

But for educators, it didn’t make the reality any easier.

“Seeing our kids and being with our kids is really important to us, and we worry about them,” Speed said.

“We’re really bummed, we really thrive on working with our kids,” said Sisters School District Vocal Music Director Rick Johnson. “As a music teacher, I was really looking forward to having my year-end concerts and celebrating the seniors as we always have.”

“The sad thing for me is that we’re no longer going to be able to celebrate all of the awesomeness that happens in our building,” Silver Rail Elementary Library Media Manager Ann Marie Anderson said.

Education will continue to take place virtually, a new normal that has, and likely will continue to take some getting used to.

“Unfortunately technology isn’t that great when you have a bunch of people trying to make sound into a Zoom or a Google meeting!” Johnson said. “It’s probably not going to sound all that great while we’re doing it, but the kids are going to continue learning.”

“It’s been great to be able to connect that way,” said Speed. “It’s just not as authentic as it is in the classroom.”

Even with the rapid changes and uncertainty, many are looking to the positives in the current situation.

“I was invited to a virtual class with a 3rd-grade cohort and just seeing all of their faces and having them all wave at me was so amazing, so special,” Anderson said.

“I’m kind of looking forward to finding a new way to do all of this,” Johnson said.

And though they can’t be there in person, every educator’s message to students is no matter what happens, they’re here.

“We can do it, I know we can if we all pull together, and help one another, and stay communicating,” Anderson said.

“I think we can have a lot of fun this way with learning music and sharing beauty in a time of a little bit of darkness,” Johnson said.

“We are here for your success and we love you,” Speed said.

▶️ How are you doing? La Pine edition

We’re now three weeks into the new world of COVID-19.

Your favorite restaurant is take-out only, you can’t park at the trailhead of your favorite trail and your kids’ school is closed UNTIL FALL.

Any one of those things would be enough for a blood pressure spike.

Put them together with everything else we’re dealing with and, well, it’s understandable if we’re inching toward our breaking point.

We’ve visited with folks in Bend, Madras and Prineville, so today Central Oregon Daily News Photojournalist Steve Kaufmann went south to La Pine this morning to ask one simple question:

How are you doing?

See our past stories here:

How are you doing: Bend

How are you doing: Prineville

How are you doing: Madras

Oregon COVID-19 Update: 82 new cases, 6 more deaths

The State Emergency Coordination Center in Salem on Wednesday reported 82 new cases of COVID-19 and six new deaths, bringing the Oregon death toll to 44.

Deschutes County reported five new cases, bringing the total to 50. Crook County still has one reported case of COVID-19 and Jefferson County on Thursday reported its first positive case, although the patient is currently living out of state.

Statewide, 1,321 people have now tested positive for COVID-19. More than 24,300 people have tested negative, including 1,118 in Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson counties, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

The new COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Clackamas (6), Columbia (1), Curry (1), Deschutes (5), Jackson (4), Klamath (1), Lane (2), Linn (3), Marion (17), Morrow (2), Multnomah (16), Polk (1), Tillamook (1), Umatilla (3), Washington (16), and Yamhill (4).

The office of Oregon Emergency Management is now releasing updated COVID-19 figures daily.

New numbers show 400 people with COVID-19 or suspected of having it have been admitted to the hospital and 64 are currently on ventilators. The state has 794 ventilators available for patients.

You can access the new Oregon daily update document here.

New weekly report on COVID-19 cases in Oregon

The OHA has started posting a weekly report that represents a snapshot of COVID-19 risk factors, clinical and demographic characteristics, and includes data on cases with pending investigations. You can review the report here.

Deschutes County has been providing more demographic information on its patients, although those numbers sometimes aren’t in concert with the state reports and are reported at a later time.

Here are the latest numbers as of 4/8/20.





Oregon 1,321 24,306 44
Deschutes County 50 937 0
Crook County 1 91 0
Jefferson County 1 90 0

Additional Deschutes County demographic information as of 4/9/2020

Total Number of Deschutes County COVID-19 Cases who have Recovered 20
Deschutes County COVID-19 Cases by Sex
Female 23
Male 27
Deschutes County COVID-19 Cases by Age Group
Age 29 or younger 6
Age 30 to 39 7
Age 40 to 49 6
Age 50 to 59 9
Age 60 to 69 11
Age 70 or older 11
Deschutes County COVID-19 Cases by History of Travel
Travel history (domestic or international) 21
No travel history 29
Deschutes County COVID-19 Cases by Hospitalization Status, Ever
Ever hospitalized 18
Has not been hospitalized 32

Global response
: The World Health Organization guides the global response.
United States response
: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention leads the U.S. response.
: The Oregon Health Authority leads the state response.Stay informed about COVID-19:

▶️ St. Charles expands COVID testing thresholds

St. Charles Health System officials on Thursday said the hospital has expanded the thresholds for COVID-19 testing, but widespread testing still is not available to everyone with symptoms.

Since the early stages of COVID-19 in Central Oregon, patients needed to meet a narrow set of criteria in order to be tested.

This was a point of contention throughout the community as people believed they had the disease but weren’t able to get fully checked out.

In mid-March hospital officials said the swabs are running very low throughout Oregon “and we believe it’s unlikely we’ll be able to get more.”

“Therefore, we simply cannot test people who are worried but feel fine,” President and COE Joe Sluka said at the time.

But during a virtual public forum on Thursday, Executive Vice President and Chief Physician Executive Jeff Absalon said more tests have become available and they are now able to test anyone who has worsening clinical symptoms of the disease such as fever, cough and shortness of breath – regardless of age or other other medical conditions.

Additionally, the new criteria shows tests will be given to those with 100.4-degree fever in the past 24 hours AND a cough or chest pain AND:

  • Older than 60
  • Children under 1-year-old.
  • Ay child with household contact at high risk of severe COVID-19 illness.
  • Patients with underlying medical conditions including hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, lung disease and others.
  • Pregnancy
  • Patients who had contact with a patient with a COVID test pending or with confirmed COVID-19  infection.
  • Healthcare workers, including scribes and EMTs, first responders, any worker in a vial infrastructure role such as employee of an electrical, gas or other utility, water or sewer treatment facility
  • Any patient with worsening symptoms (e.g. this could be a repeat visit to the ED or office, or no improvement in fever, cough, chest pains in the last 48 hours.)

“It’s really important for us to get the word out now that we are expanding our criteria for testing and help us identify who has the disease, how we isolate them and how we can appropriately manage this pandemic,” Absalon said. 

Additionally, as soon as Friday the hospital could begin testing onsite rather than sending swabs to the University of Washington and waiting days for results.

“We are very excited to be able to do testing on-site,” he said. “The turnaround time will be in the number of hours instead of days. This is a big development for us.”

The St. Charles lab alone has tested 938 people with 33 positive cases and 137 cases pending.

Throughout Central Oregon, 52 people have tested positive for COVID-19; 50 in Deschutes County and one each in Crook and Jefferson counties, although the Jeffrerson County case is a patient who currently lives out of state.

Sluka said more testing options are being approved by the FDA and the hospital has had regular contact with state and congressional leaders along with the manufacturers to secure more tests in Central Oregon.

During the town hall, the hospital officials said the state is still in the early stages of the fight against COVID-19 and was lagging behind Portland, Salem and other metro areas in the state.

“If we get to a significant level of surge we may have as short as 6 days supplies of personal protective equipment on hand,” said St. Charles Health System senior data analyst Michael Johnson.

He predicts demand for hospital beds, beds in intensive care and ventilators will continue to rise through the end of this month.  

Absalon said the hospital has plans to increase capacity if needed.

“That could mean we fall back into service rooms that had not been previously used for critical care, doubling up on patient rooms, re-purposing outpatient spaces and visitor spaces,” Absalon said.

Hospital revenues have decreased by 45% since the governor ordered a stop to elective surgeries and expenses have increased.

Chief Financial Officer Jenn Welander says the hospital has about eight months of operating cash and reserves on hand.

Health officials remain adamant that now is the time to double-down on social distancing efforts.

“I think the take-home message is we need to stay the course. Staying home and socially distancing are our best weapon in this fight,” Sluka said.

Doctors quashed rumors that hydroxychloroquine is available to the general public. It is only used in hospitals and not available through pharmacies.






Oregon jobless claims continue to jump; 270K over last 3 weeks

Nearly 270,000 Oregonians have filed for unemployment benefits over the last three weeks, according to the Oregon Department of Employment.

It’s by far a record number. For comparison, net job losses in Oregon totaled 147,800 during the recession of 2008.

During the week starting March 29 alone, the Oregon Employment Department received 100,700 initial claims, continuing the record levels of initial claims received the previous two weeks. In all, 269,900 claims have been filed over the last three weeks.

One semi-bright note: federal CARES Act payments of $600 will start processing through Oregon’s system by the end of this week.

National numbers released Thursday show 6.6 million American workers applied for unemployment benefits last week, on top of more than 10 million in the two weeks before that. That means more than 1 in 10 U.S. workers have been forced out of a job since the crisis took hold.

Damon Runberg, a regional economist for the employment department said in Deschutes County, more than 7,400 people have filed for unemployment over the last three weeks, compared to 441 people in the three weeks prior to the COVID-19 crisis.

The Employment Department has detailed information for 54,500 of the initial claims processed during the week starting March 29.

The leisure and hospitality sector, which includes hotels and restaurants, continued to see the greatest number of initial claims for unemployment benefits (14,400). This reflects impacts of public health and safety measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since March 15, there have been about 40,600 initial claims filed in the leisure and hospitality sector. Many initial claims also came from workers in health care and social assistance (8,800) and retail trade (7,100) during the week of March 29.

Multnomah (12,100), Washington (6,600), and Lane (5,300) were the counties with the largest number of claims (see table on next page). More initial claims data by industry and area can be found on the COVID-19 page.

The agency continues rapidly adding staff to take claims, and processing claims at a record pace.

In one month’s time, the Oregon Employment Department more than quadrupled the number of staff dedicated to taking claims.

Those staff continue to process record numbers of claims week after week. The Employment Department processed more claims during the first quarter of 2020 than the total for all of 2019.

The agency’s newly re-designed COVID-19 page includes expanded resource guides for employers and workers filing claims, and a new dashboard of measures showing our response to the unprecedented need for unemployment benefits.

The agency paid $28 million in benefits to Oregonians during the week starting March 29.

That figure should increase rapidly as the additional CARES Act benefits of $600 per week start for those already eligible for unemployment benefits. The agency continues receiving guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor, and is working to implement the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program into its systems. The PUA benefits allow the self-employed, contract workers, and gig workers not already eligible to receive unemployment benefits for the first time.

While it remains critically important that all who can file claims online do so, the agency has also extended contact center hours to 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on weekdays for filing claims by phone. Even with rapid expansion of staff to take claims, wait times averaged 106 minutes on claims phone lines.



OSU postpones commencement ceremonies in Corvallis, Bend

Based on input from Oregon State University students, the university announced Thursday it is postponing commencement ceremonies in Corvallis and at OSU-Cascades in Bend until a later date, possibly in the fall.

This decision is in keeping with the university’s measures to help reduce the risk and spread of COVID-19 and is in compliance with Gov. Kate Brown’s executive orders to address the pandemic, including an extension of social distancing and remote learning orders issued Wednesday by Brown.

“This was not an easy decision to make,” OSU President Ed Ray said. “OSU commencement is a tradition that was begun 150 years ago with three students and now celebrates the distinguished achievements of more than 7,000 graduates annually and is attended by more than 25,000 guests and university faculty and staff. Yet, postponing commencement to a healthier time is the right choice and is strongly supported by our students. And this decision acknowledges that OSU has never canceled commencement in its history.”

Students in Corvallis and Bend were recently surveyed and overwhelmingly supported postponing commencement ceremonies.

In Corvallis, more than 2,500 students on track to graduate responded to the survey. Of this total, 66% supported rescheduling commencement to a later date; 24% supported holding a virtual ceremony; and 10% supported canceling commencement.

At OSU-Cascades, 713 students responded. Of those, 76% favored rescheduling commencement to a later date.

“Commencement is a special occasion for all of our graduates and their families, especially our first-generation college graduates,” said Becky Johnson, vice president of OSU-Cascades. “I appreciate our students’ input and look forward to celebrating their achievements when we can do so safely.”

The Corvallis commencement ceremony was scheduled for June 13 at Reser Stadium. The OSU-Cascades ceremony was set for June 14 at Les Schwab Amphitheater in Bend.

University leaders will provide details regarding rescheduled commencement ceremonies as soon as possible.

Jefferson Co. reports 1st COVID-19 case; patient living out-of-state

Jefferson County Public Health on Thursday reported the area’s first confirmed case of COVID-19, adding the person tested positive outside the state and has not been in Central Oregon during their infectious period.

Officials say the resident is currently living out of the state and getting care through their out of state provider.

“This case highlights the way our public health system works,” officials said in a statement. “Regardless of where a test is conducted, the county of residence remains the primary reporting classification. Jefferson County Public Health and local partners will continue to work with this initial case as well as respond to this declared emergency.”

Officials also say the patient has not required hospitalization and is full cooperating with the health department.

The new case brings the Central Oregon total to 47 – 45 in Deschutes County and one each in Crook and Jefferson counties.

Statewide, more than 1,200 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 38 people have died

As this novel coronavirus continues to spread, Jefferson County Public Health and local healthcare providers stress that the safety of staff and community members remains our highest priority. Therefore, local partners will continue to provide quality care and ensure timely and accurate information remains available to the public. As our situation is constantly changing, Jefferson County Public Health will continue to share the most current information and guidelines available.

Jefferson County Public Health respects and values the privacy of community members and the confidentiality regarding medical information. Therefore, no identifiable information will be released about confirmed cases in Jefferson County.

The Jefferson County Public Health Communicable Disease team has already started working diligently to identify and notify all known contacts of the positive case through case investigation.

  • Case investigation includes identifying all known contacts of the positive cases so proper notification and risk assessment can occur. This allows local public health to then apply monitoring requirements recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Oregon Health Authority.
  • Status on investigation of known contacts is ongoing.  Currently all persons under monitoring are cooperative and following the guidance.
  • Any persons under monitoring will be monitored by Jefferson County Public Health for a minimum of 14 days.

Jefferson County Public Health has been part of the Central Oregon response around COVID-19 since the first of March and will continue to work closely with neighboring counties along with our local city and county organizations.

Central Oregon Public Health Agencies and the Oregon Health Authority continue to recommend people take everyday precautions to prevent the spread of many respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19 and influenza – The CDC is recommending the following interventions to slow the spread of COVID-19, and other respiratory infections (including flu and pertussis) by taking everyday preventive actions, including: