▶️ Move to extreme risk unlikely in Deschutes Co. despite COVID case surge

Deschutes County has reported more than 180 new COVID cases since Sunday and has had four straight weeks of climbing cases. 

But moving to an “extreme risk” level – and enduring the tightened COVID restrictions that come with that label – appears unlikely because the state now looks at more than individual county metrics.

The state must also have 300 hospital beds occupied with COVID patients, and a 15% increase in the seven-day average.

243 people are currently hospitalized in Oregon.

“Cases are surging,” Phil Chang, Deschutes county commissioner said. “So if hospitalizations across the state reach a point where we need to go into ‘extreme risk,’ it may very well be justified.”

Local hospitalizations are increasing as well, including 13 COVID patients currently at St. Charles.

Chang finds the recent surge is alarming.

He’s concerned with the health of residents, as well as what this might mean for local businesses under the current COVID restrictions.

“Now in ‘high risk,’ they’re only allowed to have 25% capacity inside,” Chang said. “That is just not enough volume to a business to be viable.”

As Deschutes County vaccinations increase, Chang says it’s important for everyone to do their part.

“Everyone not only has to get vaccinated,” Chang said. “But in the meantime everyone needs to wear their masks, maintain their distance, try to limit their social gatherings, and when they do gather with people, try to do it outside.”

▶️ Redmond Police Department explores land buy for new HQ

Owing to Redmond’s rapid growth, the Redmond Police Department is looking to build a new public safety headquarters.

The agency will present a report to the Redmond City Council tomorrow describing the need for a new, larger facility.

A needs assessment indicates the existing building is not meeting current demand.

Capt. Devin Lewis says there are several issues, starting with the front lobby.

“Right now, we don’t have a secure front lobby. We could have a victim of a crime coming in to make a report,” Lewis said. “We can’t guarantee them auditory privacy. We also can’t keep them safe if while there was a victim here a suspect showed up. We want to improve that and serve the community how they deserve to be served.”

Fifty-five officers and staff work in the existing 12,000 square foot police station in downtown Redmond.

That gives each about 200 square feet in which to work, well below the industry standard for spacing in police departments.

“Parts of the facility are failing,” Lewis said. “We’ve had issues with plumbing and HVAC. It just doesn’t serve the community’s interests how we’d like to.”

Another limitation is the lack of parking.

There are just 16 secure parking spaces, leaving 30 police fleet vehicles unprotected.

Captain Lewis says Tuesday’s council meeting is a step in the right direction.

“Not even a full step, kind of a half step in the process of exploring the opportunity to hopefully acquire some land and eventually use that land where we can build a new public safety facility.”

Redmond Police would like to move as soon as possible but Lewis expects the process of acquiring land and construction could take 3 to 5 years.

The project is estimated to cost $15 to $30 million and could be paid for through selling the existing building, financing, or a general obligation bond, which would require voter approval.

Oregon OSHA fines Redmond, Albany Lowe’s $35K for COVID violations

Oregon OSHA has fined Lowe’s Home Improvement stores in Redmond and Albany more than $35,000 for violating COVID restrictions.

According to a release, both sites potentially exposed employees to the disease by willfully failing to ensure that all customers inside the retail stores wore a mask, face-covering, or face shield to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The citations, totaling $35,600 in fines, resulted from inspections of the Southwest Canal Boulevard and Ninth Avenue Southeast locations in Redmond and Albany, respectively.

Earlier this month, Oregon OSHA fined Black Bear Diner in Bend and Redmond $35,000 for similar violations.

And in March, the agency fined Kevista Coffee in Bend more than $27,000 for multiple violations. 

The rest of Oregon OSHA’s release is below:

The inspections were initiated in response to multiple complaints.

Through employer and employee interviews, and an examination of records, the inspections determined supervisors at the stores were fully aware of the requirement to ensure customer use of facial coverings and yet intentionally decided against carrying out their responsibilities.

The stores’ purposeful infractions illustrate failures to account for reasonable and established measures to help prevent the potential spread of COVID-19 through customer-to-employee transmission.

“It is not enough to leave the protection of employees in the hands of cooperative customers,” said Michael Wood, administrator for Oregon OSHA. “As most employers recognize, they must take appropriate steps to ensure that the rules in place are actually followed. When an employer is not prepared to take such steps, we can and will use our enforcement tools to address the issue.”

Altogether, the inspections documented three violations of workplace health and safety standards at the Lowe’s in Redmond and one at the store in Albany. The citations and penalties – all issued under Oregon OSHA’s temporary rule addressing COVID-19 risks in the workplace – were as follows:

· Both stores chose to disregard Oregon Health Authority requirements to ensure customers (older than age 5) who are inside the establishments wore a source control device, such as a mask, face covering, or face shield. Oregon OSHA issued willful citations, each carrying a $17,500 penalty.

· The Redmond store was also cited for two serious violations. The employer did not develop and implement a complete risk assessment to identify potential employee exposure to the virus. The employer also failed to develop and implement an infection control plan. A penalty of $300 was imposed for each violation.

In addition to its enforcement activities, Oregon OSHA offers employers and workers a variety of consultation, information, and education resources addressing COVID-19.

Those resources include an advisory memo, including best practices, for employer enforcement of facial-covering requirements. It is available in English and Spanish.

Employers have 30 days to appeal citations.

Deschutes Co. weekly COVID numbers up for 4th straight week; 473 new cases statewide

There are no new COVID-19 related deaths in Oregon, so the state’s death toll remains at 2,460, the Oregon Health Authority reported Monday.

The OHA reported 473 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19, bringing the state total to 175,592.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (3), Clackamas (63), Clatsop (4), Columbia (6), Coos (3), Crook (1), Deschutes (44), Douglas (2), Hood River (2), Jackson (15), Jefferson (3), Josephine (3), Lane (65), Lincoln (3), Linn (15), Marion (65), Multnomah (135), Polk (16), Tillamook (1), Wasco (8), Washington (1) and Yamhill (15).

Deschutes County has already this week reported 91 cases this week.

The 376 cases reported by the county last week mark a fourth straight week of climbing cases.

Total Central Oregon COVID-19 Cases by County:
  • 881 in Crook County
  • 7,172 in Deschutes County
  • 2,073 in Jefferson County
Total Central Oregon COVID-19 Deaths by County:
  • 19 in Crook County
  • 72 in Deschutes County
  • 32 in Jefferson County
Total Central Oregon COVID-19 Vaccination data by County:
  • 7,057 people fully vaccinated or vaccines in-progress in Crook County.
  • 82,381 people fully vaccinated or vaccines in-progress in Deschutes County.
  • 7,870 people fully vaccinated or vaccines in-progress in Jefferson County.

Vaccinations in Oregon

Today, OHA reported that 25,474 new doses of COVID-19 vaccinations were added to the state immunization registry.

Of this total, 17,649 doses were administered on April 18 and 7,825 were administered on previous days but were entered into the vaccine registry on April 18.

The 7-day running average is now 35,522 doses per day.

Oregon has now administered a total of 1,333,009 doses of Pfizer, 1,126,590 doses of Moderna and 88,547 doses of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines.

As of today, 1,033,175 people have completed a COVID-19 vaccine series. There are 1,600,343 who have had at least one dose.

Cumulative daily totals can take several days to finalize because providers have 72 hours to report doses administered and technical challenges have caused many providers to lag in their reporting.

OHA has been providing technical support to vaccination sites to improve the timeliness of their data entry into the state’s ALERT Immunization Information System (IIS).

To date,1,535,625 doses of Pfizer,1,318,100 doses of Moderna and 215,500 doses of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines have been delivered to sites across Oregon.

These data are preliminary and subject to change.

OHA’s dashboards provide regularly updated vaccination data, and Oregon’s dashboard has been updated today.

COVID-19 hospitalizations

St. Charles on Monday reported it had 13 COVID patients; three are in the ICU and two are on a ventilator.

The number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 across Oregon is 243, which is 28 more than yesterday.

There are 57 COVID-19 patients in intensive care unit (ICU) beds, which is nine more than yesterday.

The total number of patients in hospital beds may fluctuate between report times.

The numbers do not reflect admissions per day, nor the length of hospital stay. Staffing limitations are not captured in this data and may further limit bed capacity.

More information about hospital capacity can be found here.

OHA publishes two data dashboards on COVID-19 vaccination

OHA has launched two new dashboards on its public Tableau site which highlight the state’s progress on COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

The first dashboard, Tracking the COVID-19 Vaccination Effort, shows the percent of people living in Oregon who have been vaccinated at both the state and county level.

The dashboard also shows how many people still have to receive another dose of vaccine to be fully vaccinated and how many have completed their vaccination series.

This information is broken down by age group at the state and county level, as well as by race and ethnicity at the state level. Future versions of this dashboard will include race and ethnicity at a regional level. For people who received either a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, the dashboard shows the percentage of people who completed the series by the number of weeks between their first and second doses.

As of today, 37% of Oregonians have received at least one dose of any COVID-19 vaccine, while 13.1% are in progress to be completely vaccinated and 23.9% are fully vaccinated.

Lincoln, Hood River, Benton and Deschutes counties are leading the way in the vaccination effort. Vaccination estimates for these counties show that more than 40% of their population have received at least one dose.

The second dashboard is the Daily COVID-19 Vaccine Update, which is helpful for state planning purposes because it provides a snapshot each morning of vaccine  administration, allocation and delivery data. This information has previously been distributed by email each morning and will continue to be available in Tableau format. Please be aware that COVID-19 vaccine deliveries are commonly re-distributed throughout the state between locations and do not reflect future inventory at each location.


Prescribed burn scheduled south of Sisters Wed-Fri

Beginning Wednesday and continuing on Friday, fuel specialists with the Deschutes National Forest will be prescribed burning national forest lands about 7 miles south of Sisters, near Black Pine Spring Campground.

Fuels specialists will underburn about 290 acres between Forest Service Road (FSR) 16 (Three Creeks Road)and FSR 1620. Ignitions will begin at about 9:30 a.m. each day.

Due to expected smoke impacts to FSR 16 (Three Creeks Road), people should expect some traffic delays on that roadway during ignitions. Road guards and traffic control measures will be in place.

During the operations, smoke will be visible to residents of Sisters and the surrounding area.  The closest residents to the burn will be in the Harrington Road area. Residents can expect nighttime and early morning smoke impacts following the burn.

Firefighters from Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire Department, Black Butte Ranch Fire Department, and the Oregon Department of Forestry may assist federal firefighters during the prescribed burn.

The objective of this prescribed burn is to reduce fuel loadings in ponderosa pine stands to allow future fires to burn with less intensity. This will reduce the potential impacts of a wildfire coming into the community of Sisters.

The public is encouraged to close their windows at night and if smoke is on the roadway, turn on headlights and slow down while traveling through smoky areas.

The public’s health is important to the Forest Service. While significant preventive measures are taken, many factors influence a person’s susceptibility to smoke, including severity and duration of smoke exposure and a person’s health.

If individuals feel impacted by smoke, they should avoid outdoor physical exertion and remain indoors.

If people experience serious health impacts from the smoke, they should contact their doctor. F

or more information about smoke and health, visit the Oregon Health Authority recommendations through this link: http://www.oregon.gov/oha/PH/Preparedness/Prepare/Pages/PrepareForWildfire.aspx#health

DSCO deploy new GPS dart to stop pursuit, track down wanted Sisters man

A Sisters man was arrested on reckless driving and attempt to elude charges Sunday after Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office deputies were able to track his SUV using a new GPS dart system.

After deputies were able to track down the SUV driven by 39-year-old Justin D. Merritt, it took nearly an hour of negotiations before he ultimately got out of the car, said Sgt. Jayson Janes.

The incident started around 11:15 a.m. when a deputy driving near Hwy 20 and S. Pine Steet in Sisters saw a 2004 GMC Yukon with expired registration tags.

Janes said the deputy also knew the SUV was associated with someone who was wanted on a pending criminal charge.

▶️ Right out of the movies, DCSO tracking device aims to end suspect pursuits

The deputy tried to stop the Yukon and it immediately turned onto a dirt road and continued driving in an attempt to elude the deputy.

Janes said the deputy pursued the vehicle for a short distance until it turned back toward Sisters. The pursuit was discontinued due to safety concerns.

A deputy later saw the vehicle driving on Fryrear Rd. toward Hwy 126.

The deputy followed the Yukon from a distance, advising other deputies of their location.

Another deputy saw the SUV near Buckhorn Rd. and Hwy 126.

Janes said that deputy was able to successfully tag the vehicle with a Star Chase GPS dart. Deputies stopped following the vehicle, and began tracking it remotely.

The GPS tracker showed the vehicle was parked on BLM land off of Buckhorn Rd.

Deputies tracked down the Yukon and made contact with the driver, later identified as Merritt.

Janes said he refused to come out of the SUV and deputies negotiated with him for close to an hour before he agreed to exit the vehicle.

Merritt was arrested without incident and lodged in the Deschutes County Jail.

Warm Springs man killed in Highway 101 hit-and-run

A Warm Springs man apparently laying in the road – Highway 101 in Tillamook County – was stuck and killed by a truck, according to Oregon State Police.

The incident happened Saturday night just before midnight when OSP Troopers and emergency responders responded to a report of a pedestrian that had been struck near Rockaway Beach.

An investigation showed the pedestrian, 23-year-old Quinten Hoptowit, was laying in the road when he was hit by a truck driving north.

The truck, a dark-colored crew cab with a short box and open bed and broken passenger side tail light, left the scene, OSP said.

If you have any information regarding this incident or the described vehicle OSP requests you call the Oregon State Police Northern Command Center at 1-800-442-0776 or *OSP and leave information for Trooper Jace Huseby – case # SP21-100770.

Fire damages house deck in Bend neighborhood

Fire damaged a house deck on Aubrey Butte early Monday morning.

According to Bend Fire & Rescue, the fire started when embers from a smoker landed in a dry bark mulch pile below the deck

The fire was quickly put out and did not spread inside the home.

The homeowners were able to remain in their home after fire crews cleared the structure.

The damage is estimated to be around $10,000.

Bend Fire reminds everyone that keeping bark away from combustible construction can help prevent these types of fires.


▶️ Sisters webcam captures golden eagle couple raising their young

For over a decade a pair of golden eagles, named Rocky and Petra, have carved out their home on a cliff outside of Sisters.

Central Oregon Daily News Photojournalist Steve Kaufmann has the story behind the lens of the golden eagle cam.

For more information on the golden eagle camera or to watch the pair raise their young, visit https://www.goldeneaglecam.org/.

Injured hiker rescued from Smith Rock hiking trail

Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue volunteers rescued an injured hiker from Smith Rock State Park Sunday.

Deschutes County Dispatch received a 911 call around 1 p.m. from hiker Raili Marks, of Seattle, who had injured herself while hiking the Misery Ridge trail.

She was reportedly near the trail’s overlook and could not walk without help.

Ten Search and Rescue volunteers, one deputy, and members of the Redmond Fire Department arrived on the scene.

After hiking up to Marks, they loaded her onto a wheeled litter and took her down the trail to a waiting ambulance.

She was taken to St. Charles in Redmond to be treated for her injuries.