Corvallis representative likely to be Oregon’s next House speaker

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — State Rep. Dan Rayfield is poised to be the next Oregon House Speaker after being officially nominated by Democratic representatives for the post.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reports that Rayfield, of Corvallis, prevailed Sunday in a contested race to replace longtime speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland. Kotek said she would be stepping down to focus on her race for governor.

Rayfield is all but certain to win a formal election by all 60 House members when the Legislature convenes Feb. 1.

Rayfield won out against state Rep. Janelle Bynum, of Happy Valley, who had hoped to become the first Black speaker of the House in state history.

Bend-La Pine Schools leader reassures parents goal is to keep kids in class

More than 1,000 Bend-La Pine Schools students and 100 staff members were out last week due to COVID.

But the district’s leader says it’ll stay business as usual in schools for as long as possible, despite the rising case counts.

“I want to take a moment and assure you our schools remain open, with no plans to go remote at this time,” Superintendent Dr. Steve Cook said in an email to families Friday. “Please know that we are doing everything we can to keep our schools open for in-person learning, as we firmly believe that is the best place for students. Our schools continue to be places filled with learning and engagement where students are thriving.”

The district’s COVID dashboard went down last week and remains out of commission.

But on Thursday officials said there were 600 students who have tested positive and another 450 students quarantined.

More than 100 staff members were out due to positive cases and 15 more were also quarantined.

“Keeping schools open and extracurriculars continuing has been challenging at times due to the number of students and staff that are currently dealing with illness, however, we remain committed to sustaining as much structure and stability for our students as possible, and remain focused on our commitment to in-person instruction,” Cook said.

Those numbers could go up as COVID cases jump in Deschutes County.

Last week’s numbers aren’t yet available for Deschutes County but the Oregon Health Authority reported more than 3,000 cases here Tuesday-Friday alone. 

Two weeks ago Cook warned parents a return to remote learning would be an option if the COVID situation with teachers worsened.

The district has struggled to fill all the necessary substitute teaching positions it needs and publicly has urged anyone thinking about getting into the profession to consider filling in right now.

But Cook said the district has made some temporary changes to help keep school doors open, including:

    •    Limiting spectators at athletic and activities events,
    •    Dispatching district staff to help at schools when the number of substitute teachers and staff available do not meet the demand,
    •    Providing COVID-19 testing for qualifying employees and students to keep them at school when they’ve been exposed (per state guidance),
    •    Making diagnostic testing available in all schools,
    •    Providing 3-ply medical-grade masks and KN95 masks to students and staff who request them,
    •    Working toward alignment to Center for Disease Control and Oregon Health Authority guidance for shortened isolation and quarantine periods for students. This could allow students to return to school earlier after isolation or quarantine, thus reducing instructional time loss.

Cook also once again urged families to get vaccinated and boosted if eligible, stay home if they’re sick, up their mask game and avoid large crowds.

On MLK Day, Biden says Americans must commit to King’s work

ATLANTA (AP) — Americans must commit to the unfinished work of Martin Luther King Jr., President Joe Biden said Monday said in a video address on the day that commemorates the slain civil rights leader.

The president’s remarks were among many by national leaders acknowledging unmet needs for racial equality on Martin Luther King Day.

Major holiday events include the annual Martin Luther King Jr. service in Atlanta, where senior pastor and U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock is hosting Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and other politicians.

The service at Ebenezer Baptist Church commemorates what would have been the 93rd birthday of the civil rights leader, who was just 39 when he was assassinated.

Injured skier rescued near Swampy Lakes Sno-Park

Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue volunteers rescued an injured skier east of Swampy Lakes Sno-Park on Sunday. 

Deschutes County Dispatch received a 911 call at around 11:34 a.m. about an injured woman on the Tangent Trail who needed help getting back out to the parking lot at Swampy Lakes Sno-Park, according to Deputy Kyle Joye. 

Six Search and Rescue volunteers used snow shoes to hike out to the 31-year-old Redmond woman, and reached her on the trail at around 12:30 p.m. 

They gave her a physical assessment and then carried her to the highway on a litter. 

The woman was able to get back into her own car and said she would seek further medical care on her own. 

Heavy snow, high winds blow into region; close highways, OSU, COCC

A powerful winter storm dumped heavy snow across Central Oregon Monday and strong winds led to impassible highways all over the state. 

Monday evening, ODOT reported several spun-out vehicles and a snow slide closed Santiam Pass from three miles west of Santiam Pass Summit to four miles east of Suttle Lake Loop.

Highway 26 over Mt. Hood was closed as well due to extreme winter driving conditions. 

Back here in Bend, Oregon State University-Cascades announced around noon that it would close its campus at 2 p.m. Monday.

The cancelation came out of an abundance of caution for students and staff, especially those traveling on slick roads to and from campus.

OSU-Cascades director of communications Christine Coffin says university officials will discuss whether or not to close campus for another day on Monday evening.

However, if campus is closed, that does not mean all professors will opt out of class for the day.

“What we asked students to do was to check their Canvas web platforms, that’s the service that they use to check in on the status of their classes,” Coffin said. “So faculty will report on those Canvas class sites, whether class is canceled or whether class is offered via Zoom.”

Earlier Monday, Central Oregon Community College announced it was closing its campus immediately due to the snowfall and deteriorating conditions.

Bend-La Pine Schools also announced students riding buses would be released 30 minutes early to allow bus drivers additional time to drive to changing road conditions.

As for flights coming in and out of Redmond Municipal Airport, a few delays and cancelations occurred, but “nothing massive” according to airport manager Zachary Bass.

Bend was expecting as much as 6 inches of snow during the day and another 1 to 3 inches overnight before some clearing. 

Bend and Redmond were expecting another 2-5″ of snow before some clearing. Locations to the south could see 6 to 18 inches of snow before the storm moves through.

The snow was causing traffic issues across the region.

A 24-year-old Redmond man died early Monday after his car collided head-on with a semi on Highway 126 near Powell Butte. 

 

Mt. Bachelor was expected to get pounded as well with more than 2 feet of new snow possible.

But the wind gusts up there early Monday forced the ski area to announce limited operations.

“Due to extreme winds, Front-side (West Village) and West-side lifts will be closed today and a select number of Sunrise Base Area lifts are being prepared for opening,” according to its website. “Base your ski day out of Sunrise Base Area and stay tuned to the mountain report for updates.”

Winds were expected to gust to 62 mph on the mountain Monday. 

At lower elevations, winds were expected to range from 15 to 35 mph, limiting visibility in areas where heavy snow was falling.

Across the state, conditions were just as bad. 

Officials closed dozens of state roads in eastern Oregon and Interstate 84 was shut down through the Columbia River Gorge.

U.S. 26 is now closed at milepost 44, near Rhododendron, to OR 35.

Winter conditions have also forced the closure of OR 35 from U.S. 26 north to the Hood River County line.

ODOT said dangerous winter driving conditions can be found in many areas around Mount Hood and in the Columbia River Gorge.

The agency reported wind gusts of 60 mph in Umatilla County, snowdrifts along roadways that are several feet tall and white-out conditions.

Is says the conditions are so bad that it can’t plow the roads and people who ignore road closures could become stranded for several days.

Several High Cascade highways are closed for the night due to heavy snow, downed trees and slides.

The closures are:
* Oregon 138E from Glide to the U.S. 97 intersection (MP 16-100)
* Oregon 62 from Prospect north to the intersection with Oregon 230

Family of 5 and 2 dogs escape early morning La Pine house fire

A family of five and two dogs were able to escape a mobile home fire early Monday morning in La Pine, according to officials.

La Pine Rural Fire Protection District firefighters responded to 153513 Derri Court (Klamath County) for a reported structure fire around 3:45 a.m.

Chief Mike Supkis said the family awoke to heavy smoke with fire under the 1,600-square-foot manufactured home. There was no report of a working smoke detector.

Supkis said one family member suffered minor smoke inhalation after trying to go back into the home. 

He said access was difficult because of snowy roads and a lengthy unplowed driveway to the home on top of a hill.

La Pine Firefighters received help from Crescent Rural Fire Protection District who assisted by sending a medic unit checking out the injured homeowner and the Sunriver Fire District handled two other medical calls during the 4.5 hours firefighters worked on the incident. 

More than 15,000 gallons of water were used to fight the fire, Supkis said.

Firefighters were also challenged by the high winds and ongoing winter storm but were able to limit the fire spread by protecting nearby vehicles, sheds, and RVs.

The home and all the family’s belongings were a total loss. Supkis said the family was uninsured.

The residents and pets were transported to the DOOR warming shelter in La Pine and a referral was made to the American Red Cross for further assistance.

The cause of the fire is believed to have been a propane space heater placed under the home to keep pipes from freezing.

 

FDA expands Pfizer boosters for more teens as omicron surges

The U.S. is expanding COVID-19 boosters as it confronts the omicron surge, with the Food and Drug Administration allowing extra Pfizer shots for children as young as 12.

Boosters already are recommended for everyone 16 and older, and federal regulators on Monday decided they’re also warranted for 12- to 15-year-olds once enough time has passed since their last dose.

But the move, coming as classes restart after the holidays, isn’t the final step.

A panel to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to decide later this week whether to recommend boosters for the younger teens with a final decision by Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC’s director.

The FDA also said everyone 12 and older who’s eligible for a Pfizer booster can get one as early as five months after their last dose rather than six months.

FDA vaccine chief Dr. Peter Marks said even though serious illness is uncommon in younger teens, a booster will help them avoid that risk — while also helping reduce the spread of omicron or any other coronavirus mutant.

Experienced mountaineer dies skiing at Mt. Bachelor; fell into tree well

A 28-year-old Seattle man and experienced mountaineer has died after falling into a tree well on Mt. Bachelor, according to the resort’s spokeswoman.

Leigh Capozzi said Ski Patrol received the 911 call around 1:30 p.m. on Friday.

She said the man, identified as Birkan Uzun of Seattle, was taken by patrollers to Mt. Bachelor’s First Aid Clinic and was then taken to St. Charles by ambulance.

On Saturday afternoon, Capozzi issued a statement saying Mt. Bachelor had learned Uzun had passed away. 

Courtesy Madrona Venture Group

“Our entire team is heartbroken by our guest’s tragic passing and offer our deepest condolences and support to his family and friends,” she said.

Uzun’s employer, Madrona Venture Group, posted about their colleague’s death on Saturday.

“He was incredibly curious, kind-hearted, and caring and shared that with everyone around him,” they said. “His intelligence, work ethic and good nature all positively impacted our firm, our investment decisions, and the portfolio companies with whom we work.”

Madrona’s statement also said he summited Mt. Vinson in Antarctica a few weeks ago – part of a quest he had to climb the seven highest peaks across seven continents. 

“He dove fully into his many passions – including software programming and innovation, Turkish Cypriot culture, and mountaineering,” Madrona wrote.

It’s unclear where the accident happened or whether Uzun was skiing with anyone at the time.

The ski area frequently issues reminders to visitors about the dangers of tree wells, especially after recent snowfall.

In March 2019, 53-year-old Kenneth Brundidge, an experienced skier from Oregon City, died on Mt. Bachelor after falling into a tree well.

In 2018, 24-year-old Alfonso Braun of Bend and 19-year-old Nicole Panet-Raymond of Eugene suffocated in tree wells in separate incidents on different parts of the mountain.

Mt. Bachelor sued for $30 million after 2 deaths

‘Dangerously cold’ temps expected in Central/Eastern Oregon

“Dangerously cold temperatures” are expected in Central and Eastern Oregon this week with wind chills in some areas dipping below zero, according to the National Weather Service office in Pendleton. 

The Arctic air mass will keep temperatures mainly in the teens and 20s and overnight lows in the single digits in some places all week. 

Wind chills will range from single digits to 10 below zero.

Temperatures are expected to rebound on Thursday but wintry weather should continue into Saturday.

You can get more details on the extended forecast from the Central Oregon Daily News weather team online.

Flight cancellations continue due to bad weather, sick crews

Flight cancellations that disrupted holiday travel stretched into Monday, with major U.S. airlines each canceling dozens of flights, including several local flights.

Staffers calling out sick because of COVID-19, particularly since the emergence of the omnicron variant, have left airlines short in recent days.

According to FlightAware, which tracks flight cancellations, airlines have canceled roughly 4,000 flights to, from or inside the U.S. since Friday.

Delta, United, JetBlue and American have all said that the coronavirus was causing staffing problems, and European and Australian airlines also canceled holiday-season flights because staff were infected, but weather and other factors played a role as well.

Several flights in and out of Redmond to Seattle were delayed or canceled Sunday and Monday, according to FlightAware.

Winter weather in the Pacific Northwest led to nearly 250 flight cancellations to or from Seattle on Sunday, said Alaska Airlines, and the airline expects more than 100 flight cancellations Monday.

But it says that crew calling out sick because of COVID-19 is no longer a factor.

United said it canceled 115 flights Monday, out of more than 4,000 scheduled, due to crews out with COVID-19.

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