▶️ Bend’s Little Caesars Lady receives local support after open heart surgery


You know her, you love her, and she has probably put a smile on your face at some point on the corner of 3rd Street and Reed Market Road.

Mary Barackman, better known as Bend’s “Little Caesars Lady,” has been promoting the franchise for nearly a decade by dancing and twirling her fake guitar outside.

You wouldn’t guess it from her attitude, but Barackman, has had a difficult couple of months.

“She had a full open heart surgery,” said Christina Belli, Barackman’s daughter. “They cut her sternum, they cut her open, and surgery took about four hours to do.”

Barackman had a heart valve replaced on Thursday and recovery has not been easy.

“Any movement hurts right now,” Belli said. “She’s having a hard time because she can’t do everything on her own right now.”

Between living across the country and the pandemic, Belli can’t take care of her mother once she’s out of the hospital.

Belli explained this to her mother’s fans over social media and they’re willing to help, expressing interest in meal trains and a GoFundMe if one becomes available.

“I want to be there, I want to help her and I can’t,” Belli said. “It means a lot that other people are helping when I can’t.”

Belli is looking into aftercare options and says a meal train should be started within the next couple of weeks.

“I told her all about the support on Facebook and I feel like that helps her a lot,” Belli said. “Knowing that everyone’s praying for her and is there for her.”

Belli says once her mother has recovered, she does plan to return dancing as Bend’s Little Caesars Lady.

Updates on Barackman’s health and ways to help will be posted on the Rock On, Bend Little Caesars Lady Facebook page.

▶️ Winter shelters life savers for some local homeless as temperatures drop


An arctic blast hitting much of the country hasn’t spared the Pacific Northwest.

Locally, we’ve seen some of the coldest temperatures of the season and a couple of rounds of snow.

Tough conditions, especially for those without a roof over their heads.

“You can’t find a better place to stay,” said Tammy Edgerly, a frequent guest at the Redmond cold weather shelter. “Especially at night and keep warm. Warm food and a nice place to be.”

With her husband Calvin, the two have stayed at the cold weather shelter in Redmond for the last winters.

Their car is the roof over their head for the rest of the year.

“It really does take a toll on the homeless people living on the streets, especially in this cold,” Tammy said. “Emotionally, physically, everything.”

The gym at Mountain View Fellowship Church in Redmond, where the cold weather shelter is located, has been a lifesaver for the homeless.

“To have a place for them to come would be a big difference for them,” Tammy said.

The cold temperatures over the weekend did not increase the numbers of those using the Redmond facility.

That wasn’t the case for the Bend winter shelter.

Director of Emergency Services John Lodise says the Bend Shelter averages around 50 people per night.

“Lately with the weather being cold, with snow on the ground, we’ve easily been over 60 many nights,” Lodise said.

Lodise says the winter shelter takes away one of the stresses of homelessness during freezing temperatures.

“They know it is either going to be very, very uncomfortable, very debilitating or dangerous, possibly life-threatening,” he said. “If they know this place is here every night, they don’t have to worry about that.”

It’s not just the freezing nights that affect the homeless.

“Even when it is only 40 degrees at night, Refrigerators are 40 degrees inside,” Lodise said. “So, imagine just being inside a refrigerator the whole time.”

Tammy and Calvin don’t want other homeless to be afraid to use the winter shelters.

“They treat you with respect, they don’t look down on people.” Tammy said. “It’s really nice.”

The Redmond shelter closes March 15 and the Bend shelter, March 31.

Lodise added that if the weather remains cold after the closing dates, they will keep the facilities open longer.

▶️ Mt. Bachelor welcomes new member to avalanche rescue dog team


She’s a little dog with a big job ahead of her.

Her name is Shasta and she’s a 9-week old Golden Retriever born in Ellensburg, Washington.

She’s also the newest member of Mt. Bachelor’s Avalanche Rescue Dog team.

Monday was her fourth day at work.

“She’s getting used to the snow, sites and sounds,” said Drew Clendenen, a patrol training supervisor at Mt. Bachelor and Shasta’s owner. “It’s all new for her, so the goal for the next three months is to get her used to the mountain environment.”

Shasta joins three other avalanche patrol dogs — Riggings, Mango and Banyon — in assisting the mountain’s ski patrol team.

“There’s no patroller or anyone that can travel over avalanche debris at the speed a dog can travel, so they’re excellent partners for our patrollers here on the mountain,” Leigh Capozzi, Mt. Bachelor’s brand and marketing director, said.

In the summer, Clendenen will work on her basic obedience skills.

“Then, coming back into the beginning of next winter, it’ll be into focused training on using her nose to find things buried in the snow,” Clendenen said.

There’s a lot to learn, but Shasta is up for the job.

“She’s loving the snow, loves to eat it now, roll around,” Clendenen said.

Clendenen is excited to own a patrol dog after being a secondary handler to Banyon for years.

He named her after Mt. Shasta, where Clendenen first started ski patrolling.

“It’s an awesome life for a dog and for the human as well,” Clendenen said.

43 Summit HS students now confirmed positive for COVID after party

The COVID outbreak at Summit High School in Bend has reached at least 43 students, according to an email to families from the principal on Monday night.

“All appear to have a primary or secondary nexus to a weekend party in early February,” Principal Michael McDonald said. “Most students are showing varying degrees of illness, but other have identified as asymptomatic.”

McDonald said there were no reported COVID cases among staff and no signs it was spread at school.

In a letter to families over the weekend, McDonald called it a “teachable moment” for students, parents and the community.

“We are all ready for the pandemic to be over and to ‘go back to normal.’ But we are not there yet,” he said. “We need to redouble our efforts at masking, distancing and staying home when ill if we want to resume some ‘normal’ activities like in-person learning and athletics. We must all remember that our actions outside of school have a huge impact on what can happen inside our buildings.”

The school reported an initial outbreak last week had affected about a dozen kids and forced the school to cancel in-person classes at the end of the week.

Deschutes County Health, meanwhile, scrambled to set up a free COVID testing clinic for the community Friday at Pilot Butte Middle School.

Nearly 250 people showed up to get tested.

Summit now is undergoing a deep clean to prepare for students to return the week of February 22nd.

“It is my sincere wish that everyone who is ill is able to recover and that we were able to act fast enough to contain this outbreak,” McDonald said in his email to families over the weekend. “I have heard from many families, students, community members, and staff members during the past week who are experiencing feelings of frustration, anger, sadness and fear brought on by this outbreak. These are all reasonable responses. We are here to connect with students who need support during this time.”

You can read McDonald’s full message to families below:

February 15, 2021

Dear Summit Families:

In addition to the schedule shared in the recent email, I would like to update you on our current knowledge regarding the recent outbreak within our student community.

Since Wednesday, we have reports of 43 positive cases of COVID-19 among students. All appear to have a primary or secondary nexus to a weekend party in early February. Most students are showing varying degrees of illness, but others have identified as asymptomatic. We are very thankful to share at this time no reports of cases or illness among our staff and no signs the virus was spread at our school.

I appreciate the efforts of students and parents who sought COVID-19 testing and to those who will find themselves testing in the future. Testing and cooperating with contact tracing (from public health and our school nursing staff) play a major role in how well we control the spread of COVID-19 in our schools and community.

We urge families to review and follow these health recommendations:

· For individuals who attended the social gathering on Saturday, February 6, you are strongly encouraged to quarantine for 14 days from February 6. Quarantine Information.

· For individuals that may have had close contact with someone who attended the social gathering, it is strongly recommended that you quarantine for 14 days from the date of your last exposure with that individual.

· If you develop COVID-19 symptoms, you should contact your health care provider and self-isolate for 10 days from symptom onset.

· If you tested positive for COVID-19 and do not have any symptoms, you should self-isolate for 10 days starting on the day you tested positive.

· Please report any positive test results or symptom information to Summit High School nurse Pam Orton at 541-355-4023.

I care deeply about all of our students and my concern about their physical and mental well-being has only amplified during the last few days.

This event has reminded us all that even with mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, young adults can easily spread the virus to their peers and the wider community, putting others at risk and disrupting a smooth transition back to school.

If we all participate equally in following the recommended guidelines, we all benefit from our partnership and teamwork. Summit staff will continue to work hard within the school and we need students and families to continue doing the same outside the building.

I am hopeful that our future communications will be filled with highlights from our classrooms and information about your students’ educations – and less about COVID-19. If you are interested in future updates on COVID-19 cases associated with schools that offer in-person instruction, including ours, I encourage you to bookmark this page.

The page is updated weekly, on Wednesdays, by the Oregon Health Authority and includes all Oregon schools that have one or more case of COVID-19 in students or staff/volunteers with onset within the last 28 days.

Thank you for your continued support. I look forward to seeing your students back in the building next week and celebrating our return.


Michael McDonald, principal

Summit High School

Bend man arrested on drug, weapons charges after 3-hour standoff

A Bend man wanted on weapons charges surrendered peacefully Saturday after a three-hour standoff with officers.

The incident started just after noon on Saturday when officers received information that a suspect in several recent cases involving a firearm was inside a home on NW Colorado Avenue – across the street from Market of Choice.

Lt. Clint Burleigh said 36-year-old Mackenzie Burton Now was suspected of being in possession of a stolen handgun, which was found last week with more than 26 grams of suspected heroin.

The information led officers to the home on Colorado where the Central Oregon Emergency Response team was activated due to the nature of the investigation and presence of firearms, Burleigh said.

Oregon State Police troopers and Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office deputies also responded to the scene.

Several local streets were blocked and neighbors were asked to stay inside during the incident.

Crisis negotiators were able to make contact with Now and he agreed to come out of the home around 3:15, Burleigh said.

Now was jailed on several charges including first-degree theft, felon in possession of a firearm, first-degree burglary, and possession of a controlled substance.


Brown targets Feb. 15th return to class; districts to make final decision


Gov. Kate Brown on Wednesday directed state health and education leaders to launch several new policies in the coming weeks hoping to get Oregon’s elementary school students back in class by the middle of February.

Among the requests is making the state’s current health metrics for a return to class “advisory” rather than “mandatory” beginning January 1st.

“Moving forward, the decision to resume in-person instruction must be made locally, district by district, school by school,” Brown wrote in her letter to Oregon Education Director Colt Gill and Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen.

Most Oregon students have been out of the classroom since early March when the COVID pandemic started to take hold across the United States.

Since then, school districts have grappled with distance learning efforts with varying success while parents juggled schedules and students missed out on important face-to-face interactions with teachers and friends.

“Moving forward, the decision to resume in-person instruction must be made locally, district by district, school by school.”
Gov. Kate Brown

The state dangled a carrot in front of parents this fall by releasing more lenient health metrics, but cases in Deschutes County spiked right after the announcement. 

The governor now wants Oregon school districts and counties to have the flexibility to reopen schools based on the COVID situation in their own backyard.

“In addition to schools continuing to adhere to required health and safety protocols and working in close consultation with their local public health authority in understanding and considering the metrics, teachers, school staff, parents and students should be engaged in this decision-making process to allow schools to make the best choice for their community and their students,” she said.

“Today’s announcement from Governor Brown will not help return students safely to Oregon’s classrooms – it will simply continue what has already been months of confusion and uncertainty for Oregon’s students and educators.”
– Oregon Education Association President John Larson

Redmond School District Superintendent Dr. Charan Cline welcomed Brown’s announcement.

“The Redmond School District is eager to have kids back in school as soon as it is safe to do so, and we know that studies are showing transmission of COVID-19 is rare in schools,” he said. “With Governor Brown’s revision of the public health metrics to advisory instead of mandatory, we now have the ability to start a path toward reopening our schools.”

And in a letter to parents late Wednesday, Bend-La Pine Interim Superintendent Lora Nordquist said they’ve been planning for in-person instruction for months.

“I started connecting with district and association leaders this afternoon and will continue to expand the conversation to others over the break, as we determine specific dates for our phased-in return, based on this new information,” she said.

But the state’s teacher’s union was less than thrilled with the timing of Brown’s announcement during the holidays, saying it will “only result in an increasingly disparate patchwork of return plans throughout the state’s public education system.”

President John Larson said 70,000 educators and the families of 580,000 students “now must spend the holidays trying to understand what these changes mean for their lives and livelihoods.”

“Today’s announcement from Governor Brown will not help return students safely to Oregon’s classrooms – it will simply continue what has already been months of confusion and uncertainty for Oregon’s students and educators,” he said.

Brown said the nearly $140 million in state and federal resources dedicated to school reopening “put this goal within reach for school districts if communities continue to work together to stop the spread of COVID-19 over the next several weeks.”

She shared some good news on Tuesday, sharing that the post-Thanksgiving spike many had feared did not materialize.

Local cases, although higher than they have been since the pandemic began, are once again starting to decline.

In a statement, Brown said both the Legislature and Congress have dedicated new resources for safe school reopenings in 2021, including an additional $50 million approved during Monday’s special session to support schools in the transition to in-person instruction.

In addition, the legislature also passed legislation during the special session that protects schools from COVID-related lawsuits.

“As 2021 approaches and we look to the remaining school year just over the horizon, it is clear that the greatest gift we can give to Oregon’s children this holiday season is to redouble our efforts to act responsibly and reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” Brown said. “Our students’ learning, resilience, and future well-being depend on all of us.”

On Wednesday Brown said Oregon educators and child care providers would be prioritized in the next wave of COVID vaccines.

In her letter to the ODE and OHA, she directed the agencies to work with schools to “provide on-site, rapid testing as a safeguard to quickly address symptomatic individuals and those with potential exposure to COVID-19.”

Brown pointed to Washington state where “advisory metrics” have allowed more schools to reopen.

“As our neighbors to the north have demonstrated, this does not mean schools can resume in-person instruction without regard for COVID-19 spread in the community, but instead should carefully consider the metrics in their local context, the needs of students and families, and readiness to implement health and safety protocols,” she said. “As we move into a new year, we must all rise to the challenges that COVID-19 presents and prioritizing our children is most urgent.”

You can read Brown’s full letter to the ODE and OHA below.

12.23.20_Schools Letter_final

First shipment of COVID-19 vaccine arrives at St. Charles in Bend

With lots of smiles and applause, St. Charles in Bend received its first shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday morning.

A FedEx truck with only one piece of cargo – a single, temperature-controlled box of 975 does – arrived just before 10:30 a.m., the hospital said in a release.

“This is a historic moment,” said Joe Sluka, president and CEO of St. Charles Heath System. “In the same year a global pandemic landed in the United States, the scientific community delivered a vaccine. It’s a remarkable achievement that gives us hope as we continue to battle this virus and try to return our world to some version of normal.”

Debra Carlson, an inventory coordinator for the hospital’s inpatient pharmacy, donned safety goggles and a special pair of thick gloves while taking the box and placing them in an ultra-cold temperature freezer capable of storing them at -70 degrees C.

“The eagle has landed,” she said into her phone upon taking delivery, calling it “such a symbol of hope and next step forward for us.”

In a news conference later Thursday, Chief Pharmacy Officer Michael Powell said everyone in the pharmacy stopped what they were doing to watch the process unfold and erupted in applause.

He called it “the beginning of the end of working through this pandemic.” 

Dr. Cynthia Maree, who is overseeing the vaccine at the hospital, said the excitement Thursday was a little like Christmas morning.

The vaccines will remain in the freezer until Monday morning when the pharmacy team will begin dethawing and diluting individual doses in preparation for administering them to the first group of caregivers at noon.

It is expected all 975 doses will be dispersed by the end of Wednesday, the hospital said.

Maree reiterated Thursday that while many of the hospital’s caregivers and staff are clamoring to be at the front of the line for the vaccine, others still aren’t sure and want more information.

The goal over the next few weeks is to educate everyone on the vaccine’s safety and benefits, Maree said.

In the meantime, St. Charles caregivers who are eligible for vaccination are receiving notifications via text and email with information about when they are scheduled to receive their first dose.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is administered in two doses 21 days apart, so only after receiving a second dose three weeks out will they be considered fully vaccinated.

The vaccine arrives on a day when St. Charles Bend has 50 inpatients with COVID-19, four of whom are in the ICU and two of whom are on a ventilator.

The health system continues to postpone some elective surgeries to free up the staff and beds needed to care for the highest-need patients.

“This year has been a difficult year for all of us, and the fight is not over yet,” said Dr. Jeff Absalon, St. Charles’ chief physician executive. “The stress on our health system continues to be very real. On Tuesday, every one of our ICU beds were full. While today is certainly one to be celebrated, we must acknowledge the difficult road still ahead of us and continue to be vigilant in halting the spread of the virus.”

He said he expects local numbers to continue to rise as post-Thanksgiving cases come to light.



Bend family rescued after SUV gets stuck in the snow near Taghum Butte

A Bend family needed Deschutes County Search and Rescue’s help Monday night after their SUV got stuck in the snow near Taghum Butte.

Dep. Joshua Westfall, the assistant search and rescue coordinator, said dispatch got a call just after 6 p.m. from a stuck motorist off 1820 Road between China Hat Road and Paulina Lake.

The caller, later identified as 48-year-old James Sipe, reported that he and two other family members had been driving on the road when they got stuck in the snow.

Sipe hiked about a half-mile to an elevated location so he could get better reception to call 911, Westfall said.

One Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Deputy and two Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue volunteers responded to help.

The DCSO SAR volunteers traveled down China Hat Rd about 12 miles to 1820 Rd where they then deployed in the DCSO SAR ARGO ATV, Westfall said.

DCSO SAR volunteers traveled about nine miles south on the 1820 Rd to Sipes’ location near Taghum Butte in the ARGO, reaching them around 8:28 p.m.

The family and their dog, who were all unharmed, and were given a ride back to Bend.

DCSO resources returned to quarters around 11:00 p.m.

The DCSO would like to remind the public to use caution when traveling on forest roads this time of year due to snowpack.

Road conditions vary significantly and roads can quickly become impassable, Westfall said.

Further, if you are traversing in these conditions be sure to bring appropriate vehicles, equipment, lighting, clothing, food, water, navigation and communication devices.



Les Schwab Amphitheater to get makeover; hopes to attract more varied lineup

Construction started Monday to renovate Bend’s Les Schwab Amphitheater, part of a project aimed at attracting more and bigger acts to the region’s signature live music venue.

The first phase of construction is expected to be finished by June next year, ahead of the concert season.

“We are thrilled to be able to offer the structural capacity necessary to host all of the amazing artists interested in making Bend a stop on their tour,” says Marney Smith, Les Schwab Amphitheater’s General Manager.

Smith said the venue had lost out on artists in the past due to stage capacity.

“Solving that challenge allows us the opportunity to provide an even broader and more varied lineup,” she said. Coupled with the planned accessibility updates, this furthers our goal to provide the best experience possible for both our guests and visiting artists.”

Phase I of construction includes “right-sizing” the amphitheater stage to attract a wider variety of touring artists, comedians and other performers, according to the Old Mill District.

The new stage will feature a minimalist design with pine accents to pay homage to Bend’s vibrant sawmill history, and is designed to minimize architectural impact as much as possible.

The stage will grow moderately larger in size with a significant increase in structural capacity, resulting in a stage height of 62 feet and an additional 1,840 square feet in total stage footprint.

Certain elements from the current stage will be upcycled and re-used in later phases, including steel beams and the custom artwork that currently adorns the back of the stage.

Accessibility enhancements begin in Phase I and will include a full Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant pathway from the ADA gate that spans the entire venue, and screens on stage.

Smith said the privately funded project allows Les Schwab Amphitheater to continue connecting Central Oregonians to live music, improving accessibility and continue bolstering the local economy with live entertainment.

Phase II of construction is expected to begin in Fall 2021, with subsequent phases in following years.

Improvements slated for future phases include re-grading the venue, box seating, the addition of semi-permanent restrooms, new permanent food and beverage options, walk-through metal detectors and more.

Accessibility improvements will continue throughout the multi-phased project, providing passive travel and equivalent seating for all abilities by project completion.

The Les Schwab Amphitheater has provided Central Oregon with nationally touring shows set against the backdrop of the brilliant Cascade Mountains and Deschutes River for the last 19 years.

COVID canceled what was shaping up to be one of LSA’s biggest summer concert seasons, axing two shows by country superstar Luke Bryan and shows from Dave Matthews Band, Vampire Weekend and Ween.

Several of the shows have already been rescheduled for next year.

According to a 2015 Visit Bend Intercept survey, the amphitheater brings in approximately $1.2 million per concert to Bend’s local economy.

DCSO: Dispute leads to Bend man shooting his adult son at homeless camp

A Bend man was arrested Friday morning after allegedly shooting his adult son during an argument at a homeless camp, according to the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office.

Sgt. Jayson Janes said deputies responded to a camp off China Hat Road after a reported shooting around 11 a.m.

The caller said 57-year-old Dwanye Dittmer shot his adult son.

Deputies responded to the area and talked to the people involved, Janes said.

The victim, a 21-year-old man, was taken to St. Charles in Bend with non-life-threatening injuries.

Detectives ended up serving a search warrant on the trailer where the alleged shooting took place, Janes said.

Based on statements made by the victim, witnesses, and evidence seized at the location, Dittmer was arrested and taken to the Deschutes County Jail and charged with felon in possession of a firearm and negligently wounding another.

The Sheriff’s Office was assisted at the scene by the Oregon State Police, US Forest Service Law Enforcement, and Bend Fire and Rescue.

This is still an active investigation.