Roseburg Forest Products on Wednesday announced that it will shut down its particleboard plant in Dillard, which will put the 179 workers there in limbo, at least temporarily.
RFP officials said they would try to find work for the plant employees elsewhere in the company. The Dillard plant has been operating since 1965. Some work will continue to be performed at the plant over the next 60 days as operations wind down and eventually come to a close.
“A significant majority of our Dillard composites team members will be offered opportunities at our other Oregon facilities,” said Rebecca Taylor, corporate communications director for RFP. “Our goal is to offer uninterrupted local employment to as many of our team members as possible.”
RFP officials said the move to close the plant was part of a restructuring in the company. RFP also announced a multi-million dollar investment in new technology at its western manufacturing operations.
Brian Rooney, a regional economist for the Oregon Employment Department, said while the emphasis on new technology is driving growth in the timber industry, it often comes at a price — namely jobs lost.
“Wood products is a mature industry that continues to become more efficient through technology,” Rooney said. “Unfortunately, that can lead to less need for labor and closure of older facilities.”
Rooney also said he expects the trend of jobs lost to technology to continue in the timber industry, which will have a ripple effect on local economies.
“It’s not good for the local economy when payroll is lost, especially higher-paying jobs like manufacturing jobs since it usually means less business for local retailers and services,” he said. “It’s likely the industry will continue to become more efficient in the future but continue to produce in Douglas County since there is a lot of available timber.”
Roseburg Forest Products was founded in 1936. The privately-owned company continues to be one of North America’s leading producers of timber products. RFP owns and manages more than 600,000 acres of timberland in Oregon, North Carolina and Virginia.
RFP also continues to be an economic engine in Douglas County, where it employs about 1,600 people.
In south Douglas County, RFP still operates sawmill and plywood plants in Dillard, as well as a regional administrative office and a truck shop there and a powerhouse, which converts wood waste into power. RFP also operates plywood and engineered wood plants in Riddle.
Elsewhere in Oregon, RFP operates plants in Medford and Coquille; has its main corporate office as well as some forestry offices in Springfield; and a shipping terminal in Coos Bay that exports wood chips to Japan.
Nationally, the company employs about 3,400 individuals, with about 2,400 of them employed in Oregon.
The closure comes at a time when RFP has been aggressive in opening other, modern plants in the southeast United States, including Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina.
In October 2019, RFP held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new wood plant in Chester, South Carolina. At the time company officials said they had hired 100 new workers and expected to hire a total of 145 when the plant was fully operational.
The following month, RFP laid off about 30 employees at the Dillard plywood plant, citing “unfavorable conditions in the North American plywood market” as the reason for the move.
Virtually all of the employees laid off were offered immediate jobs at other RFP plants in Dillard and Riddle, the company said. The remaining affected employees were invited to interview for positions at other RFP facilities.
RFP officials vow to help displaced workers at the Dillard plant find other work within the company this time around too.
“The decision to stop production at a facility is never easy, and these transitions have significant impact on the people involved,” Roseburg senior vice president of operations Jake Elston said in a news release. “We have already begun working with our current team members on this upcoming transition to identify other opportunities within the organization.”
Douglas County saw seven more of its residents die due to complications from the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus over Tuesday and Wednesday, pushing the county’s death toll to 123.
The Douglas County COVID-19 Recovery team reported one virus-related death Saturday, one Sunday, one Monday, three Tuesday and one Wednesday. Three of the deceased — a 91-year-old woman, a 66-year-old man and a 95-year-old woman — were reportedly fully vaccinated. The deaths also included four unvaccinated women aged 58, 59, 72 and 74. The 59-year-old woman was diagnosed Monday and died the same day.
Due to the climbing number of people dying from COVID-19 — in addition to other non-virus-related deaths — the Douglas County Board of Commissioners has secured additional temporary morgue space to help ease the burden on local hospitals, funeral homes and the Douglas County Medical Examiner’s Office.
“The increase in COVID deaths has doubled our need for morgue space, as we still need to accommodate all of the non-COVID-related deaths that occur in our county,” the board said in Wednesday’s recovery team report.
The county continues to post high daily positive test results, with 251 confirmed positive and presumptive cases reported Tuesday and 193 Wednesday.
Eighty-one Douglas County residents are receiving hospital care due to COVID-19, and the recovery team reported that 70 of those had not received a vaccination. Of those hospitalized, 67 are being cared for locally while 14 are out of the area, including two who had to be sent to another state to receive care. At CHI Mercy Medical Center, 15 patients have been placed on ventilators and 14 are in intensive care.
One of those hospitalized is a 17-year-old currently in the intensive care unit at Oregon Health & Science University’s Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland.
“This virus is really starting to spread to our younger people and it’s really starting to make them pretty sick,” Douglas County Public Health Officer Bob Dannenhoffer said during his weekly Facebook Live presentation Tuesday night.
The spike in local positive COVID-19 cases, largely credited to a much more aggressive and more easily transmittable delta variant, has made Douglas County one of the most infected counties in Oregon, according to data from the Oregon Health Authority.
For the reporting week July 25-31, Douglas County had 331 total positive and presumptive cases, or 294.1 per 100,000 residents. The following week, there were 479 such cases. In the past two reporting weeks, Douglas County has seen 2,185 such cases, or 1,128.6 per 100,000.
“We have had more cases in August of 2021 than we had the entire first year of this pandemic,” Dannenhoffer said.
Through Wednesday, Douglas County had 33 deaths in the month of August alone, and Dannenhoffer offered a grim warning that he expects that number to climb over the coming weeks.
“We’re going to be seeing one, two, three deaths per day for the next three weeks, and that’s really sad,” Dannenhoffer. “The worst part is of the ones we’ve seen, they’re almost all unvaccinated.”
Of those deaths related to so-called “breakthrough” cases — those who contract the coronavirus despite already having completed their full vaccination sequence — most have been among the elderly.
“Our older people just don’t make a good reaction to the vaccine. They just don’t have a strong enough immune system,” said Dannenhoffer, adding that nearly 90% of hospitalized Douglas County residents have reported they are not vaccinated.
According to the Oregon Health Authority, Region 3 — which includes Lane, Douglas, Coos and Curry counties — had just six of its available 92 intensive care units available at area hospitals, while 539 out of an available 628 adult non-ICU beds were also in use.
Tuesday, the Oregon Health Authority announced that 1,000 Oregon residents were hospitalized due to complications from the coronavirus.
“This represents 1,000 people who spent the night in the hospital being away from their families and being cared for by health care providers who even in their exhausted states continue to care for those people who are sick with this virus,” state health officer Dr. Dean Sidelinger said. “We are far exceeding the hospitalization numbers we saw during the pre-vaccination surges of last fall and winter.
“This affects every Oregonian family and it is not sustainable,” he said.
The health authority reported 2,804 new confirmed and presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, along with 30 deaths. Wednesday, there were a reported 2,777 such new cases of the coronavirus along with 20 deaths.
As of Wednesday, there were only 44 of 662 adult intensive care beds available statewide, and just 320 of 4,256 adult non-ICU beds unoccupied.
The Oregon Health Authority released its weekly outbreak report for COVID-19 outbreaks in senior care and congregate living facilities, workplaces and schools, and there wasn’t a lot of good news there either as it pertains to Douglas County.
Six Douglas County workplaces saw an uptick in their active outbreaks, while one that had just resolved a recent outbreak jumped back onto the active list.
Roseburg Forest Products’ Riddle Plywood Plant, which the health authority moved to its “resolved” list last week, returned to Wednesday’s list with a new outbreak of 36 cases related to employees and possible contacts, with the last case reported to the health authority Aug. 17.
Listed as Roseburg Forest Products Riddle Engineered Wood, that plant appeared on the outbreak list for the first time with 17 cases, the most recent being reported Aug. 19
Roseburg Forest Products also saw cases added to its Dillard lumber and plywood plants, with seven new cases at the plywood plant (last case reported Aug. 17) and six at the lumber mill (last on Aug. 18).
Three other Douglas County workplaces saw increases in their case counts from the previous reporting period:
The Umpqua Valley Public Defenders Office (22), Ingram Book Company (18), Applebee’s in Roseburg (7), UPS in Green (7), Umpqua Dairy (6) and Fred Meyer (5) saw no additional cases according to the Oregon Health Authority.
Rose Haven Nursing Center in Roseburg added 11 new cases as well as one death, the fifth connected to the facility since the beginning of the pandemic. Rose Haven’s most recent outbreak has reached 17 cases since being reported July 30.
Four Douglas County senior care, assisted living and congregate living facilities were added to the health authority’s breakout list this week, including Timber Town Living in Sutherlin, which has had 16 since the first case of the current outbreak was reported Aug. 16. The Roseburg VA Medical Center’s River House has reported six cases since Aug. 20. The Pines at the Landing in Roseburg reported three cases, also with the first being reported Aug. 20.
Bridgewood Rivers Assisted Living Center in Roseburg reported four new cases, the first on Aug. 4. There was no change in the case numbers at Umpqua Valley Nursing and Rehabilitation Center (five) or Curry Manor (four).
A Roseburg woman and Winston man have been charged for the murder of a Camas Valley man who went missing on March 11.
Ashley Tyshanne Reynolds, 35, of Roseburg, and William Levi McClure, 33, of Winston, were both arrested Wednesday. Reynolds was charged with first-degree murder and McClure with second-degree murder.
Both were already in the Douglas County Jail after their recent arrests, which were believed to be for unrelated charges. Reynolds was arrested on Aug. 18 and charged with two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm, and McClure was arrested Monday, also on two felony firearm charges. After arraignment on the firearms charges in Douglas County Circuit Court, Reynolds’ bail was set at $200,000, while McClure’s was set at $15,000, according to court documents.
According to family members, James Leroy Hood, 41, of Camas Valley, had not been heard from since March 11.
As Douglas County Sheriff’s Office detectives were conducting their investigation into Hood’s disappearance, they learned that Hood may have been the man murdered in a barn located in the 500 block of Raleigh Drive, southwest of Round Prairie.
Based on information received during the investigation, the Douglas County Major Crimes Team served a search warrant on that property on Aug. 17 and found the body of a deceased male believed to be Hood, whose identity was confirmed Aug. 19 by the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office.
A second search warrant was served in the 500 block of Newton Creek Road in Roseburg in connection with the investigation.
The Major Crimes Team consists of detectives from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, Roseburg Police Department, Oregon State Police and members of the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office, and is continuing the investigation.
Anyone with information related to Hood’s disappearance or murder is asked to call the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office Investigation Division at 541-440-4458 and reference case number 21-3627.