Wednesday was another tough pandemic day for Douglas County.
The Douglas County COVID-19 Response Team reported 37 new cases and one new death Wednesday.
An 89-year-old man was diagnosed Jan. 24 and died Tuesday. He was the 51st county resident to die of the disease.
No active outbreaks at local care facilities appeared on the state’s weekly outbreak list Wednesday.
New on the workplace outbreak list this week was Huffman & Wright Logging Company in Canyonville, with eight cases between Jan. 24 and Feb. 5.
SouthRiver Community Health Center in Winston added two cases to its outbreak, bringing its total to seven, the most recent was Feb. 3.
CHI Mercy Medical Center’s latest outbreak increased by three cases to 69, the most recent Jan. 31.
Aviva Health in Roseburg added one new case, bringing its total to 11. The most recent case was Jan. 29.
Advanced Skin Center and Dermatology had no new cases and remained at five, the most recent being Jan. 29.
Workplace outbreaks listed as active include those where there has been at least one case in the past 28 days.
The Douglas County COVID-19 Response Team continues to urge patience for seniors 80 and over who are now eligible for vaccinations. Not all of the providers who have agreed to give vaccines have vaccines to give yet.
Seniors are encouraged to first reach out to their regular health care providers. If they are not planning to give vaccinations, the next step would be to contact a pharmacy that has signed up to be a vaccinator.
Seniors 75 and older will become eligible on Monday, with the eligibility age decreasing to 70 on Feb. 22 and to 65 on March 1.
The Oregon Health Authority reported Wednesday that new cases, hospitalizations and deaths all declined statewide from the previous week, with new cases showing a 15% decrease.
There were 555 new cases and 13 new deaths statewide Wednesday.
Statewide, 604,215 vaccines have been given and 821,150 doses have been delivered to sites across the state, the health authority said.
In Douglas County, 7,231 vaccinations have been given.
To date, Douglas County public health has received 6,500 vaccine doses and deployed them to local vaccinators. That figure doesn’t include vaccines sent directly from the federal or state government to sites like the Roseburg VA Medical Center, CHI Mercy Medical Center, Emergency Medical Services, the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians or local pharmacies.
The county operates a COVID-19 hotline from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week at 541-464-6550.
The FISH Food Pantry in Roseburg is bursting with donated food, but it’s having trouble giving it all away.
While the need has dropped at FISH, it’s remained flat overall across most food pantries in the county, said Sarah McGregor, manager of Feeding Umpqua, a program of the United Community Action Network that operates a food bank supplying food to those pantries.
“There’s so many places where food insecurity has been high and there’s been like this run on food pantries, and here we’re fairly stable,” she said. “We’re pretty much exactly where we would be at this time of year.”
That doesn’t mean the need isn’t significant. In December, about 7,000 people received a food box from one of the pantries and about 8,500 people received a meal from a hot meal site. But that’s about the same figure as in 2019.
And it means that the county has about a 14.7% level of food insecurity.
“I don’t want people to think there’s not a need because it didn’t go crazy with COVID. It’s still over 15,000 people a month are getting emergency food. It’s not like it’s not a big deal because COVID didn’t knock it out of the park,” McGregor said.
McGregor said she suspects the stable demand may be due to the increase in federal help for those struggling during the pandemic. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits have been boosted and unemployment and other benefits have also been available.
In fact, the one month that SNAP benefits went away, the pantries did see a spike overall. In June 2020, 5,800 people received a food box. In July 2020, 7,400 people received a food box. The next month, when the benefits returned, the demand went back down to 6,200.
“One of the best ways to fight hunger is to advocate for people to get SNAP benefits if they need more money for food,” McGregor said.
Rent payments have also been deferred, and that may be another reason why people haven’t been rushing to the food pantries. But that has McGregor worried for the long term.
Eventually, she said, that rent’s going to have to be paid and people could really be in trouble. The spike food pantries are not seeing now might turn up when the rent comes due.
“We’re kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop here,” she said.
Another factor could be that the tourism industry accounts for a relatively small portion of Douglas County jobs, McGregor said. It’s those jobs that have been hardest hit during the pandemic.
Those who work on farms, at lumber mills or at health care jobs are still working.
FISH Food Pantry Executive Director Kim Jasper said many people don’t want to rely on the food pantry system if they have money to go out and buy their own food.
The pantry usually sees a minimum of 1,800 families each month and it’s barely hitting 300 a month now.
“It’s a dramatic change,” she said.
But Jasper said people with a history of needing extra assistance should continue to go there and save their money for emergencies and rent.
“We have so much food to give. We have so many donations that are coming in. People want to help,” she said.
Jasper also wonders if some of the dip in demand comes from fears about COVID-19.
She said the pantry has adapted for the pandemic. Instead of grocery style shopping, clients are waiting outside and being served one at a time. They’re asked what they need and the food is packed for them and brought out.
Jasper also worries about what happens when people suddenly have to pay the rent they’ve been putting off.
“I’m certain it’s going to hit and we are going to get slammed,” she said.
One exception to the overall decrease in need has been in the four rural communities served by the mobile pantry, the Outpost, operated by Feeding Umpqua. It served 290 people in Elkton, Days Creek, Camas Valley and Diamond Lake in December, up from 161 a year ago.
But the most dramatic exception to the rule has been Reedsport, where Project Blessing Food Pantry in Reedsport has seen a spike in need throughout the pandemic.
Project Blessing Executive Director Susan Martin said the pantry has seen a 38% increase in need that’s held throughout the pandemic.
“So I mean it’s not just up a little bit. It’s up a significant amount for us,” she said.
She believes the difference is that many jobs in Reedsport are in the tourism industry, which has faced a combination of shutdowns and decreased demand during the pandemic.
The pantry serves between 1,800 and 2,000 people a year in an area between the county borders near the coast and inland to Scottsburg, an area with 18 to 20% food insecurity. About one third of those customers come only once a year.
Project Blessing uses a different model for delivering food to their clients than most pantries. It’s based on the idea that the amount of food available to fill the need is abundant and their job is to supply that food and let clients take what they need. There’s no limit on how many times a family can come to the pantry, or how much they take.
When the pantry adopted the new system in 2016, it went from providing 38,000 pounds of food a year to providing 200,000 pounds of food a year.
In 2020, with a pandemic raging, the pantry distributed an additional 65,000 pounds of food.
The food comes from food banks and also from the extra food that grocery stores can’t sell and would otherwise throw out.
The pantry has continued to innovate during the pandemic. In addition to adding social distancing, cleaning protocols and temperature checks at the pantry, it now has new ways to assist people in need.
Now people unable to secure transportation can use Dial-a-Ride to get to the pantry. People with mobility challenges can get food delivered.
The pantry has also worked with Douglas Public Health Network to ensure that people quarantining in the Reedsport area are receiving the food they need.
Martin doesn’t expect the demand for food at her pantry to decrease any time soon.
“We are preparing for another year of this,” she said.
A Roseburg man is in jail after allegedly throwing a hatchet through the rear window of a car during a chase between Dillard and Winston on Feb. 3.
The incident was the culmination of an argument between couples that led to a pursuit on Old Highway 99 South from Dillard to Winston, according to court documents.
Skyler Nathaniel Trent, 21, of Roseburg, was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of second-degree attempted assault, unlawful use of a weapon and recklessly endangering another person, as well as a charge of second-degree criminal mischief.
A woman told investigators that she had broken up with Trent a few weeks prior to the incident and that Trent was currently dating her sister. A fight led to the woman and her boyfriend, Rad Cameron Osburn, 20, of Winston, leaving in Osburn’s green Toyota Camry.
Trent, his girlfriend and another man chased after the Camry, with Trent sitting in the back seat and the car owner in the front passenger seat. During the pursuit, Trent allegedly hurled a hatchet through the back window of the car, shattering the glass.
Osburn told investigators he felt something hit the back of his seat before the hatchet came to rest on the rear floorboard of the Camry.
When a deputy interviewed Trent at the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office Tuesday, he denied any knowledge while being walked by the deputy to the jail. However, his girlfriend, who was driving, reportedly told investigators after Trent allegedly threw the hatchet that he told her to “Go! Go! Go!”
Trent was arraigned Wednesday in Douglas County Circuit Court and is being held without bail.
Meanwhile, Osburn was arrested Sunday in connection with an attempted burglary of a shop near the Rising River RV Park and Robert’s Creek Water Treatment Plant in Green on Feb. 1.
Osburn admitted to investigators that he had attempted to steal several items from the shop, and used a red cart full of tools and an electric utility cart as diversions so he could get away from police. Osburn said he managed only to steal a 5-gallon propane tank.
Osburn was arrested Sunday in connection with the crime. At his arraignment Monday, Osburn was charged with two counts of first-degree theft, two counts of second-degree burglary, third-degree theft, second-degree criminal mischief, unauthorized use of a vehicle and an outstanding failure to appear warrant. Bail was set at $27,500.