Five rural Eastern Oregon counties gave enthusiastic thumbs up to the idea of ditching the Beaver State and joining Idaho on Tuesday.
Sherman, Lake, Grant, Baker and Malheur counties each approved measures Tuesday.
According to unofficial election results from the Secretary of State’s Office as of Wednesday morning, Sherman County voters approved 62% to 38% a measure that makes its commissioners responsible for promoting moving the Oregon-Idaho border.
The other four county measures approved Tuesday require county commissioners (or equivalent county officials) to meet to discuss relocation of the Idaho border.
In Lake County, the vote was 74% in favor to 26% against. In Grant County, it was 62% to 38%. In Malheur County, the vote was 54% to 46%.
In Baker County, results were not yet available from the Secretary of State’s Office as of Wednesday afternoon. However, based on vote totals reported by the Baker City Herald, the vote was 57% to 43% in favor.
None of the measures actually determine whether the counties will join Idaho in the future. Ultimately, that decision would have to be made by the two states’ legislatures and by Congress.
Douglas County rejected a similar measure in November, voting 57% to 43% against the question, “Should Douglas County Commissioners, State Representatives and Senators work toward moving the Idaho state border to include Douglas County?”
Three other counties voted on Greater Idaho questions in November. In that election, Jefferson and Union counties voted in favor of Greater Idaho, while Wallowa County voted against it.
Citizens for a Greater Idaho President Mike McCarter told The News-Review on Wednesday that those working on the effort are excited about Tuesday’s results.
He also said the group intends to try again in Douglas County, where the effort was greeted enthusiastically by supporters at a March 2020 rally that drew about 500 people to the Douglas County Fairgrounds. This was the first county where petition signatures were gathered.
“Our first love is Douglas County, for me especially, that rally that we did in March of last year down there and looking at all those faces of those people and listening to the word of hope,” McCarter said.
Move Oregon’s Border (the rural Oregon arm of the Greater Idaho movement) said the group will have enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot here again in 2022 or earlier.
Move Oregon’s Border has so far been unsuccessful in its efforts to get prospective petitions approved by the county clerks in Coos, Wheeler, Gilliam and Crook counties.
It filed suit in Crook County after the county clerk there refused to put out a petition for voters’ signatures. Greater Idaho lost the court case.
Since then, though, the movement has taken on a life of its own, he said.
While Move Oregon’s Border took a backseat after the court loss, individual citizens have now persuaded the Crook County commissioners to take a second look. The commissioners could themselves decide to place a question on the ballot.
“All of a sudden now the people are speaking up. The people are talking to the commissioners. The people are saying we want to have the opportunity to vote on this measure, and so to me, that’s where the Move Oregon’s Border has developed its own life,” McCarter said.
McCarter also said he anticipates ballot measures will soon be before voters in Klamath and Harney counties.
Tatum Reed loves cats, playing soccer at recess and learning math. What she doesn’t love is wearing a face mask.
“It’s hard to breathe in them,” she said.
Tatum is a second grade student at East Sutherlin Primary School and she said when she took off her mask she was taken to the principal’s office where she had to sit by herself.
Her father, Brian Reed, supports and encourages his daughter in standing up for herself.
“I personally find masking children to be abusive,” Brian Reed said. “Knowing that there are children around the state that have recently had serious medical problems due to masking, and yet they still don’t do anything about it. It’s abusive. It’s an abuse of power. It’s an abuse to children. It’s psychologically harmful, physically harmful. The list goes on. And it breaks state laws.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends schools continue to prioritize the correct wearing of masks and physical distancing to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Oregon Health Authority spokesperson Tim Heider said, “The guidance from OHA is aligned with CDC guidance and is created by Senior Health Advisors for OHA all of whom are physicians and trained medical professionals with years of experience in public health.”
Brian Reed filed a case with the Department of Human Services on the treatment of his daughter, as he believes that isolating his daughter away from her classmates is a violation of state law.
Tatum, and her dad, are not alone in their fight against masks for children.
At the May 12 school board meeting for Roseburg Public Schools, Linda Snyder spoke out against face coverings as well.
“My grandchildren go to Fir Grove Elementary School and they are out there in the hot sun, their hair is getting wet from sweat, they’re being forced to wear a mask on the playground, all day long,” she said. “My grandson was sent to the principal’s office for not wanting to wear his mask, and he told me all I want to do is be able to breathe.”
Teachers and administrators said that most students have no problem wearing a mask all day, although some students do need reminders throughout the day.
“Our students have done a wonderful job adjusting to and following new safety precautions this year, including mask wearing, without the need of the district implementing consequences,” Roseburg Public Schools Superintendent Jared Cordon said. “For those students and families who chose to learn from home due to mask requirements, we have continued to provide comprehensive distance learning.”
School districts are required to follow health regulations put forth by the state, with consequences if they do not.
“The District must follow Oregon law, which includes the Oregon Department of Education and Oregon Health Authority regulations and the Ready School, Safe Learners requirements,” Sutherlin School District Superintendent Terry Prestianni said in a statement. “By law, face coverings are required for all students in grades kindergarten and up attending in-person learning, although there are certain accommodations that may be made depending on a child’s unique medical or disability needs. School staff are also required to continue following these face covering regulations and requirements. Sutherlin School District understands that there can be confusion and frustration over these state-level requirements, but right now our first concern is keeping our students safe and in school learning.”
Cordon echoed the statement that the face masks are worn in schools for health and safety reasons, adding they do not just protect students but also staff, families and the entire community.
According to the Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance, schools that do no comply with the state’s guidance can see their State School Fund payments withheld as a means of last resort. Cordon also pointed out the complaints made to the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration can result in expensive fines for the district.
“We are fortunate that all of our safety protocols and practices this year have minimized COVID cases in our schools,” Cordon said. “The limited cases that have occurred at our schools have primarily been the result of students or staff coming to school with COVID. There has been no evidence of community spread within our schools. We have avoided large-scale quarantines and school closures, which has allowed our students to maximize in-person learning.”
In Roseburg, more than 36,000 masks have been distributed to students, staff and authorized visitors who forgot their masks or do not have consistent access to masks.
But not all school districts are content with the state’s guidance on masks.
Crook County School District Superintendent Sara Johnson wrote a letter to the Oregon Department of Education on May 14, asking them to revise mask policies for athletes after a high school student lost consciousness and stopped breathing during basketball practice.
“Student safety is one of our highest priorities,” Johnson wrote. “The rules that were developed by public health leaders early on in the pandemic should be reviewed and reconsidered as we recognize the impact those policies may have on students participating in athletics.”
No schools in Douglas County have made official pleas, either through school administration or school boards, with the Oregon Department of Education in recent weeks to lift the mask mandates for students, according to Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill and the department’s government and legal affairs manager.
The Crook County High School freshman basketball player is not the first in the state to blame the face covering for a medical emergency. A Summer High School student collapsed while running the 800-meter dash.
Snyder pled with the Roseburg school board to change the face mask rules for students in order to protect their health.
“I don’t know how long you’re gonna wait on the mask thing — to take them off the children — but you don’t want somebody passing out before you act on it,” Snyder said. “Please, really consider it. You don’t want a child going unconscious and that’s going to be on the hands of the community leaders like you guys. So please, really consider it. It’s very, very important.”
Athletes in outdoor non-contact sports can now go without masks, while indoor sports still require face coverings. The CDC recommends limiting high-intensity indoor activities.
The Oregon Health Authority also recommended that people will not be required to wear face coverings outside, including during outdoor physical education, outdoor music, recess and when arriving or leaving campus.
While inside, people will need to continue wearing masks.
Cordon pointed out that students are allowed to take mask breaks under the current guidance.
“As temperatures have risen this spring and students spend more time outdoors in the sun, our staff monitor students very closely and encourage them to remain hydrated, avoid becoming overheated and take mask breaks as often as needed,” Cordon said.
While some changes have recently been made to the mask guidance for adults, one rule has stayed consistent: students need to wear masks in schools.
“The majority of students are not eligible to get vaccinated at this time and the time frame for those who are eligible is not to the point where they could receive both shots and waited the two weeks to be fully protected,” Oregon Department of Education spokesperson Peter Rudy said. “Our guidance is consistent with the guidance of CDC and OHA, who seem to agree that school children deserve continued protection from COVID infection via school based mask wearing, which is one of the most effective means to mitigate the spread of COVID.”
People ages 12 and up are eligible to get the vaccine, with anyone under the age of 14 requiring a signature from a parent.
Vaccinated school staff are not required to wear face coverings or physically distance indoors when there are no students present, such as before or after school or on weekends.
The Douglas County COVID-19 Response Team reported that as of Monday 50% of eligible Douglas County residents, 47,647 to be exact, over the age of 16 had received their at least the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccination. The vaccine is free and accessible.
“It’s not something that I’m willing to really put in my body until it has been tested and proven over several years, like every other vaccine in existence,” Brian Reed said. “I’m not anti-vaccine, by any means. I’ve had a lot of inoculations when I was in the military, but I’ve seen what can happen to that one in a million person. It’s happened in front of my eyes, he had full-body temporary paralysis. He had to relearn how to walk, a full grown man. If that can happen to a full grown man. What can I do to a child, and, you know, out about that.”
Several public universities in Oregon will require students to be vaccinated for COVID-19 before coming on campus in the fall of 2021. Oregon K-12 schools have not made the vaccine a requirement for attending school, although immunizations for diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, polio, chickenpox, measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B and hepatitis A are required.
More than 50% of Douglas County eligible residents are either fully or partially vaccinated, the Douglas County COVID-19 Response Team said Wednesday.
That number differs from the Oregon Health Authority, which as of Wednesday, reported that only 38% of eligible Douglas County residents had been vaccinated.
The discrepancy was caused by the reporting from the Roseburg VA Health Care Center and the Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe of Indians, which receive their vaccines directly from the federal government. Because of the source of those vaccines, the VA and tribe report their information relating to doses administered directly to the federal government and not the state health authority.
As a result, those people who have been at least partially vaccinated by the VA (8,814) and the tribe (3,034) had not been counted among numbers reported to the state.
“For reasons unknown to us, the federal government has not been very forthcoming in supplying or providing their vaccination data to the state or the county,” the county’s response team said in Wednesday’s report. “It is important to note that because we have a great relationship with both the Roseburg VA and the Cow Creek Tribe, as they are part of our COVID-19 Response Team, they have been more than willing to share their vaccination data with us.
“However, (the Oregon Health Authority) has stated that they have yet to find a good way to combine the state and federal vaccination data in their weekly reports,” the team continued. “The obvious discrepancy in vaccination data has created unnecessary turmoil and confusion not only for Douglas County residents but several other counties in Oregon as well.”
With the adjusted numbers, Douglas County has shot ever closer to the goal of having at least 65% of all county residents 16 and older at least partially vaccinated, at which time many COVID-19 restrictions would be lifted as the county would be reclassified as a “low risk” county. Presently, Douglas County remains under the high risk designation.
Only five Oregon counties — Benton, Deschutes, Hood River, Lincoln and Washington — had reached the 65% benchmark as of Wednesday.
Douglas County has 94,878 residents age 16 or older, and so far 47,647 — 50.3% — are either partially or fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. The county will reach that 65% plateau when another 14,024 residents receive at least one shot of the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson.
While the adjustment in vaccination numbers was encouraging for Douglas County, the response team noted its fourth consecutive day with new double-digit COVID-19 cases and the county’s 72nd death.
Wednesday’s daily report announced that 17 county residents had tested positive for the coronavirus, as well as one presumed positive test. Fourteen area residents were receiving hospital care, eight locally and six out of the area.
The county’s 72nd death was a 66-year-old woman who was diagnosed with COVID-19 on April 21 and died Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the Oregon Health Authority reported a decline in the number of weekly positive tests, but saw a rise in both deaths and hospitalizations. The authority announced 394 new positive and presumptive cases in its Wednesday report along with seven additional deaths.
From May 10 through Sunday, the health authority reported 4,108 new daily cases of COVID-19, a 16% decrease from the previous week. Patients hospitalized (265) jumped 20 from the prior week, while the 26 deaths reported in that period were the most in 10 weeks.
WEEKLY REPORTDouglas County had mixed results in the health authority’s outbreak report for workplaces and senior living and care facilities.
Chantele’s Loving Touch Memory Care saw no change in the number of cases in its reported outbreak, remaining at three with the last reported onset reported April 28.
The Roseburg Forest Products Dillard Composites plant, which reached 14 total cases, did not have another onset over the past reporting week and was moved to the list of resolved workplace outbreaks.
However, Roseburg Forest Products Dillard Plywood appeared in the workplace outbreak report Wednesday with a total of 18 cases, with the most recent reported May 5.
GETTING VACCINATEDThe Douglas County Tiger Team will be holding its final pop-up vaccination clinic for the week Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the headquarters of the Diamond Lake Ranger District, 2020 Toketee-Rigdon Road.
Aviva Health, which recently opened a dedicated — and free — vaccination clinic in northeast Roseburg, will be hosting a free vaccination event Saturday from 8-11:30 a.m. and 1-4 p.m. The event is available to all county residents age 12 and older, with an emphasis on those ages 12-14, who just recently became eligible to receive the vaccine as the Pfizer vaccine was approved for that age group on May 13.
The clinic is located at 4221 NE Stephens St., Suite 101, across from Aviva’s Roseburg clinic near Costco.
Children ages 12-14 will require written parental or guardian consent to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. To schedule an appointment, call Aviva Health at 541-672-9596.