For the first time ever, Douglas County will drop to the moderate risk category for COVID-19 restrictions on Friday.
Douglas County was initially placed in the extreme risk level when the levels were first put in place in December. It has fluctuated between high and extreme risk ever since.
But while Douglas County received good news this week, 15 counties in the state were put on notice that they will be bumped up to extreme risk on Friday. That’s a risk level that had been eliminated in recent weeks.
But hospitalization rates are on the rise, pushing hospitals near maximum capacity. So state health officials determined that new restrictions were necessary.
Gov. Kate Brown announced the new risk levels on Tuesday.
She said counties won’t remain in extreme risk beyond three weeks. By then, health officials have said they believe vaccination levels will rise enough to turn the tide.
In Douglas County, case rates have steadily declined over the past month.
For the two-week period between April 11 and April 24, there were 103 new cases, or 91.8 per 100,000 people.
In the two-week period between April 4 and April 17, there were 121 cases, or 107.8 per 100,000 people.
In the two-week period between March 28 and April 10 there were 141 cases, or 125.6 per 100,000 people.
The county did see an uptick in cases Tuesday, however, with the Douglas County COVID-19 Response Team reporting 16 new cases.
Eleven county residents are hospitalized with the illness, seven locally and four out of the area.
With the new moderate risk level, restaurants and theaters in Douglas County will be able to increase from 25% to 50% maximum occupancy or from 50 people to 100.
Retail stores can move up from 50% to 75% occupancy.
Churches can increase from 25% to 50% occupancy at indoor services, though the maximum number will remain at 150.
Remote work will still be recommended, not required, where possible.
Outdoor gyms and entertainment will increase from 15% to 25% occupancy.
Indoor gyms will increase from 25% to 50% occupancy or from 50 to 100 people.
The county’s progress runs opposite to Oregon’s as a whole. The state is entering a fourth surge, the governor said in a press conference Friday.
Brown said she will now be updating county risk levels weekly rather than every other week.
Counties with higher case rates will only be placed in extreme risk if statewide COVID-19 hospitalizations rise above 300 beds during one of the past seven days and there’s a 15% increase in the seven-day hospitalization average over the past week.
Hospitalizations peaked at 328 over the past week and there’s a 37% increase in the average.
New risk levels will take effect each Friday.
“If we don’t act now, doctors, nurses, hospitals and other health care providers in Oregon will be stretched to their limits treating severe cases of COVID-19,” Brown said in a Tuesday press release. “Today’s announcement will save lives and help stop COVID-19 hospitalizations from spiking even higher.”
On Tuesday, the Oregon Health Authority reported 740 new cases and two new deaths.
Counties moving to extreme risk include Baker, Clackamas, Columbia, Crook, Deschutes, Grant, Jackson, Josephine, Klamath, Lane, Linn, Marion, Multnomah, Polk and Wasco. Nine are in high risk, four are in moderate risk and eight are listed at lower risk.
The governor said she will work with the Legislature on a $20 million emergency relief package to aid businesses in extreme risk counties.
Brown also urged Oregonians to get vaccinated.
“The fastest way to lift health and safety restrictions is for Oregonians to get vaccinated as quickly as possible and follow the safety measures we know stop this virus from spreading,” she said.
When Doyla Wise found out she had lung cancer, it was not something she had ever expected.
The 62-year-old Canyonville woman had no symptoms and no reason to think there was anything wrong with her lungs. A persistent coughing problem led her primary care physician to send Wise to an ear, nose and throat specialist, who recommended she get her lungs looked at. And it’s a good thing she did.
“I did that and three days later they called me and told me I had to go see my doctor and that I had lung cancer,” Wise said. “I was in disbelief, and I said I didn’t have a problem with my lungs.”
But there was a problem. The cancer was stage 3A when she was diagnosed in January 2019 and she was sent right away for surgeries — one in Portland and one in Eugene. Then on June 1, 2019, she started chemotherapy and radiation treatments at the Community Cancer Center in Roseburg. She would arrive at the cancer center at 9 a.m. and get the radiation treatment, then go upstairs for the chemotherapy, which lasted five hours.
That routine went on for nine weeks — sometimes five days a week — and then chemo treatment continued two more months after that. It’s been a grueling process and has taken a toll on her body.
“Some days it hurts so bad you can’t move,” she said. “It makes every bone in my body hurt.”
“And you can’t hug your wife,” said John Wise, her husband of 15 years. “Because you know everything hurts.”
Doyla Wise is going into her third year of treatment. The lung cancer, she said, was eradicated and she went through immunotherapy for a year, but the cancer was starting to come back in the lymph nodes and she had to start treatments again. However, she’s highly encouraged by her progress.
“I think I’m done with this chemo in May so I’m having faith that my next scan at the end of May is going to show good and clear, and then just keep an eye on it with a scan every five years,” she said.
Her faith has kept her going through the tough stretches.
“I’m a very faith-believing person and that’s what’s getting me through this is faith and prayer, and that I’m going to be OK and recover,” she said.
The family support has also been a big factor in helping her get through the ordeal. And her family includes three young girls, who are sisters, that the Wises adopted after serving as their foster parents. The girls ranged in ages 1 to 3 years old when they were taken in. The Wises never intended to adopt, but two years later they were told that the state wanted to separate the girls for adoption.
“I said over my dead body will you separate them, we’re the only people they’ve ever been bonded to, they’re members of our family,” Doyla Wise said. “They’re awesome, we’re very blessed, and they’re good girls, very kind, loving, compassionate girls.”
So they were adopted, and now Adora, the oldest, is 14, Bella is 13 and Sharla is 12. The girls have been helping out a lot around the home with cooking, cleaning and other chores. A grown daughter from a previous marriage also comes to the home several times a week to help.
“It’s a disease that affects every member of your family and your whole social circle, not just one member of your family,” she said.
Having her husband available to drive her to the dozens of appointments has been huge. Sometimes she would have to go five times a week for shots. And having the center in Roseburg a half-hour away has made the whole process more bearable.
“That’s a huge deal, if a patient in my situation had to drive to Portland every day for the treatments, you would actually have to move there, but having this facility in Roseburg is unbelievable,” she said.
The family has also received a financial boost from the Douglas County Cancer Services, a non-profit volunteer organization that operates out of the Community Cancer Center and provides support to Douglas County cancer patients with gas vouchers, food vouchers, paid car repairs and even pays rent for people who are unable to because of the overwhelming cost of cancer treatments.
The financial burden has been draining on the family’s resources. John Wise was working out of state and most recently was a truck driver delivering medical supplies to hospitals for surgeries. But he had to come home and take care of his wife when the cancer treatments started.
“It has blessed me in so many ways I can’t even say enough good about how awesome they are, it’s really a nice feeling to know that there are so many kind people out there in the world that really do care,” Doyla Wise said. “You get to the point sometimes, when you are penniless and you have to either fix your car so you can go to treatments or pay your rent so you have a place to live.”
“We’d be sunk without this place,” John Wise said. “With surgeries and this and that, it’s a blessing.”
Because of her increased vulnerability to COVID-19 and other viruses, the Wises have kept their children home from school, as a precautionary measure, so the virus would not unknowingly be brought into their home.
“Cancer consumes your whole life in every aspect, the thing with cancer is that it’s pretty much touched everybody,” Doyla Wise said. “I mean, think of the people you know just in your own circle, and for me both of my parents and my brother had cancer and now I have cancer.”
Doyla Wise will be the guest of honor at the DCCS 8th annual annual “Get Tee’d Off at Cancer” benefit golf tournament Saturday, May 8, at the Roseburg Country Club. All money raised from the event goes to support cancer patients in Douglas County. For information, call the DCCS office at 541-440-9409 or go online at dccancerservices.com
School board elections will be on the ballot May 18 and the race for Roseburg Public Schools will see some new names on the ballot.
Howard Johnson, who is currently serving as the vice chair, is running unopposed for position 3.
The other three positions have two names on the ballot. Although, Samantha Frost said she will no longer seek the No. 1 position as she does not meet the requirements.
Incumbent Brandon Bishop, who took over the position in July 2020, is running for reelection of the two-year term.
Andrew Shirtcliff and Micki Hall will face off for the No. 2 position and Ann Krimetz and Keith Longie are competing for the No. 7 seat. Both the No. 2 and No. 7 positions will be four-year terms.
Ballots will be arriving to registered voters after Thursday and must be returned no later than 8 p.m. May 18. Ballots can be mailed in, or dropped off at any drop site throughout the county.
Here are the candidates for the contested positions for Roseburg Public Schools board of directors:
Shirtcliff wants to serve on the school board, to be involved in decisions that affect children and was motivated to run when the district delayed a return to in-person learning.
“The biggest issue facing Roseburg Public Schools is the lack of full time in-person learning for all students,” he said. “Students need to return to the classroom immediately.”
Elementary school students are currently going to school full-time, while middle school students will return to in-person learning four days a week on May 3. High school students will get more options for in-person learning, but not full time. Roseburg Public Schools has followed the advice from the Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Department of Education to make its decisions for reopening during the 2020-2021 school year.
Shirtcliff hopes that in the next five years, the education at Roseburg schools will return to more traditional values.
“I see Roseburg Public Schools returning to our roots and the traditional values that represent our community,” he said. “I see our children getting back to the basics of education. I see progressive agendas being replaced by an education that allows each student and their families the opportunity to make their own independent, informed and rational decisions.”
Shirtcliff is the president of Shirtcliff Oil Co. who earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Oregon. He has three children, who each attend a different school in the county — one at Melrose Elementary School, one at South Umpqua High School and one at Geneva Academy.
Hall is a retired teacher running for reelection.
“I have served on the board for three years, and love the challenge of bringing the best education to our community with attention paid to how we spend our constituents hard earned tax dollars,” she said. “I believe I bring a positive presence to the board, as well as a unique perspective as a former teacher. My retirement has allowed me the time and effort it takes to be a proactive member, and I would like to continue that effort for a few more years.”
Hall has been involved in community work for the past 44 years and believes she can help make the school community even better.
“With the direction of our current superintendent, Jared Cordon, I envision our school district becoming a model for the rest of the state,” Hall said. “We have graduated some great people, where some have stayed to make Roseburg a better community, and some have left to take our name and the education they received out into the world. I see our district, with the current strategic plan in place, continuing to strive to teach all students with the best practices and energy available.”
Hall said the biggest issue facing the district is the need for infrastructure upgrades and development. She hopes that bond measure will pass once the school board gets a chance to educate the community to understand the necessity for upgrades involving safety and security measures, structural necessities and updated HVAC systems.
A bond measure in May 2020 failed by a narrow margin.
Krimetz is a substitute instructional assistant, who holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Bethany University. She has lived in Roseburg for eight years.
“Working here in the public schools, I can see where many of these great kids hail from, yet it also has made me aware of the challenges many must face on a day to day basis,” Krimetz said.
She said as a member of the community, she has seen a shift in educational policy that does not always benefit or strengthen the student body at large.
“I am a proponent of maintaining the common-sense values that have kept this community strong, while at the same time, welcoming our many newcomers to the area with open arms,” Krimetz said.
She said the biggest challenge will be recovering the lost ground academically and emotionally that many students experienced, and continue to experience when schools are not fully reopened.
“As our city continues to grow, I foresee new businesses coming which will require a skilled vocational labor force in the areas of construction, hospitality, auto technicians, technology, healthcare, forestry and viticulture,” Krimetz said. “With that in mind, our focus should include bringing back and expanding training programs, and seeking out apprenticeships to help students decide their area to pursue, and then assist and equip them to prepare for their futures. Our schools should be the place where foundations are laid for success in any of their chosen endeavors.”
Longie went to college in Roseburg and returned three years ago after retirement from the United States Public Health Service because of his love for the town.
He is a proponent of science, technology, engineering and mathematics classes and teachings as he believes they prepare students to problem solve and think critically.
“My focus is advancing STEM activities, giving the kids experiences that would lead to advanced careers, focusing on the needs of the rural community, and so on,” Longie said.
Longie retired from health service administration after 41 years in the business. He graduated with an associate degree from Umpqua Community College, before earning a bachelor’s degree at Southern Oregon College and a master’s at the University of California-Berkley in public health.
He said the biggest issues for the school districts are the budget and the move toward charter schools.
Bishop is the incumbent for the No. 1 position after stepping into the position in July 2020.
“I want to help RPS grow and thrive in a strategic and thoughtful way,” he said. “Being on the school board is a joy, but it is also an endeavor. I have loved learning from other board members on best practices and smart decisions. As a school board member, we must be champions for the community in which we serve. I love being that cheerleader for our great kids, parents, staff and teachers and educators and finally the community as a whole.”
He is a physician in Roseburg with four children in the Roseburg Public Schools system.
Bishop said the believes the biggest issue for Roseburg schools are the old facilities, and a bond is desperately needed to ensure safe and quality educational opportunities for students.
He said with the bond and the opening of a virtual school the next five years will continue to grow and challenge the school district.
“I look forward to that challenge with optimism for a bright future,” Bishop said.
Johnson has been on the school board since 2015 and would like to continue serving the community for two reasons: to make a difference for the children, and to get out his wife’s hair.
“My biggest concern is making a difference for these kids,” he said.
Johnson is a corporate controller for D.R. Johnson Lumber Company in Riddle and pastor and founder of Bethany Bible Fellowship.
He said the biggest issue Roseburg Public Schools is facing is the antiquated buildings that do not provide the safest place, the most secure place for children to learn.
“Day-to-day that’s the biggest issue is in the economy in this county,” Johnson said. “To be willing to part with more money to bring all of our schools — middle schools, elementary schools, high school — to a level of standard that is 21st century instead of 19th century.”
Johnson said as an accountant the rule of thumb is that is you spend more than 40% of what a building is worth to fix it, it’s time to build a new building.
In five years, he hopes there will be more school buildings so the classrooms can stay relatively small and students can get quality instruction. Johnson said he’d like to see no more than 20 students per teacher.