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Oregon teachers required to get COVID-19 vaccination, per Gov. Kate Brown

Gov. Kate Brown announced on Thursday that all teachers in Oregon will be required to get vaccinated.

All teachers, educators, support staff and volunteers will be required to be vaccinated by Oct. 18 or six weeks after Food and Drug Administration approval.

“COVID-19 poses a threat to our kids, and our kids need to be protected and they need to be in school,” Brown said. “That’s why I’m willing to take the heat for this decision.”

Autumn Howard, a teacher at South Umpqua High School, is vaccinated, along with her husband, who teaches as well. Howard said she believes fully vaccinated teachers make up a minority in Douglas County and worries that the recent announcement may impact an already strained teaching staff.

“What worries me is we’re already facing a teaching shortage and this could push some of our teachers to resign, creating more of a shortage,” Howard said. “We’re at the point of having to go to distance learning not because we have a high case count but just because we’re short-staffed.”

Last month Brown announced all students would be required to wear masks while indoors. This received backlash from community members, including Sutherlin School District Superintendent Terry Prestianni.

Prestianni condemned the mask mandate, saying that local school districts should decide for themselves whether or not to require masks. Prestianni was not immediately available for comment.

Roseburg School District Superintendent Jared Cordon stated in a press release on Thursday that while the district will follow the mandate, it will take time to fully “understand its implementation and its implications.”

“This vaccine requirement raises many questions for school districts, and we look forward to receiving additional guidance and clarification from the Oregon Department of Education and the Oregon Health Authority,” Cordon said. “We do know that measures such as required face coverings and vaccines are intended to provide us with pathways forward for keeping our community safe and ensuring our students receive the benefits of full-time, in-person instruction. We all know how important that is for our students’ education and overall well-being.”

The health and safety of students and staff was emphasized in a press release from South Umpqua School District Superintendent Kate McLaughlin.

“This district firmly believes if we work together, we can keep our staff and students safe and in the classroom. We thank our community for continued support and patience as our school community anticipates and prepares for the new school year,” McLaughlin said.

Brown also announced that all healthcare workers must also be vaccinated by the same deadline as educators.

The Douglas County COVID-19 Recovery Team reported 261 total COVID-19 cases on Tuesday — nearly 100 more new cases than the previous daily record — and an additional 167 Wednesday, prompting the commissioners and health network to advise residents to work from home and cut down on in-person contact.

The national craze of ax-throwing coming to Roseburg

Is Roseburg ready for ax-cellent fun?

Laurie Sims and Shea Wheeler, the owners of The Blade Axe House, hope that their spot will introduce people in the community to the world of ax-throwing.

“It’s like darts but with axes,” Sims said.

The shop is scheduled to open next month.

Sims, who moved to Roseburg in 2019, said she saw a need for things to do. It was after a trip to Reno, Nevada, she discovered that thing could be ax-throwing.

“We needed something like this to have access to,” Sims said. “We don’t need to drive to Eugene or Medford for fun.”

Construction crews continue to work on the space, but once finished, guests can expect six ax-throwing stations — two targets at each station — along with a bar where drinks can be purchased.

Now while the combination of booze and axes may conjure images from the absurd to dangerous, Sims reassures that each guest will only have access to two drinks per session.

“If you play stupid games, you get stupid prizes,” Sims said. “And we don’t want any stupid prizes here.”

Being safety conscious is a large part of ax-throwing. Everyone who comes into The Blade Axe House will be required to sign a waiver if it is their first time; where they’ll also be given a beginners lesson on the basics.

Every station will have a variety of axes to select from and a game log that ranges in skill level. Sims recommends playing around the world, one of her favorites.

The starting price per person will be $35, and parties of up to eight are welcome to book for 90-minute sessions. Reservations and waivers can be found online.

Anyone 12 and older can come in and throw.

Sims said people shouldn’t be intimidated by ax-throwing.

“People try to over-complicate it,” Sims said. “It’s not hard. You don’t have to throw hard, you don’t have to be athletic and anybody can do it.”

And the best part of all?

“It makes you feel a little more like a badass throwing axes than darts. Sort of empowering,” Sims said.

It can also be a family affair.

With the help of Sims’ three children and Wheeler’s 11 children, the name Blade Axe House was voted on through a polling system.

The same polling system helped decide the store’s logo.

Sims hopes for a soft opening in mid-September, with a grand opening tentatively planned for this October. Announcements will be posted online with the official soft opening date.

The Blade Axe House will be located at 1867 Northeast Diamond Lake Boulevard.

Another ax-throwing spot plans to open later this year in Myrtle Creek.

Axe House will be located inside of Tap House and open its doors later this year.

Douglas County Planning Commission approves permit for rock quarry

The Douglas County Planning Commission once again approved a permit Thursday for Bjorn Vian to reopen and expand a rock quarry east of Glide.

Vian plans to quarry for basalt there that could be used to create asphalt for county roads.

The issue has ping-ponged between the planning commission, the Douglas County Board of Commissioners and the state for about three years now.

In August 2020, the Land Use Board of Appeals remanded the issue back to the planning commission, saying the county failed to lay out evidence that the quarry would not negatively impact a neighboring cattle ranch and adjacent forestry operations.

Those were the issues the planning commission took up Thursday.

Prior to voting, the commission heard testimony from Vian’s attorney, Souvanny Miller, who cited comments from neighboring property owners and other experts stating neither cattle grazing nor forestry operations would be impacted.

“There are going to be minimal offsite impacts, noise is going to be below the required levels, minimal dust, no impact on water quality and then there’s a high ridge in between where the quarry will go and where the cattle ranch is,” he said.

Miller said Vian spoke to the owner of the cattle ranch, who said he does not believe the quarry will impact his operation. Miller also submitted comments from a veterinarian who specializes in treating large animals like cattle, who said a quarry wouldn’t impact the ranch.

The owner of the ranch did not testify.

Valynn Currie, who has waged a long battle against the project at LUBA and in court, argued that the second-hand testimony about what the rancher said was just hearsay and shouldn’t be considered.

Currie said the project would create water quality problems, including silicates that could contaminate a seasonal creek that runs through the property. The North Umpqua River is 200 feet from the original quarry site, she said.

“Cattle need good drinking water. We can’t contaminate the water,” she said.

Nancy Rudolph pleaded with the planning commissioners to consider more than just the impact to the cattle.

“I hope that you take the time to really look at the people, not just the cows but the people that will be impacted by the noise,” she said.

John Hunter said the impact to the North Umpqua River should be considered. He said it is ironic that a “long and tortuous process” has come down to deciding whether the quarry would negatively impact cattle ranching and logging.

“Both business enterprises harm the North Umpqua River. The quarry will compound the harm to the North Umpqua as well as the quality of life for the residents living there, as well as reducing the value of their property,” he said.

“These are the real issues that should be discussed but have been dismissed because this process has been flawed from the beginning for the benefit of a connected few,” he said.

Though he voted in favor of the quarry, planning commission chairman Virgle Osborne expressed sympathy for the neighbors.

“I feel for you. If somebody was doing something right next to my property and I didn’t like it, I’d have an opinion on it too,” he said.

However, he said the commission was limited to addressing just the specific concerns raised by LUBA.

He noted that at the first of three hearings on the Vian quarry, back in 2018, the planning commission had voted against the quarry. Osborne said he was the first to make a motion to deny the quarry at that meeting, and he did that because he didn’t think Vian did a good job at the time of explaining how he would address environmental and neighbor concerns.

At the commission’s second hearing, after a list of concerns he brought up was addressed, Osborne said he voted for the project with conditions.

“This is the third time this has come in front of the county. We’re not here to determine anything other than what it is we’re supposed to do. And that’s we’re supposed to make sure that we make good judgment calls based on what’s legal with the property,” he said.

Miller said the reason other issues weren’t on the table Thursday was because those other issues had already been resolved by the commission and by LUBA.

“Really what’s left is what’s here,” she said.