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Coronavirus
Infant with COVID-19-related symptoms dies, county reports

A Douglas County infant has died from COVID-19 complications, according to the Douglas County COVID-19 Recovery Team.

The infant reportedly was diagnosed with COVID-19-related symptoms on Aug. 20 and died Monday. The child was one of 13 deaths listed in the recovery team’s Wednesday report.

“The significant number of deaths over the past month have been so incredibly tragic and heartbreaking,” Douglas County Public Health Officer Bob Dannenhoffer said. “While we have chosen to not provide detailed case information out of respect for the privacy of those that have passed and their families, as well as our ethical responsibility to follow all medical and HIPAA records laws, we can say that some of those who died were perfectly well before they contracted COVID and died.

“Some were like the rest of us, living with some to several underlying conditions such as obesity, mental health issues, smoking, diabetes, cancer or heart disease. We thoroughly investigate all deaths, and review all medical records to make sure that everyone meets the requirements for a COVID-related death as per the Oregon Investigative Guidelines,” Dannenhoffer said. “But, more important than all of that is the fact that they were all someone’s family, someone’s friends and our neighbors, who all died too soon.”

Recovery team spokesperson Tamara Howell said that the team works to fully investigate every death which may have a connection to COVID-19.

“We have rejected a number of these cases,” said Howell, adding that the child had other health complications. “We don’t take this lightly.”

Due to privacy reasons, the Douglas Public Health Network and the county’s COVID-19 Recovery Team choose not to provide any additional information about the death of a Douglas County resident who dies where the coronavirus may have been a contributing factor.

The only items reported are the patient’s age and sex, when they were diagnosed, when they died, and their vaccination status. No names have ever been released unless the family themselves made that information public.

Of the 13 deaths reported Wednesday, ranging in age from an infant to 96 years old, nine were not vaccinated against the coronavirus, and two were partially vaccinated. Only one, a 73-year-old woman who died Saturday, was fully vaccinated.

After back-to-back days of double-digit positive and presumptive cases of COVID-19, the county reported another spike Wednesday with 151 total cases, after having just 56 cases Tuesday and 77 reported Monday.

There were 105 county residents hospitalized for treatment against the coronavirus, 70 locally and 35 out of the area. At CHI Mercy Medical Center, 16 COVID-19-positive patients were in the intensive care unit and 13 were in the hospital’s progressive care unit. Twenty-four patients required the use of ventilators for breathing, while another nine were receiving non-invasive breathing support.

The Oregon Health Authority Tuesday announced 5,821 confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases from Sept. 3-6, with 54 deaths. There have been 3,326 deaths of Oregon residents related to the coronavirus.


Business
Roseburg Comfort Inn fined for price gouging during Archie Creek Fire

The owner of the Comfort Inn in Roseburg has agreed to pay a $30,000 fine for overcharging people as they fled the Archie Creek Fire last year.

The owner of the hotel, Teja Lodgings, LLC, will also refund money to people who were overcharged, according to the agreement, known as an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance.

The agreement between Teja Lodgings and the Oregon Department of Justice was filed in Douglas County Circuit Court on Aug. 31. Teja Lodgings owns the Comfort Inn, which is located at 1539 NW Mulholland Drive.

The agreement is signed by Sarabjeet Teja, of Camas, Washington, who is listed in state paperwork as the owner of the hotel. Under the terms of the agreement, Teja Lodgings does not admit or concede to any violation of law, rule or regulation, and “expressly denies any violation” of Oregon law.

Neither Teja or his attorney returned phone calls and emails seeking comment.

The initial tip on the overcharging came from someone who had stayed at the hotel, said Kristina Edmunson, a spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Justice.

“We initially received a complaint through our price gouging hotline on Sept. 11, 2020,” Edmunson said. “The complainant stated that the hotel quoted him a price of $209 for a two-night stay when reserving the room over the phone but, after staying two nights, he learned that he was charged $209 per night, instead of total.”

Teja has agreed to pay the $30,000 in monthly payments of $5,000. The first payment is due Sept. 15. Subsequent payments are due on the 15th of each month.

The agreement also calls for Teja to pay back each customer who was overcharged during the period of time in question. The reimbursement amount will be determined by how much any party overpaid for a room, multiplied by how many nights they paid for the room.

The Comfort Inn is to go through its books and find each party that was overcharged, determine the amount they are owed and issue refunds.

The hotel has 15 days from the execution of the agreement to deliver the refunds, and show proof of those refunds to the Department of Justice within 30 days.

Within 22 days of the execution of the agreement, Teja is required to pay the Department of Justice any refund money that the hotel was unable to deliver.

Teja also agreed to take steps to ensure that Comfort Inn management and staff know about state laws connected to price gouging and “are trained to recognize and identify potential violations” of state laws that govern such overcharges.

If the Department of Justice determines that Teja has failed to comply with any condition of the agreement, the agency may immediately seek to collect the entire unpaid balance. Additionally, a violation of the terms of the agreement could result in civil penalties of up to $25,000 for each violation, the agreement states.

NOT ALONEThe Comfort Inn is the second hotel in Roseburg to be fined for overcharging customers during last year’s wildfires.

In February, the Days Inn by Wyndham in Roseburg agreed to pay $31,000 to the Oregon Department of Justice for overcharging dozens of area residents who sought rooms after fleeing the Archie Creek Fire. The hotel is located at 790 NW Garden Valley Blvd.

Devon Kumar, who lives in a suburb of Portland, is listed with the state as the owner of the Days Inn. Kumar agreed to pay the $31,000 in six equal monthly payments. He also refunded at least 31 customers a total of $4,860 in overcharges, according to court documents.

Complaints of price gouging became prominent last summer as wildfires burned more than 1 million acres across the state and displaced an estimated 40,000 people.

Gov. Kate Brown issued an executive order to halt price gouging during the statewide wildfire emergency.

Brown declared an “abnormal market disruption” after reports showed an unusual increase in lodging rates for Oregonians forced to evacuate because of fire danger.

“During a statewide emergency, it is absolutely unacceptable to price gouge Oregonians who have already been hard hit and are facing devastating loss,” Brown said then.

The Comfort Inn is the fifth Oregon hotel to enter into a settlement agreement for price gouging. In addition to the two Roseburg hotels, the other hotels fined were the Capital Inn & Suites in Salem, Le Chateau Inn in Florence, and Rodeway Inn Willamette River in Corvallis

Combined, the hotels paid more than $135,000 in fines. The four hotels besides the Comfort Inn have also refunded nearly $10,000 to about 100 customers overcharged, according to the Department of Justice.

The Comfort Inn is still in the process of delivering the refunds.


News
'Credible' threat forces Winston-Dillard School Board meeting to go remote

WINSTON — The Winston-Dillard School Board moved its Wednesday night meeting to an online, remote format after a credible threat was determined earlier in the day.

Superintendent Kevin Miller announced the change in meeting format Wednesday afternoon on the district’s Facebook page.

“Due to multiple threats of violence referencing the school board meeting this evening ... and one threat in particular deemed as credible by law enforcement, the W-D school board meeting will now be in a remote format,” Miller wrote, adding that there would be no outdoor participation allowed.

Instead, the meeting broadcast on Facebook Live at 7 p.m., with in-person viewing available at McGovern Elementary.

Bobby Carpenter, one of two school resource officers for the Winston-Dillard district, said the threats began after a student refused to wear a mask on one of the district’s campuses at the start of the school day.

“The student was asked to leave and was told he was trespassing,” Carpenter said. “We worked other options so that (the student) could attend without wearing a mask, but (the student) decided to leave and come back Thursday and either wear a mask or try another option.”

Carpenter said the student’s father was upset at the decision and began making what at first were “vague threats” related to Wednesday night’s school board meeting.

“He basically was saying that nobody was going to leave the school board meeting,” said Carpenter, clarifying that “nobody” meant members of the board. “They were open-ended threats that could be serious or not.”

The veiled threats were not made via social media but through numerous phone calls to school staff and Douglas County Emergency Communications.

As the father did not commit an actual crime, no arrest has been made, although the father has been trespassed from all Winston-Dillard School District properties.


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