Skyline Health will be asking voters in Klickitat County Hospital District #2 to raise its maintenance and operations property tax levy from 30 cents per thousand dollars of assessed value to 68 cents. A similar measure failed one year ago. Skyline CEO Robb Kimmes said the district board realizes that’s a big jump, but also did not want to go back to the voters in five to ten years. Kimmes adds the COVID-19 pandemic shed a light on the financial challenges of rural hospitals. The funds will be used to replace and upgrade medical equipment, maintain and improve facilities and infrastructure, and add new services as needed by the community. The measure will be on the November general election ballot.
Drive-thru or walk-up COVID-19 testing is scheduled for Cascade Locks, Parkdale, and Hood River this week. The testing events put on by the Hood River County Health Department and operated by Medical Teams International will be Tuesday at the Cascade Locks Marine Park Pavilion, Wednesday at Parkdale Elementary School, and Thursday at River of Life Assembly on 979 Tucker Road in Hood River. Hours for all three days are from 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. No appointment is needed, and you should bring a form of identification and medical insurance card if you have them.
North Wasco County School District 21 Superintendent Theresa Peters told the D-21 board that district staff continues to look at health metrics as they try to determine when they’ll be able to go to a hybrid of in-person and distance learning. Peters told the group she hopes to be able to provide an update in early October. Peters says they are in contact with the North Central Public Health District on a regular basis to go review the metrics issued by the state on when schools can have students in the building.
The Hood River County School District says it will continue in comprehensive distance learning until at least November 5, even though the Oregon Department of Education announced last week that it was suspending one of the three county health metrics required for schools to reopen. It would allow several Oregon counties, including Hood River, by opening the door for in-person instruction for students in kindergarten through third grade. ODE suspended the test positivity metric at the state and local level through the week of September 27 in response to the impact of wildfires on testing for COVID-19. That metric will return in early October. The district indicated in an effort to keep stability in students and families’ schedules, it will keep November 5 as a target date for some kind of return to in-person instruction. The district says it meets weekly with the Hood River County Health Department to review the county’s case rate and compare it to the ODE metrics for school reopening.
Beginning today, Oregon Department of Forestry protected lands in Wasco County will move to Industrial Fire Precaution Level 2 and Hood River County will move to Industrial Fire Precaution Level 1. Recent cooler temperatures, increased humidity and precipitation within Oregon Department of Forestry’s Central Oregon District has reduced fuel hazards and the risk of rapid fire spread. Lands protected by the Central Oregon District are at a high fire danger. While the current fall weather trend, combined with shorter days has not eliminated the risk of wildfire the reduced risk allows fire managers to ease restrictions. The Regulated-Use Closure in effect for public activities within the District will return to a 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. restriction for high risk activities such as mowing dry grass and chainsaw use. While traveling in forested areas a fire extinguisher/gallon of water and a shovel are required. Details for the Regulated-Use Closure are available at http://www.odfcentraloregon.com/. All open burning is prohibited.
Containment of the 24,995-acre Big Hollow Fire on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest is now at 40%. Scattered rain continued through Saturday evening. An infrared flight has been ordered to provide an accurate reading on current acreage and help determine where current hotspots are located. The forest has requested a Burned Area Emergency Response Team that specializes in analyzing post-fire conditions to make an assessment and recommendations for the forest to prevent further problems after the fire. The Southern Area Incident Management Gray Team that has been in charge of the fire turned command over to a local Type 4 unit today. One local fire crew and 2 engines will remain to monitor and patrol the fire.
Work on the 204,340-acre Lionshead fire is proceeding well, and containment is at 34%. Fire crews are completing more containment line each day and looking for ways to attack the fire more directly where conditions allow. Structural protection crews have shifted to patrol and chipping operations in Detroit and Idanha, as well as gathering the miles of hose used during the suppression effort. Today, high winds are expected to increase fire activity, primarily consuming fuels in the interior, particularly in open areas. Fire managers are developing hazard tree removal plans for Highway 22 to ensure safe public access, and for the 46 corridor to provide crews safe entry for mop-up. The Rocky Mountain Area Type 1 Incident Management Team transferred command to the Pacific Northwest Incident Management Team 13 on Sunday evening.
Containment for the Riverside Fire on the Mt. Hood National Forest is now at 37%, with 138,029 acres burned. Firefighters are focused on monitoring firelines, patrolling for heat pockets held in heavy fuels and suppression repair. Heavy equipment work continues along roads with chippers and masticators to improve existing containment and contingency firelines on the south and west side of the fire. Potential for 40-45 mile per hour gusts along east-west orientated drainages and Goat Mountain are forecast, so creeping and smoldering fire activity is expected, but significant growth of the fire is not anticipated due to lingering effects of the moisture from the past week.
The North Wasco County School District 21 Board of Directors will create policies and procedures to allow them to move forward with consideration of renaming Colonel Wright Elementary School. The district has been receiving citizen input urging them to take the name of Colonel George Wright off the school, citing his brutal treatment of Native Americans during the settlement of the Pacific Northwest, but also received other comments asking them to keep the name as is. Board chair John Nelson says he, board member Jose Aparicio, and interim superintendent Theresa Peters have been looking at other district’s naming policies, and once D-21 establishes their own and a policy on creating committees, the board will put together a panel with a cross section of the community to develop recommendations to the board. Board members reached consensus to begin that process.
The Oregon Health Authority today reported the biggest single day COVID-19 case count since the pandemic began…457 new confirmed and presumptive cases. In a press briefing OHA Director Patrick Allen termed the state’s increase in COVID cases over the past few days “another crossroads,” and that while Oregon still has a low rate of infection compared to the rest of the nation the latest figures show how fragile progress against the virus is. State Health Officer Dr. Dean Sidelinger says there isn’t one specific reason for the increase, but gatherings of people remain a common theme. Both Allen and Sidelinger continued to emphasize the need for people to wear face coverings and practice social distancing to stem the spread of the virus. There were four new cases reported in Wasco County, none in Hood River County.
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