One man died in a motor vehicle accident on Highway 97 in Sherman County on Thursday evening. According to the Oregon State Police, the accident occurred at about 7:10 p.m. on Highway 97 near milepost 48. A preliminary Investigation revealed that a northbound truck loaded with potatoes driven by 25-year-old Amador Ramirez of Hermiston lost control, crossed into the southbound lane, and rolled onto the driver’s side, colliding with a southbound pickup driven by 45-year-old Ryan Spyker of Terrebonne. The OSP says Spyker sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced deceased. Ramirez sustained minor injuries. Highway 97 was closed for approximately 5 hours following the crash. The OSP was assisted by the Sherman County Sheriff’s Office, Moro Fire & Rescue, and ODOT.
The Wasco County Fair Board announced Friday it has canceled the 2020 Fair originally scheduled for August 20-23. In a statement, the Fair Board said it was following State of Oregon restrictions regarding the size of mass gatherings to guarantee safe social distancing to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The statement also said the health and safety of fairgoers, exhibitors, competitors, volunteers and staff is the highest priority of the Wasco County Fair and Rodeo. The fair board said it supports 4-H and FFA programs that are exploring new and creative ways to serve youth who have worked hard on their projects, and they will begin planning for the 2021 Wasco County Fair.
The 7th Annual Hood River Hard-Pressed Cider Fest has been canceled for 2020. The Hood River County Chamber of Commerce announced the cancellation on Friday. It was scheduled for May 30 after originally being postponed in April due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Hood River Cider Fest was expected to draw more than two dozen craft cideries, featuring more than 50 ciders, and thousands of hard cider lovers to Mt. Defiance Cold Storage in the Hood River Valley. The Chamber says Cider Fest will return in April 2021 to coincide with Hood River Valley Blossom Time.
Ballots are starting to be returned for Oregon’s May 19 primary election. As of the end of Thursday Hood River County reported that 12.8% of ballots had been returned, while in Wasco County 11.2% of votes have been cast. County election officials are encouraging voters to stay home, stay safe and vote by mail. Return postage is now free. They also ask voters to consider sealing return envelopes with a moist sponge to reduce exposure to COVID-19 for election workers. This Tuesday is the last day election officials recommend mailing ballots. After that, ballots can be dropped at any Official Ballot Drop Box by 8 p.m. on May 19, details on those are available at county and state election websites.
Next week is filing local candidate filing week in Washington, and both the Klickitat and Skamania County auditor’s offices are recommending those wishing to run for offices file their candidacy online. Online filing in Washington begins at 9 a.m. Monday, and continues until 4 p.m. next Friday, with links available at County election websites. In Klickitat County, in person filing will be conducted by appointment only. Call (509) 773-4001 to set up an appointment with the Elections Department. In Skamania County, residents who wish to file in the Auditor’s Office can do so daily from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each weekday next week by using a drop box available in the public access area of the courthouse.
The Hood River County Commission on Thursday approved a reopening plan, sending it on to the state for consideration. The County plan requests Governor Kate Brown to allow Phase 1 reopening, with County Administrator Jeff Hecksel noting the best case scenario would be to allowed to move forward next Friday. Reopening plans are specific to how the County meets or exceeds the Governor’s reopening health care metrics, using the State reopening model. The Governor’s Reopening Framework requires County plans address “gateway criteria” for three-phased reopening, such as access to personal protective equipment for health care providers, adequacy of COVID testing, and contact tracing of those that come in contact with COVID positive cases, and other measures to limit spread of the disease. Hecksel noted the plan is really a “Health Preparedness Plan” for the County…with business sector guidelines being addressed by the state. The Governor’s office released Phase 1 guidelines Thursday. Commission Chair Mike Oates says the Hood River County Chamber of Commerce is pushing out sector-specific information to businesses. A task force represented by a number of County agencies, hospitals, and the cities of Hood River and Cascade Locks put together the plan before commissioners. The Commission formally appointed those members to a reopening steering committee.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown outlined a plan to reopen salons, gyms, barber shops and restaurants in the least-affected — and mostly rural — parts of Oregon after more than a month of a statewide stay-at-home order, but also cautioned that any loosening of restrictions could be rolled back if COVID-19 infection rates surge. Brown, who has come under increasing pressure to reopen from rural counties, said that on May 15 she will loosen restrictions statewide on day cares and on retail shops that were previously closed, including furniture stores, boutiques, jewelry stores and art galleries. Counties that have very small numbers of coronavirus cases and that have seen declining infection numbers can also apply to reopen beauty salons, gyms and bars and restaurants for sit-down dining on May 15 with a number of rules and limitations. Brown says counties must remain in phase one for 21 days before moving into phase two to ensure COVID-19 infections do not rise again. Brown said Oregon hit a record low this past week with fewer than 100 coronavirus hospitalizations across the state, but she said physical distancing must continue. She asked those planning large gatherings, such as concerts, festivals, sports games and conventions, to cancel or significantly modify plans for anything scheduled through at least September.
The Oregon Air National Guard is scheduled to fly multiple F-15 Eagle flyovers over hospitals and other locations throughout the state Friday to salute Oregonians on the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic and lift morale during a time of severe health and economic impact. The tribute is scheduled to be conducted by Oregon’s 142nd Fighter Wing out of Portland and the 173rd Wing based in Klamath Falls. Flyovers will take place locally between 8:58 and 9:01 Friday morning, going over Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital, the Oregon Veterans Home, and Mid-Columbia Medical Center. Anyone living in and around those locations should see and hear the jets. People are encouraged to view the flights from the safety of their own homes and practice physical distancing.
The Hood River County Commission will consider a reopening plan for the County at a virtual meeting Thursday afternoon. A task force represented by a number of County agencies, hospitals, and the cities of Hood River and Cascade Locks put together the plan before commissioners. The County plan requests the Governor allow Phase 1 reopening of Hood River next Friday. Reopening plans are specific to how the County meets or exceeds the Governor’s reopening health care metrics, using the State reopening model. The Governor’s Reopening Framework requires County plans address “gateway criteria” for three-phased reopening, such as access to personal protective equipment for health care providers, adequacy of COVID testing, and contact tracing of those that come in contact with COVID positive cases, and other measures to limit spread of the disease. Hood River County Public Health Department Medical Officer Christopher Van Tilburg and Providence Hood River CEO Jeanie Vieira drafted letters supporting the County’s Reopening Plan as it is submitted. The County’s plan is the first step required before closed businesses can reopen, pending changes and approval by the Governor. The meeting is at 4 p.m., for log-in or phone-in information go to the Hood River County website.
A 29-year-old Culver man was sentenced to 57 months in federal prison and four years’ supervised release for a yearlong identity theft and fraud spree that spanned seven Oregon counties and cheated more than 100 individuals, businesses, financial institutions, and communities out of $190,000 until he was apprehended by police in Hood River. According federal court documents, Garrett Luke Pruitt Rexroad’s conduct from April 2017 to May 2018 covered counties from the Willamette Valley to Central Oregon, including Hood River County. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Portland says he was repeatedly released from custody only to commit further crimes. But on May 25, 2018, Hood River Police found Pruitt Rexroad and three others at the side of a road removing tires from a stolen vehicle. The officers arrested him after a short foot chase, and Pruitt-Rexroad has been in custody ever since. Pruitt Rexroad pleaded guilty in October to one count each of access device fraud, aggravated identity theft, and possession of unauthorized access devices. During sentencing, U.S. District Court Judge Michael W. Mosman ordered Pruitt Rexroad to pay $55,824 in restitution.
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