The Blue Mountain eagle. (John Day, Or.) 1972-current, June 02, 2021, Page 12, Image 12

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Blue Mountain Eagle
Continued from Page A1
people they might infect.
The salvo from the House
Republicans was part of a bar-
rage fired at Brown’s plans
over the past week.
A letter from the National
Grocers Association and 10
other major retail groups
has asked federal health and
worker safety officials to stop
Brown from requiring employ-
ees to ask for and verify vacci-
nation cards. Making front line
workers the gatekeepers and
enforcers of state policy was
inappropriate and potentially
dangerous, the letter said.
The criticism came as what
was supposed to be a show-
case for the state’s new pol-
icy on vaccinated sections in
venues has been scaled back
and watered down by key
The National Basketball
Association and Brown simul-
taneously announced last week
that Thursday’s NBA play-
off game between the Port-
land Trail Blazers and Denver
Nuggets would operate under
new rules tied to a successful
COVID-19 vaccination effort
in Multnomah County. Up to
8,900 fans were allowed into
the Moda Center for the game,
a big jump from the 1,900 who
were let in for a handful of
games at the end of the regular
season this year.
Brown said, under a new
policy, fans who showed their
vaccination certification when
entering the arena could sit in
new vaccinated sections where
they would not have to wear
masks and socially distance as
required by fans in other parts
of the arena.
The game plan was all pos-
sible because Multnomah
County had become one of six
counties in the state to certify
Continued from Page A1
that both support.
Merkley said, in the 2018
federal farm bill, he included
authorization to double spend-
ing on forest collaboratives
— which he described as the
“antidote to the timber wars.”
But the next step — indeed,
the vital step — is to actually
include that money in the For-
est Service’s budget.
During the May 26 hear-
ing before the subcommittee,
Merkley urged Christiansen
to include that money in the
agency’s budget request for
the fiscal year that starts Oct.
1, 2021.
“This is an amazing oppor-
tunity,” Merkley said.
Backlog of projects
Two collaboratives are
underway in the Blue Moun-
tains, one in the southern
part of the range, the other
in the northern section, on
the Wallowa-Whitman and
Umatilla national forests.
Last year, the U.S.
Department of Agricul-
ture allocated $2.7 million
Continued from Page A1
and $10,000 for each other
charge, according to court
McKrola is being held at
the Grant County Jail and is
scheduled to appear in court
on the new charges at 9 a.m.
June 7.
that it had put at least one shot
of vaccine into 65% of its resi-
dents and submitted a plan for
outreach to underserved resi-
dents still needing inoculation.
Brown said the Moda Cen-
ter was just the first venue to
have the vaccinated sections
and that the option would be
offered in counties that hit the
65% vaccination rates. Restau-
rants, theaters, gyms, faith insti-
tutions and public events could
opt for the plan if they required
verification of vaccination.
Some of the opposition
to the plan to require show-
ing proof of vaccination came
from politicians and others who
had opposed masks at differ-
ent points in the pandemic and
had lobbied for lifting restric-
tions on businesses and crowds
despite high levels of infection
in many areas of the state.
While Rep. Daniel Bonham,
R-The Dalles, had criticized
Brown’s new policy earlier in
the week by noting the strong
feelings about masks “on both
sides,” the volatility against
showing certificates surfaced
quickly among opponents of
COVID-19 restrictions.
The Enchanted Forest, a
longtime children’s adventure
park near Salem, announced
it was reopening and would
require adults to show they
were vaccinated. The blow-
back from vaccine and mask-
ing opponents was immediate
and intense, fueled by posts
on Facebook groups and other
social media.
After a deluge of angry
messages — some including
threats to the park or workers
— the owners reversed course
and said the opening would be
delayed to a later, unspecified
While federal agencies
such as the Centers for Dis-
ease Control and Prevention
have consulted with local offi-
cials across the country, pub-
Wednesday, June 2, 2021
Eagle file photo
Rebekah Rand, director of emergency management at Blue
Mountain Hospital District, fills a syringe with the COVID-19 vac-
cine at a January vaccine clinic at the Grant County Fairgrounds.
lic health decisions fall under
the role of states. That’s led to
a patchwork of often contra-
dictory measures, even with
neighboring states such as
Oregon and Idaho.
Health officials in Oregon,
California and Washington
pledged early in the pandemic
crisis to work together and
keep policies in sync as much
as possible. The same could
not be said of Idaho, which
opted for far fewer restrictions
on activity and less stringent
mask rules.
But the trio of West Coast
states have hardly been mono-
lithic in their responses. Cali-
fornia and Washington went
much wider, earlier with vac-
cination priority for all res-
idents 65 and over, while
Oregon stuck with a more
step-by-step approach of pri-
ority groups.
Newsom has announced all
students at California’s mas-
sive University of California
and California State Univer-
sity systems must be vacci-
nated prior to being allowed to
take part in in-person classes
in the fall.
While Brown said at a press
call last month that she thought
the mandatory vaccinations
ordered by Newsom were a
good idea, in practice, Oregon
has allowed each university
to make separate announce-
ments of their plans. So far,
the University of Oregon, Ore-
gon State University and Port-
land State University have all
announced that vaccinations
will be required.
Brown’s boldest initiative
has been to require the display
of vaccine cards in selected
situations. Oregon Health offi-
cials wanted residents to be
more assured when going to
a “vaccinated-only” area than
just the promise of others that
they were obeying the law.
The idea of segregated
access for those who have
been inoculated and those who
haven’t hasn’t gained trac-
tion in a majority of states, but
14 have created or are work-
ing on ways to keep poten-
tial virus spreaders away from
others. But the sticking point
always comes back to how to
really know if vaccinated-only
areas included only the truly
The most common answer
for the latter collaborative
during the current fiscal
year, which started Oct. 1,
Forest Service offi-
cials have said that the $2.7
million will help the two
national forests start chip-
ping away at a backlog of
projects that are ready as
soon as money is available.
Although the details of
the work vary depending on
the area of the Blue Moun-
tains involved, the general
concept is to cut some of the
trees, primarily smaller-di-
ameter ones, that are growing
in higher densities than was
historically the case in the
northern Blues, Steve Haw-
kins, deputy fire staff officer
for the Wallowa-Whitman,
said in a 2020 interview.
Those smaller trees, most
notably grand and white firs,
have encroached over the
past century or so in places
that historically were dom-
inated by ponderosa pines
and tamaracks, in part due to
the exclusion of fire, which
historically killed most of
the firs when they were rel-
atively small.
Ponderosa pines and
tamaracks, which gener-
ally grow in widely spaced
stands rather than in thick-
ets, are much more resistant
to wildfires than the grand
and white firs that have
become much more prev-
alent over the past several
Although Merkley pro-
motes the additional $40
million for collaborative
projects, his ultimate goal is
much more ambitious.
He said he believes the
federal government needs
to spend at least $1 billion
more each year on forest res-
One way to make that
money available, Merkley
said, is by ensuring the federal
government does not return
to the practice known as “fire
That term refers to the fed-
eral government transferring
money from Forest Service
and other agency budgets to
cover firefighting costs, leav-
ing less money for projects
designed to reduce the size of
wildfires and, thus, the cost to
fight them.
He is also scheduled to
enter a plea on previous sex
crime charges at the same
In the previous case,
McKrola is accused of
first-degree rape, first-de-
gree sodomy, first-degree
sexual abuse, second-degree
kidnapping, three counts of
strangulation and furnish-
ing alcohol to a person under
21 committed on Dec. 20,
2020, with a single alleged
victim identified, accord-
ing to an amended indict-
ment filed March 1 by Grant
County District Attorney Jim
The three first-degree
charges from the previous
cases are also Measure 11
offenses, and if convicted on
all three, McKrola would be
sentenced to more than 22
years in prison.
Carpenter said in a state-
ment he could not release fur-
ther details because of ongo-
ing criminal investigation
and prosecution. He encour-
aged anyone with additional
information regarding these
offenses to contact Oregon
State Police Detective Brian
Wickert at 541-889-6469.
Eagle file photo
U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley during a 2019 town hall in Mt. Vernon.
toration work nationwide.
‘We have to do more’
is trust. In a politically frac-
tured nation where masks,
vaccines, in-person school
instruction and large gather-
ings have become grist for
often hyperventilating debate,
that’s a leap of faith. But it’s
the approach suggested by the
For now, Brown is not
moving toward another
change of policy.
changes to the state’s origi-
nal four-tier COVID-19 risk
level system that dictated how
severe restrictions in counties
Earlier, Brown said no
counties would be put in the
extreme risk level as long
as the entire state has fewer
than 300 COVID-19 patients
in hospitals and the number
didn’t grow by 5%. There are
currently 274 patients, well
below the threshold. That
alone keeps Crook, Jefferson
and some of the other coun-
ties on the high risk list from
ascending to extreme risk.
Then Brown announced
this change: Get a shot of vac-
cine into the arms of 65% of
eligible residents age 16 and
up and any county could be
dropped to the least restrictive
level of rules.
Brown has said that waiver
shows that vaccination, not
just infection rate, is the way
back to something approach-
ing normality.
“Vaccines are very effec-
tive in keeping people safe
from COVID-19,” Brown
said last week. “They are the
key to returning to normal life
and lifting health and safety
restrictions statewide.”
But in the short term, the
vaccination rate waivers have
led to anomalies.
Deschutes County this
week reported some of the
highest infection rates in the
state: 372.4 cases per 100,000
population and an 8.2% rate of
positive tests.
Under the original guide-
lines, the county would be at
extreme risk with limits just
short of the kind of lockdowns
experienced in the state early
in the pandemic.
But because Deschutes
County has been certified as
having administered at least
one shot to 65% of its resi-
dents, the county’s COVID-
19 risk level is set at lower, the
tier with the fewest limits on
activities and businesses.
Its next door neighbors,
Crook and Jefferson counties,
also have some of the highest
rates in the state and are under
high level restrictions this
week, the most stringent cur-
rently applied by OHA.
Lane, Marion, Malheur, Polk
and Umatilla have lower per
capita rates than Deschutes
County — some less than
half. Yet, all are among the
15 counties rated at high risk.
The chances of those coun-
ties moving to lower level are
mixed, depending on where
they are in their vaccination
Clackamas, Lane and Polk
have all vaccinated more than
60% of eligible residents and
could get waivers soon. Mar-
ion has passed the 50% mark.
But Umatilla and Malheur
have each vaccinated less than
35% of the eligible group,
while Jackson is a tick below
Unless there is a major
shift to higher vaccinations
and lower infections, many
counties will have to wait until
Oregon registers an overall
70% mark for residents with
one shot of vaccine.
Brown has said, at that
point, all 36 counties will
move to lower level no mat-
ter their local case and infec-
tion numbers.
Fire borrowing was nec-
essary in several years over
the past decade as millions of
acres burned annually across
the West.
Merkley said, although
Congress ended fire borrow-
ing in 2018, the changes made
then will expire at the end
of the current fiscal year —
Sept. 30, 2021 — unless it’s
“We cannot go back to the
fire borrowing of the past,”
Merkley said.
During the press confer-
ence, Merkley recalled driving
the length of Western Oregon
in September 2020 follow-
ing the fires that burned more
than 1 million acres, destroyed
towns such as Detroit, east of
Salem, and killed 11 people.
“It was unforgettable to
me,” Merkley said of the
experience of driving for
hours and never escaping the
cloying smoke that persisted
in much of Oregon for more
than a week. “I’ve never seen
anything like this.”
Merkley also talked about
the 2020 fires during Wednes-
day’s appropriations hearing
before his committee.
“Whether they have lost a
loved one, business, or home
to a wildfire, had to pack their
most valuable belongings and
anxiously awaited go orders,
or were trapped inside by a
thick blanket of hazardous
smoke, nearly every family in
the West has been impacted
by wildfires in one way or
another,” he said. “It’s impos-
sible to thrive if your com-
munity is being ravaged by
these blazes. That’s why any
plan to boost America’s infra-
structure, create jobs, and
protect lives and our econ-
omy must include responsi-
ble forest management strat-
egies that can help us stay
ahead of wildfire risks. Any-
thing less will be a grave mis-
take that will leave communi-
ties scrambling in the face of
an emergency, threaten Amer-
ican lives and livelihoods, and
require more taxpayer-funded
recovery projects.”
Merkley said the threat of
severe fire seasons is likely
to increase due to climate
“Fire seasons are getting
longer, forests and getting
drier,” he said. “We have to
do more on the forest manage-
ment end.”
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