Local News That Matters

UPDATES: Forest Service halts post-fire logging plans

January 12, 2022 at 2:26pm

Data digest: Covid by the numbers for Jan. 12, 2022

Salem Hospital (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

As Covid hospitalizations continue to rise again due to the omicron variant, Salem Reporter is again publishing case and hospitalization information daily. Here’s our report for Wednesday, Jan. 12.

Total Salem Hospital patients with Covid: 76 as of Wednesday morning, an increase of three from Tuesday. 

Of those, 10 are in the intensive care unit, and two are on ventilators. 

Forty-one of those in the hospital are not vaccinated against Covid.

Total Salem Hospital bed occupancy: 519 patients; the hospital is licensed for 494 beds

Salem Hospital is able to expand care beyond licensed bed capacity through waivers tied to the federal emergency declaration. 

Total people hospitalized with Covid in Region 2 (Marion, Polk, Yamhill, Linn, Benton, Lincoln counties): 117. Of those, 25 are in the intensive care unit and six are on ventilators.

Total Region 2 hospital bed occupancy: 83 of 86 staffed ICU beds and 539 of 551 non-ICU beds in use. 

New Covid cases reported in Marion County: 801

New Covid cases reported in Polk County: 213

New Covid deaths reported: 31 in Oregon

-Saphara Harrell

January 12, 2022 at 2:11pm

McNary evacuated over anonymous bomb threat; no bomb found

McNary High School in Keizer (Mary Louise VanNatta/Special to Salem Reporter)

McNary High School was evacuated Wednesday afternoon after receiving an anonymous bomb threat.

Law enforcement and district security investigated the premises before deeming the school safe later that afternoon. District spokesperson Aaron Harada said that students and staff were evacuated from the building for roughly 15 minutes.

“We take all safety concerns very seriously,” said Harada. “We were able to search and clear the building and get students back to school.”

Family members were notified of the situation via email by McNary Principal Erik Jespersen.

“Hearing about a threat to our school is understandably concerning. Honesty and transparency play critical roles in safety, which is why we are sharing this information with you. Maintaining safety in our school requires the ongoing partnership of our school leaders, staff and families to ensure timely reporting of suspicious or concerning activity,” Jespersen said in the email. “I want to commend our student and staff member for doing the right thing and quickly reporting this threat to our school leaders to be able to keep all students and staff safe.”

Harada said that the district will continue to investigate where the source of the threat came from.

-Matt Rawlings, Keizertimes

January 12, 2022 at 2:10pm

UPDATE: 69-year-old south Salem man found after being reported missing

Robert Lee Skinner, Jr. (Courtesy/Salem Police Department)

UPDATE: Robert Lee Skinner, Jr., was found safe and his family has been notified, the Salem Police Department said in a news release. The agency had asked Wednesday for the public's help in finding him.

Original story below:

Salem police are asking for the public's help in finding a man missing from south Salem.

Robert Lee Skinner Jr., 69, was last seen leaving his home alone on Sunday around 4:30 p.m. to play video poker at a local restaurant. His spouse contacted the Salem Police Department on Monday after he didn't return home, according to a Wednesday afternoon news release.

Skinner is diabetic and depends on medication that he doesn't have have with him. 

His friends and family have had no contact with him since he left his home and "report this behavior is not typical for him," the news release said. Skinner has no family connections outside of Salem but still may have driven his car outside of the Salem area.

Salem police are investigating Skinner's disappearance as a "missing and endangered person," the news release said. Skinner is 5’10" and weighs 190 pounds. He was last seen wearing jeans, a navy blue long-sleeve shirt with “POLO” lettering on the front, a navy blue wind breaker and brown slippers.

Skinner left his house driving his own car, a four-door, silver 2015 Toyota Camry with Oregon license plate 590-DQJ. The front bumper on the sedan's passenger side has damage.

“We have no reason to believe Mr. Skinner’s disappearance is associated with any criminal activity at this time; however, we are concerned about his safety due to his medical condition and lack of medication,” Salem police spokeswoman Lt. Debbie Aguilar said in the news release. “We are asking the public for help in locating Mr. Skinner so we can assess his health and wellbeing.” 

The news release said anyone with recent information about Skinner’s location should call the Salem police non-emergency phone number at 503-588-6123. People can provide any other tips and investigative leads to the department's Tips Line at 503-588-8477.

Robert Lee Skinner, Jr. (Courtesy/Salem Police Department)

Example of Robert Lee Skinner, Jr.'s car, which he left his house in before his disappearance. (Courtesy/Salem Police Department)

-Ardeshir Tabrizian

January 12, 2022 at 1:40pm

Oregon attorney general warns about fraudulent Covid testing sites, overpriced tests

Oregon’s attorney general issued a warning Wednesday, advising people to be cautious of testing sites that seem suspicious or vendors selling overpriced at-home tests.

Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said her office is keeping a “vigilant eye” on the marketplace and working with the Oregon Health Authority to ensure testing sites are in compliance with state laws.

“The huge demand for Covid-19 testing of all kinds—at home tests, rapid antigen tests, PCR tests–brings bad actors and some businesses trying to make a quick buck out from the shadows. We see it all the time in moments of desperation like this testing urgency,” said Rosenblum.

The release said people should be cautious about pop-up sites charging out-of-pocket fees, that don’t disclose the laboratory performing the test, aren’t affiliated with a known organization and ask for sensitive information, like social security numbers.

Locate a testing site through OHA’s testing locator, or use Salem Reporter's testing guide for Marion and Polk county sites and events.

The average cost for a package of two at-home Covid tests is around $20. Rosenblum said people are selling at-home tests for inflated prices on websites like eBay, Craiglist and NextDoor.

 Starting Jan. 15, private insurers will have to cover the cost of eight at-home tests per member per month, according to the release.

Report any dubious testing sites or vendors selling at-home tests at inflated prices to the Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline at 1-877-877-9392 or www.OregonConsumer.Gov.

-Saphara Harrell

January 12, 2022 at 11:20am

Woman arrested after walking away from corrections department warehouse in Salem, another still at large

(Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

A woman who in October walked away from a work crew at an Oregon Department of Corrections warehouse in Salem was arrested Tuesday night in Texas.

The Robertson County Sheriff’s Office arrested Brandy Woodward three months after she and another woman, Shelly Radan, walked away from the work crew with a box cutter and a heavy lock.

Oregon State Police have been working with law enforcement in Texas, where Woodward is in custody awaiting extradition to Oregon. Radan is still unaccounted for, a Wednesday news release said.

Woodward, 45 of Long Creek, and Radan, 43 of Otis, were both incarcerated at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville before walking away.

Each day, they would ride a corrections department bus with dozens of other women to a work location known as the "commissary," where they filled orders for cafeteria food and hygiene items for people in custody at other state prisons, state corrections spokeswoman Jennifer Black said in October.

The day they left, 51 incarcerated people were working at the Central Distribution Center in Salem where the commissary is located along with other work units, Black said in October. They are supervised by corrections department employees, who are responsible for counting them every hour.

Woodward and Radan walked away from the facility on Oct. 11 around 9:10 a.m. with a box cutter and a "heavy lock that could be used as a weapon," she said. The department did not provide other details about security procedures at the facility or how the women were able to walk away from the unit.

They were last seen on Northeast Amber Street headed toward Dick's Sporting Goods on Northeast Lancaster Drive, according to a news release issued that same day.

Woodward pleaded guilty to two counts of delivery of methamphetamine and three counts of possession of methamphetamine over three cases in Grant and Umatilla county circuit courts, according to court records. She has been in custody since April 29 and her earliest release date is Jan. 14, 2024.

Radan weighs 174 pounds and has brown hair and eyes, according to the Wednesday news release. 

She pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree burglary in Lincoln County Circuit Court, court records showed. She has been in custody since Nov. 3, 2020, and her earliest release date is Sept. 2, 2024. Radan's previous name was Michael Price Crawford.

The corrections department's Fugitive Apprehension Unit and the Oregon State Police are still investigating the walkaways and asked anyone with information to contact state police at 1-800-452-7888, their local police department's non emergency number or the Fugitive Apprehension Unit at 503-569-0734, the news release said.

 -Ardeshir Tabrizian

January 12, 2022 at 11:06am

Forest Service withdraws logging plans in Beachie Creek Fire area after environmentalist lawsuit

Fire smolders in the forest days after the Beachie Creek Fire tore through Santiam Canyon communities over Labor Day weekend 2020(Ron Cooper/Salem Reporter)

The U.S. Forest Service is going back to the drawing board on plans to reopen portions of Willamette National Forest affected by the 2020 Labor Day fires after a federal judge ordered the agency to halt logging in November.

The agency said Wednesday it would withdraw plans for a project to cut down fire-damaged and fire-killed trees along about 400 miles of road affected by the Beachie Creek, Lionshead and Holiday Farm fires.

Conservation groups Willamette Riverkeeper, Cascade Wildlands and Oregon Wild sued over the plan in August, saying many of the trees were on low-priority roads and posed little imminent risk. In November, a federal judge said the agency had overstretched its authority to move forward without an environmental review, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported, and ordered logging to stop.

Now, the Forest Service will craft a new plan for reopening the area.

“I have decided it is in the best interest of the public to limit the continued time and expense associated with ongoing litigation surrounding this project,” said Forest Supervisor Dave Warnack in a statement. “Our work to safely restore public access to areas burned in the 2020 Labor Day fires continues to be top priority. Upon withdrawal of this decision, my staff will conduct another review of the purpose and need of this project and will consider a new approach to addressing this important issue. We will re-engage with community partners and other interested parties toward solutions and opportunities to facilitate safely reopening fire affected areas.”

The agency said the affected roads would remain closed to the public until safety concerns are addressed.

-Rachel Alexander