4th Wave Of COVID-19 Hospitalizations Hits Washington State

https://www.npr.org/2021/05/11/995795457/4th-wave-of-covid-19-hospitalizations-hits-washington-state

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May 11, 202111:44 AM ET

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Sydney Porter of Bellevue, Wash., receives her COVID-19 vaccination from Kristine Gill, with the Seattle Fire Department’s Mobile Vaccination Teams, before the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Baltimore Orioles at T-Mobile Park on May 5 in Seattle. A late spring COVID-19 surge has filled hospitals in the metro areas around Seattle.Steph Chambers/Getty Images

As the coronavirus outbreak recedes in many parts of the U.S., the Pacific Northwest has emerged as an outlier — gripped by a late spring surge that has filled hospitals in the metro areas around Seattle and Portland.

In recent weeks, the governors of both states have hit the brakes on reopening plans in hopes of countering the rapid spread of the more contagious B.1.1.7. variant of the coronavirus, first identified in the U.K.

In Washington state, new hospital admissions for COVID-19 have been higher during this current surge than at any other time, except for this past winter.

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“We have seen a clear fourth wave of hospitalizations,” says Dr. Michael Anderson, chief medical officer for Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, which has hospitals throughout Washington state. “The rise of the curves for admissions has been scary in that it has taken off so quickly.”

“Very, very” busy hospitals, restrictions remain

Similar to the national trends, the patients being hospitalized in Washington are now overwhelmingly young and middle-aged adults — not older Americans who are mostly vaccinated at this point.

“It’s keeping our system very, very busy,” says Dr. Michael Myint, infectious disease epidemiologist who leads the COVID-19 response at MultiCare, a hospital system based in Tacoma, Wash.Article continues after sponsor messagehttps://485b9579d053bc7462769c8a0f5b6ae0.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

The average age of COVID-19 patients at MultiCare has fallen about a decade, which has made this latest surge more manageable because younger patients tend to have shorter hospital stays than the elderly do, he says.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has enacted a statewide pause on loosening any pandemic restrictions and put in place more stringent rules on several regions last month, including the state’s second most populous county just south of Seattle.

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“We would be dealing with a very severe wave that would probably be worse than the third wave if not for this background of vaccination,” says Dr. Joshua Schiffer, an infectious disease expert at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

There are several likely explanations for why Oregon and Washington are being hit with a late spring surge: how quickly the B.1.1.7 strain took off, cooler weather still keeping people indoors and the region’s relative success at fending off the virus earlier in the pandemic, which now leaves the population more vulnerable — at least until more people are fully vaccinated.

“It’s notable the states that have had lower degrees of infection have had fourth waves, so having some degree of preexisting immunity based on infection has helped certain states with this fourth wave,” Schiffer says.

Washington health officials say there are early signs that new cases may have peaked, but the outlook remains uncertain, especially given the unknowns about which other variants — not just the B.1.1.7 — may be spreading undetected.

“We may be plateauing now and the big outstanding question is how do the variants interface with each other?” asks Myint of MultiCare. “The one way that we’re going to blunt and then get over this fourth wave is really the vaccines.”

Vaccine demand slows, a renewed push in rural Wash.

Washington is firmly in the top half of states for how many people are fully vaccinated and for its rate of new vaccinations. More than half of adults in the state have had at least one dose, and in the Seattle metro area that number rises to about 70%.

But, as with much of the country, the pace of vaccination appears to be slowing down.

“Now when we post new appointments, they’re still available a week later. We’re not filling them. We are not able to deliver the vaccine that we have,” says Dr. Anderson of Virginia Mason Franciscan Health.

Public health leaders are trying to be more creative with how they get shots into arms, enlisting companies such as Uber and Lyft to provide free and discounted rides to vaccination clinics.

The challenge of bringing vaccines to people — and convincing them to get it — are only amplified in rural parts of the state.

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In White Salmon, Wash., the vaccine tent outside NorthShore Medical Group is not attracting crowds of people, even though state data show that a majority of the adult population in the region has not received at least one shot.

Scott Kotlarz, who just received his second shot there, says he personally knows of two people in the state who have died during this latest surge of COVID-19, including one who was a distant relative.

“She chose not to get the vaccine,” Kotlarz says. “So now it has actually touched the family — that was my first experience of that.”

NorthShore has two clinics in the stretch of southern Washington that hugs the Columbia River Gorge, about four hours from Seattle.

“We’ve gone from the arms looking for vaccines to the vaccines looking for arms phase,” says Dr. Chris Faison, a family physician there. “We’re all realizing this is going to be a less mass vaccination, superefficient process, and it’s really going to come down to one on one conversations and actually approaching patients out in the community.”

This an expensive proposition for a rural primary care practice — one that the Biden administration hopes to encourage through a nearly $1 billion investment in rural America’s COVID-19 response.

Without extra funding, many rural practices would have to scale down their vaccination efforts because the time and manpower to do a piecemeal vaccine campaign isn’t financially feasible.

Faison cites a recent vaccine clinic NorthShore held at a nearby Catholic church, which serves the Hispanic community.

It’s an example of how providers should be reaching out to people that may not have access or information about the vaccine, he says, but ultimately only a handful people ended up getting a shot over the course of several hours.

“It’s worth paying for,” Faison says, “and it even helps the people that don’t get their shot because they see and hear that you’re part of the community, you’re there and you care.”

Depleted on Oregon Coast, Live Sea Otter Found | What That Means

https://www.beachconnection.net/news/sea_otter_live040621.php?fbclid=IwAR22cMkfoSiFp7QQ4BbtrIAxg066dIDO7hDg6gl9L0wYvyw9yAASB796QCs


Published 04/06/21 at 5:35 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Considered Extinct, Live Sea Otter on Oregon Coast | What That Means

(Manzanita, Oregon) – It was a delightful, rare treat when Seaside Aquarium was called to attend to a live sea otter that had washed ashore on the north Oregon coast. Sea otters have been extinct in Oregon for over 100 years, so there was a glimmer of something hopeful here. However, the tale did not have a happy ending and according to experts the one sighting does not mean a possible shift in the population. (Photos courtesy Tiffany Boothe, Seaside Aquarium)Latest Coastal Lodging News AlertsIn Seaside:
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Reedsport to Brookings, places to stay; winter deals

On Monday, Seaside Aquarium received a call about a live, stranded sea otter at the very southern end of Manzanita’s beach, around the Nehalem Spit.

It was the very first sea otter that the aquarium has responded to, said educator / media representative Tiffany Boothe.

“The otter was lethargic and showing signs of possible neurological issues,” Boothe said. “The sea otter was taken back to the Seaside Aquarium and transferred to a rehab center up in Washington. Unfortunately, the sea otter did not make it. A necropsy will be performed but it is thought that the animal was suffering from a protozoal infection. “

Boothe said sea otters were once quite common off the Oregon coast, but due to intense hunting from the fur trade they were wiped out and pronounced extinct in the early 1900’s. River otters are spotted quite frequently along the coast and sometimes mistaken for sea otters.

“Previous efforts to reintroduce sea otters on the Oregon coast have failed but there is a group currently working on a plan to once again reintroduce sea otters to Oregon,” she said. “Sea otters reside in both Alaska, California, and Washington State.”

That group is the Elahka Alliance, which has been working for many years towards this goal. Currently, the closest sea otters colonies are up on the Washington coast’s Olympic Peninsula.

What does this single sea otter mean for the work the Elahka Alliance is doing?

Elakha’s Director of Science & Policy, John Goodel, said it doesn’t mean much.

“Unless there was a lot sea otters a lot closer to Oregon, it’s not an avenue for recovery,” Goodell.

Goodell said lone males sometimes explore long distances from the Washington coast.

“But female sea otters won’t,” he said. “So they’re kind of the natural limiter of sea otter expansion. They have a huge energy demand on them, feeding pups. They can’t afford the long trip.”

While larger, main pods of sea otters may not move the males will, Goodell said.

“There’s such big gaps now that you have lone sea otters looking for others but they don’t find them,” he said. “They never seem to stay in Oregon. If a couple, two three did stay it’s not a viable population.”

Sea otters in Oregon began getting hunted for their fur in the late 1700s, but a little over 100 years later most were gone not just in Oregon but around the Pacific Rim. By 1910 they were officially gone. Sea otters were restored for a brief two years in the ‘70s, but for reasons still unknown those populations failed. MORE PHOTOS BELOW

Oregon’s air quality is so far beyond ‘hazardous’ that no one knows what it means for health

smoke in oregonDeborah Bloom / AFP via Getty Images
OFF THE CHARTS

As wildfires rage across much of California and the Pacific Northwest, smoke continues to clog the air and tinge the sky with apocalyptic reds and oranges. In some parts of Oregon this week, the air got so smoky that it maxed out the scale used by the Environmental Protection Agency to measure hazardous air quality.

 

How apocalyptic this fire season is — in 1 flaming chart Western fires are breaking records, and the season isn’t close to over.

 

The EPA’s Air Quality Index measures five types of air pollution on a scale of one to 500. “Healthy” air gets a rating between 0 and 50. Things start getting dangerous in the mid-100s, especially for sensitive groups like those with a heart or lung condition. And an AQI reading of 301 or greater is considered “hazardous,” causing the EPA to declare “emergency conditions” for those who are exposed for 24 hours or more.

On Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning, the area around Eugene, Oregon, clocked AQI values well into the 700 range on the real-time air-quality monitoring site PurpleAir, greatly exceeding the scale’s maximum value of 500.

The problem is all the fine particulate matter that’s being generated by the West Coast wildfires. These particles get suspended in the air and can cause health problems when they’re inhaled. The smallest particles — known as PM 2.5 — are especially concerning, since the body can’t filter them out.

 

A man stares out at the orange sky in San Francisco, California.
Will the West’s giant fires spark a climate awakening? “If this doesn’t open people’s eyes, I don’t know what will.”

 

“The 2.5 will just cruise past everything in your nose,” said Amy MacPherson, a public information officer for the California Air Resources Board. These particles can get lodged in people’s lungs, she explained, “and if they’re even smaller than that they can get into your bloodstream.” Health effects include an increased chance of cardiac arrhythmias, asthma attacks, and heart attacks.

These are all major concerns for a particulate matter AQI value as low as 300. It’s unclear what could happen to human health with an AQI that more than doubles that number.

“I don’t think there’s a lot of data when you’re exposed to levels that high,” said Mary Prunicki, an air pollution and health researcher at Stanford. The EPA already considers an AQI value of 300 to be “extremely rare,” so the 700 numbers that have been popping up across the Northwest have little precedent.

We broke down what climate change will do, region by region

It’s possible that the health effects would be similar to those seen at lower AQIs, Prunicki said, just more extreme — even more irritation and inflammation, for example, or an even greater chance of cardiac arrhythmia and heart attack. People with preexisting conditions could be especially vulnerable. “Maybe an asthmatic was able to tolerate an AQI of 200,” Prunicki said,” but by the time you get to 700 or 800 their asthma is just out of control.”

 

SF Smoky Skies
‘Climate arsonist’: Biden slams Trump’s wildfire response with a new insult The presidential candidates just had their first scuffle on climate.

 

The Oregon Department of Environment Quality has issued a health advisory for the entire state, predicting that the smoke could stick around at least until Monday afternoon. Experts are saying that air quality could get worse before things clear up.

“The fires will likely grow with time until they are fully contained,” the National Weather Service tweeted on Thursday, adding that it doesn’t expect any “drastic wind shifts that would move the smoke out of western Oregon.”

Oregon state senator who stopped climate change vote loses home to wildfire

Legislation intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions dramatically by 2050

An Oregon Republican state senator who previously prevented a vote on a climate change bill, has had his house destroyed in wildfires.

Fred Girod was one of 11 Oregon state senators who refused to turn up to the state Capitol in June 2019, which prevented quorum for a vote on climate change legislation.

The bill was an attempt to pass a cap-and-trade proposal, which would set a limit on pollution and aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions dramatically by 2050 and help combat climate change in the state, according to Labor411.

The 69-year-old, alongside 11 of his colleagues refused to attend the session, which prevented the 18 Democratic state senators from reaching quorum, which needed 20 officials present.

The Oregon state Democrats attempted to pass a similar bill by working with Mr Girod earlier this year, but he quit the project and accused them of making “fake concessions”.

On Monday, Oregon Live reported that Mr Girod’s house was destroyed in the wildfires that have devastated large parts of the state and the US West Coast.

Mr Girod was initially turned away when he attempted to visit his local area to assess the damage over the weekend, as the wildfires continued to rage across the state.

Speaking to Oregon Live, Mr Girod said “it hurts,” but added: “My job is to know what’s happening in the district,” and “I need to be able to assess the damage.”

States across the US West Coast, including California and Washington, have been ravaged by wildfires over the last few weeks, and Oregon, which would usually be unaffected to this scale because of its cooler climate compared to other areas, has been badly hit.

In response to the wildfires across the west coast, the Associated Press reported that scientists, along with the governors of Oregon, California and Washington, have all said that climate change is the reason for the widespread damage in recent weeks.

They reported that plants and trees dying out due to climate change are partly behind the unprecedented fires, and that the level of pollution needs to be tackled to prevent repeated incidents.

After president Donald Trump blamed forest management for the wildfires, California governor Gavin Newsom angrily told him that “climate change is real, and that is exacerbating this.

“Please respect, and I know you do, the difference of opinion out here as it relates to this fundamental issue…of climate change.”

In a campaign speech on Monday, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden echoed Mr Newsom and claimed in reference to the president: “If you give a climate arsonist four more years in the White House, why would anyone be surprised if we have more of America ablaze?”

He added: “If you give a climate denier four more years in the White House, why would anyone be surprised when more of America is underwater?”

As the wildfires have spread, at least 10 people have been killed in Oregon, 24 have lost their lives in California, and one person has died in Washington state.

Wildfires are still raging across Oregon, and two separate fires in Portland might merge, although firefighters have said that they would cause less damage than last week’s wildfires.

Oregon braces for a “mass fatality incident” as wildfires rage in western states

At least 19 people have died this week in Oregon, Washington and California as wildfires continue to rage in western states. Dozens are still missing in Oregon, where officials are preparing for a “mass fatality incident.”

“We know we’re dealing with fire-related deaths and we’re preparing for a mass fatality incident based on what we know and the number of structures lost,” said Andrew Phelps, director of the state’s Office of Emergency Management. “The long term recovery is going to last years.”

More than half a million people — 12% of the state’s population — have fled from their homes in Oregon and mass evacuations are underway across the region. Oregon’s governor, Kate Brown, said the fires have burned more than 1 million acres.

“I know it’s been a rough few days, many Oregonians are suffering right now, whether displaced themselves or worried about their families and communities while watching our beautiful state burn,” Brown said in a briefing Friday. “We are doing everything we can to fight these fires.”

The monstrous fires are moving so quickly that they’re overwhelming fire crews. The fires are also creating choking smoke from Los Angeles to Seattle. Portland and San Francisco now have the worst air quality in the world and officials are urging people to stay indoors.

In Berry Creek, California, what used to be a lakeside community full of homes is now incinerated. One fire has claimed at least 10 lives, including that of 16-year-old Josiah Williams, who was found last night near his home. California’s death toll originally stood at 12 but has since been revised down to 11.

Ashland Oregon fire
This aerial view shows search and rescue teams in Ashland, Oregon, on September 11, 2020.  DAVID RYDER/GETTY

In Washington, Jamie and Jake Hyland lost their 1-year-old son, Uriel, and their unborn child as they tried to escape the flames. The couple also suffered severe burns.

“In my worst dreams, I couldn’t imagine what my sister and brother-in-law had to go through and to do everything they could to fight for their lives and to protect their child,” Jamie Hyland’s sister, Dawnmarie Baxter, told CBS News. “And so to lose him and her baby, it’s, there’s no words and nothing will ever make it right.”

There is some hopeful news: calm winds are predicted for this weekend, and the Pacific Northwest could see some much-needed rain next week.

Fires raging in West kill nearly 30, with dozens missing

“The reality is that my mom most likely didn’t make it off the mountain,” said a California woman searching for her mother.
Image: Bobcat Fire Burns East Of Los Angeles

Los Angeles County firefighters keep fire from jumping a fire break at the Bobcat Fire in the Angeles National Forest on Sept. 11, 2020 north of Monrovia, Calif.David McNew / Getty Images

By Phil McCausland

Wildfires raging in the West have killed at least 29 people with dozens of others missing and tens of thousands more in California, Oregon and Washington forced to flee their homes.

The death toll is likely to climb, with one Oregon official warning of a “mass fatality incident.”

“There are going to be a number of fatalities, folks who just couldn’t get warning in time and evacuate their homes and get to safety,” state Emergency Management Director Andrew Phelps told MSNBC late Friday.

Several additional deaths in the fires in Oregon on Friday brought the total in the state so far to eight.

In California, where fires since last month have charred over 3.2 million acres and destroyed about 4,000 structures, the number of dead reached 20 on Saturday.

And in Washington, a 1-year-old boy was reported to have died in blazes that the governor called “climate fires.”

“This is not an act of God,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “This has happened because we have changed the climate.”

The land burned in Washington in just the past five days amounted to the state’s second-worst fire season, after 2015,” Inslee said.

President Donald Trump will visit California’s Sacramento County on Monday to meet with officials about the wildfires, the White House announced Saturday.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, called Cal Fire, said that over 16,000 firefighters have been called to battle the 28 major wildfires the state has faced so far this year.

Meanwhile, many of those forced to evacuate up and down the West Coast are searching for friends and family.

Image: Dolan Fire
Firefighters light a controlled burn along Nacimiento-Fergusson Road to help contain the Dolan Fire near Big Sur, Calif., on Sept. 11, 2020.Nic Coury / AP

“There are 19 individuals that we are still looking for,” Kory Honea, the sheriff and coroner of Butte County, California, said late Friday. “Our intention is to check the last known location where those individuals were.”

That hunt is deeply personal to some.

Zygy Roe-Zurz said her mother is still missing from her Berry Creek, California, home where she lived with Roe-Zurz’s aunt and uncle, who have both been confirmed dead.

“The reality is that my mom most likely didn’t make it off the mountain,” Roe-Zurz said.

Even for thousands not forced to evacuate, the wildfires have caused a loss of electricity. And in many areas, orange-hued air is fueling worries about the health effects from poor air quality due to the fires’ smoke.

Los Angeles faces the worst smog it has seen in 26 years, the Los Angeles Times reported.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom echoed Washington’s governor on Saturday afternoon, saying the country must face the challenge of climate change to mitigate the possibility of future disasters.

“The hots are getting hotter. The wets are getting wetter,” Newsom tweeted. “Climate change isn’t something that is going to happen in the future. It’s happening right NOW.”

Wildfires kill seven and displace thousands in Oregon, California and Washington

  • Oregon faces fire conditions unseen in decades
  • Governor Kate Brown warns of further hardship
An orange-grey smoke-filled sky above Estacada, Oregon, as fires burn nearby. The Oregon forestry department fire chief warned of ‘unprecedented times’.
 An orange-grey smoke-filled sky above Estacada, Oregon, as fires burn nearby. The Oregon forestry department fire chief warned of ‘unprecedented times’. Photograph: Deborah Bloom/AFP/Getty Images

Wildfires searing through the American west have killed at least seven people, leveled entire neighborhoods and displaced tens of thousands, forcing stretched firefighting crews to make tough decisions about where to deploy.

In Oregon, fire conditions not seen in three decades fueled huge blazes that have killed at least three people, destroyed at least five towns and forced the evacuation of communities from the southern border to the Portland suburbs. In Washington state, a one-year-old boy died after his family was apparently overrun by flames trying to flee a wildfire.

And in northern California’s Butte county, where the town of Paradise was devastated by the deadly Camp fire in 2018, at least three people have died and 12 are missing amid the North Complex fire currently burning through the region.

More than 17,000 firefighters are involved in battling the blazes.

Oregon’s governor, Kate Brown, on Wednesday warned her state may see more hardship, warning of what could be “the greatest loss of life and structures due to wildfire in state history”.

Doug Grafe, the chief of fire protection at the Oregon forestry department, said the emergency comes amid “unprecedented times”.

Two of the deaths occurred in Marion county, where the sheriff late on Wednesday confirmed two people fleeing the uncontained Santiam fire had been found dead in their car. The sheriff’s office later posted a news story to their Facebook page, identifying the pair as a 12-year old boy and his grandmother.

The deaths occurred 30 miles downstream from Detroit, Oregon, one of five towns in the state that Brown said had been “substantially destroyed” in a series of conflagrations concentrated in the state’s more populous western third. The fires have already consumed “hundreds of homes”.

The Santiam fire forced the evacuation of the whole of the eastern portion of Marion county, and shrouded Salem in thick smoke, which cast an eerie, blood red light on Oregon’s state capital for much of Wednesday.

Another death was confirmed in Jackson county in the state’s far south, where Sheriff Nate Sickler told a press briefing the Almeda fire had claimed at least one life. That fire started in Ashland on Tuesday and moved quickly north, destroying the towns of Talent and Phoenix, and forcing the evacuation of much of the city of Medford.

Sickler said that fire is now the subject of a criminal investigation, which is seeking to determine whether it was deliberately lit.

Two other towns that were destroyed, Blue River and Vida, are located on the banks of the McKenzie River, east of the city of Eugene, and some 60 miles south of the Santiam Canyon.

This week’s fires did not just affect rural areas: Wednesday saw evacuation orders in Clackamas county, including south-eastern suburbs of Portland, and rural parts of Washington county, which also takes in the city’s western suburbs.

An orange sky filled with wildfire smoke hangs above hiking trails at the Limeridge Open Space in Concord, California.
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 An orange sky filled with wildfire smoke hangs above hiking trails at the Limeridge Open Space in Concord, California. Photograph: Brittany Hosea-Small/AFP/Getty Images

By Wednesday evening, that city was blanketed with smoke from fires burning around its forested south-eastern fringe, and in rural areas to the south-west.

The explosion of fires across the region were stoked by dry winds, and a record heat wave – and fueled widespread drought, which dried out vegetation into kindling.

The early part of the week saw gusts of up to 50mph in western areas, downing trees and power lines in Portland and other cities. The rare weather, more characteristic of winter storms in the region, was accompanied by historically low relative humidity.

The conditions led to an unprecedented “extremely critical” fire weather warning for southern Oregon on Monday, and only the second such warning in state history for northwest Oregon.

A week earlier, on 3 September, parts of the Portland metro area recorded their highest ever temperature for that date. Like much of the rest of the country, Oregon has recorded higher than average temperatures throughout the summer. In addition, much of the state, including Jackson county, is in moderate to severe drought, with Oregon’s climate office pointing to extremely dry soils as a contributing factor to the wildfires.

In Washington state, a one-year-old boy died after his family was apparently overrun by flames while trying to flee a wildfire, Okanogan county sheriff Tony Hawley said. Fires have more than 750 sq miles (1,900 sq km) of forest, brush and shrubland in the state, the governor, Jay Inslee, said on Wednesday.

Inslee said low humidity, high temperatures and winds combined to make the blaze probably one of “the most catastrophic fires we’ve had in the history of the state”.

“California, Oregon, Washington, we are all in the same soup of cataclysmic fire,” the governor said.

California, which has been battling a barrage of fires since August, has within the last few weeks seen the first, third, fourth, ninth, 10th and 18th-largest wildfires in state history, according to the National Weather Service.

 California governor on wildfires: ‘No patience for climate change deniers’ – video

By Thursday, the deadly North Complex fire, which has been growing explosively, has displaced about 20,000 and destroyed 2,ooo structures, authorities said. The town of Oroville, which three years ago was evacuated when heavy rains threatened to collapse a major dam, were evacuated once again as the flames charged toward it.

“Time and time again we have seen how dangerous wildfires can be. So I ask that you please, please, please be prepared, maintain situational awareness and heed the warnings,” said the Butte county sheriff, Kory Honea.

In the town of Paradise, Wednesday’s conditions – cherry skies and falling ash – reminded many of the fire that killed 85 people in 2019. “It was extremely frightening and ugly,” said former mayor Steve “Woody” Culleton. “Everybody has PTSD and whatnot, so it triggered everybody and caused terror and panic.”

Even in the midst of its dry, hot, windy fire season, California has experienced wildfires advancing with unprecedented speed and ferocity. Since the middle of August, fires in California have killed 12 people, destroyed more than 3,600 buildings, burned old growth redwoods, charred chaparral and forced evacuations in communities near the coast, in wine country north of San Francisco and along the Sierra Nevada. Authorities said the August Complex fire is now officially the largest fire on record in the state’s history, having scorched more than 736 square miles (1,906 square km).

In some areas of the San Francisco Bay Area and to the east in the Sacramento Valley, smoke blocked out so much sunlight on Wednesday that it dropped the temperature by 20 to 30 degrees over the previous day, according to the National Weather Service.

The US Forest Service, which had taken the unprecedented measure of closing eight national forests in southern California earlier in the week, ordered all 18 of its forests in the state closed Wednesday for public safety.

Fires burned in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and San Diego counties. People in foothill communities east of LA were warned to be ready to flee, but the region’s notorious Santa Ana winds were weaker than predicted.

“We’re encouraged that the wind activity appears to be dying down,” Governor Gavin Newsom said. “The rest of the week looks a little more favorable.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Federal Agents in Portland to Leave the City, Oregon Governor Says

The federal agents who have wielded tear gas, rubber bullets and flash-bang devices against protesters nightly for the past two months in Portland, Oregon, will soon be leaving the city, according to an announcement from Gov. Kate Brown.

Earlier on Wednesday, President Donald Trump, responding to reports that negotiations on removing the federal officers had begun, insisted that those officers would remain in the city until the nightly demonstrations came to an end.

“You hear all sorts of reports about us leaving. We’re not leaving until they’ve secured their city,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

“After my discussions with [Vice President Mike] Pence and others, the federal government has agreed to withdraw federal officers from Portland,” Brown tweeted.

The governor described federal agents in Portland as “an occupying force” that “brought violence” to the city.

“Starting tomorrow, all Customs and Border Protection & ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] officers will leave downtown Portland,” she added.

As part of the agreement, Brown explained in a subsequent tweet, federal agents would be replaced with Oregon State Police officers. She also insisted that those officers would “protect Oregonians’ right to free speech” while keeping the peace.

“Let’s center the Black Lives Matter movement’s demands for racial justice and police accountability,” Brown added. “It’s time for bold action to reform police practices.”

While Brown insisted that federal agents would be removed right away, others reported a slightly different scenario, causing some confusion on the matter. According to reporting from the Associated Press, for example, the agents’ removal would be a “phased withdrawal.”

Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf also gave a conflicting statement as to whether the agreement, as Brown had laid out, was to be carried out in the terms she had mentioned.

“As I told the Governor yesterday, federal law enforcement will remain in Portland until the violent activity toward our federal facilities ends,” Wolf tweeted out.

In a lengthier statement, Wolf did state that an agreement was reached, but again emphasized that “augmented federal law enforcement personnel” would remain “in Portland until we are assured that the Hatfield Federal Courthouse and other federal properties will no longer be attacked.”

Clashes between federal agents and demonstrators taking part in uprisings in Portland have happened nightly for the past two months. The actions of federal officers have been widely criticized, in the U.S. as well as around the world, for being violent and disproportionate toward those engaging in protest in support of the Movement for Black Lives.

Although a number of people have filed lawsuits against the federal government, there is no comprehensive list of how many demonstrators have been injured due to the forceful and violent actions of the federal agents.

Still, videos recorded by news organizations, as well as posted on social media by demonstrators themselves, showcase a number of troubling practices by federal agents, including their indiscriminate use of tear gas and weapons like rubber bullets to suppress lawful protest.

Record number of coronavirus cases with 375 cases; Oregonians should ‘absolutely’ cancel July 4 plans, health official says

Dr. Paul R. Cieslak with the Oregon Health Authority. March 3, 2020. Beth Nakamura/Staff

The number of new daily coronavirus cases soared to record-breaking heights for the second consecutive day on Thursday with 375 cases, topping Wednesday’s 281.

Disclosure of the cases comes as outbreaks continue throughout central and eastern Oregon. Umatilla County, with a population of just under 78,000 residents, had the highest case count on Thursday with 88. The county in eastern Oregon averaged 40 cases per day in the last week for the second highest count in the state behind Multnomah County and just ahead of Washington County, which has 500,000 more residents.

The record case count underscores the need for Oregonians to continue practicing physical distancing and wear masks as infections spread in rural and urban areas alike, the Oregon Health Authority said on Twitter. The increase becomes even more problematic heading into the Fourth of July weekend, when social gatherings and travel could increase the spread of infection.

When asked in a press conference Thursday whether people should cancel their holiday weekend plans, Dr. Paul Cieslak, the state’s medical director for communicable diseases, responded, “Absolutely.”

Where the cases are by county: Clackamas (22), Columbia (1), Crook (1), Deschutes (9), Douglas (2), Jackson (15), Jefferson (8), Josephine (8), Lane (15), Lincoln (3), Linn (3), Malheur (16), Marion (32), Morrow (8), Multnomah (64), Tillamook (1), Umatilla (88), Union (5), Wasco (2), Washington (67) and Yamhill (5).

New fatalities: A 73-year-old woman in Klamath County was Oregon’s 209th victim from COVID-19, state officials reported. She had underlying health conditions. The location of her death is still being confirmed.

Prevalence of infections: State officials reported that 7,683 people had been tested since Wednesday, with 352 coming back positive. That’s a positivity rate of 4.6%.

Who got infected: State officials reported 361 new cases since yesterday among the following ages: 0-9 (13); 10-19 (37); 20-29 (93); 30-39 (74); 40-49 (55); 50-59 (47); 60-69 (17); 70-79 (15); 80 and older (8); unknown (2).

Who’s in the hospital: The state on Thursday reported that 116 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Oregon, two less than on Wednesday. However, hospitalizations continue to increase on average statewide. Hundreds of ICU beds and ventilators are still available.

Since it began: Oregon has now reported 9,264 confirmed or presumed coronavirus cases and 209 deaths since the pandemic began. In all, 250,657 people have been tested in the state.

‘I hope that doesn’t happen’: 1,000 daily coronavirus infections modeled by Oregon

State epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger fields questions from local journalists during a tour of the Oregon Health Authority’s newly configured operations center in Portland. March 3, 2020. Beth Nakamura/Staff

The coronavirus stronghold on Oregon could persist at current record-setting case counts or potentially surge to 1,000 new infections a day before the Fourth of July, according to state modeling released Friday.

Oregon’s top epidemiologist said he’s as anxious as he’s ever been since the pandemic hit here four months ago.

That’s because the state’s trajectory suggests many more Oregonians will soon become infected, with the potential to once again overwhelm contact tracers needed to contain spread of the highly communicable virus.

“It would be very difficult for us to contain with the same level of attention that we’d like to as we open up,” Dr. Dean Sidelinger said of 1,000 new cases a day.

“So I hope that doesn’t happen.”

The new modeling paints a dramatically different picture than the forecast of two weeks ago, which used data from before Gov. Kate Brown allowed most Oregon counties to reopen. Officials now say there is clear evidence that transmission has increased since May 15.

Oregon’s bleak new forecast was one factor that went into Brown’s last-minute decision late Thursday to block Multnomah County from reopening and to prevent several others from moving into a second phase. Those decisions will be revisited next week, and there’s a clear desire to allow Oregon’s most populous county to reopen in some capacity, if safe.

The forecast comes as Oregon’s identified infections continue setting daily highs and the number of residents sick enough to be hospitalized rises for the first time in months. Officials earlier this week said it was too early to draw conclusions about the upward trends but conceded by Friday that they were worrisome and warranted pausing reopenings.

Sidelinger, Oregon’s epidemiologist and health officer, said he recalled being particularly anxious in March when infections first started growing amid limited testing and scarce personal protective equipment.

He was similarly anxious about a month ago, when identified infections again spiked just before counties looked to reopen.

“I remain the same way now as we see cases go up,” he said.

But Sidelinger said he remains grounded because increasing infections were always anticipated upon reopening, future hospitalizations aren’t expected to rise as sharply as infections and Oregonians already slowed coronavirus once.

“I remain hopeful that we will continue to come together like that, and we will be able to flatten this curve,” he said.

Oregon’s modeling has long shown that Brown’s stay-at-home order in March reduced cases by 70% of what they could have been, preventing tens of thousands of infections. That forecasting has been regularly updated for planning purposes but officials are now more pessimistic about maintaining such reductions.

The new report used data through June 5, when identified infections were trending up but before they regularly started surpassing 100 a day.

Oregon coronavirus modeling

This forecast from June 12 outlines different infection levels.

The best-case scenario outlined Friday seems almost implausible based on what’s transpired since then. It’s based on a 60% reduction in cases since May 15, assuming rising infections identified earlier this month were an anomaly.

It indicates that roughly 19,000 Oregonians may have been infected by June 5, with only about one-quarter of those actually identified in the official tallies reported by the Oregon Health Authority.

In that scenario, infections would continue to rise slowly, hitting more than 21,000 early next month. Actual infections per day would be about 100 by July 3 – a remarkably optimistic number considering Oregon is regularly identifying far more right now.

In a second scenario, based on a 55% reduction in cases, cumulative infections would rise from 20,000 today to about 25,000 early next month. That assumes infections and hospitalizations identified earlier this month were part of a trend.

Under that scenario, daily infections would reach 270 by July 3. That too may be optimistic.

The third scenario – and most pessimistic – from the state assumed an even lower reduction in infections, essentially down to 45%.

Cumulative cases would jump from about 20,000 now to 35,000 early next month, a huge increase. Daily infections by July 3 could be 1,000 under that scenario.

Sidelinger said officials continue to regularly monitor data while reviewing reopening options weekly “so that we can reverse course, I hope, before we get there.”

They will continue to advocate for physical distancing and may need to ask Oregonians to voluntarily limit gathering sizes or “put more controls” on industries or sectors where outbreaks are occurring, Sidelinger said.

“Everything’s on the table for discussion,” he said. “That’s why we continue to monitor. Because it would be very hard to handle 1,000 cases a day. And do timely investigation and contact tracing on all of those cases.”

Asked whether that could mean the potential to reinstate stay-at-home orders, Sidelinger said: “None of us hope to get there. We know that kind of order is devastating,” not only financially but also physically and mentally.

Separate from the modeling, Sidelinger also conceded other troubling indicators that have been appearing in the figures reported daily by the state.

Hospital admissions creeped up to 40 statewide last week, anincrease of more than 50% from the preceding week. People don’t generally require hospitalization until two to three weeks after becoming infected – suggesting some people may have been infected at the same time Oregon’s daily infection numbers showed a rapid decline.

Given that identified infections are now increasing, does that suggest hospitalizations might be high in a few more weeks?

“I’m definitely concerned that could be a possibility,” Sidelinger said.

But he sounded a hopeful note, saying Oregon and officials across the country are seeing a lower need for hospitalizations among workers and younger people who are now being identified with infections.

“As we see this large spike, I don’t think that we’re necessarily going to see the same magnitude of increase in the hospitalization,” he said.

While maintaining the need to proceed cautiously, Sidelinger also noted pragmatically that Oregon’s most populous county would not stay closed indefinitely.

Officials will keep close tabs on the data to determine if Multnomah County can safely move forward with reopening as soon as next week.

“I don’t imagine a future where the rest of the state all has some level of reopening and Multnomah County stays in baseline, behind,” he said.

That could mean Multnomah County eventually is cleared for a first phase of reopening or perhaps certain sectors get a green light while others wait, he said.

Officials will also closely monitor statewide hospital admissions, analyze whether infections can be traced back to known sources and watch the ability of public health officials to respond to multiple large outbreaks.

“We want to be in a place where we look at the data and can safely move forward,” Sidelinger said of continued reopening efforts in Multnomah and elsewhere. “Whether that’s next week or a week later, I don’t know.