video preview image

MEDFORD, Ore. — Cover Oregon has just announced they are scrapping the website and moving to the federal exchange.

Late Thursday morning, a technology committee made that final recommendation for the future of Cover Oregon’s troubled health insurance exchange.

Lawmakers on both sides say the site’s rollout hasn’t been up to par. As a solution, state officials will change the current Cover Oregon site to allow users to sign up through the federal marketplace.

“The companies that we’re looking at to do it for us, have done it already before so we know they can do it this time they’re not going to be paid on time and materials. They’re going to be paid for actually producing the web site,” said Senator Alan Bates (D). That was a lesson learned from the site’s current creator Oracle. “None of us trust Oracle anymore. We’re not going to put any more money down that sink hole.”

If the state would have fixed the problems with the site, $30 to $50 million would have gone down that sink hole. By just getting rid of the state exchange and switching to the federal marketplace, it costs between $4 million and $5 million.

That doesn’t sit well with Representative Greg Walden (R). “It’s outrageous. There were warning signs that were ignored, there were alarms that got shut off. How did it get so out of hand?”

He supports an audit to find out exactly how it got so out of hand. “We need to get to the facts first and then a trail will lead to who is ultimately responsible,” said Walden.

The new site will be ready for the next enrollment period beginning November 1st.

Click here to watch Friday’s Cover Oregon board meeting.

video preview image

Get started on planning your weekend by checking out these fun events happening in Southern Oregon.

CropsMEDFORD, Ore. — Governor Kitzhaber is signing a bill on Thursday aiming at bringing fresh food to hungry families.  Last month, state legislature unanimously passed Senate Bill 1541, better known as the crop donation tax credit.  This will give farmers tax credit if they donate raw natural food to food banks.

Farmers here in the Rogue Valley said this will give them the initiative to give back.

“By enlarged, most of the food at the food banks is processed and prepackaged… so when they are able to get fresh local food they just love it, and we love sharing the abundance of our valley with Oregonians of all incomes,” Luna Michelle, Happy Dirt Veggie Patch owner.

Michelle said the tax credit will help benefit her farm.  She said it will help cover the cost of picking, handling, and transporting the crops to food banks.

video preview image

The latest U.S. Drought Monitor shows that drought conditions have worsened over our region, even climbing to ‘Extreme’ in some areas. While 3 to 5 inches of rain was reported along the coast only an inch or two of precipitation was widespread over western Oregon, and the week ended up drier than average. Precipitation amounts for most of the West were half an inch or less and in fact, much of the Southwest received no precipitation. Mountain snowpack was below normal, except for the Washington ranges and northern and central Rockies, with continued warmer-than-normal temperatures accelerating the melting of the meager snowpack in the California Sierras.

Severe drought expanded to the southern and central Oregon coast and northern California coast, while Extreme drought conditions have spread into Sisikiyou county and south Lake county where precipitation deficits and low streamflows were most significant.

In California, the city of San Diego was proposing a water supply “level 1” status, and a small reservoir/water district in Riverside County was on the 30-90 day “watch” list for depleted supplies. The City of Montague risks running out of drinking water by the end of summer and has requested that all outside watering be curtailed until further notice; this is the first time in over 80 years of water deliveries from the Montague Water Conservation District (MWCD) that this situation has occurred. Growers in Shasta Valley with the primary irrigation district (MWCD) were expected to have only enough irrigation water to irrigate what would equate to a single irrigation on about half of their acreage.

Many growers in the Big Springs area have already started pumping water to irrigate field. Within 24 hours of when one grower started irrigating, two nearby domestic wells went dry. The frustration caused by the drought can be seen in a report by an observer in Siskiyou County: “Our snow pack is pathetic, rainfall is way below normal, (low) stream flows are running at 2-3 months ahead of normal depending on the area, well levels have dropped severely and many wells are dry in spring or have levels typical of late fall, surface water irrigation supplies are non-existent to extremely limited in many areas, and the situation is only getting worse daily (especially after 3 consecutive years of drought).” With the expansion of Moderate drought conditions across southeast California and southwest Arizona, this week marks the first time in the 15-year history of the US Drought Monitor that 100% of California was in Moderate to Exceptional drought.

video preview image

MEDFORD, Ore. — STUFZ is a product distributed by Idea Village and claims to make the perfect stuffed burger. The burger experts at Jasper’s in Medford helped us test out STUFZ.

In the video above, NewsWatch12′s Erin Maxson shows us if STUFZ really works.

If you have a product suggestion or want to test a product, click on one of the links here:


video preview image

MEDFORD, Ore – It’s inspection time for a popular Medford restaurant. Over the next half hour the inspector walks unannounced and unimpeded, clipboard in hand, through every nook and cranny of the kitchen. Every date will be checked, every cook greeted, and every food item examined.

The restaurant inspection is one small part of what Jackson County’s Environmental Public Health service does. The organization has its inspectors in nearly every public facility in the county.

It’s a system of checks and balances that health experts say allows thousands of people use the same facilities without having to constantly worry about a disease outbreak.

“We’re used to it, we’ve taken it for granted, but it’s absolutely key,” said Dr. Jim Shames, the Medical Director with Jackson County Health and Human Services.

The organization’s three-and-a-half full time inspectors are responsible for nearly all of the county’s restaurants, pools, day cares, schools, food trucks, hotels, and much more. That’s roughly 1,200 facilities and 2,400 inspections each year.

The hope is to prevent an outbreak from ever occurring, but those facilities get at most two inspections a year. And each inspection is just one snapshot in time.

“We make the assumption that we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg,” said Shames.

Outbreaks of foodborne illness are generally rare in the United States Oregon due in part to the prevalence of public health organizations, and Oregon is no exception. Jackson County alone saw four confirmed outbreaks in foodborne illnesses in 2012, the most recent reporting year.

When that happens inspectors have access to a full array of lab testing equipment at a partnering agency in Portland. By understanding the infectious agent, how it spreads, and where it came from, they’re able to prevent it from getting worse.

“It takes a lot of detective work to figure out,” said Shames. “Is it because somebody who was preparing the food is sick? Is it because that shipment of broccoli that came in might have been contaminated?”

That detective work, which includes everything from stool sampling to genetic testing of infectious agents, was applied to 138 complaints of illness in Jackson County in 2012. The vast majority of those complaints turned out to be false alarms.

But public health officials say the goal is to never have to see a true outbreak, and to ensure that takes more than just checking off items on a checklist.

“Our challenge as inspectors is not necessarily enforcing the code, but getting the buy-in from these facilities and operators,” said Chad Peterson, Manager of Jackson County Environmental Public Health.

Inspectors say that buy-in is all they can guarantee, but simple practices like washing hands, using the right mix of chemicals in a pool, or cooking food to the proper temperature can usually prevent an outbreak from ever occurring. And they say the more the public reports illness, the better they can follow up and the better they can get that message of safety to stick.

video preview image

MEDFORD, Ore. — A young girl’s life is in jeopardy, and now a community is coming together to raise funds for a life-saving transplant.  Starting in May, Yogurt Hut will be giving a percent of its proceeds to celebrate “Helen Month”.

Just a few months ago, two-year-old Helen Lynn was a healthy, spunky toddler, but somehow Helen came in contact with a dangerous strain of e-coli, and what started out as what her parents thought was just the stomach flu, turned out to be end-end stage renal failure that destroyed her kidney.

Now, months later, Helen undergoes dialysis treatments for nine hours a day.  She takes eight anti-biotic and goes to the doctor twice a week. She’s on the list for a kidney transplant, but so far no donors have been named. Right now it’s just a waiting game, but the dialysis keeps her alive and functioning. She is still more susceptible than other kids to flu bugs and germs.

“Helen got sick but it was just a little bug but it affects her exponentially, compared to what it would a normal healthy child, and that is hard as a parent to see…it’s hard to see your child kind of battling with it,” said Lauren Lynn, Helen’s mom.

Treatment is expensive and costs nearly $20,000 a month. The Lynn family does have insurance, and they are covered under Medicare as well, but there are still unforeseen expenses.

“The larger garbage can, the drive up to Portland, the fact that I can’t work, the added Medicare premium. They all kind of compound and add up,” said Lynn.

According to the Children’s Organ Transplant Association, typical insurance plans pay for 80%, but this leaves the patient still paying nearly 20% out of pocket. A close family friend is helping the Lynn family with the additional costs by holding a fundraiser.

The fundraiser called “Celebrate Helen Month” will be held at all four Yogurt Hut locations around the Rogue Valley, from May 3rd to May 31st. A percentage of the sales will go to the Children’s Organ Transplant Association to help Helen. All you have to do is say Helen’s name at the register.

FDAECIGMEDFORD, Ore. — The Food and Drug Administration just released new potential regulations for electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes. The regulations would add the devices to the group defined as tobacco products.

The guidelines would prohibit any free samples of e-cigarettes, marketing for the devices has to be approved, among other requirements.

The e-cigarette industry is growing rapidly and there are a lot of uncertainties. Knowing that, the FDA says it recognizes that those who smoke a pack a day and then use e-cigarettes to quit real ones, are reducing their health risks. But that’s just one possible outcome. The FDA says it’s responsible for looking at all the possible outcomes of the use of e-cigarettes.

The regulations are not in effect yet. The FDA is asking for public comment starting tomorrow for a 75 day period.

video preview image


Isolated thunderstorms have been popping up this afternoon and will continue into this evening ending shortly after sunset. The threat for thunderstorms will be more widespread Friday though coverage will be isolated. Thunderstorms may produce heavy rain, gusty winds and small hail. Overnight into Friday morning snow levels will be between 3,500 and 4,000 feet and those traveling over the higher Cascade passes should be prepared for wintry travel through Friday morning. Snow levels will climb to 5,000 feet by Friday afternoon as showers taper off. We’ll see a break in showers overnight Friday into Saturday with showers returning Saturday afternoon at the coast and Saturday evening inland.

Shower activity on Saturday will be isolated with morning sunshine and increasing clouds through the day. Isolated showers will persist into Sunday with a ridge returning next week bringing warmer and drier conditions back to the area.

Even with the rain we’ve been seeing the latest US Drought Monitor shows that our drought conditions have worsened. The ‘Severe’ Drought has spread to the coast while ‘Extreme’ Drought has climbed into Siskiyou and south Lake counties. For more on the drought conditions click HERE.

Thanks for logging on and have a great evening!

Meteorologist Megan Parry

Facebook    Twitter

video preview image

ASHLAND, Ore. — The Food and Drug Administration announced on their website today the will make a new proposal later this summer on brewing by-products.

This, after senator Wyden met with local brewers about the F.D.A. old proposal.

“When caldera moved their brewery to their new location in Ashland, they invested in equipment to help move their spent grain. Now, that could all be for nothing if an FDA proposal goes into effect,” said

Brewers and ranchers sat down at a table to explain to Senator Ron Wyden the impact changes to spent grain would have.

Caldera’s brewery produces about 300 metric tons of the brewing by-product every year, which is kept in a silo, until a truck comes and takes it away for livestock feed.

“If the proposal goes through, we’d have to bypass all of that, put in drying and packaging equipment.  Ultimately it’s a job killer because I wouldn’t be able to buy new tanks with that money that we’d have to invest in drying and packaging, so I wouldn’t be able to hire new people,” said Jim Mills with Caldera Brewing Company.

Senator Wyden said the food and drug administration is proposing the spent grains be taken to a land fill or processed and packed, either option costing Oregon’s brewing industry between eight and eighteen million dollars.

Senator Wyden said the proposal is misguided.

“What does happen, is back there, increasingly, they don’t use the common sense test. They don’t get out and talk to the farmers or the brewers,” said Senator Wyden.

The impact continues to farmers and ranchers who say they depend on the spent grain to keep prices down.

“If this legislation goes through, my feed costs go up, therefore I raise fewer animals and feed fewer people,” said Jeff Day with Hogs Creek Farm.

Senator Wyden said the partnership between one of Oregon’s newest and oldest industries is a win-win and one he will continue to fight for.

Officials with the F.D.A. said on their website’s statement  there was a misunderstanding with their initial proposal, but will issue a revised proposal on possible changes to spent grains later this summer.

Older posts «