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Mitchell, Condon schools report COVID cases

Schools shift to distance learning, prep for challenging winter

The Mitchell School District and Condon School District are going into the holiday week with challenging times on the horizon.

In letters to parents and the community, both schools said that they had reported positive cases of COVID-19 among the student body.

In Condon, grades K-8 will do distance learning from November 23rd – 25th. Classes for one cohort, grades 4th-6th closed in-person instruction on November 16th after two positive cases were reported within the student body. Students in that cohort will not return until November 30.

Mitchell will close all classes, K-12 next week after one positive case was reported within the student body. Students will begin their distance learning program on November 30th. In-person classes will resume on December 7th.

Condon School Superintendent Michelle Geer said in a letter to families that the school is preparing for challenging months ahead. It is not only the virus that is causing problems, but the staffing shortages that come with seasonal illnesses.

In her letter, Geer said “This year has brought many challenges for us all, and with the current COVID-19 guidance around staff and student illness, the District is going to struggle with keeping enough staff on-site through cold and flu season.” 

Mitchell School Superintendent Vince Swagerty said in a letter that after consulting with the Wheeler County Public Health Department, the school opted to close.

“This decision will help ensure that all students and staff are safe and healthy,” Mitchell School Superintendent Swagery said in his letter.

Social distancing over Thanksgiving impacts local events, businesses, faith-groups

Oregon’s two week “freeze” starts today

Condon’s Fall Festival pivots to online sales

Alarmed by the growing number of COVID-19 cases in five counties earlier this month, Governor Brown and the Oregon Health Authority implemented additional measures to slow the spread of the virus. As the number of COVID cases climbed across the state last week, the Governor and OHA extended the restrictions statewide.

Starting Wednesday, November 18th Oregonians were asked to limit social interactions to six people or less and restrictions were put in place for businesses, faith groups and community centers. The order does not affect K-12 schools.

Restaurants and bars were once again required to do take-out only and churches were told to limit groups to 25 people or fewer indoors and 50 people or fewer outdoors.

In Condon, the Chamber of Commerce was preparing for the popular Fall Festival on Saturday, November 21st. When the order was announced the Chamber quickly pivoted to make the event into a virtual experience where shoppers can buy items online. Condon’s Fall Festival is one of the premiere shopping events of the year in the area, featuring artisan crafts made by area residents. To participate in this year’s event, go to the Condon Chamber of Commerce website or visit their Facebook page.

Condon Chamber Executive Director K’Lynn Lane says that Chamber members can also sell their wears at The Chamber office on Condon’s Main Street. “We’re also going to roll with our shop local promotion, which is kicking off on November 21st,” Lane said. “Any merchant that is a member of the Chamber can reward shoppers for every $50 spent and will enter into a drawing.” Lane says that the Chamber tracks local dollars that are spent and reports back to businesses. The Chamber can get cards at any member business, where shoppers can pick them up.

The Chamber is also offering another grant for businesses that are needing to change how they provide services due to COVID-19.

Other treasured events could not be changed and had to announce cancellations.

The Thanksgiving Service, which brings together the United Church of Christ, St. Paul’s Catholic Church and the Condon Baptist Church announced that they were cancelling.

Pastor Thomas Romer of the UCC said that they were excited for the third year of the multidenominational service but could not limit the crowd to 25 people.

“We had three speakers, congregational music with special solo singers and it was going to be a real upbeat worship experience,” Pastor Romer said. Although disheartened, Pastor Romer said “It’s unfortunate but we need to keep people safe.”

The combined Thanksgiving service had been an old tradition in Condon and it was revived by Pastor Thomas Romer, Reverend Guy Whatley and Father Robert Greiner in 2017.

While the cancellation of these events was hard for organizers, area businesses are once again preparing themselves for a challenging time during one of the busiest seasons of the year.

As many people who grew up in the area return home for Thanksgiving, area businesses typically are busy.

Darla Seale, who owns Country Flowers in Condon says that there is more than revenue being lost due to the Governor’s order.

“It’s big, in the sense that people come home and our community needs all the influx that we can get to support the businesses we have” she said.

Although Country Flowers is not the frenzied “Black Friday” shopping experience that is common at box stores, Manager Jeremy Kirby says that they began decorating for Christmas in late October.

Still, Seale says that the revenue lost is not her concern. “The business will be fine,” she says looking at Kirby. “We have our sales that run through December but it’s really about a place to gather and socialization.”

Kirby agrees and says that many people come to Country Flowers for their social hour. “It’s hard to say ‘I’m sorry but you can’t stay.’”

Other businesses are bracing for harder times. The Grass Valley Market in Sherman County was purchased by Bonne and Roger Whitley on February 6th, when the pandemic was virtually unknown.

“In March we lost a lot of our employees,” says Bonne Whitley. “We’re fully staffed now and hoping that doesn’t happen again. It’s been a hard first year to be in business.”

As restaurants ramp up to get more to-go containers and supplies, they also must contend with fewer visitors to the area. The Thanksgiving Holiday is not typically a time when people eat out as families devour leftovers and watch football.

Jaclyn and Amy McNeil who own the Dig In Diner in Fossil were recently interviewed by KGW TV and said that they may have disappointed the TV station as they didn’t feel the sky was falling. “We’re going to go on a little vacation,” on Thanksgiving week Jaclyn says. “We’re going to the coast and hope to catch some crab.”

For this week, McNeil says that the Dig-In Diner will be changing their hours since the bar is closed. The Dig-In will be serving to-go food from noon to 6pm, Wednesday through Sunday.

Arlington News

By Vanessa Williamson

November has proven to not be outdone by the other months of 2020! There has been a spike this month in Covid-19 cases for Gilliam County. With this new information the Alkali Crafters made the tough decision to cancel their first Holiday Bazaar.  Unfortunately, with the Arlington School District having to send the K-2 cohorts to remote learning and with Thanksgiving right after. Organizers felt it best to try to prevent any more spread. Our community is too important to take the risk, I would have to agree with their decision.

Five brave Arlington Silhouette shooters faced off this past Sunday in the cold with Gary Grossmiller taking 1st and Burt Jenkins second. I’m late to report on some Bridge Club stats. Earlier this month Jeannie Kirksey hosted. High score was won by Darlene Deen, the Second-High score was Kathy West and the low score was Alene Rucker. Traveling was won by Darlene and nobody boasted the slam. 

Winners for the Lions Pig Raffle are Sally Drinkwine, Tim Golightly, Wayde Johnson and Megan & Bill Proctor.  Thank you to everyone who purchased a ticket for this raffle.

Don’t forget with the early darkness of this time of year and clear cold nights we have one of the best opportunities to view some spectacular celestial events! In the Eastern pre-dawn sky on Friday Nov 13th, the pretty crescent moon will sit adobe Mercury and below much brighter Venus. Look for Virgo’s brightest star Spica, sitting off to the moon’s right and the very bright star Arcturus way off to the upper left.


Kyle Barnett shot this elk on Halloween day on his family's ranch. (Trevor Newman)


By Kyle Barnett

Hunting is a part of being human. Our ancestors cultivated those skills to survive and ultimately build everything we know today. I’m humbled when I think of the difficulties they endured to simply supply meat for their families and communities. That has always been my aspiration—a full freezer. As the oft quoted Native American adage goes, “If you chase two rabbits, you will lose them both.” And on Halloween morning, my aspiration was crystal clear. Yet, as I reflect upon the incredible events that unfolded, I cannot help but feel as if I am the luckiest hunter on earth; I caught both rabbits, despite only hunting one.

 The itinerary of my Halloween day was surely not average. First order of business, an ambitious morning hunt with tempered expectations. Secondly, trick-or-treating the streets of Condon, Oregon with a band of young pirates, a cop, and superheroes. My excitement to be a part of my nieces’ and nephews’ sugar filled fervor as Captain Black Beard was at peak level. Alas, that never happened. Yet, as a consolation prize, I found myself surrounded by family and friends from morning to evening, beginning with the hunt.

That morning was typical in many ways. An abundance of coffee to cure the yawns. Binoculars pressed against tired eyes. And Mt. Kilimanjaro levels of prodding family jokes and jests. It was already a great morning; then the joviality was interrupted by a sudden sense of urgency. My Uncle Bill and Cousin Tony had spotted what they described as a “monster” bull. Huddling together, we hashed out a plan. Where the elk would end up, we could not know for certain. Though, with Bill and Tony’s intimate familiarity of the canyon network, we dialed our focus to a couple draws. Gen. George S. Patton once said, “A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.” We had to act now.

Tony suggested a hunt that would require two or three ambitious hikers who wanted a chance at the trophy bull. Having already filled their tags during archery season, Bill and Tony were disqualified by default, but more than happy to disseminate their knowledge. Excited, I happily volunteered. Also volunteering was Jake Cooper, my employer, friend, and husband to my cousin Maggie. As described by Tony, the draw funneled to a juncture that split off to the left and right. Before we began our hard trek, it dawned on me there would be an impasse—to go left or right, that was the question. Turning to Jake and noting our conundrum, I challenged him to one game of rock-paper-scissors, winner goes left. Brilliantly, Jake outsmarted my efforts with scissors cutting my paper. Laughing and not fully understanding our fateful fortunes, we set up the draw.

The hike was hard and the hill steep. Stopping numerous times to catch our breath and scan our surroundings, signs of elk were nowhere to be found. At every bend and turn we hoped to see even just a track. As we trekked onward, in the distance our anxiety heightened when we peered upon the fork that would force one left and one right. So, again, with soft steps and groaning lungs, we moved forward.

When we reached the juncture, our impasse previously decided, Jake and I revisited our agreement. The right draw looked pristine and ideal, with trace amounts of water and grass for cover. The left, a narrow rocky draw. Discussing, Jake and I decided to void the rock-paper-scissor agreement, as I’m always up for difficult terrain and challenging hikes. With a sigh of relief and, as I found later, an optimistic view of his draw, Jake believed he had a good chance to find elk, if they indeed happened into the area. I, on the other hand, had fleeting optimism, as the hike was very difficult and the terrain less than ideal; my internal pessimism overtly dominating my thoughts. Yet again, Jake and I challenged fate.

Photo by Trevor Newman

Nervous and alone, I carefully maneuvered up the left draw. Exploring for each silent step, my optimism was waning. Figuring my luck had run dry, I increased my speed and began my final ascent. With the hike feeling more like it was just for exercise, the steep horizon suddenly presented a massive set of antlers.

Bill and Tony were wrong: “monster” was an understatement. Quickly, I dropped to my knee and surveyed my surroundings. Bedded and facing up the draw, he lie unaware of my presence. Scanning for better position, my eye caught movement at the bottom of the draw. Oddly enough it was several deer standing at attention staring right at me. My hand had been forced and decisive improvisation was my only call.

What felt like minutes must have only been seconds. His antlers were a ladder to the sky and even more impressive when he slowly turned to look at the deer. Anxious and observant, the standoff ended with the deer bolting up the draw. I didn’t have time for next week’s perfect plan. When he rose, it startled me even more. It seemed he grew every time he moved. Uncontrollable shaking, as odd as this will sound, I initially had trouble finding the gigantic bull in my scope. I will never profess to be an expert hunter. Adequate will suffice. However, I made one good decision. I lowered my gun, took a deep breath, returned my scope to peer across the hill, and exhaled pulling the trigger. To my surprise, he turned. He was wounded and took a hard left, finding the bottom of the draw and heading down. Quickly lowering to a seated position, I waited for him to run below me. Somehow more calmed, I returned my gun to my shoulder and pulled the trigger for the kill.  

Photo by Trevor Newman

Sitting on the hill staring down at him, the moment was surreal and one I will cherish forever. With the hard work ahead now looming, I climbed out of the draw looking for help. Fittingly enough, Jake arrived first, hollering with excitement and cheers. We made the climb together hoping for luck. That day, I won the elk lottery. Still, more importantly, I’ll have a full freezer. And even more important than that, I’ll have a memory unlike any other, surrounded by family and friends. I can’t thank them enough, but doubt they will listen when I volunteer to hike in years to come. I owe a special thanks to Jake and Tony, both of whom endeavored relentlessly for many hours helping process the bull. And again, I’m thankful for Bill and Tony’s guidance through the brutal process of quartering and caping, during which Tony never left my side. With a gross green score of 438 6/8, this is a Gilliam County bull. And died a Barnett bull. But I see him as my community, friends, and family’s bull. I’d be remiss to claim I was the deserving hunter. I am not. I do know, I am very lucky. If there is a moral to the story, when you find yourself at a fork in the road, go left.

Editor’s Note: The Times-Journal would like to thank Kyle Barnett and the Barnett family for sharing this exclusive first-hand account with their local newspaper. A record-breaking bull elk draws attention from far and wide. Kyle could have easily gone to a nationally syndicated magazine, but he was insistent that the news of this incredible story be given to The Times-Journal. For that, we are sincerely grateful.

Live Updates: Election 2020

The Times-Journal will be tracking several local elections in Gilliam, Wheeler and Sherman counties

10:00 AM

Unofficial results from the Secretary of State are coming in for elections in Gilliam, Wheeler, and Sherman counties.

The unofficial results show that Pat Shannon has won the race for Gilliam Co. Commissioner.

Shannon leads in all three precincts of Arlington, Condon and Lonerock.

Wheeler County Sheriff Mike Smith has won the election to keep his job. Sheriff Smith was challenged by former Deputy Mitch Elliott, in a write-in campaign. Sheriff Smith won the election with more than 80% of the vote.

Sherman Co. Justice of the Peace Ron McDermid has won his reelection, winning nearly two-thirds of the vote. Deanna Christiansen won in the precincts of Kent and Grass Valley but McDermid carried the more populous precincts of Moro, Rufus and Wasco.

Fossil Mayor Carol MacInnes has won her reelection bid. MacInnes got 54.68% of the vote. Marietta Walker got 43.53% and lost by 31 votes.

The Secretary of State will certify all results and they are unofficial until that time.

Radioactive Materials Enforcement Rulemaking Advisory Committee to Meet November 2

The third meeting of the Radioactive Materials Enforcement Rulemaking Advisory Committee is scheduled for Monday, November 2, 2020 from 2 to 5 pm. This meeting will focus primarily on reviewing draft proposed rules prepared by the Department in consideration of feedback provided by the RAC.

To help reduce risk of transmission of COVID-19, this meeting will be held remotely. Details on how to join the meeting are included below. All RAC meetings are open to the public, but only committee members will be invited to participate in the discussion. Other interested members of the public will be provided an opportunity to provide comment at a designated time. There will also be an opportunity for formal public comments and testimony on any rule changes proposed by the Council at a later point in the rulemaking proceedings.

Rulemaking Advisory Committee Meeting

Monday, November 2, 2020

2:00 pm to 5:00 pm, PST

Join the Webex event: https://tinyurl.com/R195-RAC3

Join by phone: +1-408-418-9388

Event number: 173 947 2725

Gorge Net plans solar install to reach remote sites in Wheeler County

Construction to start in Mitchell next week

Gorge Net has hit some snags in their construction of fiber infrastructure in Wheeler County but the company is pushing on and plans to start construction in Mitchell next week.

Gorge Net has finished laying their infrastructure in Fossil and Spray. The company is continuing to chip away at a backlog of installs for customers in both towns.

Supply chains for a number of products have been impacted by COVID-19, resulting in unexpected delays. Earlier this month Jenna McCabe, Gorge Net’s Business Customer Advocate reported that fiber to home installs were behind due to supply shortages.

Be that as it may, Gorge Net is pushing on and announced today that they are expanding their scope. The company, which merged with Eastern Oregon Telecom in May and is now part of Blue Mountain Networks, is vowing to provide wireless internet to residents who live beyond the city limits of Wheeler County’s three cities: Fossil, Spray and Mitchell.

To do so, Gorge Net says that they will utilize solar panels, which will power fixed wireless sites to beam signals to ranches and rural customers.

As Gorge Net expands their footprint and capabilities with wireless services, neighboring counties in the region will no doubt be paying close attention.

OHA reports duplicate positive COVID test in Wheeler Co. Will correct error.

North Central and Eastern Oregon healthcare providers prepare for the arrival of COVID-19. Illustration showing rendering of a coronavirus.

Oregon reports 391 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases, 9 new deaths

PORTLAND, Ore. — COVID-19 has claimed nine more lives in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 664, the Oregon Health Authority reported at 12:01 a.m. today.

Oregon Health Authority reported 391 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 as of 12:01 a.m. today bringing the state total to 42,808.

The new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Baker (5), Benton (3), Clackamas (35), Clatsop (1), Columbia (3), Coos (5), Crook (2), Curry (1), Deschutes (5), Douglas (9), Harney (11), Jackson (25), Jefferson (1), Josephine (2), Klamath (5), Lake (1), Lane (31), Linn (6), Malheur (10), Marion (72), Multnomah (72), Polk (3), Umatilla (22), Union (1), Wallowa (2), Wasco (1), Washington (50), Wheeler (1), and Yamhill (6).  

Oregon’s 656th COVID-19 death is a 63-year-old woman in Washington County who tested positive on July 8 and died on Oct. 4 in her residence. Presence of underlying conditions is being confirmed.

Oregon’s 657th COVID-19 death is a 79-year-old woman in Wasco County who tested positive on Sept. 18 and died on Oct. 24 in her residence. Presence of underlying conditions is being confirmed.

Oregon’s 658th COVID-19 death is a 66-year-old woman in Multnomah County who tested positive on Oct. 14 and died on Oct. 24 at Providence Portland Medical Center. She had underlying conditions.

Oregon’s 659th COVID-19 death is a 67-year-old man in Multnomah County who tested positive on Oct. 5 and died on Oct. 23 at Providence Portland Medical Center. He had underlying conditions.

Oregon’s 660th COVID-19 death is a 62-year-old man in Umatilla County who tested positive on Oct. 4 and died on Oct. 21 at Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland, Washington. He had underlying conditions.

Oregon’s 661st COVID-19 death is an 82-year-old man in Multnomah County who tested positive on Oct. 8 and died on Oct. 25 at Adventist Health Portland. He had underlying conditions.

Oregon’s 662nd COVID-19 death is a 52-year-old man in Morrow County who tested positive on Aug. 25 and died on Oct. 24 at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center. He had underlying conditions.

Oregon’s 663rd COVID-19 death is a 64-year-old man in Douglas County who tested positive on Sept. 25 and died on Oct. 25 at OHSU. Presence of underlying conditions is being confirmed.

Oregon’s 664th COVID-19 death is a 66-year-old woman in Douglas County who tested positive on Oct. 18 and died on Oct. 24 at Mercy Medical Center. She had underlying conditions.

Flagstone Senior Living reports 13th COVID-19 death

Sadly, one of the memory care residents at Flagstone Senior Living who had contracted COVID-19 passed away over the weekend. That marks the 13th death at the facility related to the outbreak there and brings Wasco County’s total deaths to 16.
Under Oregon Health Authority investigative guidelines, a death is considered to be related to COVID-19 if it
occurs within 60 days of exposure to a confirmed case, onset of symptoms, or date of the person’s first positive test.
The outbreak at Flagstone began in mid-September. The facility recently concluded two consecutive weeks of negative tests among residents, meaning it no longer had to do weekly testing of residents. Outbreaks are declared over when two incubation periods have passed after the onset of symptoms in the last reported case. For COVID-19, this time frame is 28 days. The last case at Flagstone was reported on Oct. 1.
We would like to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the Flagstone staff. They have endured long, demanding hours and have remained steadfast in caring for some of the most fragile members of our community. Our hearts go out to the family and friends who have lost a loved one during this time.

New Sherman County Commissioner sworn in

By Judge Joe Dabulskis

The Sherman County Court is proud to announce the appointment of its newest member, Justin Miller.  Commissioner Miller was sworn in October 21, 2020 to finish the term of Commissioner Tom McCoy who retired at the end of September, 2020. 

Judge Joe Dabulskis (right) swears in new Sherman County Commissioner Justin Miller on October 21, 2020.

Commissioner Miller states “I am proud to have grown up in Sherman County and am grateful for the experiences, services and support that were provided to me.  I feel fortunate to have benefited from a K-12 education, community support in extracurricular activities as well as the many great examples set by members of the community who gave their time and skills for the betterment of Sherman County.  I feel it is important to give back to this community, and what better opportunity than to follow in the footsteps of prior commissioners and judges whose leadership I have valued and respected.  I have appreciated their commitment to put the best interest of the citizens of Sherman County first.”

Commissioner Miller may be one of the youngest commissioners to serve on the Sherman County Court.

Thank you to all those that were willing to serve.

Unified Command updates guidance for face coverings

Health Officials say wearing plastic face shield alone is ineffectual

On October 19, 2020, Oregon Health Authority released a revision of the statewide mask, face covering and face shield guidance.

Masks, face coverings or face shields are currently required statewide for:
• All private and public workplaces — for example banks, classrooms, construction sites, offices and meeting rooms — unless someone is alone in an office or in a private workspace.
• Indoor public spaces — for example grocery stores, pharmacies, public transit, personal services providers, restaurants, bars and retail stores.
• Public and private colleges and universities, and private career schools.
• Indoor and outdoor markets and street fairs.
• Outdoor public spaces when physical distancing of at least six feet is not possible.

People with a disability or medical condition may request accommodation from a business or public space if they cannot wear a mask.

OHA does not recommend wearing a plastic face shield alone. While face shields can be very good at blocking droplets, they are not as good at stopping aerosols that can go around the shield. OHA recommends face shields only be used on a limited basis, for example when talking to someone who is deaf or hard of hearing and needs to read lips to communicate.

Of note, a cubicle wall should extend to the ceiling and there should be barrier that can be closed and opened for access in order for a workspace to be still considered private and individual.

Arlington Community Shook with news of Tiffany Booth’s Passing

Former Arlington resident Tiffany Booth's remains were found in Nevada on Oct. 21st.

Candlelight Vigil planned for Nov. 1st

By Vanessa Williamson

The community of Arlington was devastated this month when news of Tiffany A. Booth, a long time Arlington resident, had gone missing in Nevada. Tiffany was an Arlington High School class of 2003 Alumni.

Reports indicate that Tiffany spoke daily with her mother, Judy but there had been no verbal communication between them since September 27. Tiffany and her mom then began communicating through text messages until October 8th when all communication stopped.

Early reports said that Tiffany and her boyfriend Eduardo Clemente were going on an overnight trip, and it was thought that they would be back for work the next day. The couple did not return to their home in Las Vegas.

Subsequently, Tiffany’s car was found with the license plates removed in Ely, Nevada. Last week, Tiffany’s family was hit with dreadful news that a body had been located at Indian Springs, Nevada. Still hoping for the best and remaining positive, the community had prayed it wasn’t Tiffany. Unfortunately, after identification by dental records, it was confirmed that it was Tiffany Booth.

As the investigation continued, it was discovered that home security video footage had been deleted from the couple’s Las Vegas condo.

The story takes a few twists and turns as a lot of crimes like this usually do. Eduardo was spotted in Preston, Nevada after Tiffany’s car was found outside of Ely. There have been reports that he stayed in someone’s yard, after strangers took him in and let him stay the night at their home.  He said his name was Daniel.  He had a few black bags and a wagon. He described his story to his hosts as a man who was on a spiritual journey and had just buried his Mom in Idaho. This information had been kept quiet as investigators tried to piece everything together.

Investigators are now asking for the public’s help in trying to locate Clemente, as he is believed to be the last person who saw Tiffany alive and is likely a prime suspect. For more information on the case, a Facebook page has been setup by Tiffany’s friends and family. In addition, a GoFundMe page has been established to help with burial expenses.

The community has organized a candlelight vigil in her honor on Sunday, November 1st at 4:00pm at Gazebo located in Earl Snell Park. There will also be ribbons placed around town in Blue and Green in her honor, as she was a faithful Seattle Seahawks fan.