Judging from statistics gathered from 12 months of stories posted over the course of 2020, the Newberg Graphic's readers either had a somewhat negative outlook on life in general or were fascinated as they witnessed the human condition delivered on a nearly daily basis over the past year.
Our hope is that it is the latter, that our readers will carry hope into the new year that things will get better. They couldn't get much worse, a fact demonstrated by the stories that readers flocked to over the past 12 months. Here the top 13 stories, in order from top to bottom, that most registered with readers in 2020.
1: Newberg youth dies in plane crash
A Newberg High School student was among eight people killed last summer in a midair collision between two planes over a resort area in Idaho.
Hayden Fredrickson, 16, a sophomore student and athlete at the school, was among the fatalities when a Cessna collided into a De Haviland float plane on July 5 over Lake Coeur d'Alene. Fredrickson was flying with his father, PGA professional Sean Fredrickson, and step-siblings Sofie and Quinn Fredrickson, who lived in Tualatin.
Hayden Fredrickson was an athlete in middle school, participating in track, soccer and basketball, before ascending to NHS, where he played varsity soccer for the Tigers. He earned an honorable mention nod as a sophomore for the fall 2019 season from the Pacific Conference.
The Newberg School District's crisis response team — which includes counselors, bilingual specialists and school psychologists — held a gathering on July 8 at NHS.
2: NHS baseball team suffers COVID-19 outbreak
After an initial outbreak of seven players and head coach Trey Watt, a COVID-19 spread related to the Newberg summer baseball team expanded to 39 individuals, some who were not associated with the club.
Yamhill County Public Health investigated the outbreak, with confirmed cases in Yamhill and four neighboring counties.
Public health officials suspected the team was initially exposed to the virus when some players traveled out of state for a game, then spread further when the team traveled together on a team bus.
The outbreak raised questions about the safety of high school sports during the pandemic, but coaches and school officials said Newberg baseball did everything in its power to protect players and staff from the virus. At practice, players wore protective neck gaiters, social distanced, worked out in smaller groups and sanitized every baseball after use. Players and coaches had their temperatures checked every day and if someone felt sick, they were told to stay home.
The outbreak first surfaced in July when one player went to the hospital with a high fever and tested positive for COVID-19. The remainder of the team got tested and six additional players along with Watt tested positive as well. The number then quickly ballooned beyond those closely associated with the baseball team.
3: Dundee fire chief placed on paid leave in wake of BOLI complaint
The city of Dundee became embroiled in controversy in March after an employee filed a complaint with the state alleging that Dundee Fire Chief John Stock refused to pay firefighters overtime, engaged in gender discrimination and sexual harassment and interfered with the employee's ability to receive medical treatment and financial compensation for an injury suffered on the job.
In response, City Manager Rob Daykin placed Stock on paid administrative as the city awaits further action from the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI). BOLI's investigation is continuing, an official said in December.
Contents of the complaint painted a picture of a hostile work environment for the firefighter as the lone female in the ranks. She said Stock repeatedly undermined her authority and the confidence of other employees when she acted as a commanding officer. He repeatedly admonished her lack of ability to multi-task, she alleged, among other more serious comments and actions over the years since she started full-time with the department in 2015.
4: Seven residents die at Newberg care facility
Seven residents succumbed to the COVID-19 virus at Astor House in March and April.
All of the individuals were in excess of 80 years old and all initial deaths from the virus in Yamhill County were concentrated at the Newberg site. Since then, 27 additional people have fallen to the disease in the county, with the greatest concentration of deaths shifting to McMinnville and Dayton.
The deaths at Astor House sparked a rash of complaints about the Newberg facility, including family members who were not allowed to see their loved ones, insufficient sanitation practices, poor food and lack of proper care from the facility's staff.
Multiple residents addressed letters to the facility's owner, Holiday Retirement, as well as this newspaper about the conditions at the facility.
5: Chehalem Mountain-Bald Peak blaze caused by campfire
Officials with Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue determined in September that the Chehalem Mountain-Bald Peak fire was caused by an improperly extinguished campfire on private property in the 20000 block of Neugebauer Road.
The wildfire burned 875 acres and destroyed at least three structures, forcing residents to evacuate and filling the skies in the Chehalem Valley with a thick layer of smoke for more than a week.
Firefighters worked to contain the wildfire nearly 24 hours a day for more than a week, taking extraordinary measures to protect homes in the area along the border between Yamhill and Washington counties. Air tankers doused the fire with water from Henry Hagg Lake to help with the containment.
Residents were allowed to return to their homes many days later, but remained under a level of alert that could require them to evacuate at a moment's notice.
6: Belander found guilty in murder of Brian Bodle
In February, after four hours of deliberation, a jury in Skamania County, Washington, found Damian Bradley Belander guilty of murdering Newberg native Brian Bodle.
The trial stretched nearly five days for the Dayton resident arrested a few weeks after Bodle's body was found on Jan. 24, 2019, near the intersection of two U.S. Forest Service roads in a heavily timbered area near Mount St. Helens.
Belander's defense followed his strategy during interviews by law enforcement in the weeks after the murder, a general denial of all the facts of the case. Belander didn't take the witness stand during the trial.
"I believe the key piece of evidence that convinced the jury that Mr. Belander was guilty was that he was obviously lying about his whereabouts and involvement to law enforcement when they initially questioned him about the case," prosecutor Adam Kick said. "Skamania County Detective Jeremy Schultz did an exhaustive investigation and was able to demonstrate that Mr. Belander was lying about his whereabouts and connection to the burned-out minivan that was located near where Mr. Bodle was found."
7: George Fox student contracts COVID-19
School officials confirmed in late March that a student at George Fox University contracted COVID-19.
The diagnosis was just the latest in developments from the university over a two-week period. In early March, the school extended spring break from one to two weeks, while acknowledging that some classes would require online tests or assignments in late March. The university also ordered that undergrad classes would be held remotely through early April, while also indicating that residence halls, administrative offices and other facilities would remain open through the semester.
On March 17, the school decided classes would only be held by remote instruction through the end of the semester. Residence halls would remain open, the school said, but it also encouraged students to return to their homes if possible. All campus activities were cancelled as well.
Soon after, the school mounted a vigorous program to rid its buildings of the virus. Residence halls were deep-cleaned twice a week and all high-touch surfaces were disinfected at least once per day, including main entries, all common areas, elevators, handrails and restrooms.
8: County borrows freezer from university to store COVID-19 vaccine
Linfield University lent a hand so Yamhill County could begin distributing the COVID-19 vaccine in December.
The county's Health and Human Services Department said the McMinnville school provided county public health officials space in its specialized, ultra-cold freezer to store doses of the expected coronavirus vaccine.
The vaccinees developed by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech must be stored at extremely low temperatures — minus-70 degrees — which complicated distribution.
The school's department of biology provided one of two ultra-cold freezers to store vaccine doses.
"We are grateful for the wonderful partner Linfield University has been throughout the COVID-19 event and their willingness to share this much-needed asset," Lindsey Manfrin, director of Yamhill County Health & Human Services, said. "This is one more example of our great community working together."
"This is a moment when community members come together to help each other in the face of a deadly pandemic," Linfield President Miles K. Davis said. "We're happy to do our part and support health authorities who are working to get vaccines to those who need them."
9: Group circulates petition to enact home rule in Yamhill County
A group called Yamhill County Taxpayers for Home Rule began circulating a petition in September to create a home rule charter for the county. The charter amendment would have to be ratified by the county's voters, but the group failed to garner sufficient signatures to place the question on the November general election ballot.
Yamhill County is one of 27 counties in Oregon that operates under state law. Home rule allows a county to create legislation specific to its region if the county does not violate the state and federal constitutions.
Organizers acknowledged in September that gathering signatures would be difficult during the COVID-19 pandemic, but still urged people to sign the petition if they felt strongly about the prospects of localized government.
Earlier plans to enact home rule, most recently in 2018, have been unsuccessful, with significant opposition from voters as well as some members of the Board of Commissioners
10: Victims share stories of drinks drugged at Newberg bar
Disturbing accounts of hazy nights and spiked drinks emerged on social media in January, with patrons pointing to a popular Newberg business: First Street Pub.
Women and men detailed instances of losing control of their faculties after one or two drinks, while others described witnessing people slip drugs into drinks.
The owner of the bar pushed back against the claims and local police said at the time they hadn't received reports of the crimes. Yet over a dozen people shared their stories in the comments of various posts in the Newberg-Dundee Citizens Info Group as well as private Facebook messages.
Emma Prendergast said she went to the pub with some friends on April 26 and ordered a whiskey and Coke.
"Very quickly I began to get a 'euphoric' feeling in my body," she said. "My head felt as if it was not attached to my body. I remember looking at my hands and thinking to myself, why can't I feel or control my hands? I immediately went to my boyfriend, who was at the bar with us, and told him I didn't feel good and wanted to go home."
Prendergast said she, her boyfriend and the rest of their group began to return to their residence on Second Street when her symptoms worsened. She said her legs and body were shaking, her depth perception was altered and it took more than one person just to get her into the house.
Prendergast's skin was cold to the touch, she said, and she began to repeatedly black out and vomit throughout the remainder of the night.
11: The fight of her life
Many people who have contracted COVID-19 suffered through the disease without having been officially diagnosed. Newberg's Claire Green was one of them.
The 27-year-old began displaying symptoms in mid-March that quickly accelerated over the next few days.
"(The) dry cough became more aggressive and persistent," she said. "I couldn't take a deep breath without breaking into a painful coughing fit."
Fortunately, Green's husband, Timothy, is a certified nursing assistant and began regularly monitoring her vitals. That is when he determined that the amount of oxygen in his wife's blood, measured with a pulse oximeter, had reached alarmingly low levels while her temperature was increasing.
Green contacted her doctor, who did an assessment over the phone.
"They told me that my symptoms and onset were consistent with the virus, but not to come in because, although I was coughing and short of breath, they didn't have tests to confirm if I was COVID-19 positive or not," she said.
Still, Green traveled to a doctor's office and was tested for flu and other respiratory illnesses. The results were negative, but she was ordered to return home and continue self-isolating.
Self-isolating in her small apartment was nearly impossible and, it turned out, unnecessary as her husband and 2-year-old son, William, soon developed light symptoms.
Green's symptoms remained, eventually worsening before abating.
"It was a full two weeks before my lungs weren't painful while breathing," she said. "I was sick for longer than anyone else in my family, and it took me three full weeks to feel well, but I was still easily exhausted and winded for about a month."
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