COVID-19 case shuts down Oregon House a third time
Another person infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus has prompted yet another shutdown of floor sessions of the Oregon House.
The House on Tuesday, April 20, canceled sessions for the rest of the week. The next scheduled session is Monday, April 26.
Committees, which have been meeting online since the start of the 2021 session, will continue their work virtually. At this stage of the session, committees have begun considering bills passed by the Senate, although a few committees were exempt from the April 13 deadline for reporting out House bills.
The infected person may have had contact with others on the floor of the House on April 15.
It is the third time this year that the House has had to curtail daily sessions. The other delays were the week of March 22-26 — after someone infected was present in the chamber March 15 or 16 — and on March 29. Sessions resumed on March 30.
Because of federal health privacy laws, people with reported infections have not been identified. Access to the House chamber has been restricted to members and staff during the pandemic.
"The priority for the session continues to be to keep people safe and do the people's work," Lindsey O'Brien, chief of staff for House Speaker Tina Kotek, said in a statement.
Capitol facilities staff clean the chambers and office wings under COVID-19 guidelines of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
One other person in the House was reported with COVID-19, but Kotek said the risk of contact by members or staff with that person was low, and that case did not prompt a shutdown.
House Republican Leader Christine Drazan of Canby said in a statement: "Due to this positive COVID-19 case in the Capitol, we will defer to public health authority guidance and look forward to returning to the floor next week, barring any additional cases."
Under the coronavirus protocols of the House, no more than 25 members can be on the House floor at any time, although 40 members are required to be present for business to be conducted. Other members can be in the galleries or in their offices to comply with the quorum requirement.
The House also has added one-minute alerts to accommodate members before they discuss and vote on measures.
The House has reduced its backlog of bills considerably since a tacit agreement between the parties on April 14. The total had exceeded 80, but the House went through more than 70 measures in the two days after the agreement.
The backlog was largely unrelated to COVID-19.
Minority Republicans agreed to waive a constitutional requirement for bills to be read in their entirely before final votes — usually a routine motion, but a rule they had employed as a slowdown tactic. Majority Democrats agreed to elevate the top Republican on the House Redistricting Committee to be its co-chairwoman and give Republicans an equal number of committee seats, so Republicans gained a stronger voice over the once-every-10-year process of redrawing district lines.
The Senate, which has half the House membership, has not reported any COVID-19 cases in that chamber.
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