Second COVID case forces Oregon House to cancel session
A second person at Oregon's Capitol has been diagnosed with the COVID-19 coronavirus, forcing the Oregon House to cancel its floor session Monday, March 29.
The announcement Sunday, March 28, from the Legislature's interim human resources director did not identify the person, consistent with federal health privacy laws, but said this person had been in the Capitol.
The Oregon House scrapped its floor sessions last week because someone, also unidentified, was infected with the virus while in the House chambers March 15 and 16. People in close contact with that person have been notified.
However, the top aide to House Speaker Tina Kotek said that some people awaited test results or might need to obtain tests as a result of the latest disclosure.
"This is not required by specific guidance, but rather out of an abundance of caution," Lindsey O'Brien said in a memo to members.
There will be a floor session Monday, but O'Brien described as pro forma, with the session being closed just after it opens. Under the Oregon Constitution, one chamber cannot be adjourned more than three days without the consent of the other. The Senate met most recently on Thursday, March 25.
She said the House expects to meet at its next scheduled time Tuesday, March 30, unless there are further developments.
Before Sunday's announcement, the House was scheduled to meet in floor sessions for a total of 23 1/2 hours during the week. Minority Republicans have declined to waive the constitutional requirement for all bills to be read aloud before they come up for a final vote, and Kotek has declined a Republican request to shelve all bills except budgets and legislation with a "bipartisan consensus."
Democrats hold 37 seats, Republicans 23.
The number of representatives on the floor is limited to 25, instead of the usual 40 for a quorum to conduct business, but members have been instructed to stay in their offices in the House wing. Also, members of the House clerk's staff, who have to read the texts aloud, wear masks while they do so.
O'Brien said Kotek has authorized an additional step to minimize the potential for transmission of the coronavirus: "The speaker has directed the clerk to begin using computer software to read lengthy bills upon final passage to further reduce the risk of virus transmission when the House is in session for the purpose of bill reading."
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