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Health and Medicine

Latest on omicron surge: Oregon reports 22% positive COVID-19 test rate

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Oregon’s February legislative session could be affected by the omicron surge, which is prompting a growing list of schools to cancel in-person learning. The University of Oregon announced Monday that a basketball game planned later in this week has been canceled.

Oregon health authorities reported Monday that 18,538 new confirmed or presumptive COVID-19 cases were identified over the weekend.

The state has a positive test rate of just over 22% as the highly contagious omicron variant spreads. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 increased to 692, but hospitalizations were still about 40% below their peak during the summer surge of the delta variant.

Health officials diagnosed 47,272 coronavirus cases over the past week, three times as many as the previous week.

Eighteen new deaths were announced Monday.

Oregon’s game against Arizona State, originally scheduled for this Thursday, has been postponed due to COVID-19 protocols within the Arizona State women’s basketball program.

The two schools and the Pac-12 Conference will work to reschedule the game, and the new date will be announced when finalized.

The Ducks are set to host Arizona at 2:30 p.m. Saturday before taking on Connecticut in Matthew Knight Arena at 2 p.m. Jan. 17.

The Oregon Capitol will remain open to the public when lawmakers convene Feb. 1 for a month-long session.

In a joint statement Monday, Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Tina Kotek announced that, while all legislative committee meetings during the upcoming 2022 session will take place virtually, the public will be allowed in the building.

Kotek and Courtney issued an earlier statement last week expressing concern over the omicron variant of COVID-19 and troubling projections by doctors at Oregon Health & Science University. The two presiding officers of the Oregon Legislature clarified their stance Monday.

“We are committed to ensuring the legislative process is accessible and safe during the upcoming session,” the statement said. “The recent wave of cases and hospitalizations due to the Omicron variant is concerning. After speaking directly with OHSU infectious disease doctors and public health officials, we decided to move our committees to a virtual format.”

Oregonians will be able to enter the Capitol during regular business hours and may watch legislative proceedings from the galleries of either chamber located on the third floor.

As the omicron variant of COVID-19 spreads through Oregon, schools and businesses are scrambling to stay open with fewer healthy people.

Over the weekend, administrators at four Portland Public Schools campuses — Cleveland, McDaniel and Roosevelt high schools and Ockley Green Middle School — announced they would transition back to remote learning starting Monday because of student and teacher absences. The closures will last at least this week.

Leaders in another Portland district, Parkrose, announced Sunday evening that all of its campuses will be closed Monday due to staffing shortages. The district had reported an average of 20% to 30% of its students were absent last week and staff absences were as high as 25% in some cases. School administrators said they would be in touch with families and staff about what happens next.

In the Tigard-Tualatin School District, Durham Elementary is transitioning to distance learning this week, officials announced Sunday.

And in Central Oregon, Jefferson County School District, announced that it’s closing the Warm Springs K-8 Academy campus. Administrators said the decision wasn’t because of absences, but “to be good partners” with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.

The omicron surge is also impacting some public services, including transportation. The Portland area mass transit agency, TriMet, will shift 20 of its 84 bus lines to less frequent service starting Monday because of a driver shortage.

Copyright 2022 Oregon Public Broadcasting.