Second COVID-19 case detected in Oregon House in 1 week

By Dirk VanderHart (OPB)
April 22, 2021 4:55 p.m.

The chamber had already canceled floor sessions after the week’s first case. People with the virus have now been confirmed in the state House four times this legislative sesssion.

A golden statue of a person perches atop the top of the exterior of the Oregon Capitol in Salem.

A file photo of the Oregon Capitol in Salem, Ore. State House of Representatives votes are on hold after people with COVID-19 were present in the chamber.

Bradley Parks | OPB

The Oregon House of Representatives has now logged two COVID-19 cases this week.


In an email Wednesday, the Legislature’s human resources director, Jessica Knieling, alerted lawmakers and staff working in the Capitol that her office had received notice of a new positive COVID-19 test. While the notice did not say whether the infected person is a lawmaker or staff member, it noted the person was “last in the building on April 15.”

That’s the same date another person who tested positive for the virus recently was last active on the House floor, officials have said. That infection, announced Tuesday, spurred House Speaker Tina Kotek to cancel floor sessions in the House this week. The chamber is currently scheduled to next meet on Monday, and the latest positive case does not appear likely to change that timeline.

The announcement of another case marks the fourth infection that’s been detected in the House this year. Past cases have each led to cancellations of House floor sessions, further stymieing the progress of bills in a year that has been marked by delay tactics. The state Senate, meanwhile, has not announced a case this session.

Related: While Oregon’s Legislature feuds, Washington finds a way to work

While the Capitol remains closed to the general public and lawmakers meet virtually for all committee hearings, both the House and Senate meet in person to pass bills in floor sessions. Safety rules require face masks and social distancing and allow House members to watch floor proceedings from their offices, then make their way to the chamber only to vote.

Still, lawmakers have often spent long stretches on the House floor this session while bills were read in full either by clerks or a computer. Often representatives speak in close quarters. Democrats hold their private caucus meetings virtually, they say. The House Republican Office on Tuesday would not directly answer a question about whether its caucus meetings are held virtually or in person.

Lawmakers became eligible for vaccinations along with frontline workers on April 5, if they hadn’t already qualified for reasons of age or pre-existing conditions. Gov. Kate Brown set up a private clinic for legislators on April 7, where they could receive the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.