Oregon reports more than 8,000 new cases Tuesday
Oregon’s COVID-19 daily case count remains high. The Oregon Health Authority reported 8,040 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 Tuesday. This brings the state total to 486,202 people diagnosed with the virus since the start of the pandemic. State officials also reported Tuesday that an additional 35 people have died of COVID-19 in Oregon, bringing to 5,814 the number of people whose deaths have been linked to the virus in Oregon.
Multiple Oregon and Southwest Washington districts announce remote plans
Multiple Northwest school districts have announced plans to move some or all schools to remote learning schedules as a surge in COVID-19 infections keeps educators and students at home. They include all Parkrose and David Douglas district schools and some schools in the Portland, Salem-Keizer, Tigard-Tualatin, and Vancouver school districts.
Salem-Keizer leaders announced Tuesday that their staffing shortage has reached crisis level; Friday, Jan. 14 will be a non-student contact day
“For families in need of childcare, we have reached out to area childcare providers who will communicate their availability directly to families,” according to a memo from the school. “They are doing their best as they are also experiencing staffing shortages.”
Oregon’s largest high school and its surrounding elementary and middle schools will close to students on Thursday and Friday to prepare for a potential switch to online learning. David Douglas School District administrators announced the two-day closure Tuesday, stating that they need to prepare for schools or the entire district to return to comprehensive distance learning due to understaffing.
In Tigard-Tualatin, after a district-wide teacher planning day on Wednesday, Tualatin and Tigard high schools, and Fowler, Hazelbrook and Twality middle schools will move to distance learning through the end of next week. The district previously moved Durham Elementary into distance learning at the beginning of this week.
“It is like playing Jenga, or putting a very complex puzzle together, within a 24-hour period, school by school,” Tigard-Tualatin Superintendent Sue Rieke-Smith said of the quick decision-making behind these decisions. “And so we try to make sure we have exhausted all our alternatives at that point before we make the final call. Because no one does not want to be in front of their kids if they can help it.”
The Parkrose School District did not hold Tuesday classes, and on Wednesday all students will begin temporary distance learning. The Parkrose district in outer Northeast Portland 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.
In Portland Public Schools, Faubion School announced it would be closed Tuesday and transition to distance learning Wednesday through at least the end of this week. It joins four other PPS campuses — Cleveland, McDaniel and Roosevelt high schools and Ockley Green Middle School — that already returned to remote learning starting Monday because of high numbers of student and teacher absences. Those closures will also last at least this week.
Forest Grove High School announced Monday night that, with 18% of staff and 32% of students absent, it would pause in-person learning through at least Jan. 21.
Vancouver Public Schools on Monday night made the following announcement:
As we continue responding to the rapidly spreading COVID-19 omicron variant in Vancouver Public Schools, staffing remains one of our most critical challenges especially due to the impact of staff who are out due to illness/quarantine. We do not have enough bus drivers to transport all of our students in our current format, so it is necessary to implement a temporary schedule in which some of our schools will switch to four days of remote learning over the next three weeks. We are sorry for the impact on your child(ren) and your family. This schedule could be adjusted if our staffing levels increase or decrease. We are hopeful that full-time in-person learning for your child(ren) will resume in February. Please watch for weekly updates.
Ventilator use climbs at Oregon hospitals
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.
The number of COVID-19 positive patients on ventilators was dropping until five days ago, the state’s data shows. At that point, the number on ventilators started climbing sharply, from a low of 27 on Jan. 5 to a high of 53 on Jan. 10.
That’s still about a quarter of the number of COVID-19 patients needing a ventilator during the peak of the delta wave last year.
Health officials diagnosed 47,272 coronavirus cases over the past week, three times as many as the previous week.
Eighteen new COVID deaths in Oregon were announced Monday.
Oregon women’s basketball game vs. Arizona State postponed
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.
Oregon’s February legislative session will be open to the public
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.
Read the full story: Oregon Capitol to remain open during February legislative session
Omicron surge challenges schools, transit, business operations across Oregon
As the omicron variant of COVID-19 spreads through Oregon, schools and businesses are scrambling to stay open with fewer healthy people.
Ashland High School announced Monday it would move to distance learning until Jan. 31. Elsewhere in Southern Oregon, schools are opting not to go online despite rising case counts and absences.
Schools in Grants Pass and Medford are requiring masks on campus, enforcing social distancing and have implemented test-to-stay programs. In the Grants Pass School District, 144 students and staff are quarantining. In the Medford School District, over 200 people are isolating at home.
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.
In the Tigard-Tualatin School District, Durham Elementary is transitioning to distance learning this week, officials announced Sunday.
And in Central Oregon, the 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.
Read the full story: Oregon schools struggle to stay open as omicron spreads
This is a developing story. Watch for updates throughout the day.
The Associated Press and Jefferson Public Radio’s Sophia Prince contributed to this report.