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The COVID-19 virus.

OPB

Over the past weekend, Oregon recorded 19,400 new cases of COVID-19 statewide, bringing the state total to 590,270 since the pandemic began. The state’s 7-day rolling average as of Monday was 8,010 new daily cases. Compared to the start of January, the current average is more than four times as high. On Jan. 1, the average number of daily cases was 1,761.

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Hospitalizations in Oregon’s omicron wave still aren’t quite as high as they were during the delta peak last year. On Monday, there were 1,045 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Oregon. At the peak of delta, hospitalizations reached 1,178.

Here are the top headlines and latest updates on the ongoing spread of the coronavirus in Oregon.

Oregon’s debate over masks extend to schools

Oregon health officials have promised to drop the state’s indoor mask requirement when COVID-19 no longer threatens to overwhelm hospitals. But at an online hearing held Monday by the Oregon Health Authority that focused on masks in schools, many parents showed up to demand the mandate be dropped immediately. The swarm of public opposition to these mask mandates comes at a time when some other parents are opting to keep children home out of concern that COVID-19 protocols are not strict enough.

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Read the full story: Oregon Health Authority hears another round of testimony against extending state mask mandates

Guadalupe Guerrero, superintendent of Portland Public Schools, told OPB’s “Think Out Loud” that the main priority for the district is to maintain in-person learning. Some schools in the district have been harder hit by staffing challenges than others, however, and a handful of middle schools remain in remote learning. The district’s handling of the coronavirus has been hit with criticism from various groups, some saying it hasn’t done enough to keep people safe.

Listen to the full interview: Portland schools seek to prioritize in-person learning, but staffing remains a challenge

Coalition says many restaurants will fail without immediate aid

Your favorite restaurant may seem OK, but behind the scenes another tale is likely stewing. Erika Polmar, executive director of the Portland-led Independent Restaurant Coalition, told “Think Out Loud” that the country has lost 100,000 restaurants during the pandemic and could easily lose tens of thousand more if they don’t get relief from the government. “We’re really good at making everything look fabulous. We’re like ducks: Everything’s smooth on the top of the water, and we’re paddling like hell underneath.” Listen to the full interview.

Head of Oregon Health Authority off duty

The head of Oregon’s COVID-19 response is currently off the job. Instead, he is hospitalized. 

Oregon Health Authority director Patrick Allen was transported to a hospital early Sunday morning after a serious fall. OHA Deputy Director Kris Kautz will temporarily oversee the agency for at least the rest of the week. Gov. Kate Brown released a statement wishing Allen a speedy recovery. ”Director Allen has helped Oregon get through the COVID-19 pandemic with among the lowest rates of hospitalizations and deaths in the nation,” Brown said. “I’m grateful for the difficult, life-saving contributions he’s made to Oregon’s pandemic response.” Allen is undergoing evaluation for subsequent heart issues and expected to be discharged soon.

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