(Update: House speaker cancels floor sessions until next week, urges quarantine)
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Floor sessions in the Oregon Capitol were canceled for the rest of the day Monday and all day Tuesday -- and House sessions until next week -- after lawmakers learned that “someone who was interacting on the House floor last week” has tested positive for COVID-19.
House Speaker Tina Kotek said she was notified about the situation while on the floor Monday. She did not say if the person who tested positive was a lawmaker or staff.
Kotek said the Legislature is following public health protocols.
“I think this is the second time we have had this happen — there was a staff person last year — so this is not unusual,” Kotek said.
She later issued this news release:
COVID-19 diagnosis delays Oregon House floor sessions until next week
SALEM – Today, the Oregon Legislature learned that an individual who was present at the Capitol has been diagnosed with COVID-19. Potential exposure may have occurred on the floor of the Oregon House of Representatives on March 15 and March 16.
Human resources for the branch is notifying all individuals who appear to have had close contact with the individual. Due to HIPAA laws, no further information will be disclosed about the individual who tested positive.
After consulting with Marion County Public Health, the Legislature has been advised that all symptom-free individuals who were on the House Floor should quarantine for 10 days following the last exposure, which is through Friday, March 26. The House will not return to floor session until Monday, March 29, at the earliest. Committee work, which is being done remotely, will continue as planned.
Anyone who shows symptoms should be tested and quarantine for at least 14 days. Testing is also being encouraged for anyone who was on the House Floor. Facilities staff will fumigate the House chamber and wings today and continue to diligently, thoroughly and regularly clean the Capitol in line with the CDC’s guidance on environmental cleaning and disinfection.
The priority for the session continues to be to keep people safe and do the people’s work.
The Capitol building has been closed to the public since last March as part of a COVID-19 safety measure. Only authorized personnel, which includes lawmakers, staff, police and reporters have access to the building.
Although committee meetings take place virtually, lawmakers need to meet in person to vote on bills.
Kotek said many lawmakers have not yet received the COVID-19 vaccine because essential workers are not eligible until April 19.
“What I am most nervous about is keeping people safe,” Kotek said Monday while discussing the current session. “The pandemic might be moving in the right direction, but there are new variants coming.”
On Friday the Idaho Legislature voted to shut down for several weeks due to an outbreak of COVID-19.
Lawmakers in the House and Senate made the move to recess until April 6 with significant unfinished business, including setting budgets and pushing through a huge income tax cut.
At least six of the 70 House members in Idaho tested positive for the illness in the last week.
News release from Oregon House Republican Leader;
Leader Drazan recommends legislators return home to quarantine after positive COVID-19 case confirmed on the House floor
SALEM, Ore. – House Republican Leader Christine Drazan (R-Canby) released the following statement upon learning that an individual who was on the Oregon House floor last week tested positive for COVID-19:
“First and foremost, I hope that the individual who tested positive makes a speedy and full recovery. We all knew that this outcome was possible, which is why we have taken additional precautions since the start of this session to minimize risks for individuals who must be in the building.
Out of an abundance of caution, my immediate recommendation is for legislators and staff to minimize the risk of an outbreak in Oregon’s capitol by returning home and quarantining for 10-14 days from the date of possible exposure per OHA’s recommended guidelines and schedule testing. There are several elected members from the House with underlying conditions who have not had the opportunity to vaccinate yet.
We need to do everything we can to keep everyone in the building safe.”