Hill to Hall April 2–3

April 2: Governor Brown declines calling special legislative session in near future


Oregon Governor Kate Brown and Oregon legislative leaders decided not to call a special legislative session to respond to the coronavirus. Though House Speaker Tina Kotek supports a special session next week, Democratic and Republican leaders in the State Senate said a session in order to measure the impact of a federal stimulus package and the outbreak’s effect on the economy in the near future is unlikely, according to KATU.  Brown stated the state will wait for “sufficient clarity” about the extent and impact of federal relief legislation before calling a state legislative session, according to OPB


April 3: First prisoner in Oregon tests positive for COVID-19


The Oregon Department of Corrections (DOC) announced that an inmate at Santiam Correctional Institution in Salem has tested positive for COVID-19, the first prisoner to test positive in Oregon. According to KATU, the DOC has suspended visitation, cancelled group activities and instituted social distancing guidelines in Oregon prison facilities to stem the spread of the virus. Oregon criminal justice activists have lobbied for the state to improve sanitation and treatment measures, and to release vulnerable inmates, according to Statesman Journal. “Prisons and jails can be death traps when a disease such as COVID-19 breaks out,” said Oregon Justice Resource Center spokesperson Alice Lundell to the Statesman Journal


April 3: Oregon healthcare workers fall ill as state ramps up response to COVID-19


57 hospital workers in Oregon and southwest Washington, including 19 Oregon Health & Science University staffers, have contracted coronavirus, according to The Oregonian. Casey Parr, a respiratory therapist at OHSU, said he wears the same face mask over the course of a 12-hour shift, according to AP News. State health officials say they are optimistic about Oregon’s situation, noting that Oregon’s coronavirus preparation means that the state may have enough hospital beds to meet demand, according to OPB. Citing University of Washington models, state epidemiologist Dean Sidelinger said “it appears [Oregon] will not see a dramatic spike in cases over the next month.” 


April 3: Oregon workers struggle with coronavirus impact


The Oregon Department of Employment (DOE) received 92,700 initial unemployment claims for the week of March 22, breaking the record of 76,500 claims for the week of March 15, according to KATU. The DOE admitted to being overwhelmed by the increase in claims, as many workers reported confusing messages and errors from the online claims system, according to The Oregonian. Willamette Week reported employees at businesses that remain open, such as the drive-through coffee chain Dutch Bros, have filed 1,152 coronavirus-related complaints since March 23 with Oregon Occupational Safety & Health, claiming they are unable to maintain social distancing guidelines in the workplace.