FILE — Oregon Pioneer Man

A view of the backside of the golden Oregon Pioneer statue atop the Oregon state capitol building in Salem, Oregon. Tim Gruver / The Center Square

(The Center Square) – The Oregon state capitol's COVID-19 caseload has now risen to four amid a session twice shut down by the disease.

Jessica Knieling, human resources director for the state legislature, announced a fourth confirmed case of COVID-19 Thursday, just days after another tested positive for the virus Tuesday. Both individuals were last present in the state capitol building on April 15, according to Knieling, and worked on the House floor.

House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, shut down all House floor business until Monday in response to the third case. House leadership has not indicated a change in plans since then. They have chosen not to identify the individuals due to medical privacy laws.

The two news cases make the third time the chamber has had to place a rain check on floor business this session. The Senate has yet to report any new positive tests.

The state constitution requires Oregon lawmakers to convene face to face for floor votes unlike other states, including neighboring Washington. That requirement has created difficulties passing legislation this year while managing public safety during the pandemic. A bargain struck this month between Democratic House leaders and Republicans speeds up bill readings to reduce the time lawmakers spend on the chamber floor.

State lawmakers became eligible for COVID shots on April 5, along with frontline workers. They've had access to a private drive-thru clinic in Salem since April 7. Some received the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine before the FDA paused it on April 13.

Some Oregon lawmakers, like state Rep. Julie Fahey, D-West Eugene, announced that they are getting tested as a precaution. 

"I don't get my second shot until Sunday," Fahey tweeted on Friday. "So even though it's unlikely I had close contact with the recent cases, I got tested today out of an abundance of caution. I'm hopeful it's the last 'just in case' test I have to take."

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention's COVID Data Tracker on Sunday showed that 27.1% of Oregonians are now fully vaccinated while another 41% have received one dose. 

Staff Reporter

Tim Gruver is a politics and public policy reporter. He is a University of Washington alum and the recipient of the 2017 Pioneer News Award for Reporting. His work has appeared in Politico, the Kitsap Daily News, and the Northwest Asian Weekly.