Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Tina Kotek released a joint statement calling the Omicron variant a cause for alarm and a reason for concern about allowing the public in for the upcoming legislative session. Therefore, they will be holding all committee meetings virtually.
“We are committed to ensuring the legislative process is accessible and safe during the upcoming session,” Courtney and Kotek said in their statement. “The recent wave of cases and hospitalizations due to the Omicron variant is concerning. After conversations with OHSU infectious disease doctors, we decided to move our committees to a virtual format.”
The doors to the Capitol will not be closed to the public, however all workers who can do their job remotely will be encouraged to work from home to lower risk of transmission. Anyone entering the Capitol will be required to adhere to standard COVID safety protocols – masks and social distancing where possible.
All training sessions will also be held virtually.
Closing the Capitol has been the answer to pandemic restrictions for most of 2020 and 2021, despite some representatives working against it. The majority of Republicans have argued that it is unconstitutional and inequitable. Case in point, the actions of former representative Mike Nearman allowing protestors into the building and Sen. Dallas Heard openly defying a mask mandate.
Making things easier, House Bill 2560 was passed to permanently allow remote access to the legislative session.