Here is all that Oregon journalists really want for Christmas: A slow news week. But given that it’s been roughly 21 months and counting since we saw such a thing, we aren’t holding our breath. Additionally, we’re very sorry to report that during what should be the twinkliest of weeks, the race to prepare the state for a projected surge of COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant is likely to dominate the headlines. Let’s break it down.
Here We Go Again
Three weeks. That’s about how long health officials estimate that we have before a predicted wave of omicron-driven cases swamps Oregon. So in the next few weeks, they’re mounting what they say will be a leave-no-stone unturned effort to persuade Oregonians to get their booster shots, which offer solid protection against hospitalizations and severe disease. Expect more high-volume clinics, and a huge effort to vaccinate the most vulnerable among us who live in congregate-care settings. Lost in the steady drumbeat of terrible news this week was a new report from researchers at OHSU that suggests that for the vaccinated and boosted, a breakthrough case at this stage will provide you with a level of “super-immunity” they think will withstand future variants, come what may.
The Portland Trail Blazers snapped a seven-game losing streak last week with a win against the Charlotte Hornets. Afterwards, team superstar Damian Lillard didn't hold back, dinging local sports media for what he termed a lack of "respect" for his game. Lillard was upfront that he's been struggling of late, but reminded the room that he's come through in the clutch for Portland time and again over the years. This week, he'll have a couple more chances to prove his point: the Blazers face off against the Pelicans on the road on Tuesday before heading home to face the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, the last game before a holiday break.
Boost, Baby, Boost
Speaking of booster shots, the state is well aware that plenty of metro-area Oregonians have had trouble tracking one down (shades of early 2021, because everything old is new again, right?). Part of the problem there is that fewer health care staff are available to deliver them, but the state is promising to send in reinforcements to help. If you need to know where to find a booster, check our handy list.
But Winter Break Just Started!
While breaking news loudly swirled all week long, the Portland Public Schools district and its teacher union have been quietly negotiating over what the rest of the school year will look like. That’s got implications for districts across the state, who often follow Portland’s lead. In this case, teachers have been pushing for considerably more planning time, both full days and early release, in order to meet the academic and mental health needs of students struggling after 18 months of remote learning and relative social isolation. The district countered that the way to fix the situation was not by giving students less time with their peers and teachers. The two sides are zeroing in on a plan—though there's no firm agreement yet—that will add three planning days to the calendar between January and April, extend the school year by one day, and include a once-a-week, one-hour early release day for K–8 students, starting in February.
Dreaming of a White Christmas?
Ah, yes, the age-old Oregon question: Will there be snow on the valley floor? This coming week is one of those weeks when the answer is an enigmatic “maybe!” The forecast calls for miserably cold rain, hovering on the edge of turning to snow. That should translate to lots of fluffy white stuff up in the mountains, good news for anyone who is planning a trek to the Cascades. And if you live at lower elevations, it’s time to get your chains in order or your snow tires on, just in case.