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Murmurs: Multnomah County COVID Cases Slow to Low Ebb

In other news: Guadalupe Guerrero is a candidate for L.A. job.

COUNTY COVID CASES SLOW TO LOW EBB: COVID-19 cases in Multnomah County have been steadily declining since a peak more than two months ago, when the weekly case count topped 1,500. During the week of Nov. 21, the county saw just 492 cases, according to health department data. There were 12 hospitalizations, at their lowest since July. The low numbers come as health experts have identified a new variant of concern, named Omicron, though it’s not yet clear what danger the new coronavirus poses. It has not been found in the U.S. at press deadline. “It will take time for us to learn more about this particular variant,” says county spokeswoman Kate Yeiser. “We expect vaccines will still provide good protection. So we would encourage anyone who hasn’t already to please get their vaccines. Those who are due for a booster should go ahead and schedule that.” Nearly 75% of Multnomah County residents have had a least one dose of vaccine, leaving just over 200,000 unvaccinated, including young children who are ineligible.

GUERRERO CANDIDATE FOR L.A. JOB: The Los Angeles School Unified School District is closing in on a new superintendent. Among the possible eight finalists, according to the Los Angeles Times: Portland Public Schools Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero. Guerrero took the top job in Portland in October 2017 after serving as deputy superintendent in the San Francisco Unified School District. His four-year tenure here is longer than average for a big-city schools chief, according to the Council of the Great City Schools. The L.A. school district is the nation’s second largest, with nearly 675,000 students (about 13 times the size of Portland Public Schools).

POLICE COMMANDER BROKE ELECTIONS LAW: The Oregon Secretary of State’s Elections Division has proposed a $225 civil penalty for Portland Police Bureau Commander Erica Hurley after its investigation determined Hurley violated state elections law with comments she made on two occasions about Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt. WW first reported on Hurley’s remarks in March, which prompted a lawyer to file a complaint with the secretary of state the same day. In a Nov. 22 letter, the Elections Division wrote to Hurley that “by opposing the candidacy and promoting the recall of Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt,” she violated an Oregon statute pertaining to political campaigning by public employees. The Elections Division pointed to two occasions—one in October 2020 and another in January—in which Hurley made comments opposing Schmidt. Both times, she spoke before the Lents Neighborhood Livability Association while acting in her official capacity during work hours, according to the Elections Division. She also wore her full uniform, badge and gun. Hurley has the right to a hearing before an administrative law judge if she wishes to challenge the findings. An attorney for Hurley did not respond to WW’s request for comment.

GOV. BROWN CALLS SPECIAL SESSION ON EVICTIONS: On Nov. 29, Gov. Kate Brown announced a legislative special session to address evictions after months of uncertainty. It will convene Dec. 13. Her office released a statement detailing Brown’s proposals—among them, extending the safe harbor for anyone who applied for government assistance and adding up to $90 million in aid for low-income renters. “As we enter our coldest months, it is absolutely essential that we take action to ensure no additional Oregon families are evicted when rental assistance is on the way,” Brown said. “We must take legislative action now.” The state agency running the emergency relief program has struggled to keep up with applications and is freezing submissions for six weeks starting Dec. 1.

JUDGE NIXES HERNANDEZ SUIT: U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken this week dismissed a federal lawsuit filed by former state Rep. Diego Hernandez (D-East Portland) against the Oregon Legislature and some of its members. As WW first reported, Hernandez ran afoul of legislative conduct rules in his dealings with three women. After one of the women filed a complaint against him in April 2020, an investigation led to a disciplinary hearing in early 2021. The House Conduct Committee voted to expel Hernandez, but he resigned before a floor vote on the matter. In the meantime, he filed suit, alleging discrimination, a violation of his First Amendment rights, and a lack of due process. Judge Aiken found his claims unpersuasive and dismissed the case. “[Hernandez’s] allegations of discriminatory intent by the named Defendants are conclusory,” Aiken wrote, “and unsupported by any factual allegations.”