City of Portland Delays Return to Workplace

The Omicron variant is keeping employers from mandating return-to-work days.

The city of Portland is pushing back the date it’s requiring workers to return to the office, because of the Omicron variant.

City employees were going to work in the office at least one day a week starting early next year, but on Dec. 21, the city said it was postponing those plans due to increasing concern over the emergence of the new variant that’s spreading faster than other strains and is rapidly becoming the dominant strain across the country.

“The city will monitor public health information to determine when to move forward with the plan for expanding in-person work,” the city said in a statement.

The city’s announcement comes as hospitals across the state report being at capacity because of COVID-19 cases, a discouraging repeat of prior surges in cases.

Earlier this week, Gov. Kate Brown announced her intent to get 1 million Oregonians booster shots by the end of January. (She also announced a delay in requiring state employees who have been working remotely to return to the office.)

And Oregon Health & Science University said last week it expects hospitalizations to reach 3,000 by February—a sobering number considering the state’s last peak in September from the Delta variant.

The delay of city employees returning to offices in downtown Portland will prolong the relative vacancy of the city’s center.