Portland, OR

Portland Daily Round Up: OHA reports first 3 COVID omicron cases, Commisioner Hardesty files $5M lawsuit against PPA

Emily Scarvie

(Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

By Emily Scarvie

(PORTLAND, Ore.) Hello Portlanders! It's Tuesday, Dec. 14 - Here's your daily round up of all the news happening in the City of Roses.

1. Health officials report Oregon's first 3 confirmed cases of COVID omicron variant

On Monday, the Oregon Health Authority reported the state's first three identified cases of the omicron variant of COVID-19. The cases were identified in Multnomah and Washington counties and all three people were fully vaccinated. OHA said it is monitoring the spread of the omicron variant with “robust individual-level and community-level variant surveillance.”

“It was only a matter of time before we identified the first case of the omicron variant in Oregon,” Gov. Kate Brown said in a statement. “As we continue to learn more about this new variant, we know the measures that are most effective in helping to keep ourselves and our families safe from omicron, delta and other COVID-19 variants: get vaccinated, get your booster and wear a mask. That’s the key to saving lives and keeping our businesses, schools and communities open.”

2. Commissioner Hardesty files $5M lawsuit against PPA, former president and police officer

After being falsely implicated in a hit-and-run crash earlier this year, Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty has filed a $5 million lawsuit against the Portland Police Association, former union president Brian Hunzeker and officer Kerri Ottoman.

The lawsuit states that a woman called police in March after her car was hit and “swore on her life” that Hardesty was the other driver. This unconfirmed report was then circulated by a Bureau of Emergency Communications employee.

According to the lawsuit, Hunzeker leaked the information to The Oregonian overnight and Ottoman shared the unconfirmed reports with a political action committee. Hunzeker ultimately resigned as president of the police union, saying he made a “serious, isolated mistake.” In May, he took a leave of absence from the bureau. Ottoman remains a police officer with PPB.

The lawsuit also claims that officers showed up at Hardesty’s house following the incident and banged on her door at 1 a.m., which Hardesty’s attorneys called a “discriminatory, retaliatory and unwarranted overreaction.”

3. Texas man sentenced for hitting U.S. Marshal with hammer during 2020 Portland protests

A Texas man has been sentenced to nearly four years in federal prison for assaulting a deputy U.S. Marshal during a protest in downtown Portland in July 2020. According to court documents, 24-year-old Jacob Gaines was using a construction hammer to attempt to break through the barricaded entrance around the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse. After reportedly breaking a hole in the barricade, U.S. Marshals attempted to stop him and he struck one of them with the hammer three times.

He was placed under arrest by another deputy. The U.S. Department of Justice – District of Oregon announced on Monday that Gaines was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison, with three years of supervised release.

4. Oregon added 10,000 jobs in November, unemployment dropped

The Oregon Employment Department reported that the state added 10,000 jobs in November, with some industries reaching all-time highs in job growth. The state’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.2% in November, down from October’s 4.4%. OED officials said most of the new jobs were in the leisure and hospitality industry, construction, professional and business services and retail trade.

While many industries gained back jobs, some industries also lost jobs. In the health care and social assistance industry, roughly 1,100 jobs were lost.

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