The Mercury provides news and fun every single day—but your help is essential. If you believe Portland benefits from smart, local journalism and arts coverage, please consider making a small monthly contribution, because without you, there is no us. Thanks for your support!

People holding signs unfair labor practices waving at cars
Fred Meyer workers striking outside the Johnson Creek location. Blair Stenvick

In local news:

• Let’s start with the shitty news: Omicron is here and is probably going to overwhelm our already overwhelmed hospital system. A new report from the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) shows that Omicron is significantly more transmissible than the Delta variant and Oregon is expected to see a sharp surge in COVID-19 cases with a peak of 3,000 hospitalizations in early February (that’s almost double the peak hospitalization caused by the Delta variant, by the way). Oregon health officials are urging everyone to get a booster shot and creating three more high-capacity vaccination site throughout the state in the next couple weeks to get help get needles into arms.

• Fred Meyer and QFC workers started a weeklong strike this morning, alleging unfair labor practices against mega-retailer Kroger. Workers are asking for wage increases to keep pace with cost-of-living increases. The strike will end at 12:01 am on December 24, so shop at Winco or Trader Joes or Safeway or New Seasons or ANYWHERE ELSE until then!

• Portland’s public housing authority, Home Forward, received 476 emergency housing vouchers in June. The vouchers are intended to be distributed to Portlander’s experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity and could be used to cover rent costs. So far, the housing authority has distributed just 15 of those vouchers, or 3 percent. Home Forward says the delay is due to the speed of housing referrals and they are working to sped up the process.

 A wonky long-read for your weekend: For several years, a Boeing manufacturing plant in Portland reported to the Environmental Protections Agency (EPA) that it was emitting extraordinarily high levels of hexavalent chromium, a highly toxic metal that can cause cancer and various diseases. Turns out, the emissions reports Boeing submitted were severely overestimated and the company retroactively corrected them. However, while Boeing had been reporting to the EPA that it was poisoning Portland’s air for four years, the EPA never did anything about it. ProPublica tried to figure out why.

In national news:

• Pfizer is expanding clinical trials for its COVID-19 vaccine for children as young as 6 months old. The vaccine-maker said Friday that a two-dose vaccine series did not create a “robust immune response” in children ages 2 to 5, so it will now test a three-dose series.

• The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) endorsed the “test to stay” program for unvaccinated students. The program allows unvaccinated students to stay in school after being exposed to COVID as long as they repeatedly test negative for the virus. (The Oregon Department of Education started using this method last month).

• A Florida man who participated in the January 6 Capitol attack was sentenced to more than five years in prison Friday, the longest sentence for anyone involved in the insurrection so far. The man was filmed attacking a police officer with a pole during the insurrection.

• Wildfires—yes, wildfires in December—have burned hundreds of thousands of acres across Kansas this week, killing two people. The fires are fueled by dry conditions and winds up to 90 mph.

Fun stuff:

• Gee whiz, it’s getting pretty close to Christmas! To make sure your gifts arrive in time, shop local! The Mercury’s Holiday Gift Guide features only the coolest gifts and where to find them... locally!

• Let’s end today with a classic: a video of zoo animals.