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A snowy bridge in Portland
Snow is expected to turn to rain throughout Thursday. Motoya Nakamura / Multnomah County

Watch your step, Portland! It’s icy out there—I know this because I almost ate shit on my front steps this morning and because the weather people say so. Freezing rain and rain are expected throughout the day as things begin to thaw.

In local news:

• The county has opened the Oregon Convention Center as a seventh, 24-hour warming shelter as freezing temperatures continue this week in Portland. Volunteers are needed at all of the shelter locations.

• An updated COVID-19 model from the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) projects that the state will see a peak of 1,250 Omicron-related hospitalizations in mid-February. That’s less than half of the 3,000 hospitalizations OHSU projected a couple weeks ago. The dramatic change in anticipated hospitalizations is due to new data that indicates the Omicron variant has a 70 percent lower hospitalization rate than the Delta variant.

• A reminder that public transit is FREE on New Year’s Eve starting at 8 pm, so please don’t drive if you imbibe!

• Improv trio Broke Gravy is chomping at the bit to get back on stage. “As three Black Americans, we utilize our unique voices to spark thoughtful conversations on and off comedy stages,” the group says, "Also, we're funny AF.” Chase Hutchinson has the scoop on the group’s return performance tonight!

• The end of an era:

In national news:

• Ghislaine Maxwell was convicted Wednesday of recruiting and grooming teenage girls to be sexually abused by Jeffrey Epstein. After five days of deliberations, the jury found Maxwell guilty on five of six counts, with the maximum sentence for each charge ranging from five to 40 years. No sentencing date has been announced.

• Michigan paid up to $8.5 billion in fraudulent unemployment claims during the pandemic, a recent audit found. Following the audit, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer established a permanent Unemployment Insurance Fraud Response Team to help investigate and identify fraudulent claims. During the pandemic, Michigan’s unemployment agency received 77 times more claims per week in comparison to a typical pre-pandemic week.

• New York City will host its massive, super-spreader New Year’s Eve event in Times Square despite the city’s record surge in COVID-19 cases caused by the Omicron variant. Mayor Bill de Blasio, who originally said the event would be restricted due to the surge in cases, announced Thursday that putting on a full-fledged event is key “to show the world that New York City is fighting our way through this.” Bill and I have different ideas about what fighting a pandemic looks like, I guess.

• Rapid at-home COVID-19 tests are becoming increasingly available (good!), but the results of those tests are rarely reported to regional public health departments, leading to fears that the spread of COVID is being obscured through unreported testing (not so good).

• And we’ll end on some delightful river otters! Stay warm, be safe, and WE’LL SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!