(Update: Adding governor’s news release)
Five more counties – and more closures – may follow: ‘This is a wake-up call’
SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) – With COVID-19 case counts soaring to record levels and a worrisome rise in positive test rates and hospitalizations, Gov. Kate Brown outlined new social interaction and business restrictions Friday in at least five counties and possibly 10, to try to stem the spread of the virus.
“Unfortunately, it’s spreading at an unprecedented rate,” Brown told reporters. “It’s extremely concerning. It’s alarming that a majority of these cases are not linked to any specific outbreak, but rather symptomatic of broader community spread.”
“Let me be clear — we cannot allow this disease to continue to spread so rapidly in our communities. Certainly, lives are at stake,” she said, noting that governors around the country are seeing similar sharp rises in cases and having to take steps to curb the spread.
Oregonians have sacrificed for many months, she said once again, and as a result, the state has “done relatively well,” compared to others, until lately.
“But we cannot let up now,” Brown said. “In fact, we have to go on the offense to stop the spread.”
So Brown ordered a two-week pause in social activities starting next Wednesday for counties experiencing more than 200 cases per 100,000 residents over a two-week period, or more than 60 cases for counties with fewer than 30,000 residents.
To start, that includes the three Multnomah, Jackson, Marion, Umatilla and Malheur counties. Five more are “on the cusp” of reaching that level and may have to join them: Washington, Clackamas, Linn, Baker and Union counties.
The new steps to control the virus are “intended to curb human contact, reducing the sheer number of people we interact with and the frequency of those encounters,” Brown said.
So they include a pause on the recently returned indoor visitation at long-term care facilities, as well as reducing indoor restaurant capacity to a maximum of 50 (including staff and customer) and reducing group sizes that can be seated together to six people. Outdoor dining and takeout are encouraged.
The measures also include reducing all indoor recreation activities to 50 capacity at gyms, fitness facilities and museums.
“This pause does not change any of the rules for faith-based gatherings, at this time,” Brown said.
She’s also directing all businesses to have staff work at home “to the greatest extent possible,” and for everyone to limit indoor gatherings to single households only, or up to six people during the pause.
“Social gatherings continue to the main culprit” for community spread, Brown said, but unfortunately, “the data is proving that not all Oregonians are listening.”
“For this two-week pause, please, please, please limit your social interactions to your own households,” the governor said. If any larger gatherings are planned, “please cancel” them, she said: “We need your help.”
The goal, along with saving lives, is to avoid overwhelming the health care system, as COVID-19 hospitalizations have risen dramatically. Portland-area Level 1 (major) hospitals have reached over 90% of their ICU capacity in recent days.
“I want to be clear,” Brown said. “Additional closures may be imminent in two weeks, if we don’t see reduced case counts.”
As she put it later: “If we don’t stop the spread, further closures are imminent.”
The Oregon Health Authority reported 805 new confirmed COVID-19 cases Thursday, breaking the state’s previous daily record of 600. In addition, the most recent percentage of positive COVID-19 tests in the state was 8.4%.
On Friday, the health authority reported 769 new cases, increasing the number of cases in the state since the start of the pandemic to 48,608. The death toll is 716.
Officials say that the “unprecedented” numbers suggest that Oregonians are circulating more in their communities, letting their guard down and attending more indoor social gatherings.
There are 204 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Oregon, a record number, according to the Oregon Health Authority’s dashboard. The previous record, outside the month of November, was 168 patients in July.
Brown also asked Oregonians to use the same limits on social gatherings as they make Thanksgiving plans, and to change those plans if they don’t meet the new guidelines.
“This is a wake-up call,” Brown said. “I don’t want to take more actions that would have a devastating impact on businesses, large or small. I absolutely will, if necessary, to protect the health and safety of Oregonians.”
Brown also called on Congress to quickly pass another COVID-19 relief package when they return to Washington, including another round of $600-a-week added jobless benefits to help those struggling.
“I know any restrictions on restaurants and businesses impact many people,” Brown said. “It keeps me up at now, how we’re seeing these increases in case numbers, and the steps we have t take to stop them. However, we must stop this virus from spreading, we must preserve our hospital capacity, and we must save lives.”
Dr. Dean Sidelinger, state epidemiologist, tried to debunk those who call COVID-19 just another flu: “The death rate is 20 times higher than the death rate for the flu.”
The delay until next Wednesday is to give businesses notice as they move forward, and Sidelinger urged more Oregonians to order takeout or to-go, rather than in-person dining.
If the “stay home” order of earlier this year had stayed in effect, he said, there likely would be significantly fewer cases, “but that is not a sustainable measure.” Indeed, talk of COVID-19 “fatigue” has been a buzzword of late, so the balancing act for health officials only gets tougher.
Governor Kate Brown Announces Two-Week Pause on Social Activities to Help Stop Rapid Spread of COVID-19
Measures take effect Nov. 11 in Malheur, Marion, Multnomah, Jackson, and Umatilla Counties, with five additional counties close to triggering these measures
(Portland, OR) — Governor Kate Brown today announced new measures pausing social activities to help stop the rapid spread of COVID-19 in counties where community transmission is on the rise. These pause measures will be in effect for two weeks, from Nov. 11 through Nov. 25, for Malheur, Marion, Multnomah, Jackson, and Umatilla Counties. Based on increasing statewide case counts, as well as increased sporadic case rates in these five counties, the new public health measures to reduce spread are an effort to save lives in Oregon.
Five additional counties––Washington, Baker, Union, Clackamas, and Linn––are close to the COVID-19 thresholds that would necessitate adding them to the Two-Week Pause. The Oregon Health Authority will examine their COVID-19 metrics on Monday to determine if those counties qualify.
“It is alarming that recent high case rates are not linked to any specific outbreaks, but rather reflective of sporadic community spread,” said Governor Brown. “We are seeing in real time how this virus can quickly snowball out of control. This Two-Week Pause is a series of measures and recommendations intended to curb human contact — both through reducing the amount of people we interact with, and the frequency of those encounters. We must stop this virus from spreading. We must preserve our hospital capacity. And we must save lives.”
The Two-Week Pause measures include:
- Urging all businesses to mandate work from home to the greatest extent possible.
- Pausing long-term care facility visits that take place indoors to protect staff and residents.
- Reducing maximum restaurant capacity to 50 people (including customers and staff) for indoor dining, with a maximum party size of six. Continuing to encourage outdoor dining and take out.
- Reducing the maximum capacity of other indoor activities to 50 people (includes gyms, fitness organizations/studios, bowling alleys, ice rinks, indoor sports, pools, and museums).
- Limiting social gatherings to your household, or no more than six people if the gathering includes those from outside your household, reducing the frequency of those social gatherings (significantly in a two-week period), and keeping the same six people in your social gathering circle.
Governor Brown added: “I am also calling on Congress to pass another COVID-19 relief package immediately when they return to DC—including another $600 weekly benefit in enhanced Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation—due to the increase of COVID-19 cases and the need for rollbacks both here in Oregon and nationwide.”
The Two-Week Pause is being instituted in counties with a case rate above 200 per 100,000 people over a two-week period, or more than 60 cases over a two-week period for counties with less than 30,000 people. These measures replace the County Watch List process that Governor Brown instituted in July.
Governor Brown’s full remarks are available here.
A link to Governor Brown’s press conference is available here.