SALEM, Ore. — Governor Kate Brown issued a statement on Thursday, condemning murmurs of what she called "planned defiance" to her coronavirus-related executive orders.
Brown's statement indicated that some local officials had decided to disregard the state's risk level system and encouraged businesses to reopen, though she was not specific regarding to which politicians she referred.
On Tuesday, several mayors of cities in Clackamas County led a rally — urging businesses to reopen on January 1 in spite of the state's restrictions, Portland station KGW reported. Clackamas County remains under the Extreme Risk level, with the state's tightest restrictions.
The Governor said that she has directed Oregon OSHA and the OLCC — the two agencies most active in enforcement of coronavirus measures — to deploy "all available resources" to ensure compliance.
Brown's full statement may be read below:
“Oregon’s health and safety measures are in place to protect Oregonians, save lives, and keep our hospitals and health care workers from becoming overwhelmed by COVID-19. Oregonians have made incredible sacrifices throughout this pandemic and, now, many communities across Oregon are reducing the spread of COVID-19 and moving into risk levels that allow restaurants and businesses to reopen to at least some indoor service.
“If businesses reopen too early and instead create new spikes in COVID-19 cases, the actions of a few business owners could set entire communities back and keep them in the Extreme Risk category for even longer.
“It’s unfortunate and irresponsible that some local politicians are choosing to willfully mislead business owners into jeopardizing public health and risking fines, instead of working with their communities to help stop the spread of COVID-19 so that we can reopen businesses, schools, and more quickly return to normal life.
“Let me be clear: Local elected officials do not have the authority under Oregon law to disregard my emergency orders or to authorize anyone else to do so. Any businesses that reopen in violation of state risk level requirements for their county will be subject to fines and enforcement. Undoubtedly, those same local elected officials who are encouraging businesses to fully reopen and flagrantly disregard public health are unlikely to have the backs of businesses when faced with fines and penalties, nor are they likely to be willing to be held responsible for the public health impacts their actions create.
“I am urging all Oregon businesses to put the health of their communities first by following the guidance we have in place for their counties. A large majority of businesses continue to do the right thing to protect their communities. However, when Oregonians don’t take COVID-19 seriously, and don’t take steps to reduce the spread of the disease, they put all of us at risk.
“I have directed Oregon OSHA and the OLCC to deploy all available resources to ensure businesses are in compliance. I expect enforcement agencies to continue to use an education first approach, but Oregonians need to understand that these rules are enforceable under law. For businesses that refuse to comply, OSHA and OLCC staff are empowered to take administrative action including issuing citations, fines, and Red Warning Notices if necessary.
“Oregon has led in our response to COVID-19, and help is on the way for struggling businesses. I proposed new resources for rent relief for businesses in the third special session, and I expect a new round of federal aid to be delivered soon. We can’t waiver in our response to the virus now, when the end is finally in sight and resources are on the way. We are better than this. As we head into the new year, I am asking all Oregonians, yet again, to commit to making smart choices and to take seriously their individual responsibilities during a public health emergency.”