PORTLAND, Ore. — Governor Kate Brown called a press conference on Friday to address the latest on Oregon's battle with coronavirus, and the ongoing protests and violence on the streets of Portland.
Brown began by addressing protests for racial justice in Portland, which began 100 days prior, after the death of George Floyd in May. The Governor said that lawmakers and community leaders had "attempted to rise to the call" with police accountability bills passed during the first special session, and the state is looking to reinvision law enforcement training with a thorough review by a special task force.
"For those who have experienced racism and descrimination firsthand, I know that slow and steady progress doesn't feel fast enough — it isn't," Brown said. "Like many of you, I too am angry that Black and brown Oregonians continue to fear for their lives and for their families. These accomplishments are just a start."
Brown said that she and other elected leaders "need to continue to be held accountable" for addressing racial disparities in Oregon.
The Governor also referenced her plan to stop the violence in Portland with a combination of increased police presence and a forum with protest leaders. Though the heads of jurisdictions in Washington and Clackamas counties and the City of Gresham have said that they would not actively participate in the surge — implying that they had not been consulted by Brown's office prior to her plan's release — the Governor said that Oregon State Police Superintendent Travis Hampton had contacted them on her behalf in advance.
Brown also indicated that she would not be calling in the National Guard to Portland, saying that she intends to rely on officers who are trained in law enforcement.
"There needs to be a community-wide effort to stop the violence, because the violence must stop — period," Brown said. "We must be tireless in our pursuit of racial justice, we must be tireless in our pursuit of accountability for law enforcement. And we must also work together with responsible law enforcement to end violence and arson in Portland. This needs to happen immediately."
When asked why she singled out white supremacist organizations in a Thursday statement decrying Portland violence, Brown said that her words stemmed from a vision for Oregon's future that included eradicating racism.
"My understanding of these organizations is that they are based on hate, and I think it makes it very difficult to build what Dr. King would call 'a beloved community,'" Brown said.
Governor Brown, Oregon Health Authority director Patrick Allen, and state epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger struck an optimistic tone about the current state of coronavirus in Oregon — but stressed that the Labor Day weekend could mark a turning point if Oregonians don't take necessary precautions.
Get-togethers with family and friends over holiday weekends in the spring and summer have set back the state's efforts to contain COVID-19, they underlined.
Allen said that there has been a 30 percent drop in weekly cases since they peaked in July. Last week was the fourth week in a row to see a drop in cases, though the number of weekly deaths attributed to COVID-19 increased slightly. Allen stressed that Oregonians need to "keep up the pressure" in order to make the recent reduction a continuing trend.
Dr. Sidelinger cited the latest COVID-19 modeling, which showed that each person with the virus is now infecting, on average, less than one other person — accounting for the current downward trend. But, Sidelinger continued, the holiday weekend "could erase all those gains" if people are not cautious.
Reopening schools with in-person learning is Brown's top goal, she said, but cases will need to continue dropping for that to occur.
"Stay local as much as possible. Stay small — we know gatherings can spread COVID-19, especially among those without symptoms, who unknowingly spread the disease," Brown said. "Stay outside. If you want to get together with others in a small group, do it outdoors — your risk of getting infected is lower . . . Stay safe by covering your face, wear a face covering or a mask — it wil protect you and the people around you. And support your local businesses, it's one of the best things you can do for our economy or your fellow Oregonians right now."