SALEM, Ore. — With coronavirus cases continuing to surge in Oregon and around the country, Governor Kate Brown called a press conference on Friday to announce a two-week "freeze" statewide in an attempt to curb the alarming trend.
Brown and state health officials had already implemented a two-week pause on certain activities in nine counties with particularly high case rates, which began on Wednesday. But Oregon has continued to see an "alarming spike" in cases, Brown said, now marking a second day with more than 1,000 new cases.
Hospital officials joined Brown on a call earlier this week, warning of dwindling hospital capacity as both cases and hospitalizations increase rapidly. Many hospitals in Oregon have already voluntarily scaled back on elective surgeries to make room for incoming patients, Brown said.
The two-week freeze measures are set to begin next Wednesday, November 18, and last through December 2. They are far more wide-reaching than the pause measures already in place, actually closing or limiting many types of businesses.
"These risk reduction measures are critical in limiting the spread of COVID-19, reducing risk in communities more vulnerable to serious illness and death, and helping conserve hospital capacity so that all Oregonians can continue to have access to quality care," the Governor's office said in a preliminary statement.
According to the Governor's office, the freeze measures include all of the following:
- Limiting social get-togethers (indoors and outdoors) to no more than six people, total, from no more than two households.
- Limiting faith based organizations to a maximum of 25 people indoors or 50 people outdoors.
- Limiting restaurants and bars to take-out only.
- Closing gyms and fitness organizations.
- Closing indoor recreational facilities, museums, indoor entertainment activities, and indoor pools and sports courts.
- Closing outdoor recreational facilities, zoos, gardens, aquariums, outdoor entertainment activities, and outdoor pools.
- Limiting grocery stores and pharmacies to a maximum of 75% capacity and encouraging curbside pick-up.
- Limiting retail stores and retail malls (indoor and outdoor) to a maximum of 75% capacity and encouraging curbside pick-up.
- Closing venues (that host or facilitate indoor or outdoor events).
- Requiring all businesses to mandate work-from-home to the greatest extent possible and closing offices to the public.
- Prohibiting indoor visiting in long-term care facilities.
The freeze carves out a space for some businesses and services to continue as they have been under Oregon Health Authority guidance: providing exceptions for personal services such as barber shops, hair salons, and non-medical massage therapy; congregate homeless shelters; outdoor recreation and sports; youth programs, childcare, and K-12 schools.
The duration of the freeze includes the Thanksgiving holiday, as state officials urge people to avoid gatherings or keep them small. Social gatherings have consistently been the primary vector for spread of COVID-19 in Oregon for the past several months, according to public health officials.
Brown said that at least one county, possibly more, will be in the freeze longer than the rest of the state.
“Given the data and modeling we are seeing, my public health experts tell me that some counties will need longer to flatten the curve," the Governor said. "So I want to be very clear that there are some COVID-19 hotspot counties that will likely need to stay in the Freeze for much longer than two weeks. Multnomah County, for example, will be in this Freeze for at least four weeks. Our actions right now, no matter where in the state you live, are critical.”
On Friday morning, Governor Brown joined with the governors of Washington and California to issue a travel advisory along the West Coast, urging people to avoid non-essential travel and self-quarantine for 14 days if traveling out-of-state.
OHA reported 1,076 new COVID-19 cases and seven more deaths on Friday. The fatalities included two reported Thursday by Jackson County public health officials.
State epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger underlined what Jackson County Public Health revealed earlier this week — that local public health officials in Oregon have been overwhelmed by the sheer number of new cases, preventing them from comprehensive contact tracing of cases; forcing them to cut corners on the investigation process and prioritize tracing "high-risk" groups.