SALEM, Ore. — In a press conference on Monday, Governor Kate Brown heralded a new executive order aimed at increasing "social distancing" in the state of Oregon — further reducing the size of public gatherings and limiting the operation of restaurants — in order to hamper the spread of the new coronavirus.
"My goal is to protect the health and safety of Oregon families. Every step we are taking is being made with community input and careful consideration of its impacts," said Governor Brown. "Each action has ripple effects across our state, both on a personal and an economic level. But we can overcome these hurdles in an Oregon Way. By working together, we are stronger, even if it’s in ways we never thought possible."
All public gatherings over the size of 25 people are now barred, Brown said — with the exception of essential locations such as grocery stores, pharmacies, retail stores, and workplaces — for at least four weeks. She also said that people are encouraged to avoid gatherings of 10 people or more.
Previously the limit on gatherings for events, issued March 12, was 250 people. However, new guidelines from the CDC over the past several days have rapidly reduced the crowd size that public health officials advise.
In addition, restaurants throughout Oregon will be reduced to serving food in a take-out or delivery capacity only, Brown said. It will not be possible to dine in at a restaurant until further notice, also for at least four weeks.
Not complying with either of these mandates will be considered a Class C misdemeanor.
Brown advised that all other businesses attempt to follow the "take-out" model in order to increase social distancing with employees and the public as much as possible.
"I am also encouraging all other businesses to evaluate your practices to accommodate social distancing measures," Brown said. "Basically, can your business do the equivalent of restaurant take-out? If you cannot do that, I strongly urge you to close your doors to customers temporarily."
As of Monday, there were 39 identified cases of COVID-19 in Oregon. The state experienced its first casualty from the virus on Saturday — a 70-year-old veteran from Multnomah County.
In a press conference at the White House on Monday morning, President Donald Trump asked Americans to avoid groups of more than 10 and said that older people in particular should try to stay home as much as possible, avoiding bars and restaurants.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, acknowledged that the recommendations might seem extreme, but they might make a crucial difference in mitigating the spread of COVID-19.
"Some may look at them and say they're going to be really inconvenient for people. Some will look and say, well, maybe we've gone a little bit too far? They were well thought out," Dr. Fauci said. "I'll say it over and over again — when you're dealing with an emerging infectious diseases outbreak, you are always behind where you think you are."
On top of the social distancing mandates, Governor Brown announced that she would form two "command groups," one charged with managing the state's health care resources and the other with the state government's resources.
"The metro regional COVID-19 hospital response plan will help the health care community to prepare for the expected surge of COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks — a model for a crisis care plan that can be implemented statewide," Brown's office said. "Working together, hospitals will treat COVID-19 testing resources and personal protective equipment, including gowns, masks, and gloves, as community resources, and work together to increase bed capacity."
Oregon's Unified Command emergency response team has also been activated — an incident management team similar to what the state would use during a major earthquake in the Cascadia region.
"This will fully integrate the Oregon Health Authority’s public health response efforts with the Office of Emergency Management’s efforts to minimize any disruption to critical services in Oregon," Brown's office said.
Governor Brown also responded to the request of Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum by declaring an "abnormal market disruption" for items like hand sanitizer and toilet paper, a measure intended to prevent price gouging.
We now have a hotline dedicated to complaints about #COVID2019 price gouging. Have you seen prices for consumer goods increase by more than 15% at a store or online vendor?
We want to hear from you.
☎️ us at 503-378-8442.
Or visit us at https://t.co/sH50E23R7J.
— Ellen Rosenblum (@ORDOJ) March 16, 2020