PORTLAND, Ore. — Even prior to Governor Kate Brown's announcement of "urgent new rules" on Wednesday night, concerns about the spread of COVID-19 prompted a slow wave of cancelled or postponed events across the state of Oregon.
The Governor's announcement, however, made those precautions explicit — and in some cases, mandatory. She joined Oregon public health officials in holding a press conference on Thursday morning to outline the measures against new coronavirus.
Governor Kate Brown convenes the Coronavirus Response Team (Gov. Kate Brown Press Office / My Oregon News).
Under the new rules in Oregon, all large gatherings of more than 250 people will be barred for at least the next four weeks.
"A gathering is defined as any event in a space in which appropriate social distancing of a minimum of three feet cannot be maintained," Governor Brown's office said.
NewsWatch 12 is in the ongoing process of updating an article with all cancelled or postponed events in our region. The OSAA announced on Wednesday that it would not allow fans into arenas during the tournament games this week, and the NBA has suspended its regular season.
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival announced the cancellation of all shows for Thursday, March 12 alone, with more plans forthcoming.
Schools & Work
On the other hand, schools are to be kept open. However, the state advises against all "non-essential school-associated gatherings" and group activities — including group parent meetings, field trips, and competitions.
In the workplace, businesses are asked to take "distancing measures" to increase the physical space between employees in offices and worksites. They are asked to limit all in-person meetings, travel, and to stagger work schedules whenever possible.
Long-term care and assisted living
Governor Brown's office announced earlier this week strict limitations on long-term care and assisted living facilities to restrict visitation down to only essential people, and screen visitors for COVID-19 symptoms. Many senior living facilities had already started to take similar precautions after a facility in the Seattle area became the epicenter of a fatal outbreak.
“Nobody is immune to this virus, it can touch everyone,” said Governor Brown. “We can’t let fear and anxiety stigmatize people. We are seeing cases across multiple counties and age groups, and in people exposed through different circumstances. It’s time for us all to do what we can to slow its spread and take care of one another.”
Brown's office said that it had submitted an updated request to Vice President Mike Pence, outlining Oregon's needs from the federal government to support coronavirus response efforts in Oregon, as well as anticipated future needs.
Meanwhile, the Oregon Health Authority announced new steps to expand access to COVID-19 testing.
"State epidemiologists have updated COVID-19 testing guidelines to emphasize that outpatient clinicians can order a test for the virus from a commercial laboratory, at their discretion, without OHA authorization," Brown's office said. "In addition, the procedure for collecting a COVID-19 sample is no longer classified as a high-risk, airborne testing process, requiring N95 masks."
Under the new recommendations, health care providers will only be required to wear a regular mask, gown, gloves, and eye protections — making the procedure for safely collecting samples "simpler to administer for health care workers and easier to obtain for patients."
State health officials said that they also have made agreements with five hospital systems to conduct COVID-19 testing, although the state has not yet revealed which hospitals. Anyone considering getting tested is asked to consult with a health care provider before showing up at a clinic or hospital to request one.