SALEM, Ore. — Dozens of Oregon county commissioners, several judges, and the head of Oregon's restaurant lobby signed a letter addressed to Governor Kate Brown this week, urging her to reconsider the latest round of COVID-19 restrictions.
All three commissioners in both Jackson and Klamath counties signed onto the letter, in addition to two commissioners from Lake County. 27 of Oregon's 36 counties are represented on the letter by at least one elected official, joined by Jason Brandt, president and CEO of the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association.
After Oregon surpassed 300 COVID-19 patients hospitalized throughout the state, Governor Brown announced on Tuesday that 15 Oregon counties would move to Extreme Risk status on Friday — mandating the closure of indoor dining in those counties, in addition to greatly reduced capacity at most other businesses and venues.
The letter to Governor Brown, dated April 27, posits that COVID-19 super-spreader events in Oregon have not been tied to the hospitality industry, in part because most restaurants and other businesses have followed the state's general health and safety guidelines prompted by the pandemic.
"The variants are indeed troublesome, and we share your concern for their spread," the letter reads. "But shutting down our restaurants and further depriving Oregonians of their right to make calculated community engagement risks when the virus continues to spread elsewhere will not result in success."
The signatories ask Brown to put "all effort and momentum" toward vaccinations, letting businesses operate under the Oregon Health Authority's industry-specific safety guidelines without shutting down indoor dining at restaurants.
"You must know restrictions on specific types of businesses compared to others within our local communities is creating rifts and dividing people rather than bringing Oregonians together," the letter concludes. "We can flip the script by removing state mandated business restrictions on our communities while empowering our county health departments to uphold high expectations for ongoing health and safety measures as recommended by the CDC.
"We have reached our turning point and we thank you in advance for your consideration."