Saying she was “sounding the alarm” on Covid-19, Governor Kate Brown on Monday announced a statewide ban on indoor social gatherings of more than 10, following guidance from health officials that exercise classes, weddings, birthday parties and other celebrations have been driving factors in the steep rise in new cases.
“I am mandating that social get-togethers like potlucks, dinner parties, birthday parties and book clubs that take place indoors cannot exceed 10 people,” the governor said, holding up 10 fingers.
She said the restriction applies only to indoor social gatherings, and does not change the guidelines in effect for businesses and churches at this time. She acknowledged that it will be difficult for the state to enforce the size of gatherings that take place in private residences, and quipped that she is not setting up a “party police.”
“The proof here will be in the numbers,” she said. “Either, people will adhere to this requirement and become a positive force for stopping Covid-19, or I will be forced to take more restrictive measures. No one wants that.”
Today I am sounding the alarm: we are at risk of COVID-19 getting out of control in Oregon.
Each of us needs to take immediate action to slow the spread of this disease.
Face coverings are required in some outdoor public spaces and indoor social get-togethers are capped at 10. pic.twitter.com/QMrsURfy48
— Governor Kate Brown (@OregonGovBrown) July 13, 2020
The governor also expanded on an earlier mandate, now requiring that face masks be worn at outdoor gatherings where the minimum six feet of social distancing may be difficult to maintain. This new requirement takes effect Wednesday, July 15, she said.
“Any time you are outdoors, cannot maintain a physical distance of six feet, and you are with people you don’t live with, please, please, please put on a face covering,” she said.
For enforcement, the state will “continue to rely on businesses to help implement this really important rule,” she said, and will favor an “education-first” policy. Those that do not comply with the new rules could face serious consequences, the governor said, including citations, fines and even closing down businesses “that refuse to protect their employees and their customers.”
While she admitted there have been “a lot of conversations” concerning restaurants and bars, which have been allowed to reopen in every county (under strict distancing and safety guidelines), she said they “do not appear to have been the source of significant transmission” during the recent uptrend.
“I hope I don’t have to go the route of Texas and California, and close bars and restaurants,” she said, “but nothing is off the table.”
Governor Brown made the announcement at a press conference Monday morning with Oregon Health Authority officials.
“Social gatherings” — including graduations, birthday parties, weddings and holiday celebrations — are increasing the spread of Covid-19, officials said last week, with confirmed outbreaks that have been traced to exercise classes, a fraternity party and a bachelor party, though the state declined to provide other details such as where these gatherings occurred or how large they were.
Contact tracers have also identified an outbreak linked to a “social gathering” in Clackamas County, but local officials would not provide other information, citing privacy concerns.
“Since Oregon began reopening, we have seen spread of Covid-19 when people get together to celebrate with family and friends,” the Oregon Health Authority said on Friday. “While it is difficult not to celebrate these events as we have in the past, Covid-19 is spreading in our communities and people must think hard about altering daily routines that may put people at risk.”