In a press conference on Monday, Gov. Kate Brown announced 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 and bars.
All public gatherings over the size of 25 people are now barred through the end of the month, Gov. Brown said, with the exception of “essential locations” like workplaces, grocery stores, pharmacies and retail stores. She also said that people are encouraged to avoid gatherings of 10 people or more, in accordance with the latest recommendations of the CDC and President Donald Trump.
“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,” Gov. Brown said. “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.”
Restaurants and bars can no longer serve food inside their business. They may provide only drive-thru, delivery and mobile service. Restaurants are urged to evaluate if their operations can handle a takeout-only business at this time. Other businesses are urged to evaluate their social distancing capabilities, with a recommended distance of allowing people to stay at least six feet apart.
Any businesses found to be in violation of the new guidelines will be subject to a class C misdemeanor.
“I know that while these actions will impact Oregon businesses and employees, they will help decrease the rate of infection while bringing state and federal resources up to the same speed as the spread of the virus,” said Gov. Brown.
The governor’s Coronavirus Economic Advisory Council will convene tomorrow to examine ways to mitigate the impacts of new social distancing measures and anything else that adversely affects Oregon’s economy. The council will examine a variety of tools available, including requests to the State Legislature and the federal government.
Gov. Brown also announced the formation of two command groups, one to manage our health care system’s resources and the other to manage our state 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.
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.
Gov. Brown had been mulling the extraordinary measure of imposing a curfew or full-on closing the state’s restaurants and bars, following the lead of states such as Illinois, Ohio, and Massachusetts who had already done so, all in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
An open letter, signed by more than 60 workers in the state’s food and beverage industries, had urged Brown to take this move, while also requesting financial support for businesses and their employees in the weeks to come.
Canby Mayor Brian Hodson was on a conference call with other local and state officials Sunday evening where the governor’s office discussed her thinking on this issue.
Gov. Brown said she was considering a curfew for restaurants and bars, limiting their occupancy or potentially shutting them down altogether, possibly with exceptions for take-out and restaurants where diners can have appropriate distance from each other.
Hodson says the financial impact of these decisions was being heavily considered, as well as financial support that businesses may need as a result of the governor’s final decisions. An option being considered is expanding unemployment benefits, among other ideas.
“My utmost concern is for our independent restaurants and establishments that make Canby the interconnected city it is,” Mayor Hodson said. “My concerns are for Gwynn’s Coffeehouse, Backstop Bar & Grill and other similar businesses in our town, particularly ones not equipped to do an increased volume of takeout orders.”
The governor announced her decision during a press conference Monday afternoon.
“I want to ensure our businesses are prepared for this and that they ultimately thrive,” he said. “I pray it is a decision that balances the need to control this outbreak and with the survival of small businesses.”
In its now-daily coronavirus update Sunday night, the Oregon Health Authority encouraged Oregonians to practice compassion wherever possible in these difficult times.
“Closing schools, canceling highly anticipated events and disrupting our daily routines by staying home and away from others causes stress for all of us,” the OHA said. “This is hard and important work. Take a deep breath. Remember, we are doing this to protect each other, the people we love, and the communities we call home.”
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