Two days into a “two-week pause” for nine counties, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Friday upped the ante with a “two-week freeze,” a statewide return to many of the most austere coronavirus restrictions that were implemented in March — including closing bars and prohibiting in-person dining at restaurants.
The governor announced the new efforts to clamp down on an unprecedented surge in new coronavirus cases and Covid-19 hospitalizations during a press conference with health officials Friday.
The two-week “freeze” harkens back to many of the restrictions of the early pandemic executive orders Brown issued in March. It will take effect on Wednesday, Nov. 18, and extend to at least Dec. 2.
The freeze in Multnomah County — the state’s most densely populated and Covid-impacted region — will last a minimum of four weeks, Brown said.
The new restrictions — which apply statewide, not just in counties with acute coronavirus spread — include limiting restaurants and bars to take-out service only, closing gyms and other indoor recreational facilities, museums, and theaters, and prohibiting visits at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
Outdoor recreational facilities, zoos, gardens and entertainment venues are also to be ordered closed, though city parks and playgrounds will remain open.
The governor orders “all businesses to mandate that employees work from home when possible,” and to close offices to the public. Grocery and retail stores are limited to 75% capacity and are encouraged to push curbside pickup service.
Social get-togethers, whether indoors or out, are to be limited to no more than six people from two households, and worship services are restricted to 25 people when indoors and 50 outdoors.
“These risk reduction measures are critical in limiting the spread of Covid-19, reducing risk in communities more vulnerable to serious illness and death, and helping conserve hospital capacity so that all Oregonians can continue to have access to quality care,” Brown’s office said in a news release.
Though the draconian restrictions are, in some ways, a return to the almost-complete shutdown of many businesses and organizations that occurred in March and April — they are actually much more targeted.
The “freeze” does not affect schools, sports or childcare services as they are currently operating, nor does it impact personal services such as hair salons, barbershops and massage parlors.
The Oregon Health Authority plans to issue specific guidance by sector in the coming days. It wasn’t immediately clear how the state would seek to enforce the new rules.
In the past, authorities have taken a largely hands-off approach to policing individual conduct related to the coronavirus restrictions, though businesses have been threatened with penalties for disregarding regulations.
The clamp-down comes amid Oregon’s largest-ever surge, as the state has repeatedly set records for new daily cases over the past two weeks — including 1,122 new cases Thursday. That was the first time new daily cases have eclipsed 1,000.
Medical officials have warned that hospitals could fill up if the trend isn’t checked. Oregon has reported 746 deaths due to the coronavirus as of Friday morning, along with 53,779 known cases.
On Friday, Brown also joined the governors of Washington and California in announcing a joint “travel advisory.” While all three states are urging people to avoid unnecessary travel, they’re also asking that people who visit — or return home from another state — voluntarily self-quarantine for two weeks.
“As hospitals across the West are stretched to capacity, we must take steps to ensure travelers are not bringing this disease home with them,” Brown said in a statement. “If you do not need to travel, you shouldn’t.”
News of the new restrictions drew immediate criticism from Republican leaders and citizens, including incoming Clackamas County Chair Tootie Smith, who shared a post on her political Facebook page at 2:02 a.m. Saturday declaring her plans to “celebrate Thanksgiving with as many family and friends as I can find.”
“Gov. Brown is WRONG to order otherwise,” Smith said.
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