Governor Kate Brown Announces Cautious Plan for Reopening Oregon in Wake of COVID Crisis

The state of Oregon will not begin the process of reopening in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic until Governor Kate Brown believes it is safe to do so.

She said as much during a livestream press conference Tuesday, where she introduced her framework for a reopening plan to restart public life and business while maintaining healthy communities.

The framework sets “specific prerequisites based on science,” which Oregon communities must meet to begin reopening, and also outlines the actions she believes the state must take to move forward.

“We all want to get back to work and return to normal life as quickly as possible,” Governor Brown said. “But the truth is: the best path forward is a cautious one — a path that proceeds gradually, carefully, and incrementally. A path that relies on science and facts to determine each step forward.”

She said she will not consider reopening communities until Oregon shows a declining rate in active cases of COVID-19 and public health data suggests a return to normalcy is safe.

She also wants to ensure the state has enough hospital beds and personal protective equipment to treat any surge of COVID-19 cases that results from easing the stay-home restrictions.

Once those prerequisites are met, Governor Brown said she would begin to reopen communities by ramping up COVID-19 testing capacity in every region of the state, developing a robust contact tracing systems to track and contain the virus and establishing a quarantine and isolation strategy for handling new cases.

“While we have to be careful, we also cannot stand still,” said Governor Brown. “The shuttering of an economy at this scale has never happened before. Likewise, the reopening of a shuttered economy of this scale has never happened before.

“As we prepare in the months ahead to get Oregon back to work, we must remember the importance of doing so in a smart and deliberate fashion that keeps us moving forward instead of sending us backward.”

The governor did not provide a specific timeline for her plan.

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“This is going to move much slower than any of us want,” she admitted later that day on Twitter, “but that is the only way to protect the health and safety of Oregonians.”

Brown, Governor Gavin Newsom of California and Governor Jay Inslee of Washington announced on Monday their plan to follow a “shared vision” for reopening their economies and controlling COVID-19 into the future. That same day, seven East Coast states also announced their intentions to take a regional approach.

The two announcements seem to prompt push-back from President Donald Trump, who tweeted that it would be up to him when states reopen, but that he was working closely with governors to establish a timeline and make those decisions.

Brown said she is working with the other West Coast governors to finalize guidelines for reopening their states, but she said that doesn’t mean every state would be opening on the same time frame.

Oregon, Washington and California were praised by The New York Times and others this week for their success in fighting COVID-19, especially compared to their hard-hit counterparts on the East Coast.

The three states recently shipped 1,000 spare ventilators to New York City and other areas where the coronavirus has wreaked havoc and caused thousands of deaths.

Following the governor’s press conference Tuesday, House Republican Leader Christine Drazan, Canby’s state representative, released a statement calling on Brown to “give Oregonians a real plan to move toward reopening the economy.”

“Let’s do this the Oregon way,” Rep. Drazan said. “We cannot give authority to other states, what works in Los Angeles will not work in Enterprise. As we see predictions of the worst recession since the Great Depression, it is essential that we prioritize the unique aspects of this state and our communities.”

She promised House Republicans would work with Governor Brown to develop data-driven guidelines to “get our communities back to work while protecting our vulnerable populations.”

“We cannot stand still and allow uncertainty and deferred leadership to sink our state any further into poverty and despair,” she said.

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