Well, it’s official: 2020 is the absolute worst. Oregon Governor Kate Brown shared the “difficult news” during a press conference Thursday that she will not lift her restrictions on large gatherings, including sporting events, concerts, festivals and conventions, until a reliable treatment or prevention for Covid-19 is found.
“The Oregon Health Authority is advising that any large gathering, at least through September, be canceled or at least significantly modified,” Governor Brown said. “I know this is really, really hard. I, too, will miss visiting our fairs and our festivals this year.”
Many large events this summer have already been canceled, including the Spring Garden Fair, Clackamas Kennel Club shows, Bigfoot Festival and Tastes & Tunes, while the Oregon Renaissance Faire was postponed until September.
Today’s news almost certainly means the cancellation, or at the very least, postponement of Canby’s Independence Day Celebration, Slice of Summer, Harefest, the Swan Island Dahlia Fest, Canby’s Big Night Out, Clackamas County Fair and Canby Rodeo, and others. The state’s summer fair season is over before it even began.
These events have not necessarily been canceled yet, and the organizers will still have the chance to weigh their options and make decisions as needed. Later in the press conference, Governor Brown clarified that it is only her “recommendation” that these large events be canceled through September — not an order.
“I wanted to give Oregonians a sense of what the future holds in terms of large gatherings,” she said. “So, at this point, it’s a recommendation. We haven’t formally made that decision yet.”
At the press conference, the governor also shared new details of her framework for reopening Oregon’s economy, including new guidance for counties and businesses on the phased reopening process.
Recently, Governor Brown lifted her order delaying non-urgent medical procedures, with safeguards in place for health care workers and patients, announced the limited reopening of some of the state’s outdoor parks and recreation areas (but not Molalla River State Park in Canby).
Next week, she said, her office will issue updated safety guidelines regarding transit, certain child care, summer school and summer camps and youth programs will be issued. Each step of the reopening process is contingent on Oregonians following the safety guidelines for each sector, she noted.
“Let me be very clear: These choices are not easy,” she said. “As we reopen parts of our economy, we know and expect that there may be an uptick in new coronavirus cases. That’s why we have to be prepared in every single corner of the state, because as we’ve seen, an outbreak can occur anywhere.”
Her new guidance on reopening calls for the widespread use of face coverings, maintaining physical distance of six feet between individuals as much as possible, and following good hygiene and disinfection practices.
“I want to be absolutely clear with each and every one of you: physical distancing is, and will, remain a part of our lives for many months to come,” she said. “Face coverings are, and will, remain a part of our lives for many months to come. Hand washing and good hygiene are, and will remain, life-saving daily practices.”
She thanked Oregonians for following the state’s strict physical distancing guidelines over the past several weeks, and said they have successfully flattened the curve of Covid-19 cases and prevented thousands of infections.
There are now fewer than 100 COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state, and Oregon has established plans for increasing testing capacity, expanding contact tracing capability and building reserves of personal protective equipment.
Now, some counties will be eligible to begin the limited reopening of additional business sectors beginning as early as May 15 if they have demonstrated they have met all prerequisites for reopening.
Oregon counties can begin submitting applications as early as Friday, if they can show a decline in Covid-19 cases or have fewer than 5 hospitalizations, have sufficient testing and contact tracing capability, establish plans for the isolation and quarantine of new cases, have the hospital capacity to handle any surge in new cases and have enough personal protective equipment for health care workers.
Counties that meet all of the above criteria will be eligible to enter Phase I of reopening on May 15, pending approval of their application by the governor, based on the recommendations of OHA.
Under the first phase , counties can begin the limited reopening of the following sectors of restaurants and bars for sit-down service; personal care and services businesses, including barbers and salons; and in-person gatherings of up to 25 people; all under new, specific safety guidelines tailored to each sector.
Counties must remain in Phase I for at least 21 days before becoming eligible to advance to Phase II. If counties begin to see significant increases in Covid-19 cases or community spread, OHA will work with local public health officials to determine if the county should move back from Phase I to a stay-home status.
There will be more details on Phases II and III forthcoming, Governor Brown said.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.