On Friday night, Gov. Kate Brown, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler held a press conference urging Oregonians to “stay home and stay healthy” on the eve of what was known before the coronavirus pandemic as “spring break.”
It was “not a lockdown,” leaders stressed, but they used just about all other language imaginable in calling for people to not go out in public unless absolutely necessary, and said they were drafting a statewide order this weekend to that effect.
Evidently, nobody was listening.
Oregonians were asked to #StayHome, that’s not what happened. Today we saw big crowds @ the #OregonCoast & the gorge. Now 2 coastal towns are declaring state of emergencies, one is ordering all tourists to leave. @TigardOR also closed all playgrounds. What will happen tomorrow?
Thousands flooded Oregon’s beaches, campgrounds and hiking trails this weekend, to the alarm of local officials in those communities and public health experts across the state.
The city of Warrenton took extraordinary action, passing an emergency resolution that essentially makes it illegal for anyone from elsewhere to stay the night in any of the town’s hotels, short-term rentals or campgrounds.
Other coastal cities followed suit, some passing similar orders, others simply posting statements ordering visitors to stay away. It’s unfamiliar territory for these communities, who heavily rely on tourism as an important part of their local economies.
But times have changed. Astoria Mayor Bruce Jones described the weekend’s influx almost in terms of an invasion, saying he was “appalled by the sight of tens of thousands of irresponsible vacationers flocking to the coast, as if this was just another spring break week, with callous disregard for residents’ health and safety.”
On Sunday, Gov. Brown doubled-down on her previous comments, offering a clear message to the would-be spring breakers: “I want to be absolutely clear, you are endangering all Oregonians when not following social distancing orders.”
She spoke ominously of “the storm that is coming,” saying we need only look to Washington, California and New York to get a glimpse. But, she added, “we still have time to change its course.”
“That’s why I have put aggressive social distancing orders in place,” she said. “But it takes each and everyone of you to comply with them to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
Gov. Brown was understanding of the difficulties facing Oregonians. She knows it’s not easy for those who can’t visit their loved ones in nursing homes. She knows it’s not easy for those trying to balance work at home with their kids out of school. She knows it’s not easy for those who are out of work because their employers have closed their doors.
“But these actions are necessary to save lives,” she concluded. “Please stay at home. It’s a matter of life or death.”