Time for Canby to Reopen? City Leaders Say, ‘Not Yet’

We’re getting there, but we’re not there yet. That, again, was the message from Canby leaders during a livestreamed community update Wednesday night, as those calling for an economic reopening have grown in number and volume at the state and local level.

People on both sides of the debate in Canby got new ammunition this week.

Residents supporting the continued stay-at-home orders point to Canby’s first confirmed outbreak in a senior care facility as evidence that the novel coronavirus is still a looming and active threat, and we must do whatever we can to protect those most vulnerable.

While those in favor of a more or less immediate reopening lament the permanent closure of a well-established hair salon downtown — presumed to be related in some way to lost income from the governor’s strict social distancing orders — and say it is only the first of many unless something changes soon.

The most vocal, sometimes using the hashtag #OpenOregon on social media, are urging businesses to reopen and workers to return to work as of May 1. They point to Oregon’s relatively low numbers of Covid-19 cases and deaths as evidence that the threat in our state is not nearly as serious as experts claim and that Governor Kate Brown’s orders were overkill.

Statewide, national and global cases of Covid-19, as of April 22.

And yet, they appear to be the clear minority — for now. There’s no evidence that a large number of businesses currently ordered closed plan to reopen next week in an act of civil disobedience.

And a Facebook poll by the Canby Now Podcast indicates that over 60 percent of local residents support the governor’s stay-home order and plans for reopening, with more than 800 votes cast as of Thursday morning.

On Wednesday night, Mayor Brian Hodson and Canby Area Chamber Director Kyle Lang addressed the growing #OpenOregon movement, expressing sympathy and understanding, while ultimately disagreeing with their suggested course.

“I see the devastation that is happening in our community, and that this is having on our families,” Mayor Hodson said. “I want to see Canby get back to normal — or to whatever the new normal will be — businesses open and people enjoying those businesses, being out at the park and enjoying our open spaces.”

He said he has been driving through Canby several nights a week between 6 and 8 p.m., and the economic impacts are plain to see.

“It’s tough,” he admitted. “It’s hard to see lights turned off at 7 o’clock at night and businesses not open. I know it’s challenging.”

In a time of deep polarization, when the discussion of complex subjects can often be reduced to memes and pointed barbs on social media, Lang said it’s not about the two “sides” being right or wrong. It’s about balance.

“It is possible to hold two ideas in one’s head simultaneously,” Lang said. “It is possible to be concerned about community health, and the economic impacts of the Covid-19 crisis, at the same time.”

Lang called for “purposeful, deliberate action that works to solve both problems, with as little damage and as little delay as possible.”

“None of these decisions are easy,” he said. “We ask for your patience as these possibilities are explored.”

Both Lang and Hodson discussed the more detailed draft framework for Oregon’s reopening released by Governor Brown’s office this week, which details a phased approach contingent upon areas first showing declining case numbers, while also demonstrating preparedness to handle any possible surge.

Her office and advisory councils have also opened dialogue about what a phased approach would look like in specific sectors of the economy, such as food service and personal care, suggesting that though restaurants, hair salons and other businesses may be allowed to reopen, certain restrictions and guidelines will remain.

The complete details of this governor’s framework, including operational plans and geographic criteria, and a step-by-step plan for Oregon’s reopening is expected the week of May 4.

On the heels of the news of new confirmed cases in Canby, Mayor Hodson said he remains confident that the sacrifices local residents have made and continue to make are paying dividends.

“We must not,” he said, “lose sight of the goal: Keep people alive by reducing the spread of the virus, minimize the impact on hospitals and protect each other.”

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