West Coast Governors Announce Pact: ‘Our States Will Only Be Effective by Working Together’

As Oregon continues to navigate the COVID crisis and, hopefully, begin the process of rebooting an economy and job market already devastated by its impacts, Governor Kate Brown has announced that in doing so, she will follow a “shared vision” with the states of California and Washington.

Brown, along with California Governor Gavin Newsom and Washington Governor Jay Inslee on Monday announced a “Western States pact” for reopening their economies and controlling COVID-19 into the future.

The governors released the following joint statement:

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COVID-19 has preyed upon our interconnectedness. In the coming weeks, the West Coast will flip the script on COVID-19 – with our states acting in close coordination and collaboration to ensure the virus can never spread wildly in our communities.

We are announcing that California, Oregon and Washington have agreed to work together on a shared approach for reopening our economies – one that identifies clear indicators for communities to restart public life and business.

While each state is building a state-specific plan, our states have agreed to the following principles as we build out a West Coast framework:

Our residents’ health comes first. As home to one in six Americans and gateway to the rest of the world, the West Coast has an outsized stake in controlling and ultimately defeating COVID-19.

Health outcomes and science – not politics – will guide these decisions. Modifications to our states’ stay at home orders must be made based off our understanding of the total health impacts of COVID-19, including: the direct impact of the disease on our communities; the health impact of measures introduced to control the spread in communities—particularly felt by those already experiencing social disadvantage prior to COVID-19; and our health care systems’ ability to ensure care for those who may become sick with COVID-19 and other conditions.

This effort will be guided by data. We need to see a decline in the rate of spread of the virus before large-scale reopening, and we will be working in coordination to identify the best metrics to guide this.

Our states will only be effective by working together. Each state will work with it’s local leaders and communities within its borders to understand what’s happening on the ground and adhere to our agreed upon approach.

Through quick and decisive action, each of our states has made significant progress in flattening the curve and slowing the spread of COVID-19 among the broader public. Now, our public health leaders will focus on four goals that will be critical for controlling the virus in the future.

  • Protecting vulnerable populations at risk for severe disease if infected. This includes a concerted effort to prevent and fight outbreaks in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
  • Ensuring an ability to care for those who may become sick with COVID-19 and other conditions. This will require adequate hospital surge capacity and supplies of personal protective equipment.
  • Mitigating the non-direct COVID-19 health impacts, particularly on disadvantaged communities.
  • Protecting the general public by ensuring any successful lifting of interventions includes the development of a system for testing, tracking and isolating. The states will work together to share best practices.
  • COVID-19 doesn’t follow state or national boundaries. It will take every level of government, working together, and a full picture of what’s happening on the ground.

    In the coming days the governors, their staff and health officials will continue conversations about this regional pact to recovery.

    On Wednesday, Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr., of Grants Pass, released a statement criticizing what he characterized as Brown’s efforts to tie Oregon’s recovery to other states with “vastly different populations and economies.”

    “The Western States Pact isn’t good for Oregon,” he said. “What works in Seattle, a known COVID-19 hotspot, may not work in Oregon — let alone rural Oregon. My caucus and I are having a difficult time understanding why communities in Oregon that have not been impacted by COVID-19 can’t return to business sooner than others in the state. Oregon should be addressing conditions on a local level before worrying about what other states are doing.”

    Photo of governors Jay Inslee and Kate Brown from a 2019 event, courtesy the office of Governor Brown.

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