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Gov. Brown takes sweeping actions to curb COVID-19 spread, prep for patient surge

Example: Restaurants, bars directed to do take-out or delivery - no dining in

(Update: More from news conference; schools closure schedule being reviewed)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Gov. Kate Brown announced Monday sweeping measures to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, from canceling all events of over 25 people to four weeks of social distancing and limiting restaurants and bars to carry-out or delivery food, not in-house dining.

"The actions we take today will save lives," Brown said at an afternoon news conference with health officials, saying all steps are being taken in consultation with local officials and in consideration of the serious impacts on people's lives and livelihoods.

Brown said she was ordering statewide cancellations of all events and gatherings of at least 25 people, except at workplaces, grocery and retail stores and pharmacies.

"I urge Oregonians to avoid any gatherings of 10 people or more," Brown said, echoing the federal guidelines announced earlier Monday by President Trump.

"Restaurants, bars and other establishments are restricted to carry-out and delivery only, with no on-site consumption," the governor said, adding that food locations at workplaces can still operate.

"I'm also urging all other businesses to evaluate your practices to accommodate social distancing measures," Brown said. "Can your business do the equivalent of restaurant takeout? If you can't, I urge you to close your doors temporarily."

Violating the restrictions could lead to a Class C misdemeanor, the governor said, adding, "I ask you to comply with the spirit of the law, so our law enforcement officers can focus on more pressing needs."

The governor also said she was convening an economic advisory council and "are looking at a variety of tools" to meet the need, including requests to the Legislature and federal government, with a report due in coming days.

The governor also declared an "abnormal market disruption" to combat price-gouging on essential items such as hand sanitizer and toilet paper.

Other steps are being taken to coordinate agencies, local and state, in a unified emergency response system, much as is done during major wildfires, the recent Umatilla flooding and to prepare for a Cascadia subduction zone earthquake.

Oregon hospital beds and supplies also are being jointly managed and coordinated, in an unprecedented fashion, to prepare for the expected surge in COVID-19 patients.

At current case growth, unless steps taken flatten the curve, Oregon could need another 1,000 hospital beds and 400 intensive-care beds by April 11, officials said.

"I know Oregonians are some of the most resourceful people in the country, and in times of crisis, we come together and support each other," Brown said.

In response to a question, the governor said they decided a total statewide lockdown or quarantine is not needed, but she stressed, "at this time."

"All options are on the table in the future, to protect the health and lives of Oregonians," Brown said.

Brown said she expects to call a special session "in the next few weeks," both for any statutory changes needed to provide more flexibility and because "quite frankly, we need more resources," meaning funding, to deal with the crisis situation.

Regarding crucial medical supplies, such as personal protective equipment, Brown said, "We have been told supplies are forthcoming (and) we expect to receive the amount we need."

But Brown, as the president has in recent days, urged Oregonians to stop the hoarding or panic buying.

"I ask Oregonians to stop buying huge quantities of toilet paper, for example," Brown said. "We have the supplies we need. I want to encourage folks to only purchase what they need for a week or so, at this point in time."

Responding to another reporter, Brown said she has no authority on whether tribal facilities such as casinos should close or take any steps.

"Those are on our tribal lands. Those are sovereign nations," she said. "I don't have the authority to close those casinos." She urged the state's nine recognized tribal authorities to coordinate with health officials in the area.

Brown also said, "We're working on a plan for child care, at least for essential workers, and expect it to be released in the next day or so."

"We have to make sure, when we have parents who do essential services, there are places for their children to go and be safe."

Asked whether the new guidelines and information mean the state's public schools also will be closed for four weeks, the governor said they are reevaluating the school closure timeline over the next couple of days.

Brown said there was an exemption to her order for grocery stores and retail services, such as in shopping malls, 'because in malls you can comply with social distancing." She asked that food services in malls comply with the order for only takeout, no in-place dining.


News release:

Governor Kate Brown Announces New Statewide Actions on COVID-19

(Salem, OR) — Governor Kate Brown today announced new measures to flatten the curve of coronavirus transmission in Oregon, including new orders and guidance on social distancing, an agreement for the Portland metro hospital system to coordinate resources and increase capacity, activation of the state's Unified Command emergency response organizational structure, and a new order to prevent price gouging.

"My goal is to protect the health and safety of Oregon families. Every step we are taking is being made with community input and careful consideration of its impacts," said Governor Brown. "Each action has ripple effects across our state, both on a personal and an economic level. But we can overcome these hurdles in an Oregon Way. By working together, we are stronger, even if it’s in ways we never thought possible."

The new orders on social distancing measures, effective March 17 for at least four weeks, include:

  • A statewide cancelation of all events and gatherings larger than 25 people — exempting essential locations like workplaces, grocery stores, pharmacies, and retail stores. It's additionally recommended that Oregonians avoid gatherings of 10 people or more.
  • Restaurants, bars, and other establishments that offer food or beverages for sale are restricted to carry-out and delivery only with no on-site consumption permitted.
  • Food service at health care facilities, workplaces, and other essential facilities will continue.
  • All other businesses are urged to assess their practices, implement strong social distancing measures, and close their doors temporarily if they cannot put the new guidance in place.

"I know that while these actions will impact Oregon businesses and employees, they will help decrease the rate of infection while bringing state and federal resources up to the same speed as the spread of the virus," said Governor Brown.

The Governor's Coronavirus Economic Advisory Council will convene tomorrow to examine ways to mitigate the impacts of new social distancing measures and anything else that adversely affects Oregon's economy. The council will examine a variety of tools available, including requests to the State Legislature and the federal government.

Governor Brown also announced the formation of two command groups, one to manage our health care system’s resources and the other to manage our state resources. The metro regional COVID-19 hospital response plan will help the health care community to prepare for the expected surge of COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks — a model for a crisis care plan that can be implemented statewide. Working together, hospitals will treat COVID-19 testing resources and personal protective equipment, including gowns, masks, and gloves, as community resources, and work together to increase bed capacity.

The state’s Unified Command emergency response organizational structure, an incident management structure similar to what Oregon would activate during a major Cascadia earthquake, has also been activated. This will fully integrate the Oregon Health Authority’s public health response efforts with the Office of Emergency Management’s efforts to minimize any disruption to critical services in Oregon.

At the request of the Attorney General, Governor Brown declared an abnormal market disruption regarding essential items like hand sanitizer and toilet paper, to prevent price gouging during this public health crisis.

A copy of Governor Brown's remarks are available here.

Article Topic Follows: Coronavirus

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