Warn of 'devastating' impacts, but governor's aide says public indoor dining remains 'a particularly risky activity'
PRINEVILLE, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Crook County Judge Seth Crawford is one of seven Central Oregon county commissioners who signed a letter to Gov. Kate Brown, urging her not to move their counties into the restrictive Extreme Risk category on Friday.
Crawford says the move will cause an extensive amount of damage to local businesses.
"What I’m hearing from them is there just able to get their staffing levels up again from the last shutdown, and for it to come so quickly after that, to shut it down again, is going to be devastating," Crawford said Wednesday.
The letter sent to the governor under the auspices of the Association of Oregon Counties and the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association was signed by 79 elected officials from 27 counties within 24 hours.
Crawford also signed a second letter, sent separately by Crook County officials.
Crawford says he does not believe that restaurants and other local businesses are the cause of the most recent outbreaks, yet they are paying the price.
"I think we need to see those numbers," Crawford said. . If they are going to go and take that step and shut somebody's business down, then I think they owe it to those businesses to say, 'Well, here this is the data that says it's extremely dangerous and there's a huge spread of Covid in your place of business.'"
Vicky Ryan of the Crook County Health Department says she hasn’t seen that evidence be presented, either.
"Through our investigative process, we have identified that the majority of the cases that we are experiencing now is through local social gatherings," Ryan said. "There's very few tied to workplace outbreaks or public outbreaks."
Crawford says he hopes that Governor Brown will understand where he’s coming from.
"I hope that she looks at what's going on in my community, and has compassion for these businesses and these employees and just the people of Crook County and Prineville," Crawford said.
Asked about the frequently heard claim that restaurants are not the cause of major outbreaks and are being treated unfairly, Charles Boyle, the governor's deputy communications director, provided this statement to NewsChannel 21:
"We continue to follow science and data during this pandemic, so we can stop the rapid spread of COVID-19 in our communities and save lives. We know the most effective measures to protect ourselves and others from COVID-19: keeping physical distance, wearing face coverings, and limiting indoor gatherings. These are the same health and safety measures that protected Oregonians during the winter surge.
"COVID-19 spreads more quickly indoors, where there is less air circulation, which is why a number of indoor activities are curtailed in Extreme Risk, in addition to indoor dining. We also know that eating and drinking involves sitting for long periods of time indoors without wearing a mask, and often involves people meeting who do not live in the same household. That makes it a particularly risky activity, when COVID-19 is so widespread in our communities.
"The fastest way we can get our restaurants and other businesses open again is for Oregonians to get vaccinated and follow health and safety restrictions, so we can stop this fourth surge of COVID-19 and put it behind us," Boyle concluded