PORTLAND, Ore. — Gov. Kate Brown on Friday announced a two-week “freeze” for the entire state of Oregon that'll begin on Nov. 18. The purpose of the new restrictions is to limit group activities that are contributing to the rapid spread of COVID-19 throughout the state.
Restaurants and bars will be limited to takeout only, and recreational facilities and venues that host indoor or outdoor events will be closed.
The freeze will last through Dec. 2 for most counties. But Brown noted that some COVID-19 hotspot counties are likely to stay in a freeze for longer than that. Multnomah County will be under the restrictions for at least four weeks.
Here the list of new restrictions the governor's office released:
- Limiting social get-togethers (indoors and outdoors) to no more than six people, total, from no more than two households.
- Limiting faith based organizations to a maximum of 25 people indoors or 50 people outdoors.
- Limiting restaurants and bars to takeout only.
- Closing gyms and fitness organizations.
- Closing indoor recreational facilities, museums, indoor entertainment activities, and indoor pools and sports courts.
- Closing outdoor recreational facilities, zoos, gardens, aquariums, outdoor entertainment activities, and outdoor pools.
- Limiting grocery stores and pharmacies to a maximum of 75% capacity and encouraging curbside pick-up.
- Limiting retail stores and retail malls (indoor and outdoor) to a maximum of 75% capacity and encouraging curbside pickup.
- Closing venues (that host or facilitate indoor or outdoor events).
- Requiring all businesses to mandate work-from-home to the greatest extent possible and closing offices to the public.
- Prohibiting indoor visiting in long-term care facilities.
Brown announced the new restrictions during a Friday news conference, where she was joined by representatives with the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and Oregon Health & Science University Hospital.
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“The virus is spreading in the community and every day, it is infecting more and more Oregonians," Brown said. "This situation is dangerous and our hospitals have been sounding the alarms. If we want to give Oregon a fighting chance, we must take further measures to flatten the curve and save lives.
"I know this is hard, and we are weary. But, we are trying to stop this ferocious virus from quickly spreading far and wide. And in Oregon, we actually can do this."
The governor's office said the freeze does not change health and safety protocols already in place for the following:
- Personal services (like barbershops, hair salons and massage parlors)
- Congregate homeless sheltering
- Outdoor recreation and sports
- Youth programs
- Child care
- K-12 schools
- K-12 sports currently allowed
- Current Division I and professional athletics exemptions
- Higher education
Those will continue to operate under the existing guidance from the Oregon Health Authority (OHA).
In addition, Brown said parks and playgrounds are staying open and, unlike in her previous stay-at-home order, outdoor recreation and camping are actually encouraged.
"Breathing fresh, if not chilly, air will help us all," she said.
OHA will release more specific guidance in the next week.
A number of public officials have issued statements in response to Brown's announcement.
Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury said county residents should expect to stay home at least until Dec. 16. She urged people to "cancel their social plans immediately," adding that businesses should be prepared to operate under new guidelines by Nov. 18.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said, in part, that Brown's freeze is a "necessary step to reverse the course of the pandemic."
"Many Portlanders have made major sacrifices during this pandemic," Wheeler said. "This freeze, while challenging, will help ensure fewer sacrifices down the road and a strong recovery. And, most importantly, this freeze will save lives."
Anthony Smith, Oregon state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, the state’s largest small business association, said Brown's decision is frustrating. He argued that state officials have identified "informal social gatherings" as the primary driver of surging cases, not businesses.
“It simply doesn’t make any sense to impose further restrictions on businesses that provide safer, regulated spaces for Oregonians to engage in economic and social activities in masked and socially distanced atmospheres," Smith said.
On the other hand, Becky Hultberg, president and CEO of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, said voiced her support for the new restrictions.
"If we are not able to slow the spread of COVID-19 now, hospital capacity for all Oregonians could be threatened as COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to grow, jeopardizing the availability of care for us all," Hultberg said.
Earlier Friday, Brown joined Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and California Gov. Gavin Newsom in issuing new travel advisories. The three governors urged people coming into their states or people returning home to self-quarantine in order to help slow the spread of the virus.
People are advised to avoid non-essential travel out of state, self-quarantine for 14 days after coming from another state or country and stay local.
Brown’s announcement comes on the heels of Oregon reporting 1,122 new coronavirus cases Thursday, the most in a single day so far during the pandemic. Over the past eight days, Oregon has reported its eight highest daily case counts so far during the pandemic, ranging from 723 cases to 1,122 cases. During this stretch, Oregon has averaged 866 cases per day.
- Nov. 5: 805
- Nov. 6: 770
- Nov. 7: 988
- Nov. 8: 874
- Nov. 9: 723
- Nov. 10: 771
- Nov. 11: 876
- Nov. 12: 1,122
During the week of Oct. 19-25, OHA reported 2,642 cases in Oregon. During the week of Nov. 2-8, just two weeks later, OHA reported nearly twice as many cases, 5,177 in total for the week. The positive test rate last week was up to 11.9%, OHA said. There was also a record number of deaths, 42, and hospitalizations, 212, last week, according to OHA.
OHA officials earlier this week said small gatherings were acting as a catalyst in spreading the virus. On Thursday, Brown said the state is reaching a breaking point.
"Even more Oregonians are going to become infected with COVID-19 if we do not change course right now," she said. "Our hospital beds are filling to capacity and our doctors and nurses are working day and night. If we do not act immediately, we will soon reach a breaking point."
Brown had already taken some steps to try to slow the spread of COVID-19. Nine counties, where there were especially high transmission rates, began a two-week pause Wednesday on social activities. That brought a new set of restrictions on gatherings, including those at businesses such as restaurants.