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'We’re in for a long haul': Oregon lawmakers, doctor outline statewide pandemic impact

MSNBC brought the "Velshi" show to Portland as part of a nationwide tour. The show focused on the economic and medical strain the state is under because of COVID-19.


Ali Velshi has taken his MSNBC cable news show on the road, with "Velshi Across America." On Sunday morning, the two-hour program was from Portland.

“Today I’m in Portland, Oregon, a city like so many across the country, that is struggling medically and economically under the weight of the pandemic," said Velshi at the start of the show.

Then Velshi laid out the statistics that show Oregon is struggling. COVID numbers are up. Economic numbers are down. He interviewed people like Dr. Smitha Chadaga, an internist from Legacy Emanuel Medical Center.

“What does the next six months look like to you?” asked Velshi.

“I want to be really honest here: I don’t want to sugar coat it,” said Chadaga. “I think we’re in for a long haul and I think it’s going to be difficult, but I know we can do this. America has faced difficult things before; we have come together and helped each other out and that’s what we need to do now.”

Velshi got Oregon congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici to Portland’s Eastbank Esplanade before dawn to accommodate the east coast live airing. Bonamici talked about the hard times here.

“There are many things that came together to create this stress, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic and I'm very concerned about the numbers that you’re talking about," said Bonamici.

The congresswoman said the stress of the pandemic combined with the unrest Portland has seen, plus the devastating wildfires that hit the state at the very end of summer, all add up to challenges that the federal government needs to help people survive.

“The House has passed bills to help address these problems, we need the Senate to act as well,” said Bonamici.

Congressman Earl Blumenauer also spoke about legislation he is promoting to get financial relief to independent restaurants. Blumenauer said there are a half-million of them in the country that are hard hit by the pandemic, including many in the Rose City.

“If you’re in Portland, you understand that our neighborhood independent restaurants are really the lifeblood," Blumenauer said. "They employ more women and minorities, it’s where people gather. We’ve developed some legislation that would provide direct cash grants to keep these restaurants afloat."

And Velshi profiled a few of those places here, businesses surviving so far. Deadstock Coffee owner Ian Williams shared what's helped him keep going.

“Being as connected to the community and real with the community as you can is really what’s going to help you stay afloat," Williams said. "Do what you can to let the community know that you still need them and you still love them, you still care, but also let them know without you we can’t make it."