Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has introduced new statewide restrictions on travel, business, and outdoor recreation to slow the spread of COVID-19. The executive order comes after a weekend that saw packed Oregon beaches, crowded state parks, and other signs of Oregonians flaunting Brown's previously unclear social distancing instructions.
“I started by asking Oregonians to stay home and practice social distancing. Then I urged the public to follow these recommendations," said Brown in a press statement. "Now, I’m ordering it. To save lives and protect our community."
Here's what Brown's "stay home, save lives" order does:
• Prohibits "non-essential" social gatherings, regardless of size, if a distance of at least six feet between attendees cannot be maintained. (This doesn't apply to gatherings of members in the same household).
• Directs Oregonians to limit "non-essential" travel to or from a home or workplace. Essential travel includes: "obtaining food, shelter, essential consumer needs, education, health care, or emergency services" or having to take care of an elderly person, minor, person with disabilities, a pet or livestock.
• Prohibits the operation of: Amusement parks, aquariums, arcades, art galleries, museums, theaters, malls, hair/nail salons, spas and massage studios, hookah bars, skating rinks, bowling alleys dance studios, gyms, yoga studios, tattoo/piercing parlors, retail boutiques, furniture stores, ski resorts, indoor party places, private clubs, senior centers, and youth clubs.
• Closes all private and public campgrounds, pools, skate parks, outdoor athletic courts (tennis, basketball, etc.), and playgrounds.
• Prohibits recreational activities when it's impossible for individuals to stay at least six feet apart from each other.
• Closes all childcare facilities from March 25 through April 28, unless they provide care to 10 or fewer children (and they are the same children every day).
• Mandates all businesses and nonprofits to allow employees to work from home "to the maximum extent possible," starting on March 25. If it is impossible for employees to work remotely, those organizations must enforce social distancing guidelines.
If businesses fail to comply with Brown's order, they will be forcibly closed until they can "demonstrate compliance." If Oregonians fail to comply with these new rules, they might be charged with a Class C misdemeanor.
In her office's press release, Brown says that stopping the transmission of COVID-19 from interactions outside the home could lessen the burden on the state's already overwhelmed hospitals and medical clinics.
“Staying home both keeps you safe from infection, and ensures you do not unknowingly infect others," Brown said. “...By slowing the infection rate, we preserve hospital beds so that there will be one available if and when you need it."
Oregon medical providers and mayors called on Brown to make this decision earlier. Over the weekend, Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) urged Brown to issue a statewide shelter in place order. Oregon Medical Association, the Oregon chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians, and Oregon Public Health made the same request the previous week.
On Saturday, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler joined 24 Portland-area mayors in sending a letter to Brown calling for a statewide "stay at home" policy. In a brief press statement sent this morning, Wheeler thanked Brown for issuing the order.
Brown said that she's not sure if more steps will have to be taken to limit the public transmission of COVID-19.
“None of us have ever been through this before, and that means there is no way to know exactly what lies ahead," she said. "We don’t know yet when this outbreak will end, or what changes this will bring for our state and for our country. But I want to make sure that we’ve done all we can to end it as quickly as possible.”