Due to the alarming uptick in COVID-19 cases, Oregon will be returning to some early pandemic restrictions next week.
Gov. Kate Brown announced that, starting on Wednesday, November 18, the entire state will enter a two-week "freeze," during which all restaurants and bars will be limited for take-out only, gyms will be shuttered, grocery stores and pharmacies will be capped at 75 percent capacity, and religious spaces will be restricted to 25 people indoors. Brown also urged all employers to allow their staff to work from home during this period, if possible.
"We’re about to face what might be the roughest days of the pandemic," said Brown at a Friday press conference.
On Thursday, Oregon saw a record high number of new cases in a single day: 1,122. Friday's new cases come in at 1,076. In just the last week, 42 Oregonians died from COVID-19—a weekly record high. Oregon has seen a total of 54,900 COVID-19 cases and 753 deaths since the pandemic began.
The recent uptick coincides with a surge of cases across the US and world.
Statewide, the freeze is slated to end on December 2, meaning it will include the Thanksgiving holiday.
"I know this brings hardship and isolation, and at a time we're looking forward to celebrations," said state epidemiologist Dean Sidelinger on Friday. "But the risks are too high to shut our eyes to the escalating crisis."
In Multnomah County, however, the freeze is expected to last for at least four weeks.
"I want to be honest about that now," said Brown. "Be prepared."
As the state's most populous region, the Portland metro area is particularly at risk. According to Sidelinger, the Portland metro region saw a 50 percent increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations last week. And, on Thursday, there were only 15 intensive care unit (ICU) beds available in hospitals across the entire metro region.
The majority of spiking cases across Oregon have stemmed from social gatherings—whether that's a Halloween party of 50 or a get-together between four or five friends.
Currently, Brown has limited social gatherings to six people. On Friday, she said she's directed Oregon State Police to begin working with local law enforcement to start enforcing this rule.
"Actions taken now will keep lives from being lost," said Brown.
Asked if small businesses forced to close during this freeze—and their employees—will receive special financial aid from the state, Brown said the responsibility falls on US Congress. She urged Congress to pass another COVID-19 relief package as soon as possible.
Earlier Friday, Brown announced new travel restrictions for people traveling out of state. Specifically, anyone who travels across state lines for non-essential purposes should self-quarantine for at least two weeks upon arrival. The new policy is shared with California and Washington.