Governor issues executive order on social distancing measures


March 16 — In a press conference on Monday, March 16, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown stated, “I’ve been weighing the economic impacts of mandating the closure of places where Oregonians gather. I will be issuing an executive order on new social distancing measures for Oregon, effective March 17, for at least four weeks.”

According to Brown, the order will include the following:

  • A statewide cancellation of all events and gatherings larger than 25 people, with essential locations like workplaces, grocery stores, pharmacies and retail stores exempted.

“Although I urge Oregonians to avoid gatherings of 10 people or more,” the governor said.

  • Restaurants, bars and other establishments that offer food or beverages for sale are restricted to carry-out and delivery only, with no onsite consumption. Food service at hospitals, workplaces and other essential facilities will continue.

“I am also urging all other businesses to evaluate your practices to accommodate social distancing measures. Basically, can your business do the equivalent of restaurant takeout? If you cannot do that, I strongly urge you to close your doors to customers temporarily,” Brown said.

  • As with my previous orders on social distances, any establishments not complying with these measures will be subject to a Class C misdemeanor, as established in Oregon State of Emergency statutes. Under Oregon law, a Class C misdemeanor is punishable by up to 30 days in jail, a fine of up to $1,250, or both.

“However, I ask you to comply with the spirit of the law so that our law enforcement officers can focus on more pressing needs of our communities during this emergency,” Brown added.

As the conference continued, Brown reported that she is convening a coronavirus economic advisory council to mitigate the impacts executive order and any actions that may adversely affect Oregon’s economy.

“We are looking at a variety of tools that we have, including requests from the Oregon legislature, and of course the federal government,” Brown said.

At the request of the Attorney General, the governor also declared an abnormal market disruption regarding essential items like hand sanitizer and toilet paper to prevent price gouging during this public health crisis.

There will also be two command groups, one to manage the healthcare system’s resources and the other to manage state resources.

This included activating a COVID-19 healthcare system response joint task force.

“It’s building off of an effort by the metro area hospitals, the Oregon Health Authority, and local public health officials who’ve been meeting in an effort to address capacity issues,” Brown said. “I am pleased to announce today that metro hospitals will act as one, large, unified hospital system for the treatment of COVID-19. There will be a centralized, coordinated center for managing hospital bed inventory. We will expand bed capacity by adding beds in non-hospital settings.”

She added that personal protective equipment will be treated as a community resource to preserve for healthcare workers and those who need it the most.

Part of that will be utilizing a standardized screening protocol, which will serve as a model for how the crisis plan will be implemented statewide.

Brown also activated the state’s unified command emergency response organizational structure, similar to what would be activated during a major Cascadia earthquake.

“This will fully integrate the Oregon Health Authority’s public response efforts with the Office of Emergency Management efforts to minimize any disruption to critical services in Oregon,” she said.

As the conference drew to a close, Brown gave some words of encouragement.

“I know Oregonians are some of the most resourceful people in the country, and in times of crisis we come together and support each other. I’m asking you to do that now,” she said. Isolation from our friends and neighbors is the only way to flatten the curve of transmission and get Oregon through to the other side. Closing schools and the places we gather are incredibly difficult decisions for me. Because we all know that as a community, we hold each other in time of need.

“Working together, we are stronger together, even if it’s in ways we never thought possible,” she concluded.

People can view the conference on The Oregonian’s Facebook page.

For more Oregon legislative updates, visit Oregon.gov.

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