Oregon Governor Kate Brown asked Oregonians to stay home and be respectful of others before last weekend. The message didn’t seem to hold much weight as people flooded beaches and parks for spring break.
On Monday, Brown said her Stay at Home order was necessary.
“I was very clear,” she said. “I repeated that request saying that Oregonians need to stay home and that your actions effect other people and by using social distancing you can save lives and keep Oregonians healthy.”
Brown said she was very frustrated after seeing the crowded Oregon beaches over the weekend.
“I asked,” she said. “I directed them to stay home and now I am ordering them to stay home.”
In issuing the order, Brown said she wanted to make sure it would work for all of Oregon, and that rural areas of the state could comply as well as the larger metropolitan areas. She said she reviewed what other states are doing and consulted with health officials.
“The reality is that governors all over the nation are wrestling with how to do that,” Brown said. “We were able to learn from other states and watch the confusion happening there to form this order. I wanted it to work for all of Oregon and to be sustainable over the long-term.”
The Governor said there is no timeline on how long the order will remain in effect. Brown said she hopes to see the outcome next week of social distancing measures that have been put into place to make a timeline decision. Brown also acknowledged that her order will have extreme far reaching consequences.
“My heart goes out to all the Oregonians, all of us frankly, that have been impacted by this horrible pandemic,” she said.
Also on Monday, Lincoln County officials, including Lincoln City Mayor Dick Anderson, attended a special meeting to draft a resolution that all Lincoln County jurisdictions would ratify.
This countywide resolution included the order to close short-term rentals such as hotels, B&B’s, vacation rentals, RV parks and private campgrounds to rentals less than 30 days. Over the weekend, Anderson said he fielded calls and emails from concerned citizens and knew something needed to be done.
“Given that this is a global crisis there is a need to coordinate with regional, state and federal agencies,” Anderson said in a statement. “That is what Lincoln City doing.”
The City and State closed all beach access points in Lincoln City. They also closed City Hall, the library, the Community Center and their open spaces and parks. At the regular scheduled City Council meeting on Monday, the council voted unanimously to ratify the county-wide resolution.
“This resolution, along with the Governor’s order to stay home will go a long way,” Anderson said. “Just closing short-term rentals would not stop the day trippers and second home owners we have an abundance of here in our area.”
This order will take effect upon adoption and no later than Wednesday, March 25.
“We are all in this together and things are changing rapidly. We are trying to balance health issues and economic long-term issues to keep us all safe,” Anderson said. “Be serious about social distancing and be kind to your neighbors.”
Also on Monday, Gov. Brown said the Oregon Employment Department has waived “all of the regulations that they can waive” in order to get unemployment benefits out to Oregonians who have been impacted, that have lost their job, or have had to stay home because of the coronavirus.
“We are working hard to get those resources out the door as quickly as possible,” she said
Brown also announced that her team is having conversations with legislative leaders in preparation for a potential legislative session in the next week or so to continue efforts in Oregon. She also said the state is working with its congressional delegation for additional federal resources.
“So that we can provide direct assistance to our families, our households and to our businesses,” she said.
Brown said businesses that are able to operate and that do not contribute to the spread of the virus can remain open.
“What is so important that we focus on is, if you cannot telecommute and if you cannot socially distance safely, than you need to close down,” Brown said. “Obviously, there are exceptions. Groceries, health care, and public safety. We are trying to protect Oregonians.”
Brown said the state is attempting to incorporate social distancing and that is very challenging.
“I am asking Oregonians to do their part and I am asking business to take personal responsibility,” she said. “I have been very clear that I am limiting travel to home, to work, to doctor, to essentials. I am confident that business owners around the state will do the right things and be creative and innovative in offering their services to Oregonians.”
If businesses do not comply, Brown said they will be shutdown.
“If Oregonians don’t comply, we’ll have to take the next step,” she said, without being specific about what the next step would be.
"I don't want to do that," she said.
Under Brown's order, violation would be considered a Class C misdemeanor, punishable up to 30 days in jail and/or a $1,250 fine.
Just how the executive order would be enforcement is still somewhat unclear because Brown said Oregon law enforcement needs to be focusing on what she termed real emergencies.
During the afternoon media conference call, Brown also said she is considering extending the Oregon tax filing deadline due to the coronavirus health crisis.
“It is on the table for discussion,” she said.
According to Brown, each decision she is making during the health crisis has a wide ranging ripple effect.
“There is no playbook for all of these things,” she said. "Decisions are being made hour-by-hour. We are making the decisions as best possible with the best information available. Every single action we take has ripple effects. We are carefully considering all decisions.”
Jeremy C. Ruark, Executive Editor of The Chronicle, also contributed to this article.