Over the past week, the state of Oregon has reported more confirmed cases of COVID-19 than it did in all of the month of May.
At a press conference today (July 13), Governor Kate Brown said that this is cause for concern, and she has decided to take more action to try to slow transmission of the virus.
“We’re here today to sound the alarm,” Gov. Brown said. “The COVID-19 disease is spreading rapidly across the entire state of Oregon and each and everyone of us needs to take action, immediate action to slow the spread of this disease.”
Gov. Brown made note of a few statistics during her opening remarks, including the fact that Oregon has not reported less than 100 cases in their daily report in over month. Additionally, Gov. Brown stated that half of all cases are people under the age of 40 and one third are under 30.
“We have done so much, we have come so far, we have sacrificed so deeply… we cannot let this virus get the best of us,” Gov. Brown said. “We are at risk of allowing this virus to spiral out of control.”
Gov. Brown cited the rapid spread in several states across the United States such as New York and Texas. She alluded to the fact that Oregon may be heading toward that trend.
State health officials have stated COVID-19 is extremely contagious and can spread even before an individual starts to show symptoms. This is why Gov. Brown said people should always remember the three W’s: Wear a face covering, Watch your distance and Wash your hands.
The State has identified several hotspots through contact tracing. These include: Workplaces, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, prisons, social gatherings.
To address these trends, Gov. Brown announced two new steps to slow the spread. First, is a stated ban on indoor social gatherings of more than 10 people.
“I am mandating that social get togethers like pot lucks, dinner parties, birthday parties and book clubs that take place indoors cannot exceed ten people,” Gov. Brown said.
The new rule does not impact businesses or churches at this time, Gov. Brown stated. Additionally, there has been growing concerns of transmission at bars and restaurants nationwide. However, Oregon health officials have not seen a significant source of transmission in those businesses at this time, but Gov. Brown said they will be watching closely.
The second mandate is an expansion of the face covering requirement, which is already in place for indoor public spaces. Starting July 15, face coverings will be required outdoors as well when an individual cannot maintain a six foot physical distance in public from others. Gov. Brown said enforcement will continue to be reliant on businesses for face covering use and the state has set up a statewide enforcement task force for assistance.
“Throughout the reopening we’ve been concentrating on an education first approach, helping businesses across the state to follow these rules,” Gov. Brown said. “Unfortunately not everyone is willing to work with us and sometimes our team needs to intervene in order to make sure all Oregonians are safe.”
The Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) along with the Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) visited 800 businesses over the Fourth of July weekend to make sure businesses were following the Governor’s guidelines. For businesses not following the rules there will be ‘serious consequences,’ said Gov. Brown.
Consequences will include citations, fines and ultimately closing down a business. The state is also working to develop additional safety protocols for businesses.
“We need to do absolutely everything we can to reduce transmission in ways that do not require us to close down businesses again,” Gov. Brown said. “The proof here will be in the numbers. Either people will adhere to this requirement and become a positive force for stopping COVID-19 or I will be forced to take more restrictive measures… no one wants that.”
In her closing statements, Gov. Brown thanked Oregonians who have been following the current guidelines and encouraged them to continue doing so.
Oregon Health Authority Director Pat Allen and state epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger were on hand for the press conference and each spoke on new modeling that was released last week. The newest modeling shows the continuation of a concerning trend of rapidly spreading COVID-19 throughout Oregon. Cases are rising at a rate so high, that even a 10 percent reduction in cases would not slow the rise in cases.
Allen noted that cases are expected to triple in the next six weeks at the current rate.
“This means more people will get sick, more people will become seriously ill and our healthcare system is at risk of becoming overwhelmed,” Allen said.
Allen and Dr. Sidelinger each advised Oregonians to continue limiting the size of gatherings; move activities outdoors, maintain six feet of physical distance between people; wear a face masks; practice good hand hygiene and stay home if you are sick.
“Reopening the state does not mean going back to the way things were before, it means doing more things than we could during shut down, but having to do them differently,” Allen said. “We all want life to return to normal… but we cannot let COVID-19 get out of control in Oregon and overwhelm our healthcare system in the way we’ve seen it happen in other states.”