PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon Governor Kate Brown is standing by her decision to temporarily halt social gatherings and some businesses despite pushback from critics.
In a one-on-one interview with KOIN 6 News, the governor said she enacted the partial lockdown in an effort to control the spread of COVID-19 before attempts to contain the virus are impossible.
“I don’t like doing this,” Brown said. “I feel because of the public health threats we are facing I have no choice.”
Friday marked the second straight day of record-setting COVID-19 case numbers in Oregon. The Oregon Health Authority reported 1,306 cases and 4 new deaths, a day after 20 deaths and 1,225 new cases were announced Thursday.
Under Brown’s order which went into effect Wednesday, all restaurants and bars are closed except for takeout and public places such as gyms and museums are also temporarily closed. Social gatherings are limited to no more than six people from two households, both inside and outside.
The order is also enforceable with fines and possible jail time; however, law enforcement agencies have said they will continue to take an “education first” approach.
“The reality is that these measures are enforceable by law, it’s no different than if you were to have a house party down the street, making a bunch of noise at 2 a.m. and you would call the police and tell them to cut it out,” Brown explained. “In some of those circumstances law enforcement would issue a citation.”
The governor said she knows it’s brutal on businesses to be limited or shut down right now but that it’s up to the public to avoid social gatherings or she will be forced to shut down everything but essential services once again.
Brown said she’s concerned about hospital capacity as beds fill up across Oregon. Hospital officials announced Friday surge tents and temporary morgues will be set up at Providence Medical Center in Portland as health care professionals prepare for the worst as COVID-19 cases continue to spike around the region and the U.S. In a press release, officials said the surge tents will give health care workers additional space for people coming for emergency care, while the temporary morgues will provide more space so that hospital workers can respectfully handle COVID-19 patients who die.
State health leaders say about one-in-four Oregonians have been tested since the pandemic started. Free testing events are scheduled in 12 counties across the state starting next week where people can get tested without needing a doctor’s order. Those locations will be announced on the OHA’s website.
Nurse Christine Bartlett, the head of critical care at Oregon Health and Science University, is calling on the public to cancel social gatherings this holiday season to help in the war against the coronavirus.
“We are overwhelmed, bone-tired, we are pleading for your help,” said Bartlett.