PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced a set of new rules meant to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus on Wednesday night.
The governor’s new measures affect large gatherings, schools, workplaces and long-term care and assisted-living facilities. A statement from Brown’s office included the following list:
- Large gatherings: All large gatherings over 250 people will be canceled statewide effective immediately for four weeks. A gathering is defined as any event in a space in which appropriate social distancing of a minimum of three feet cannot be maintained.
- Schools: In addition to previous guidance issued on March 8, 2020 to keep schools open, all non-essential school-associated gatherings and group activities should be canceled — such as group parent meetings, field trips, and competitions.
- Workplace: Recommended implementation of distancing measures including an increased physical space between employees in offices and worksites, limited in-person meetings, limited travel, and staggered work schedules where possible.
- Long-Term Care and Assisted Living: Strict limitations announced this week by the Oregon Health Authority and Department of Human Services remain in place.
“Nobody is immune to this virus, it can touch everyone,” said Brown. “We can’t let fear and anxiety stigmatize people. We are seeing cases across multiple counties and age groups, and in people exposed through different circumstances. It’s time for us all to do what we can to slow its spread and take care of one another.”
Brown will discuss the strategies and answer questions at a Thursday morning press conference in Portland due to begin at 9 a.m.
KOIN 6 News will be at Thursday’s press conference. You can watch it live on KOIN 6 News and on KOIN.com.
So far, there have been 21 confirmed cases of the infection in Oregon, and more than 1,000 across the United States. The U.S. death toll rose to 38 on Wednesday, with the majority in Washington state at 31; however, none have been reported in Oregon.
Oregon schools respond
Parkrose School District canceled parent-teacher conferences scheduled for Thursday and Friday. Parkrose High School will follow its normal teaching schedule those days while Parkrose Middle School will be open for students on Friday.
Summit Learning Charter canceled all campus activities in response to Brown’s announcement, saying all Virtual Instruction will still follow the normal schedule.
In a letter to families and staff, Portland Public Schools announced the decision to suspend events that bring large groups of students, adults and community members together for 30 days starting on Thursday, including school-based assemblies and events, field trips and professional development meetings and events. Athletic events will be held without audiences.
The PPS statement read, in part:
“The safety, health, and well-being of our students and staff is our highest priority. We will continue to work in close partnership with public health authorities to minimize both the spread of coronavirus and disruption to schools and students. We will continue emphasizing the importance of handwashing at school. Our custodians will continue to prioritize high-touch surfaces in classrooms and common areas. And we are making sure schools have adequate cleaning supplies.”
Other school districts following the same protocols include Beaverton School District, Hillsboro School District, Eugene School District and Salem-Keizer Public Schools, all of which released the same coordinated statement as PPS.
The Oregon School Activities Association has consulted with the OHA, ODE and local health departments, making the decision to ban spectators at the OSAA State Championship events. Only participating students, coaches, essential staff and media will be allowed to attend.
“This difficult decision has not been made lightly,” said Peter Weber, OSAA Executive Director. “Going into this week we knew the situation was rapidly evolving and as the circumstances and guidance have changed throughout today, our focus is on trying to honor the commitment students have made throughout the season by continuing the contests, albeit without spectators.”
Brown’s directive came the same say Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced a ban on gatherings and events of more than 250 people in three different Washington state counties–which includes virtually the entire Seattle metro area–to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.
“This is not just your ordinary flu,” Inslee said. “This demands a response consistent with the nature of the threat.”
Earlier on Wednesday, World Health Organization officials declared the crisis was a pandemic. President Donald Trump is expected to speak about the COVID-19 crisis from the Oval Office Wednesday evening.