PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon’s governor and health officials said there are no plans — as of Thursday — to enact a shelter-in-place order amid the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.
However, Gov. Kate Brown added during a Thursday morning conference call that her team is putting together an interagency group to define a list of essential businesses if the order does become necessary — that is, what companies would stay open to keep essential services flowing.
“I want to emphasize, this is only preparatory, we are not considering a shelter in place order at this time, but we do want to be prepared,” Brown said.
“I am asking Oregonians to comply with the aggressive social distancing measures we have in place. By complying with these measures you will save lives — and one of those lives could be your own.”
When asked at what point she would make an order calling for a shelter-in-place, Brown said, “as soon as we get new information we will act on that new information.” She is currently advising elderly and at-risk individuals to shelter-in-place, but there is no official order.
Health officials respond
Regional health officials addressed the “shelter in place rumors” in a Thursday afternoon press conference, emphasizing that social distancing must be practiced to avoid the need for a shelter-in-place order.
Tri-County Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines reiterated the state’s request for people to practice social distancing and staying out of the public sphere as much as possible. She explained that “shelter-in-place” is “an emergency term for the public that means stay home, don’t go out, basically, lockdown because the danger is passing through.”
However, she emphasized that there is no official “lockdown” or “shelter-in-place order” currently in effect. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said he is considering a shelter-in-place plan, but has NOT decided on that method.
Dr. Sarah Present echoed Vines’ statements, saying officials encourage Oregonians to limit their exposure to others as much as possible.
Columbia County health officials said practicing social distancing is the best thing we can do to flatten the curve.
Vines said the Oregon Health Authority is keeping data about specific case counts but Multnomah County will not release any specifics about those cases.
So far, 88 Oregonians have tested positive for COVID-19, health officials announced Thursday morning; the number of deaths related to the disease remains at three.
The governor also said Oregon has received 25% of the personal protective equipment ordered from the federal government. She thanked dentists, veterinarians and contractors for donating masks and supplies.
Brown and Chief of Staff Nik Blosser also talked about people making their own masks.
“There’s one hospital in the Midwest that’s put a pattern on its website and asking people at home to sew them,” Blosser said. “I think we’re honestly considering every route, but we need, really need, the materials to make sure they meet the right standards.”
Priorities for test kits
Brown announced that Oregon will soon receive 5,000 COVID-19 test kits. Priorities for those tests are as follows:
- Critical infrastructure workers such as those in healthcare
- Anyone with symptoms in hospitals, care or correctional facilities
- High-risk contacts of cases
They will then pass the tests out to facilities around the state.
She also spoke about her new order for all hospitals, dentists and veterinarians to cease all non-emergency operations to preserve medical supplies. Brown announced the orders on Wednesday.
“We are incredibly grateful for your sacrifice and please know your sacrifice is truly saving Oregonians lives,” Brown said.
The Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems backs the governor’s shelter-in-place planning. The organization said they “support action on the state or local level to further limit retail commerce, unnecessary travel and adopt ‘shelter in place’ strategies.”
All in-person higher education classes are banned through April 28. The executive order also suspends all on-campus operations other than critical functions like food services and dormitories. Those functions that do remain in service are to enforce social distancing.
“I know students have worked hard this school year, and we’re doing everything we can to help them safely finish their learning. But we’re also learning more about this disease every day, and social distancing is key to keeping Oregonians safe,” Gov. Brown said in a statement. “I understand there are seniors getting ready to graduate this spring, and I want to assure them that our universities and community colleges are working hard to make sure they can get their diplomas.”