PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Governor Kate Brown announced two new orders aimed to aggressively combat the increased spread of the coronavirus.
Beginning Wednesday, July 15, Oregon will ban indoor social gatherings of more than ten people, according to Brown. Churches and some businesses are exempt from the rule, Brown later confirmed. Additionally, face coverings will be required outdoors when individuals are within six feet of each other. The latter order excludes people living within the same household.
Prior to the executive order announcement, Gov. Brown’s update on the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic began with bold introduction.
“We’re here today to sound the alarm,” the governor said. “The COVID-19 disease is spreading rapidly across the state of Oregon and each and every one of us needs to take action.”
Coinciding with the two new orders is the implementation of a statewide enforcement task force.
Brown’s orders came as a response to the state’s recent uptick in COVID-19 cases, with 12,438 confirmed cases and 237 total deaths as of Monday.
There were more cases of COVID-19 in Oregon last week than during the entire month of May, Brown said, and half were people under the age of 40. Two Oregonians in their 30s have died.
The governor admits the state can’t and won’t be the “party police,” but if the virus keeps spiraling out of control what’s next is pretty clear:
“I hope I don’t have to go the route of Texas and California and close bars and restaurants, but nothing is off the table.”
Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen joined Brown at Monday’s briefing, adding that the new guidelines are a response to the gravity of the situation.
“The rate of COVID-19 transmission is accelerating,” Allen said. “New cases are expected to triple in the next six weeks. That means more people will get sick, many will become seriously ill, and the healthcare system is at risk of becoming overwhelmed.”
OHA’s Dr. Dean Sidelinger also weighed in the situation Oregonians face in the days ahead.
“Our modeling shows troubling scenarios,” Dr. Sidelinger said. “As of several weeks ago, we knew that if transmission did not begin to reduce, we’d rapidly see increasing infection numbers moving towards exponential growth.”
Sidelinger said the state’s efforts to get Oregonians to modify their behavior have not been good enough to keep the curve flattened.
“We all have a role in protecting ourselves, our families, our neighbors and broad communities,” he said. “We must bend the curve again and change the trajectory of the disease in Oregon.”
Heightened enforcement during 4th of July
Before the Fourth of July weekend, Governor Brown announced heightened enforcement of COVID-19 safety measures for bars, restaurants and other businesses. Any businesses not adhering to required safety measures face fines and possibly other penalties, including being shut down.
Also before the Fourth, she added 8 more counties to the COVID-19 watch list, saying the spread has risen to alarming levels. Those counties are Jefferson, Lake, Lincoln, Malheur, Morrow, Umatilla, Union, and Wasco.
As cases began to rise in Oregon once again, Brown ordered a statewide mask mandate. Brown launched a statewide public awareness campaign about face coverings to coincide with the mandate.
The campaign, titled “A Mask is Just a Mask,” aims to educate Oregonians on the importance and urgency of wearing face coverings. Showing that each individual’s decisions can impact the current health crisis along with saying the choice should not be political, the video implores people across the state to do their role by wearing masks.