PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Pressure is building to get Governor Kate Brown to re-open Oregon businesses, especially in some rural areas where there are few or no diagnosed cases of the coronavirus so far. The push is coming from several republican lawmakers in contact with the governor’s office — they’re hearing from business owners who said they should be able to open.
The Senate Republican Leader sent another letter to the governor on Monday, urging her to ease restrictions in certain parts of the state. Senator Herman Baertschiger of Grants Pass wants economic and lifestyle restrictions lifted, believing that not all of Oregon should be under the same stay home and stay closed order.
There are 17 counties that have five or fewer positive cases — that’s almost half the counties in Oregon. There are five counties with no known cases, including Harney County. KOIN 6 News spoke with a business owner there who operates a hair salon, coffee shop, and Airbnb who said she wants to be able to reopen with precautions such as personal protective equipment.
“It’s apples to oranges. This is what causes people to get angry and defensive and not trust — we are just trying to survive, but be smart and safe. But blanket laws don’t work in Eastern Oregon,” said business owner Samantha Landon. “I don’t want people dying or sick. I want everybody to be safe and healthy, but they are breaking the back of small businesses — it’s not working for us.”
KOIN 6 News also spoke with a general manager of a gym in Salem. Marion County has the third-highest number of positive COVID-19 cases in the state. That manager said she understood and supported the need for closed doors right now, but the question was for how long.
“It’s keeping people out of work and losing businesses is going to affect mental health, it’s going to affect suicide rates,” said Michele Vanderyacht of Epic Fitness Gym. “I think you have to start somewhere, and if we have to start where we only let so many people in, and I have one dedicated, or two dedicated staff members, to going around after the members and sanitizing and disinfecting and cleaning it up, we will do that.”
State health leaders said there has not been enough testing done to safely allow businesses to reopen yet anywhere in the state. Also, there needs to be two weeks of a downward trend statewide, and there needs to be contact tracing to see who else might be infected.
But there is growing frustration by those who feel they are being put out of business unnecessarily. KOIN 6 News reached out to the governor’s office for a response to the letter and calls to re-open the state, but has not yet heard back. Another “Re-Open Oregon” rally is scheduled for May 2.
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