PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon Governor Kate Brown held a press conference Friday in which she addressed the current trends of COVID-19 in the state as well as the ongoing unrest and reoccurring violence seen in Portland.
Brown was joined by members of the Oregon Health Authority to discuss the state’s latest efforts in stopping the spread of the coronavirus — the progress of which greatly hinges on the actions of those celebrating Labor Day weekend. OHA officials reported as of Friday, the total number of COVID cases in Oregon now stands at 27,601.
Before diving into COVID-19 trends, however, Brown discussed the nightly protests in Portland, which will reach day 100 over the weekend. While she acknowledged the importance of the movement behind the largely peaceful demonstrations that occur during the day, she condemned the violence and arson often seen late at night — saying it must come to an end.
The protests in Portland
“The protests in support of racial equity and police accountability began many weeks ago –100 days ago,” Brown said. “During this period, state elected leaders have attempted to rise to that call.”
She went onto list the six bills enacted in recent weeks that aim to hold the police to higher standards along with measures put into place as an effort to promote societal and economic equity among Black people and other minorities.
“I, too, am angry that Black and brown Oregonians continue to fear for their lives and their families. these accomplishments are just a start, but it is progress in a relatively short period of time,” she said. “I and other elected leaders need to continue to be held accountable for reducing the health disparities in our state and in our society. We have to create the space for healing and conversation so we can achieve racial justice.
“This violence is a distraction from the critically important work we need to do to eradicate racism and build a better Oregon for everyone at the same time. I know that everyone must be held accountable and it’s really clear, at least to me, that we have not always held out law enforcement officials accountable. That must change,” she said with emphasis.
Brown discussed her recently released “Unified Law Enforcement Plan” on Sunday night in response to the deadly shooting on Saturday night in downtown Portland.
The governor said the plan is meant to protect free speech and bring an end to violence in downtown Portland. She said Portland Police Bureau’s resources have been stretched thin and the plan will help alleviate some of that.
“We must be tireless in our pursuit of racial justice, we must be tireless in our pursuit of accountability for law enforcement and we must also work together with responsible law enforcement to end violence and arson in Portland — and this needs to happen immediately.
“Our country’s worst moments have been defined by fear and hatred, and our greatest moments are defined by peace and understanding. and justice. the only way through this is if we work together. that’s true of racial justice and its certainly true of the pandemic we have now been facing for the past six months.
After releasing the Unified Law Enforcement Plan, however, the various law enforcement agencies Brown called upon declined her request for assistance.
When asked why those agencies were not involved more in the planning process before the plan was released, Brown said “Superintendant Hamptom did reach out to local law enforcement and community sheriffs before we released the plan.” This contradicts what all three agencies told KOIN 6 News — that they didn’t know about the request until Brown released her plan.
“But this is an all hands on deck moment and I think we would all agree that we need to work collectively to stop the violence in Portland,” Brown went onto say. “And I am incredibly grateful for the efforts of the Portland Police Bureau and the Oregon State Police and at the same time I appreciate the way other jurisdictions, including Washington and Clackamas County, continue to help out by providing coverage to fill in for OSP.”
On the National Guard and President Trump
During the press conference, the governor was asked why she has not called in the National Guard to help disperse the violence in Portland — even after Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler reportedly asked her to.
“To be very, very clear, the mayor asked for assistance from the National Guard several weeks — perhaps months ago, and there were multiple reasons at the time why I rejected that request,” she said. “In addition, we know that other states — I talked to governor Walz in Minnesota, who used the national guard for a very limited period of time. In terms of Oregon, I’m relying on our trained law enforcement, Superintendent Travis Hampton, the Portland Police Chief Chuck Lovell.
“Superintendent Hampton would say that A: we do not need the National Guard at this time and B: they are not trained for this work. What we need now is trained law enforcement and that’s why I created the law enforcement plan to bring both local and state officials together behind a plan to keep people safe and to protect free speech rights.”
When asked whether she will ask President Trump for help, Brown dove into what she has, in fact, requested from the White House.
“I have asked the president for help many, many times. I have requested from the White House additional resources for personal protective equipment, we’ve asked the White House for additional testing supplies, and I continue to ask the White House every single day for financial assistance,” she said. “It would be extremely helpful if Congress were to come together around a package to assist the states.”
Brown, OHA officials discuss ongoing COVID-19 response
Brown discussed the current trends of the COVID-19 pandemic throughout Oregon.
“As we head into the weekend, I do want to remind Oregonians across the state to make smart choices when it comes to COVID-19. we’ve seen three times now how get-togethers between families and friends during holiday weekends have led to surges in COVID-19 infections and taking our progress backward. It happened after Mother’s Day weekend, it happened after Memorial day and it happened after the Fourth of July,” Brown said.
“So I ask you, as you make your plans for labor day, please don’t let your fatigue with these restrictions take us away from our collective goal of reducing infection and prevents deaths. My central goal is to reopen in-class learning for all of our children. If we continue to make smart choices, we will get there. I know it. We will also be able to keep our businesses open.”
She reiterated the various measures individuals can take to protect themselves and others, such as only gathering in small numbers, wearing a mask and gathering outdoors as opposed to indoors.
Following Brown, Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen spoke — further urging individuals to stay close to home this Labor Day weekend.
“Since we reopened the state, we’ve seen increases after holiday weekends… We cannot have that happen again,” he said. “Not after the hard work we’ve put into slowing the virus and certainly not if we want to set ourselves up for success this fall and winter when flu season returns.”
Allen reported the latest coronavirus numbers for the state during the conference.
“To date, we’ve recorded 27,601 confirmed and presumed cases of COVID-19, including 268 today,” he said. “Sadly, we’re reporting five additional deaths, bringing our total to 475.”
Yet, new models are showing promising progress. State Epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger discussed the new models in-depth, explaining what they mean for the state.
“The model we released today shows that the current rate of transmission has fallen to a point where each case is generating less than one other case. In fact, it shows each case is generating 0.9 other cases — this is known as the reproductive number,” Sidelinger said. “For this reason, daily cases are dropping — this is tremendous progress. It will only continue if we keep up the pressure. we cannot ease up and let social gatherings on labor day send our rates back up.”
Meanwhile, the percentage of positive tests has dropped below 5% for the first time since late June.
“We hope we can keep it at that 5% threshold and potentially be able to resume K-12 education sooner rather than later. These promising trends suggest that after months of playing defense, we are on a path toward sustainably flatting the curve of COVID-19,” Allen said. “But, as I said earlier, we cannot relent. Recent history shows that any lapse in our collective vigilance or in our individual judgment could have far-reaching impacts on us, our families and our communities. It’s not just about flattening the curve — it’s about keeping it flat.”
Dr. Sidelinger announced that due to the gradual progress being made, they are looking at reopening some low-risk activities such as reopening public pools and playgrounds. He said updated guidance on those activities will be released later in the day on Friday.
“We are moving forward with science and safety in mind and whether we can keep sectors open and operating in a safe matter depends on all of us continue to practice the precautions we know to keep COVID-19 at bay,” he said. “Oregonians are ingenious — and by now we all know how to find new and creative ways to stay safe it’s on every one of us to maintain the progress we’ve made against COVID-19, and together I know we can do it — we can get through this holiday weekend and keep the pressure up on COVID-19 in Oregon.”
Sidelinger did say testing continues to be a challenge. While there is enough testing to test broadly in Oregon, he said it is not at the level they would like.
“We are continually looking for addition tests, additional ways to get tests to the communities that need it most, knowing certain sections of our communities of color or tribal neighbors in Oregon are disproportionally affected,” he said.
In the press conference, Brown also addressed the various wildfires ravaging the state as well. She implored Oregonians to make sure they are abiding by proper fire safety laws and measures and are adhering to burn bans.