Brown sets new COVID restrictions

Gov. Kate Brown announces a “two-week pause” on social activities during a press conference on Friday. The pause initially included five counties and was expanded to a total of nine on Monday.

County not included in ‘two-week pause’

PORTLAND — Gov. Kate Brown on Friday announced a “two-week pause” on social activities in counties with more than 200 new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents during a 14-day period, or more than 60 cases during two weeks for counties with less than 30,000 residents.

The new metrics replace the “county watch list” process instituted by the governor in July.

Lincoln County did not make the two-week pause list, which included Malheur, Marion, Multnomah, Jackson and Umatilla on Friday, with Brown adding Baker, Clackamas, Union and Washington on Monday afternoon. Those counties will see the following measures imposed beginning Wednesday, Nov. 11, though Nov. 25, at which time the governor said the Oregon Health Authority would revaluate their rate of spread: 

• All businesses will be urged to mandate work from home, if possible.

• Indoor restaurant capacity, now at 100 people, will be reduced to 50, and parties will be limited to six. 

• Indoor recreation facilities will have the same 50-person capacity limit. 

• Long-term care facilities will not be allowed to hold visitation indoors. 

• Social gatherings are limited to members of the same household or to six people if the gathering includes people from outside the household.

The governor noted that the new guidelines do not affect faith-based gatherings.

“We are seeing in real time how this virus can quickly snowball out of control. This two-week pause is a series of measures and recommendations intended to curb human contact, both through reducing the amount of people we interact with and the frequency of those encounters,” Brown said.

The governor’s announcement Friday followed a steep rise in COVID infections statewide that has so far not been reflected locally. Oregon first broke 500 new daily cases Oct. 23 and reached 600 on Oct. 30. Another new record was set Nov. 5, with 805 new cases, which was broken two days later with the 988 cases reported Saturday. Meanwhile, Lincoln County has not exceeded three new cases daily in weeks and logged zero new cases on most days.

Brown said the virus’s spread is no longer being driven by large outbreaks — in daily reports of cases by county, one can see how high numbers generally correlate with higher populations — but rather through small social gatherings.

“We have been asking Oregonians over the past several weeks to be mindful of social gatherings as they continue to be the main culprit of community spread in Oregon,” Brown said. “The data is proving that not all Oregonians are listening. For example, having dinner with five friends one night, inviting a few family members over the next day and then meeting up with your neighbors later that week — while each gathering may be less than six people, together those interactions drastically heighten the risk of exposure. So let me be very clear: for this two-week pause, stay with your household.”

Brown warned that additional closures might be “imminent” in two weeks if case counts do not decrease. 

She said she was also calling on Congress to immediately pass another COVID-19 relief package to provide a $600 weekly unemployment benefit in addition to state payments, like the one within the CARES Act that expired July 31.

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