Getting the coast back to work

Much of the central coast and Coast Range has started back to work. I’m going to talk about details in a moment, but first I have a few thoughts to share.

Two months ago, we faced this pandemic with a sense that we were all in it together. But as I said last week, now we appear to be divided. We’re angry that our businesses or jobs are at risk. We’re angry that we haven’t yet received money we deserve. We’re angry that other people may be putting our vulnerable family members at risk. And increasingly, we seem angry at each other.

I’ve seen contentious public meetings and confrontations in parking lots. I’ve seen new neighbors' cars vandalized because they don’t yet have Oregon license plates. I’ve seen businesses purposely violate public orders to gain advantage over others following the rules. I’ve seen the glares between the masked and the unmasked in grocery stores.

If I have learned anything in my time in the Oregon Legislature, it is that good people don’t always agree. The coast is known for our hospitality. We need to remember to show that hospitality to each other.

If you are opening a business, please do so as safely and responsibly as possible. To do less is to risk closures again. And if you feel unsafe, please stay home and minimize contact with others. I look for the best in people and usually find it. Let’s get through this — together — by respecting each other and responding as a community.

And now the news:

Early Thursday, May 14, Gov. Brown announced the phase one reopening of 28 counties, including Lincoln, Tillamook and Yamhill counties. Restaurants, bars and taverns can open. Retail stores can open. Barbers, salons and tattoo parlors can open. Each must apply safety measures and social distancing.

Large gatherings and events are still not permitted. Hotels, campgrounds and vacation rentals remain closed by local cities and counties. Schools are closed until next fall. 

All of us have a stake in the success of required safety measures. First, they are designed to keep us and people we come in contact with healthy. And second, if not successful and if infections increase, our counties can again be closed.

The responsibility for checking that businesses are following guidelines rests with local law enforcement and Oregon Occupational Safety and Health, as well as other state agencies depending on the type of business.

On May 7, Gov. Brown announced Reopening Oregon, her plan for restarting public life and business. This included the statewide lifting of certain restrictions, some new statewide guidance and a phased process for county-by-county reopening of other businesses and facilities.

  • As of May 1, medical and dental clinics were permitted to offer non-emergency procedures.
  • As of May 5, outdoor recreation areas where physical distancing could be maintained were allowed to open. 
  • Statewide restrictions on stand-alone furniture stores, art galleries, jewelry shops and boutiques were lifted May 15. 
  • Statewide restrictions on child care facilities, summer school, camps and youth programs were lifted May 15. 
  • A new statewide requirement that employees in businesses where physical distancing cannot be maintained must wear a face-covering. These include grocery stores, pharmacies, public transit, salons/personal services and ridesharing services. 
  • A strong recommendation that face-coverings be worn by everyone in any indoor public space, especially where 6 feet of distance cannot be maintained. 

Vulnerable populations should still stay at home as much as possible. There has been no change in the guidance to limit visits to nursing homes and hospitals. Stay home if you’re sick. Limit nonessential travel, including travel from “closed” counties to “open” counties for services. Keep up hygiene and sanitation. And telework if possible. The state has seen a rising number of COVID-19 cases and an increase in the percentage of tests coming back positive. That could give Oregon pause.

Compared with many other states venturing back out, Oregon is in relatively good shape. Only time will tell whether Oregon's reopening was timely or too hasty.

Stay safe, stay well, get a good mask, and let’s safely get back to work.

 David Gomberg is the state representative for Oregon House District 10.


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