PORTLAND — Gov. Kate Brown ordered all restaurants to offer carry-out and delivery service only, as well as the cancellation of all events and gatherings of more than 25 people, effective Tuesday, March 17.
In a press conference Monday afternoon, Brown announced new measures to increase social distancing in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Oregon. The governor said she would issue an executive order canceling all events with more than 25 people, and advised citizens to voluntarily avoid gatherings of greater than 10. Places of work, grocery stores, pharmacies and other locations that provide essential services will be exempt from the limitation, which will be in effect for four weeks.
“I’ve been weighing the economic impacts of mandating the closure of places where Oregonians gather,” Brown said, before announcing that she would also ban food establishments from service for on-site consumption. “Food service at hospitals, workplaces and other essential facilities will continue,” the governor said.
“I am also urging all other businesses to evaluate your practices to accommodate social-distancing measures. Basically, can your business do the equivalent of restaurant takeout? If you cannot do that, I strongly urge you to close your doors to customers temporarily,” she said.
During a call with reporters earlier in the day, Brown stressed that the crisis, though already deeply impacting daily life, was in its early stages.
“I know for many it feels like we are in the middle of this, but we are really only at the beginning. Let me say this again — this is the beginning, we have to support each other,” Brown said.
The governor said she’d been on a call with President Donald Trump and other governors and learned that the national testing capacity for COVID-19 would increase to one million this week through private labs, further expanding to two million next week and five million the week following.
In between Brown’s morning call and afternoon press conference, the Oregon Health Authority announced eight new presumptive coronavirus cases in the state. Another 18 were announced Tuesday, bringing the total to 65. Two of those cases are in Benton County, Lincoln County’s immediate neighbor to the east. Oregon saw its first death from the disease last weekend, a 70-year-old man with underlying health conditions hospitalized in the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center, who tested positive for COVID-19 on March 10.
Dean Sidelinger, state health officer and epidemiologist with the OHA Public Health Division, said of the rise in cases, “I know it’s difficult to learn that we are seeing more active community spread of COVID-19, but this is something we’ve been expecting. It’s a good reminder to take steps to protect yourself and vulnerable friends and family members by washing your hands, covering your coughs and sneezes, and staying home and away from others if you’re sick.”
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