Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced Friday a statewide “two-week freeze” to begin today (Wednesday), during which restaurants must serve take-out and delivery only, social get-togethers will be limited to six people, faith-based gatherings will be limited to 25 indoors and 50 outdoors, and gyms and pools will be closed, as will venues that host indoor and outdoor events.
The freeze announcement came with a plea from doctors at Portland-area hospitals to abate social interactions that are the main contributor to the recent, dramatic rise in statewide COVID-19 infections. Brown said during a press conference Friday, “The cycle of this virus is such that we are seeing case rates topping 1,000 now, and that means our hospitals are headed for very dark days ahead. Actions taken now will help prevent lives from being lost — not just from COVID-19, but from other diseases or accidents that lead people to need hospital-level care, which they won’t be able to get if the beds are full of COVID-19 patients.”
In implementing the freeze, officials hope to cut down on anticipated gatherings during the Thanksgiving holiday. Provisions are similar to those of the “stay home, save lives” order in March. They include:
• Limiting social get-togethers (indoors and outdoors) to no more than six people, total, from no more than two households;
• Limiting faith-based organizations to a maximum of 25 people indoors or 50 people outdoors;
• Limiting eating and drinking establishments to take-out and delivery only;
• Closing gyms and fitness organizations;
• Closing indoor recreational facilities, museums, indoor entertainment activities and indoor pools and sports courts;
• Closing zoos, gardens, aquariums, outdoor entertainment activities and outdoor pools;
• Limiting grocery stores and pharmacies to a maximum of 75 percent capacity and encouraging curbside pickup;
• Limiting retail stores and retail malls (indoor and outdoor) to a maximum of 75 percent capacity and encouraging curbside pickup;
• Closing venues that host or facilitate indoor or outdoor events;
• Requiring all businesses to mandate work-from-home to the greatest extent possible and closing offices to the public;
Prohibiting indoor visiting in long-term care facilities (outdoor visitation permitted for supporting quality of life).
The freeze will theoretically expire Dec. 3, but Brown said areas with higher rates of infection could be restricted longer. She expected the freeze to be in place in Multnomah County for four weeks or more.
Unlike last spring, child care and youth programs can continue, and personal service providers like salons, non-medical massage and spas can remain open, as can parks and outdoor recreation. “We strongly encourage outdoor recreation and camping, and as such, our parks and playgrounds are staying open,” Brown said. Also unlike last spring, the governor intimated a hard line would be taken with individuals violating restrictions on social gatherings. “In terms of individuals, I am not asking you. I am ordering you,” Brown said.
While the state has largely relied upon businesses to enforce health guidelines, at times heavily fining a few that willfully flouted the rules, Brown said she was directing the Oregon State Police to work with local law enforcement to cite or arrest individuals for violating her gathering orders. Violation of Brown’s executive orders under a state of emergency is a Class C misdemeanor, which can come with a $1,250 fine and/or 30 days in jail.
Lincoln County Sheriff Curtis Landers told the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners on Monday he’d been in a meeting that morning with the state police and law enforcement associations, and they were working on a consistent message to put out to the public regarding enforcement.
“Given these restrictions, the term ‘Thanksgiving police’ has already come out, and I really don’t want to be labeled the ‘Thanksgiving police’ moving forward,” Landers said. “We’d like to still do education first. We still think that’s the number one way to gain compliance with the order, not just going out and seeing how many we can cite. And obviously, we can’t go door to door and count how many people are at the Thanksgiving table. It’s just not feasible with the resources we have.”
However, the sheriff said, “outrageous” or “egregious” violations would be subject to enforcement action.
In a further bid to stem holiday movement, Brown also announced Friday a travel advisory in coordination with California and Washington. Effective immediately, those entering Oregon from another state for “non-essential travel,” including returning residents, “should limit their interactions to their immediate household” for 14 days, according to the advisory. “This recommendation does not apply to individuals who cross state or country borders for essential travel,” the advisory reads. Essential travel includes “work and study, critical infrastructure support, economic services and supply chains, health, immediate medical care, and safety and security.” The travel advisory is voluntary; there is no enforcement component.