Alarmed by a dramatic and sustained uptick in new cases of COVID-19, Gov. Kate Brown on Friday announced strict regulations meant to decrease interactions among Oregonians.
The two-week “freeze” harkens back to many of the restrictions of the “stay home, save lives” order Brown issued in March. It will take effect on Wednesday, Nov. 18, and extend to at least Dec. 2.
Restrictions under the new framework apply statewide, not just in counties with acute coronavirus spread. And the new restrictions will be in place in some parts of Oregon for more than two weeks. Brown said Multnomah County will be under the new guidelines for at least four weeks, and other hot spots will also face longer restrictions.
“Maybe we thought the fight was over, but it’s not,” said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the state epidemiologist. “This is likely the most dangerous time in Oregon.”
New regulations include:
- Limiting restaurants and bars to take-out service only.
- Closing gyms and other indoor recreational facilities, museums, and indoor entertainment like theaters.
- Closing outdoor recreational facilities, zoos, gardens, and entertainment venues. City parks and playgrounds will remain open.
- Requiring all businesses to mandate that employees work from home when possible, and to close offices to the public.
- Limiting grocery and retail stores to 75% capacity and encouraging curbside pickup service.
- Prohibiting visits at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
- Limiting social get togethers, whether indoors or out, to no more than six people from two households.
- Limiting worship services to 25 people when indoors and 50 people when outdoors.
The increased regulations are the toughest steps Brown has taken since a series of executive orders in the early days of the pandemic, and could send many bars and restaurants that had reopened back into closures. But they also aren’t as widespread.
For instance, K-12 schools, sports and childcare services currently operating will see no meaningful change. Neither will higher education, or Division 1 athletics (think Ducks and Beavers football). Services such as hair salons, barber shops and massage services can all continue under their current operations. Brown said that’s because state experts haven’t seen clear ties between rising cases and those sorts of businesses if patrons and employees wear masks and social distance, and because many provide services that help Oregonians keep up their mental and physical health.
The Oregon Health Authority plans to issue specific guidance by sector in coming days.
While Brown’s new directive includes a lighter touch for some businesses than the last shutdown, the governor also promised Friday to take a hard line with individuals who ignore restrictions on social gatherings — a key reason for exponential case growth the state has seen. Brown said she’s directing Oregon State Police to work local law enforcement on potentially ticketing, or even arresting, people for breaking the rules.
“In terms of individuals, I am not asking you,” Brown said. “I am ordering you.”
The governor and state health experts are especially worried about Thanksgiving gatherings and urged Oregonians to accept that this holiday will be different.