Here's the latest information you need to know about coronavirus in Oregon, plus a key link to bookmark, to the Oregon Health Authority's dedicated coronavirus page, which is updated regularly with new data on the spread of the disease.
Here are a few other useful links:
We will update this post as news about the virus continues to unfold.
WHO?: President Trump announced today the US would be terminating its relationship with the World Health Organization. The decision comes just a week after Trump threatened to pull funding if the WHO did not “commit to major substantive improvements in the next 30 days.” In a speech at the White House rose garden on Friday, the president said the US will be "redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs.” To where the president was unclear. The US is the WHO's single largest donor, contributing around 20 percent of its budget in 2018 and 2019.
WHAT THE FRUIT?: Willamette Week reports the Oregon Health Authority confirmed details about a COVID-19 outbreak at Townshend Farms, a sixth-generation fruit growing and processing company in Fairview and Cornelius. "The outbreak currently affects a total of 48 of about 350 people who arrived in the Portland metro area May 23 and 24 to harvest fruit from Townsend-owned sites in Fairview and Cornelius," OHA said in a statement. "The individuals are believed to have been exposed to the virus prior to coming to Oregon. An additional 13 samples are still pending at the Oregon State Public Health Laboratory."
TAKE IT TO THE STREETS: PBOT is expanding its Safe Streets initiative to let businesses convert sidewalks, parking spots, and even roadways into car-free areas for seating, shopping, and other services. The program specifically leaves room for “dining, retail, portable hygiene stations and merchandise displays.” The announcement comes just one day after Multnomah County officials offered a plan to reopen the county’s economy by June 12. The county’s reopening timeline dictates when most Portland businesses can start using sidewalks, parking spaces, and streets, but applications to do so are open as of Thursday morning. Get the full story by Jason Notte here.
AND THEN THERE WAS ONE: Gov. Kate Brown announced today that Washington County can enter Phase 1 of reopening starting June 1. The governor's office confirms that Washington County has met all the necessary prerequisites and can begin reopening next Monday, after which the only county not in Phase 1 will be Multnomah. But we're crossing our fingers for June 12.
WAIT A LITTLE LONGER: Multnomah County is setting a target date of Friday, June 12 to begin reopening under the phased-in process outlined by Gov. Kate Brown. That puts the state’s most populous county well behind the rest of the state. Thirty-four of 36 counties are already in phase one, under which businesses can begin to reopen to customers, including gyms, salons, and restaurants. Washington County is set to reopen on June 1. Multnomah County officials say that they are not ready yet to begin the reopening process, since they haven’t yet met targets on the number of contact tracers needed to follow up on new cases, and they want to increase the number of testing sites in the county. Without meeting those criteria, hospitals run the risk of being overwhelmed and not being able to care for all their patients, says Tri-County Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines. So far, Multnomah County has 58 contact tracers on staff, 48 percent of the target. But other counties statewide have reopened with below-target numbers of contact tracers on staff. There is a particular focus on making sure that black, indigenous, and communities of color are fully covered before reopening can begin, says County Public Health Director Rachael Banks, since COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on those communities. Assuming all goes well, this means that Multnomah County wouldn't move into phase two until early July, at the soonest.
YOUR GUESS IS AS GOOD AS OURS: The Oregon Health Authority is investigating an increase in COVID-19 cases tied to a particular location—but so far, the agency isn't saying much more than that. We do know that the business is in the metro area/Willamette Valley region, and that officials seem to think that the outbreak is not a significant risk to surrounding communities. In related (?) news, Oregon reported 71 new and confirmed COVID-19 cases today, a spike from previous totals (though testing is expanding as well, meaning that case numbers will likely continue to rise as fewer cases go undetected.)
THE CLACK IS BACK: Gov. Kate Brown announced today that Clackamas County can begin entering Phase I of reopening on Saturday, May 23.
STAMP OF APPROVAL: Gov. Kate Brown announced today that Marion and Polk County have been approved to enter Phase 1 of Oregon three-phase plan to reopen the state. The counties can enter into Phase 1 beginning Friday, May 22. According to the governor's press release, "County officials presented revised applications to the Oregon Health Authority and the Governor’s Office to confirm both counties met Oregon’s safety and preparedness prerequisites for reopening."
THANKS?: President Trump announced today that TriMet would receive more than $184 million from the federal stimulus package. The funding was announced in April, as reported by the Oregonian, and was delivered on Tuesday.
I am proud to announce the Portland Area’s @trimet will receive over $184M in federal funds to support continued operations of their transit system. This will keep workers on the job and help the economic recovery by ensuring reliable transportation!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 19, 2020
AND JUST LIKE THAT: For a few brief hours today, the stay home order that has governed the lives of all Oregonians since March 23 was—poof!—lifted. That's after Baker County Circuit Court Judge Matthew Shirtcliff declared Gov. Kate Brown's executive order null and void, saying she'd exceeded the limits of her authority in imposing the order for longer than 28 days without legislative approval. Judge Shirtcliff's ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by a handful of churches seeking the right to gather with their congregations. The governor's office appealed to the Oregon State Supreme Court to step in, which it did late Monday night, issuing an emergency ruling that suspends Shirtcliff's ruling while it hears arguments in the case. Brown, after a tense day, claimed victory, saying via press release: "There are no shortcuts for us to return to life as it was before this pandemic. Moving too quickly could return Oregon to the early days of this crisis, when we braced ourselves for hospitals to be overfilled and ventilators in short supply."
THE GREAT OUTDOORS: On Friday, May 15, officials announced the reopening of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington, which includes Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams, and stretches north to the border of Mount Rainier National Park. It’s the closest national forest to Portland to reopen since sweeping closures were put in place at the end of March to stem the spread of COVID-19 amongst outdoor enthusiasts. Read the full story by Ben Tepler here.
OUR NEW NORMAL: Late afternoon drop by Gov. Kate Brown's office with expanded guidance for everything from summer school and camps to gyms and public transit. Read all about it here, but the takeaways include that if you want to ride the bus (or the MAX, or the tram, or the streetcar) from now until who knows when, you will be required to wear a mask. Additionally, employers who are reopening under Phase 1 (see below) are required to provide all their employees with masks. As for summer camps, those who were hoping to get the kids out of the house will have to wait—overnight camps are "not permitted to open or operate at this time."
INITIATE PHASE 1: Today Governor Brown announced the approval for 31 of Oregon’s 36 counties to enter into Phase 1 of her reopening plan. “This has been extraordinarily difficult for all of us, but is saving lives,” she says. “Already, these sacrifices have prevented as many as 70,000 COVID-19 infections and 1,500 hospitalizations. Our success this far gives me confidence as we take the next steps towards our reopening process.” Read the full story by Eden Dawn here.
FLY PDX: Portland International Airport announced new regulations, including that starting May 18 face covering are required for everyone at PDX. The new policy exempts children under 2 and individuals with medical conditions that prevent wearing a face covering.
ICYMI: Starting May 18, face coverings are required for everyone at PDX. Learn more from our @PortofPortland chief operations officer Dan Pippenger and get other details here: https://t.co/On26ratxsh #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/MTcsdU0lZM— flypdx (@flypdx) May 14, 2020
A RARE NEW CASE: Health officials in Oregon have confirmed the state’s first case of pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome. In a press release this afternoon, the Oregon Health Authority confirmed the rare but emerging condition in children believed to be associated with COVID-19 infection in a 14-year-old girl who has tested positive for coronavirus. Not much is known about the syndrome, "but it is reportedly similar to Kawasaki disease, which causes fever, rash, swelling of hands and feet, redness of the eyes, swollen lymph glands, inflammation of the mouth, lips, and throat."
CIVIL LIBERTIES: Reported by KOIN, "nine Oregon businesses and nonprofits are suing Gov. Kate Brown, arguing her response to the COVID-19 pandemic is 'irrational, unreasonable' and violates their due process rights." Tyler Smith, one of the attorneys behind the suit, which was filed on Tuesday, said, "The government cannot take your life, liberty or your property without giving you a notice and an opportunity to be heard about whether the deprivation of that right was wrongful or rightful." Smith also said he anticipates more cases "where people have had their due process rights violated."
POSTCARD FROM PILL HILL: This week, postcards will go out to 150,000 households around Oregon, inviting them to participate in a $6 million Oregon Health & Science University study aimed at tracking COVID-19′s swath through the state. The study—encouraging news for facts, science, and the off-chance that we might ever return to some kind of normal—is intended to help fill in some of the nagging blanks and unanswered questions that have been looming for months, like just how many Oregonians are asymptomatic. Read more about the OHSU study here.
OREGON HAIRDRESSERS UNITE: Stylists are currently listed to be up and running in Phase 1 of Gov. Kate Brown’s reopening plan, but a growing number say it puts their lives, and the community, at risk. With several salons banding together as the Oregon Hairdressers Coalition, they created a petition and social campaigns outlining the specific reasons they oppose being in Phase 1 as technicians, primarily noting the impossibility of doing their jobs in a socially distanced manner. Read more about the effort here.
WESTERN STATES FUNDING: In a letter to congressional leadership today, governors and legislative leaders from five Western states requested $1 trillion. The hope is that states and local governments will use the relief to avoid deep cuts to services like public health, public safety, public education, and help people get back to work. "We deeply appreciated the quick financial assistance you provided workers, small business people and those who have been displaced by this crisis. But now, however, our states will be forced to make deep cuts to programs that help those same individuals without similar relief efforts for state and local governments," reads the letter. "Red and blue states alike all are faced with the same COVID-19 math, as are Democratic and Republican mayors across our states. The moment requires unprecedented partnership from all of us – across every level of government and across party."
REOPENING OREGON: Gov. Kate Brown announced a three-phase plan to reopen Oregon, with some retailers in rural counties preparing to enter the first phase of reopening by Friday, May 15. In a press conference with state health officials, the governor said current physical distancing and hygiene practices are likely to remain in place for the next few months. Counties that meet the state's prerequisites are eligible for phase one reopening:
- Restaurants and bars may open for sit down service but only with appropriate physical distancing measures in place, and face masks are to be worn by employees.
- Personal care including salons, barber shops, and gyms may open with limits on the number of occupants. Salons must follow appointment only procedures and must screen customers at the door with temperature checks, logging every customer to allow for contract tracing by health departments if needed.
- Retail businesses and shops can open using proper physical distancing etiquette laid out by the Oregon Health Authority.
- Social gatherings can increase to 25 with physical distancing measures in place.
Phase two and three include further expansion of gathering sizes to include workplaces such as offices, visits to care facilities, and more. Though the governor advised larger gatherings such as concerts, festivals, sporting events, and more may not return until at least September or a vaccine has been proven effective for treating the virus.
THE GREAT OUTDOORS: Gov. Kate Brown announced the opening of some state outdoor recreation areas this week, including select state parks, outdoor recreation facilities, and ski resorts across Oregon for day use effective today. “Enjoying Oregon’s beauty and bounty is one of our state’s time-honored traditions,” said Brown. “As we begin to slowly open up recreation sites, state parks, and ski area opportunities, it is critical we ensure the health and safety of staff, volunteers, and the public. And that begins with each of us taking personal responsibility to be a steward of our parks, and each other.”
TGIF?: Rural schools around the West have long experimented with four-day school weeks, as a cost-saving measure. Now, Oregon's largest and most urban district is following suit, at least until the end of July. The move, which was first reported by Willamette Week, is being billed as a partial furlough, and will require teachers to file for pay coverage with the already overburdened Work Share Oregon program, and receive compensation from the federal CARES Act for pandemic relief. The goal is to hang onto some funding for the 2020-2021 school, when, instead of the anticipated big injection of funding from the hard-won Student Success Act approved by the Oregon legislature in 2019, school district are instead bracing for big cutbacks due to plummeting tax revenue and rising unemployment in the wake of the pandemic.
PRESUMPTIVE CASES: The Oregon Health authority announced it would begin tracking presumptive COVID-19 cases in its daily reports, consistent with recently amended guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to OHA, "A presumptive case is someone who does not have a positive PCR test—a 'Polymerase Chain Reaction' that confirms if a person has COVID-19—but is showing symptoms and has had close contact with a confirmed case. If they later test positive, they will be recategorized as a confirmed case." On that front, the agency announced 65 confirmed new COVID-19 cases, 14 presumptive cases, and no new deaths. The state's death toll remains at 109.
JAMES BREARD NOMINEES: All right, so this is not really coronavirus-related news, but it's fun and we thought you should know anyhow. Today the JBF announced its finalist nominees (originally slated to be announced March 16, when the scope of the pandemic was becoming all too clear) via Twitter, in informal, coronavirus-era fashion. Read our coverage of the locally-based nominees here.
TRACING AND TESTING: Gov. Kate Brown offered details at a morning press conference on the hiring of 600 people to help with contact tracing in the state, saying the effort to track down those who have had contact with COVID-19 patients during their first 14 days after exposure will be bilingual and able to deliver services in a culturally specific manner to diverse communities. She also announced the kickoff of the Key to Oregon study, a partnership with the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health that will enroll 100,000 randomly selected Oregonians for 12 months of temperature and symptom monitoring, with potential follow-up testing. An additional 10,000 will be selected to receive at-home test kits, to provide information on the presence of the virus in people who are not displaying symptoms. Potential volunteers will be notified by mail the week of May 11.
UNEMPLOYMENT: A staggering 30 million have applied for unemployment in the six weeks since the coronavirus pandemic began affecting the U.S. job market. Roughly one out of five people who had a job in February. In Oregon about 333,700 initial claims were received in the first five weeks, roughly 16 percent of the statewide labor force, according to a report by the State of Oregon Employment Department.
A HEARTFELT THANK YOU: The government of China’s Fujian Province, Oregon’s sister state since 1984, is gifting the state with 50,000 medical face masks, which will be delivered to Oregon’s Office of Emergency Management for distribution to counties for frontline workers. The Oregon China Council, a non-profit association dedicated to supporting economic, educational, and cultural exchanges between Oregon and China, facilitated the receipt of these masks. “We are thrilled to receive this generous and critically-needed safety equipment from our friends in China,” said OCC president Jin Lan. “This humanitarian aid is unprecedented and truly is the culmination of many years of relationship-building."
A heartfelt thank you to the Fujian Province, Oregon's sister state in China, for the gift of 50,000 masks. Oregon will pay it forward in the future. https://t.co/gfVU9K6A4B— Governor Kate Brown (@OregonGovBrown) April 29, 2020
UNDERLYING HEALTH CONDITIONS: The Oregon Health Authority has released more detailed information regarding individuals who have died from COVID-19. In addition, OHA will now include the number of COVID-19 recovered cases by county in its weekly reports.
Our Weekly #Coronavirus Report has again expanded, this week adding data on underlying conditions for the #COVID19 cases that have died. We will also now include the number of COVID-19 recovered cases by county: https://t.co/EWKKhb1S3y pic.twitter.com/AjhaYjDIsf— OR Health Authority (@OHAOregon) April 28, 2020
UNEMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE: The Oregon Employment Department is providing unemployment benefits through the CARES Act Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. In preparation, the agency has recruited and trained staff to process PUA claims. Earlier this month, self-employed business owners, in particular, were not selected for the Prosper Portland grants or loans, they did not receive funding from the Payroll Protection Program or Small Business Association emergency loans (which ran out of money in record time), and they still haven’t been able to get unemployment benefits. Read more from Eden Dawn here.
COOL KIDS TABLE: Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak are taking a seat at the cool kids table, announcing today their respective states are joining California, Oregon, and Washington in the Western States Pact—a working group of Western state governors with a shared vision for modifying stay at home and fighting COVID-19. “As Western states, we are all in this together,” said Oregon Gov. Kate Brown. “Each of our states took quick and decisive action, based on science and data, to stop the spread of COVID-19. In the same way that we share expertise and help one another during wildfire season, we will work together as we recover from the impacts of this pandemic—with a shared vision, a common purpose, and individual paths forward tailored to the needs of our states—to reopen our communities and economies, and prepare our constituents for a safe return to public life.”
Oregon, together with Colorado, Nevada, Washington, and California will use health outcomes and science to guide us as we recover from this pandemic: with a shared vision, a common purpose, and individual paths forward tailored to our states' needs.https://t.co/HtdGqTtlfZ— Governor Kate Brown (@OregonGovBrown) April 27, 2020
NON-URGENT PROCEDURES: Gov. Kate Brown announced at a teleconference today that she will be lifting her order delaying non-urgent procedures for health care providers, as long as they can demonstrate they have met new requirements for COVID-19 safety and preparedness. Hospitals, surgical centers, medical offices, and dental offices that meet those requirements will be able to resume non-urgent procedures on May 1. “As anyone waiting for an elective surgery knows, ‘non-urgent’ does not mean ‘minor,'” said Governor Brown. “This is incredibly important medical care that we would not have told providers to delay if the threat of COVID-19 had not made it necessary
NO NEW DEATHS: Kind of dystopian-like sentence, but that's what the Oregon Health Authority reported today. The agency did report 57 new cases of COVID-19 as of 8 a.m. today bringing the state total to 2,059. The new COVID-19 cases reported today are in the following counties: Clackamas (10), Coos (1), Deschutes (2), Jefferson (1), Linn (1), Marion (7), Multnomah (24), Washington (10) and Yamhill (1)
TESTING, TESTING: Under scrutiny for its somewhat anemic testing levels for coronavirus, which lag behind other states of similar populations, the Oregon Health Authority announced that it was relaxing its guidelines for who can get tested for coronavirus. The new guidelines instruct local physicians to more readily order tests for patients who are a) showing symptoms, even if they are only mild and b) are part of a group that is at particular risk for contracting COVID-19. Those groups include those living or working in group living facilities, like nursing homes, which have been the site of some of the most concentrated and deadly outbreaks in the state. Other covered groups include those in historically marginalized populations, including African Americans and Latinx community members, who have already tested positive at higher levels than the overall population, and essential workers, including those whose jobs bring them into regular contact with the public, including grocery store workers, transit drivers, and cleaners. In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, state epidemiologist Dr. Dean Sidelinger said that the state isn't yet moving to test everyone living and working in nursing homes, regardless of whether or not they show symptoms or not, because tests are only a snapshot, and don't account for cases that might develop days later. Instead, he says, care homes are encouraged to keep residents apart from each other and to continue prohibitions against visiting family members, in order to help curb the spread of the virus.
SLOW(ING) THE CURVE: A new report, reviewed by the Institute for Disease Modeling in Bellevue, Washington, suggests that social distancing measurements instituted during the early onset of the coronavirus epidemic in Oregon are working. “Today’s modeling update tells us that statewide mitigation efforts are keeping the caseload and hospitalizations well below the numbers we would have seen absent our efforts as a state," said state epidemiologist Dean Sidelinger, MD. "We are encouraged by the continued success of our mitigation efforts, which are allowing us to begin planning for suppression strategies for when the statewide measure can begin to be lifted.” The report also estimates that there have been approximately 7,600 infections in Oregon by April 10th, of which 1,600 had been diagnosed.
ON THE WAGON: The World Health Organization, which President Trump recently defunded, recommended limited alcohol intake during coronavirus lockdown. WHO issued a statement for a couple of reasons. To inform individuals that alcohol does not in fact kill the coronavirus, but also to remind the public that consuming any amount of alcohol “can exacerbate health vulnerability, risk-taking behaviors, mental health issues and violence” and that alcohol "compromises the body’s immune system and increases the risk of adverse health outcomes. Therefore, people should minimize their alcohol consumption at any time, and particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic." No alcohol during the pandemic? Maybe Trump was on to something. (We kid, and understand that defunding WHO during a global pandemic is a terrible, terrible decision.)
NOW MORE THAN EVER: Oregon will receive nearly $38.6 million in child care and development block grant funding to help support families’ child care needs and child care providers throughout the coronavirus pandemic. That's according to Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, who made the announcement Thursday. "Every parent should be able to go to work with the confidence their children will be safe and well cared for while they’re gone, now more than ever," said Merkley in a press release. Authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, the funding will be administered by the Department of Health and Human Services.
A VITAL RESOURCE: Gov. Kate Brown announced that the state will provide $8 million to the Oregon Food Bank. The state will pay Oregon Food Bank weekly, as needed over the next eight weeks, to meet the increased demand. The state expects to receive a 75 percent reimbursement from FEMA, in accordance with the federal emergency declaration. “In times of crisis, no Oregonian should need to wonder where they can find food for their family,” said Brown in a press release. “I know many Oregonians, through no fault of their own, have lost their jobs and incomes due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Oregon Food Bank Network is a vital resource for families in need."
WHO?: President Trump says the U.S. will halt its funding of the World Health Organization while his administration reviews the organization's handling of the coronavirus crisis. "As the organization's leading sponsor, the United States has a duty to insist on full accountability," he said. "One of the most dangerous and costly decisions from the WHO was its disastrous decision to oppose travel restrictions from China and other nations."
FRAMEWORK TO REOPEN: Gov. Kate Brown laid out a framework to reopen Oregon's economy at a press conference this morning. The framework included prerequisites: 1) Slowed growth: fewer cases of COVID-19; 2) Adequate PPE to protect health care workers & first responders; 3) A robust public health framework: increased testing, contact tracing, and effective isolation. The governor spoke more on the Western States Pact (more on that in the April 13 roundup), in which she is working in tandem with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and California Gov. Gavin Newsom, saying, “This virus doesn’t recognize state boundaries.” Both Brown andstate health officer Dr. Dean Sidelinger said the efforts to flatten the curve are working in Oregon, and must continue. As to when the prerequisites might be met and how long after that certain sectors might reopen, Brown repeated Dr. Anthony Fauci’s mantra the we don’t make the timeline, but the virus makes the timeline, and said, “It’s not going to be easy, and it will take longer than we want.” Sidelinger agreed: “If I could predict the future, I would be doing a lot of other things.... A specific date is just not in the offing right now.”
In the early days of this pandemic, I had to take swift action to protect the health & safety of Oregonians from this deadly disease. Now, as we see that these efforts are successfully flattening the curve, we're analyzing how & when to reopen each part of our society & economy.— Governor Kate Brown (@OregonGovBrown) April 14, 2020
THE WESTERN STATES PACT: As go Washington and California, so will go Oregon. That's the message from a joint agreement announced today by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Democrats all. The three states will coordinate on the easing of physical distancing restrictions and the re-opening of their economies, the governors say, in an effort to prevent a resurgence in infections from a virus that knows no borders. The three states will be working together on the development of a system for widespread testing of residents, tracking those with whom the infected may have been in contact, and isolating known COVID-19 patients. In recent days, the West Coast has won praise nationwide for flattening its regional curve; though Oregon was the first, all three states have since shipped ventilators to New York, the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States. Still no word on whether other western neighbors—Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, and British Columbia—will follow a similar path.
UNEMPLOYMENT BY THE NUMBERS: In the past three weeks, nearly 270,000 Oregonians have filed for unemployment benefits—almost double the number of residents who needed state aid during the so-called Great Recession of 2008 and 2009. In the U.S., 16 million workers have filed unemployment claims since the middle of March. Help is supposed to be on the way, via the federal government’s $2 trillion relief package, but the spiraling numbers suggest that even that huge of an economic injection isn’t working fast enough to stop the pain of job loss in virtually every industry. There are some slivers of hope: under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, even the self-employed, contract workers and gig workers can now file for unemployment benefits.
JULY 9, YOU SAY?: In case you were hoping to wrap all this up by Easter, you might want to have eyes on today's announcement from Multnomah County, officially extending the current state of emergency declaration for another three months, until July 9. That might sound like semantics, but trust us, it's not—having a state of emergency in place lets the county respond to an almost endless series of needs, including spreading out shelter beds across temporary facilities like the Jupiter Hotel and the Portland Convention Center, in order to allow for physical distancing guidelines, the temporary moratorium on residential evictions, and stepping up funding for motel vouchers for those at risk of domestic violence. In coming weeks, look for an intensified focus on food access for individuals and households that don't know where their next meal is coming from.
SCHOOL'S OUT: Oregon schools will be closed for the remainder of the school year due to the coronavirus outbreak, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced Wednesday, making official a grim decision that had been widely anticipated by families and teachers around the state for weeks. The primary consideration was safety of both students and educators, Brown said. News editor Julia Silverman broke down the day's announcement in this piece.
FEDERAL FUNDING: The Oregonian reported that Oregon health clinics received $12.4 million in federal coronavirus funding. The funding will assist 16 community health clinics that serve low-income or marginalized people statewide. Multnomah County will receive about $1.8 million. The Native American Rehabilitation Association in Portland will receive more than $580,000 and Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center in Hillsboro will get about $1.6 million.
MORE NEW CASES: The Oregon Health Authority reported 49 new coronavirus cases and four deaths. This raises the state's death toll to 33. OHA has also begun releasing more detailed information regarding the demographics of Oregon COVID-19 cases/deaths. In Tuesday's daily update, OHA reported the majority of positive coronavirus cases ranged from age 40-49.
PHYSICAL DISTANCING, NOT SOCIAL DISTANCING: The Oregon Health Authority announced it would stop using the term "social distancing" to describe the efforts Oregonians must take to curb the spread of coronavirus. Instead, the agency will use the term "physical distancing." That's because "while it’s important to stay physically separated from each other, supporting each other socially is important to our health and well-being." Digital editor Gabriel Granillo spoke with Oregon State University professor of psychological sciences Regan Gurung about this very distinction in this piece, as well as how social support, connection, and patience will help us navigate this global pandemic.
MORE NEW CASES: The Oregon Health Authority reported 69 new cases, breaking a stark milestone for the state: more than 1,000 positive coronavirus cases. "We know this is alarming to hear, but your efforts are helping to flatten the curve," OHA wrote in its daily email. "Thank you for all you’re doing to help, including staying informed." And if you're thinking about going outside this week due to forecasted sunny skies and springtime weather, Julia Silverman recommends you do not.
IT'S RAINING, IT'S POURING: Wine, that is, as in this video here:
tw-center-alignYes, dreams do come true, even amid a pandemic. When Phil Kirkland poured a glass of wine for Nicole Hudson, little did he know that it would be witnessed by hundreds of thousands. But Kirkland was pouring the wine—a glass of Big Salt white wine from Oregon’s OVUM—from the window of his third floor into Hudson’s glass, held out of her own window on the second. Read the full story by Fiona McCann here.
Met the girl downstairs tonight banging pots out the window for healthcare workers. Told her to hold out her wine glass. Bystanders saw. pic.twitter.com/mWh65D0qza— Phillip Kirkland (@philsince87) April 4, 2020
WE HEART NY: Gov. Kate Brown ordered 140 of the state’s ventilators to be sent to New York, which has been hit hardest by the novel coronavirus. “We’ll be sending 140 ventilators to help NY because Oregon is in a better position right now,” Brown wrote via Twitter. “We must do all that we can to help those on the front lines of this response." Her tweet brought a quick reply from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo: "From the bottom of my heart, thank you. NYS will repay the favor when Oregon needs it.” According to Oregon Public Broadcasting, Oregon currently has “762 ventilators in the state, up from around 680 prior to the pandemic.” But just a few dozen of the state’s COVID-19 patients are currently using ventilators to help them breathe, of the 899 people in the state who have tested positive for coronavirus.
New York needs more ventilators, and we are answering their call for help.— Governor Kate Brown (@OregonGovBrown) April 4, 2020
We'll be sending 140 ventilators to help NY because Oregon is in a better position right now. We must do all that we can to help those on the front lines of this response.
WEAR YOUR MASKS: The Centers for Disease Control recommended Friday that Americans should wear masks if they have to leave their homes and go somewhere that it is difficult to maintain at least six feet of physical distancing. Public health officials for the Portland metro region backed up those recommendations on Friday night, but said Oregonians should not interpret the new guidelines to mean that it is fine to go out into the community at will. The public health officials also stressed that medical-grade masks need to be reserved for doctors, nurses, and other frontline health care workers—the general public can use disposable, non-medical-grade masks, or homemade face covers sewn from patterns found online or fashioned from bandanas, scarves, or ski masks. Make sure they fit securely around your face and leave room for air flow. Wash after every use with warm water and detergent.
WELL, ISN’T THAT SPECIAL: Gov. Kate Brown is holding out on calling a special session until "we have sufficient clarity about the federal stimulus." The federal government recently passed the CARES Act, which should bring critically-needed financial resources to Oregon as the state continues to face the coronavirus pandemic. The CARES Act includes investments in essential medical supplies, expanded unemployment insurance, and increased support for small businesses, according to Brown's press release on Thursday. "My top priority is the health and safety of all Oregonians, as well as protecting their livelihoods through this crisis," Brown wrote in the release. "Right now, the state is focused on expanding hospital bed capacity, increasing testing capacity, and procuring personal protective equipment so we can safely treat those who fall ill. We are also working together to ensure Oregonians can economically survive during these difficult times."
TO MASK, OR NOT TO MASK?: Chatter is growing around the country that the CDC might recommend that we all wear masks every time we go out in public, to the grocery store or for a walk. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, for example, this week told residents of his city to wear masks whenever they are outside of their homes. In a call with reporters on Thursday, Dr. Jennifer Vines, lead health officer for Multnomah, Washington, and Clackamas Counties, said local officials aren't ready to call for such widespread mask wearing—yet. "At this point, we are not discouraging people who want to use nose or mouth coverage when they are out," she says. "But there is not a lot of science that it helps." That position could change, she said, if the Centers for Disease Control changes its recommendation in the coming days.
FLATTEN(ING) THE CURVE: Strong evidence suggests that Oregon's current social distancing measures are reducing the transmission rate of COVID-19. According to the Oregon Health Authority, "The most recent data suggest that current social distancing measures could cut transmission rates between 50%-70% if Oregonians maintain these limitations on virus-spreading interactions into early May. If Oregonians can maintain current social distancing efforts and the current projections hold true, the state could meet the likely demand for hospital beds under current strategies."
A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION: In an effort to help businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Kate Brown issued an executive order today placing a 90-day statewide moratorium on commercial evictions for nonpayment. The executive order also strengthens Brown's previous ban on residential evictions, and prohibits landlords from charging tenants late fees for nonpayment of rent during the moratorium. "During this unprecedented public health crisis, too many Oregonians have found themselves with no way to pay the monthly rent for their homes and businesses," said Brown. "These are difficult times. This order will help Oregon small businesses stay in their locations without the threat of eviction."
DOWN WITH THE SICKNESS: Gov. Kate Brown had a cough and raspy voice in Monday's video press conference, which raised some concerns. According to Willamette Week, the governor has since tested negative for coronavirus. "Out of an abundance of caution, the Governor's personal physician arranged for a COVID-19 test yesterday afternoon," says spokesman Charles Boyle. "That test came back negative." Simply put: she's just a little under the weather.
DOWN WITH THE SICKNESS: Gov. Kate Brown is exhibiting signs of the common cold, according to OPB. While Brown herself has not been tested for COVID-19, her husband Dan Little has. “Her husband Dan began exhibiting symptoms of a seasonal illness early last week, and out of an abundance of caution, was tested for coronavirus,” Brown’s press secretary, Charles Boyle, wrote in an email. “The test came back negative.”
SMALL BIZ RELIEF: Per our own Eden Dawn, "At a press conference this morning, mayor Ted Wheeler announced the launch of the Small Business Relief Fund through Prosper Portland, the city’s economic development branch, to help businesses impacted by the coronavirus shutdown. The program allows qualifying businesses to apply for relief grants between $2,000 and $10,000." But according to some small business owners, that's not nearly enough. Read more here.
DISASTER DECLARATION: Per The Oregonian, "The Federal Emergency Management Agency announced Sunday that President Donald Trump approved a major disaster declaration for Oregon, freeing federal emergency aid to supplement Oregon’s fight against the coronavirus." The disaster declaration, which is back-dated to January 20, allows federal funding for state and tribal governments, as well as local governments and nonprofits for emergency protective measures as the coronavirus continues to spread, according to FEMA.
KEEP PORTLAND WEIRD ALIVE: Gov. Kate Brown has launched a new statewide ad campaign, "Stay Home, Save Live," a public-private partnership with Wieden+Kennedy, the Oregon Health Authority and public health partners to communicate to Oregonians about how they can do their part to contain the spread of COVID-19. The campaign will appear on television, radio, on social media, and online. “We created this campaign with the Governor because we don’t want to look back and wish we had done more. We have a lot of heart for Oregon and all who live here, and we know that staying home will save lives. This campaign provides clarity and conviction around what staying at home means — and how we all have a role to play to help our community,” said Jason Bagley and Eric Baldwin, executive creative directors at Wieden+Kennedy Portland. Great idea. Perhaps, a little grim? See for yourself:
MORE NEW CASES: Today, the Oregon Health Authority reported one new coronavirus death and 98 new cases, the largest single-day increase in Oregon to date. While that number may seem large, Dawn Mautner, senior health advisor at OHA, assures the surge in positive cases is to be expected because of the state's increase in testing capacity. Watch:
STIMULUS SIGNED: According to the New York Times, President Donald Trump on Friday signed into law a $2 trillion measure designed to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. "The legislation will send direct payments of $1,200 to millions of Americans, including those earning up to $75,000, and an additional $500 per child. It will substantially expand jobless aid, providing an additional 13 weeks and a four-month enhancement of benefits, and for the first time will extend the payments to freelancers and gig workers."
PLEASE CLAP: Mayor Ted Wheeler is encouraging Portlanders to follow cities around the world that are sharing a nightly cheer to honor and thank health care workers who are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting March 27, at 7 p.m. every day until the COVID-19 pandemic is officially over, Wheeler is encouraging citizens to cheer, clap, and cry out for its heroes. "Our nurses, doctors, and first responders continue to risk their health and well-being every single day to make sure the sickest among us get the care they need," Wheeler wrote in a press release. "Other community heroes like grocery store employees, delivery drivers, chefs, and others make sure we have food on the table. Let’s boost the morale for all those who are struggling as well - a nightly reminder that no one is alone."
OUTDOORS NO MORE: The US Forest Service has locked the gates to seemingly every wilderness area within a few hours of Portland. That includes Mt. Hood, the entire Columbia River Gorge stretching east to the Deschutes River, and Gifford Pinchot—over 1.3 million acres in southwest Washington including Mt. Adams and Mount St. Helens. “After conducting a risk analysis of Forest Service recreation sites within the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, it became apparent that there are too many people converging on both developed and unofficial recreation sites to ensure proper social distancing. Crowd sizes were too large to comply with current health authority guidelines,” explained Rachel Pawlitz, public affairs officer for the Gorge, in a statement Thursday afternoon.
A ROOM AT THE JUPITER: Portland Mercury reports The Jupiter Hotel is making 81 rooms available for houseless Portlanders showing symptoms of COVID-19. "We are just so honored to be able to contribute to the health and safety of some of Portland's most vulnerable communities," said Nick Pearson, the hotel's general manager, at a Thursday press conference. "Once we started talking to the county about what their needs were, it was really a no-brainer for us to work together."
WE'RE NUMBER ONE: You may have noticed "we're number 1" trending on Twitter. That's because the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, has the most reported coronavirus cases in the world. With more than 82,000 confirmed cases reported Thursday, the U.S. has overtaken China (81,782 cases) and Italy (80,589). In the U.S., the coronavirus death toll stands at about 1,200. In China, almost 3,300 have died. In Italy, about 8,200 have died.
BREAKING: The United States now leads the world in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases with more than 82,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. https://t.co/gBPqO8jpx5— The Associated Press (@AP) March 26, 2020
STATE OF EMERGENCY EXTENDED: Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler announced he would be extending his State of Emergency declaration for the city for two weeks, until April 9. “We’re still on the upside of the contagion curve, so now is not the time to suspend an emergency declaration,” Mayor Wheeler said. “We collectively decide how deep and how long this crisis lasts. We’ll get through this together. Stay home, stay healthy in the meantime.”
PPE CRISIS: Oregon Gov. Kate Brown expressed her frustration at the federal response at her daily press briefing, saying the state has received just 25 percent of the Personal Protective Equipment requested from the federal government. She lauded the fact that Oregon could make more, with experience and equipment ready to scale up manufacturing. "What's the barrier? It's the federal government," she said, adding she expected to follow a letter sent to Vice President Mike Pence about the shortage with a phone call today. "Basically, we've got a quarter of what we need, and the feds are not providing clear guidance around how to fast track the manufacture of more." Oregon currently has 2,028 available non-ICU beds, 394 available ICU beds, and 608 available ventilators.
SOCIAL DISTANCING: Brown encouraged all those who feel their workplace is unsafe, or not adhering to social distancing policies, to contact the Bureau of Labor and Industry and OSHA to file a complaint. The Governor said concerns from employees around the state will be taken into account when assessing decisions going forward.
THE DEETS: The Oregon Health Authority, facing criticism from local news outlets, released more detailed information about the state's COVID-19 response, including demographics on the growing number of cases in Oregon. According to Willamette Week, of the 266 COVID-19 cases (OHA reported 55 new cases on Wednesday), "The data show the majority of the state's cases are among people ages 60 to 69."
A MOMENT OF NECESSITY: According to the New York Times, "the Senate on Wednesday moved toward a vote on a sweeping, roughly $2 trillion measure to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, after Democrats and Republicans reached a deal with the Trump administration on direct payments and jobless benefits for individuals, money for states and a huge bailout fund for businesses." The stimulus package, the largest in modern US history, is expected to be signed within the next few days, and aims to benefit American businesses and companies forced to shut their doors, those who have lost their income or jobs, and hospitals in need of medical supplies. “This is not a moment of celebration, but one of necessity,” Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader. “To all Americans I say, ‘Help is on the way.’”
SUMMER OLYMPICS POSTPONED: As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to grow around the world, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the Tokyo Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games would be postponed until 2021. In a joint statement with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and Tokyo organizers, Abe said the games “must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021” to ensure the health of athletes and community members. So what does this mean for Oregon? Well, as a result of the postponement, TrackTown USA in Eugene announced that it is working to reschedule the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for track and field, originally set for June 19–28 at Hayward Field. According to OPB, if the Olympic trials are postponed to 2021, that could also push forward the World Athletics Championships, also set in Eugene in August 2021.
CASES CONTINUE TO GROW IN OREGON: The Oregon Health Authority reported 18 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the states total to 209. The virus has also claimed three more lives in the state, bringing the death total to eight.
STAY AT HOME: Gov. Kate Brown issued an executive order for Oregonians to "Stay Home, Save Lives." The definitive decision follows backlash after Brown said on Friday she had only considered a "shelter in place" order in places like California, New York, Illinois, and New Jersey. Outlined in the executive order are regulations, enforceable by law, for (essential and non-essential) businesses, childcare facilities, and citizens to adhere. Read more about the stay at home order here.
LAST CALL: ... for Oregon State Parks. Oregon Parks and Recreation released a statement Monday saying it would close all state parks starting March 23, following Gov. Kate Brown's executive order to stay at home. “We would have preferred an orderly shutdown of the system and to remain open for daytime visits, but our concern for the effects on rural health care systems requires us to move up and expand our plans,” says Lisa Sumption, director of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. City and county parks and other public land managers are open at their discretion, with the recommendation they do so only if they can adhere to social distancing practices.
MORE NEW CASES: The Oregon Health Authority reported 24 new COVID-19 cases and one new death. This brings the state's positive COVID-19 cases total to 161, and the state's death total to five.
THE FRONTLINES: Around $4 million in state funding will go toward Local Public Health Authorities (LPHA), Tribes and Native American Rehabilitation Association (NARA – the Urban Indian Health Program in Oregon) to support their COVID-19 response, according to the Oregon Health Authority and other official. The funds can be used to support local and tribal COVID-19 response, including: reporting, monitoring, and controlling of the virus within communities; identification and screening of individuals who have tested positive for coronavirus; educations, prevention, and communication to share information with the public and community partners. “Local health authorities are on the frontlines of this epidemic and leading the response,” said Jocelyn Warren, PhD, MPH, Public Health Division Manager Lane County and current Conference of Local Health Officials chair. "This vitally important funding will ensure that their ability to respond increases in line with the severity of the crisis.”
SPRING BREAK IN PLACE: Twenty-five Portland-area mayors have called for a statewide stay-at-home order, according to OPB. Gov. Kate Brown has previously said she is not in favor of a so-called "shelter-in-place" order, but the Metropolitan Mayors Consortium have advised Brown to enforce social distance requirements at all times, prohibit non-essential travel, order non-essential businesses to reduce their activities to minimum operations, and prohibit public and private gatherings, with exceptions. Our own Mayor Ted Wheeler tweeted this:
Bumper to bumper traffic headed to the coast.— Mayor Ted Wheeler (@tedwheeler) March 21, 2020
Reports of block parties on streets.
I cannot stress this enough.#COVID19 continues to spread because people don't know they have it.
Please #StayAtHome to #FlattenTheCurve and #SlowTheSpread.https://t.co/PM20VojkYk
MORE NEW CASES: The Oregon Health Authority reported 23 new coronavirus cases, bringing the state's total up to 137. OHA also reported that COVID-19 had claimed another life. According to OHA, "Oregon’s fourth COVID-19 death is a 72-year-old woman in Marion County, who tested positive on March 15, and died March 20 at Kaiser Permanente Sunnyside Medical Center. She had underlying medical conditions." Oregon's total death toll from coronavirus is now four.
STAY HOME TO STAY HEALTHY: Amid criticism they were not moving fast enough to slow the spread of coronavirus, Gov. Kate Brown, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, and Multnomah County Deborah Kafoury told Oregon citizens on Friday evening in no uncertain terms that they should “stay home to stay healthy.” That stops slightly short of the “shelter in place” edict currently in place in the state of California. And Friday night’s at times confusing press conference suggested Wheeler was closer to issuing such a mandate for the city of Portland than Brown was to doing so statewide. “Your actions now mean the difference between life and death for yourself and for others,” Brown said. The three officials did not say that businesses remaining open or people congregating in parks would face fines or other measures from law enforcement. But they pleaded with Oregonians to spring break in place and stay home unless absolutely necessary instead of venturing to the beach or to the mountains, spreading the virus even more quickly. It’s OK to leave your home for a grocery run, to get gas, to check on elderly friends and neighbors, and to go for a walk, a bike ride, a skateboard, or a hike, the three said, provided you are not in a crowded area where you can’t maintain the recommended six-foot buffer from anyone who is not in your household. Consumer-facing businesses that cannot move to a takeout model, like theaters and gyms, should close down, Brown added, and discussions are under way over a statewide moratorium on rental evictions. Brown said she expects the legislature to convene for an emergency session within the next few weeks to dedicate funding to coping with the considerable effects of the coronavirus. For his part, Wheeler said that more stringent regulations for the city of Portland are imminent, potentially by Monday.
CONVENTION CENTER TRANSFORMATION: According to the Oregonian, the Oregon Convention Center, owned by Metro, will transform into a 130-bed shelter, becoming the second temporary shelter in Portland to open to help houseless individuals affected by coronavirus. “Metro has been working hard to make sure our region’s homeless population has access to the services they need,” said Metro Council President Lynn Peterson. “With the resources we have, this was a common-sense arrangement.”
MORE NEW CASES: Oregon Health Authority reported 13 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the state total to 88. The virus has also claimed two more lives in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll from coronavirus to three
PREPARING FOR THE WORST: The state has established three donation sites for medical supplies in response to the coronavirus outbreak, but some Portland-area doctors say it’s not enough. Dr. Vesna Jovanovic, a family medicine doctor at Kaiser Permanente who helped spur the effort after word that supplies of safety gear were getting dangerously low, exposing doctors and nurses to COVID-19 infections, says there need to be donation sites set up at similar locations in every county in Oregon, to get needed equipment to physicians and nurses statewide.
YOU CAN STILL GO OUTSIDE: The weather forecast shows sunshine and blue skies through Sunday, and health officials from five metro-area counties say it’s still OK to go outside and take a walk, bike ride, or hike. (In other words, we’re not under a California-style “shelter in place” mandate—at least not yet.) There are some caveats: You absolutely must maintain a three to six foot buffer from anyone who is not in your household. Don't congregate with large groups of people, and don’t plan on going anywhere except to do essential errands, like picking up food and medicine, health officials said Thursday afternoon. But fresh air and sunshine are crucial to physical and behavioral health, which matter too, says Multnomah County Health Officer Jennifer Vines.
BUT MAYBE DON'T GO CAMPING: Because state officials made the decision to close all state parks, campgrounds, and forest areas to reservations. Reservations from now until April 2 will still be honored, but any reservations booked between April 3-May 8 (for now) will be canceled and refunded. Day-use is still allowed, likely in an effort to keep Oregonians from going completely insane.
DEATH TOLL: Two more confirmed COVID-19 patients have died—a 71-year-old man at Providence St Vincent in Washington County and a 60-year-old woman in PeaceHealth Sacred Heart in Lane County—bringing the state's official death toll from the virus to 3.
MAKESHIFT HOSPITALS: The state fairgrounds in Salem will become a temporary 250-bed hospital called the Oregon Medical Station, Governor Brown announced this morning. Oregon will also look to open 1,000 more temporary beds for non-Covid patients elsewhere. According to Willamette Week, the state has "the lowest per-capita bed count in the country, with 1.6 beds per 1000 people."
SENIOR SHOPPERS: New Seasons announced the grocery chain is setting aside its first hour of opening for those most at risk. "Please allow 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., Monday through Friday, for Senior Shopping Hour," the New Seasons Facebook page asked customers, adding its senior discount would operate all hours. Albertson's, which also owns Safeway, said its stores will reserve "every Tuesday and Thursday from 7 to 9 a.m. for those vulnerable shoppers who must leave home to obtain their groceries, unless otherwise locally mandated." Whole Foods announced a similar decision, vowing to "service customers who are 60 and older one hour before opening to the general public, under the new adjusted hours posted on the store’s web page."
POWELL’S LAYOFFS: Powell’s Books will lay off “the vast majority” of its staff, according to a letter sent by the store’s owner and CEO Emily Powell today. Powell also responded to requests for an extension of employee health insurance, saying that the company had worked to pay wages, health care, and community contributions, and as a result did not have extra money on hand when the stores shut. “When the doors close, every possible cost must stop as well.” According to its website, Powell’s employs more than 530 people over their five Portland stores and their online store.
WORD OF THE DAY: Moratorium. Portland (and Multnomah County) join Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco in instating a moratorium on evictions, which means landlords will not be able to evict tenants who have fallen short on their rent as a result of low income due to coronavirus while the city is in a state of emergency. (Portland's state of emergency is set to expire March 26; Multnomah County, April 10.) OPB reports, "Renters in both jurisdictions will have six months to pay back the payments they’ve fallen behind on once the crisis is over."
NOT MCMENAMINS: McMenamins, the Northwestern chain of pubs, hotels, and movie theaters, in a stunning response to the spread of coronavirus, says it intends to lay off around 3,000 workers and close nearly all its locations. The decision Tuesday comes while restaurants and bars in Oregon and Washington are grappling with their governors' orders to close in hopes of mitigating the coronavirus outbreak. Founding brothers Mike and Brian McMenamin wrote in a statement, "This is drastic, but necessary, to allow our employees to file for unemployment benefits and ensure that there will be jobs to come back to when this extraordinary episode ends. And we are confident it will end."
SCHOOL'S OUT FOR LONGER: Gov. Kate Brown issued an executive order extending her two-week closure of Oregon schools to six weeks, until April 28th. The executive order also states that districts are to provide learning support and supplemental services to students and families during the closures, including meals and child care; school districts may call upon public school educators and employees to deliver limited learning and support services; regular employees shall be paid during the closure; and the Oregon Department of Education, Oregon Health Authority, and the Department of Human Services are directed to support public schools in the continuity of mental health services.
18 NEW CASES: In the largest uptick in a single day in the state, the Oregon Health Authority reported 18 new coronavirus cases. OHA reported new cases in the following counties: Clackamas (4), Linn (5), Marion (1), Multnomah (1), and Washington (7). The state's total of positive coronavirus cases is now at 65.
NEW RESTRICTIONS: Gov. Kate Brown announced new restrictions on public gatherings in Oregon, banning that events of more than 25 people be canceled, with exemptions for essential locations like workplaces, grocery stores, pharmacies, and retail stores. Restaurants and bars will be restricted to carry-out and delivery only, effective for four weeks. Those who do not comply are subject to a Class C misdemeanor. For an up-to-date list of restaurants that are open and utilizing takeout and delivery options, read our coverage here.
MORE NEW CASES: The Oregon Health Authority announced eight new presumptive coronavirus cases in Oregon, bringing the state's total to 47. On Monday, OHA reported two cases each in Benton and Deschutes counties, and one new case each in Clackamas, Jackson, Marion, Multnomah and Washington counties. “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,” said Dean Sidelinger, state health officer with OHA Public Health Division. “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.”
COVID-19 COMMAND GROUPS: Governor Brown also announced the formation of two command groups: one to manage our health care system’s resources and the other to manage our state resources. "The metro regional COVID-19 hospital response plan will help the health care community to prepare for the expected surge of COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks — a model for a crisis care plan that can be implemented statewide. Working together, hospitals will treat COVID-19 testing resources and personal protective equipment, including gowns, masks, and gloves, as community resources, and work together to increase bed capacity."
MORE NEW CASES: The Oregon Health Authority announced three new COVID-19 cases Sunday morning, bringing the state's total to 39. OHA reported one new case in each Deschutes, Yamhill, and Linn County. The Yamhill County and Deschutes County cases are believed to be community acquired, according to the OHA press release.
LIT IN THE TIME OF COVID: Powell's Books announced it would close its five Portland-area stores through March 31 "for the safety our employees and community." In a letter, owner and CEO Emily Powell cited social distancing guidelines set out by the CDC as the reason for its closures. The bookstore intends to keep its online store active.
Dear Powell’s community: Effective immediately, we have decided to close our five Portland-area stores through 3/31 for the safety of our employees and community. It is our intention to keep the https://t.co/na1155W0NS online store open. Thank you for your continued support. pic.twitter.com/bRYbA4RtWw— Powell's Books (@Powells) March 15, 2020
FIRST OREGON CORONAVIRUS DEATH: Officials at the Portland Veterans' Affairs Medical Center have reported the first coronavirus death in Oregon. The man, a 70-year-old Multnomah County resident who had underlying health issues, had been hospitalized at the center after testing positive for COVID-19 on March 10.
DEAR, MIKE PENCE: Doctors from Oregon have spearheaded an open letter to Vice President Mike Pence regarding the US COVID-19 response. "We have lost our chance to contain this pandemic and are now facing an unmitigated medical disaster," they say in the letter. "This administration’s response has actively undermined our ability to care for patients by perpetuating misinformation and downplaying the looming threat this infection poses to the public." The letter features 24 recommendations to "flatten the curve of this pandemic to save lives." President Trump named Pence head of the Coronavirus Task Force on March 9. Currently, more than 1,300 medical professionals have signed the letter.
TO-GO MEALS: Portland Public Schools announced it would provide free breakfast and lunch for children 1-18—Tuesday, March 17, through Friday, March 20; Monday, March 30, and Tuesday, March 31. This comes shortly after Gov. Kate Brown announced all public schools in Oregon would be closed until April. The t0-go meals will be served at 14 public schools.
TWO VERY BIG WORDS: In a press conference at the Rose Garden at the White House on Friday, President Trump declared a "national emergency." With this action, Trump assumes the powers granted to him laid out in the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act of 1988, and frees up as much as $50 billion to assist American affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
LIGHTS OUT AT THE LIBRARY: All Multnomah County Library branches will be closed until further notice in response to coronavirus, according to its website. Director of libraries Vailey Oehlke said, "The unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and the real threat to the health and safety of our families, friends and neighbors requires swift and dramatic action." During the closure, the library encourages patrons not to turn in their items and said that late fees will not be applied.
We regret to announce that all Multnomah County libraries will close until further notice due to COVID-19. Do not return materials. You will not be charged. https://t.co/FrDIg0p2Wv— Multnomah County Library (@MultCoLib) March 14, 2020
SCHOOL'S OUT, PART 1: Every public K–12 school in Oregon will close starting Monday, March 16, Gov. Kate Brown announced late Thursday night. Schools are not slated to reopen until Wednesday, April 1, but that is subject to change depending upon the spread of the virus within Oregon. (One week of the planned closure, March 23–27, was already the scheduled spring break for most Oregon schools.) The public school system has been among the last educational institutions to close due to the threat of the disease, and officials have expressed concern for the many children who depend upon schools for food and safety, as well as working parents who cannot afford to give up a paycheck to stay home with their kids. But by midday Thursday, with public universities switching to remote instruction and some suburban Portland districts announcing their own closures, the tide started to turn. In Seattle, which has been among the hardest-hit American cities, schools are scheduled to be closed through late April. Under Brown's order, school district officials will be charged with continuing student nutrition services during the closures. No word yet on whether students might wind up making up the lost instructional days this summer. (The Portland Public Schools calendar lists only three days in June as possible “snow make-up days.”)
STATE OF EMERGENCY: In a news conference this morning, Mayor Ted Wheeler declared a state of emergency. The official declaration is scheduled to last for two weeks and gives additional authority to the city of Portland to address the threat of infection or harm—this includes placing restrictions on public gatherings, establishing curfews, regulating the sale of certain items, and more. Read more about what Wheeler's declaration means here.
This morning I declared a State of Emergency to give us the flexibility and powers we need to support our County and State partners to properly address the threat of infection and harm. #COVID19— Mayor Ted Wheeler (@tedwheeler) March 12, 2020
NEW RESTRICTIONS: All large gatherings of 250 people or more are cancelled statewide for the next four weeks, effective immediately, Gov. Kate Brown announced late on Wednesday evening. (What's a "gathering" you ask? Any event in a space in which attendees can't stay at least three feet away from each other at all times.) Public school, however, is still in session, the governor's office says, although they advise cancellation of all non-essential school-associated gatherings and group activities. (No more PTA meetings, field trips, or competitions.) The governor's office also issued new guidance for workplaces, saying offices should limit in-person meetings and travel, and have employees work in shifts whenever possible.
FOUR NEW CASES: The Oregon Health Authority confirmed one new coronavirus case each in Polk, Marion, Umatilla, and Deschutes counties, bringing the state’s total up to 19. OHA reports “none of the new cases involved travel to a country where the virus is actively spreading.”
NIGHT CREW: From The Oregonian, TriMet released a seven-minute video showing workers disinfecting buses with industrial sprayers and cleaning chemicals, highlighting the work maintenance crews have undergone since the tri-county transit service stepped up cleaning efforts amid growing coronavirus concerns.
INTEL FROM ITALY: Willamette Week reported that three University of Oregon faculty currently living in Italy, which recently issued a nationwide shutdown and where more than 800 people have died from the disease, have warned the state to take stronger precautionary actions against the spread of COVID-19. The three faculty members sent out an open letter urging the university to move to online classes, meetings, and conferences. Read the full letter here.
THE WORD OF THE DAY: …Is “pandemic.” The World Health Organization declared coronavirus a pandemic, with WHO director general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus saying at a briefing in Geneva, “We are deeply concerned by both the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction.” Currently there are 118,000 cases in 114 countries and more than 4,000 deaths.
"Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death"-@DrTedros #COVID19 #coronavirus— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) March 11, 2020
CORONAVIRUS HITS MULTNOMAH COUNTY: Health officials announced the first presumptive COVID-19 case in Multnomah County. The Oregon Health Authority announced Tuesday that a patient was being treated at the Portland Veteran Affairs Medical Center after the individual tested positive for coronavirus. This is the 15th confirmed coronavirus case in Oregon.
Director of Veteran Affairs Darwin Goodspeed wrote in a statement: "The epidemiologic trace has been done and any impacted employees have been notified and every precaution is being taken to protect those individuals… The safety and health of our Veterans, staff and visitors remains our top priority. We are taking every step possible to ensure the safety of all at VA Portland HCS. I am confident that, together, we will continue offering the safest, highest quality care for our Veterans."
Goodspeed also included a list of what you can do:
- Remember good hand hygiene
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and face
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue
- No food or drinks outside break rooms
- Clean and disinfect objects and surfaces you touch frequently
- If you are sick do not come to work
SPORTS IN THE TIME OF COVID: The Portland Timbers and Thorns FC released a joint statement regarding COVID-19, noting that their “main priority” is the “safety and well-being of our fans.” Providence Park will install additional hand sanitizing stations and designated crews to disinfect surfaces throughout matches and between events. They asked that older guests with “serious chronic health conditions refrain from attending events for the time being." The next Providence Park event is a Timbers match vs. Philadelphia on March 28.
DID WE MENTION THAT YOU NEED TO WASH YOUR HANDS?: No? Well, in that case, let's let Gov. Kate Brown and Portland Trail Blazer CJ McCollum lay that wisdom on you.
CANCELLATIONS: ...Are starting to pop up with greater frequency around town. (Also of note: Parking was suspiciously easy to find in downtown Portland today, and the Apple Store at Pioneer Place, which is usually a zoo, was practically empty at mid afternoon.) The Portland Incubator Experiment announced Tuesday that it was moving its annual Demo Day, where start-up founders get to pitch directly to investors, to an online-only event; it had been scheduled for March 19. And Powell's Books has cancelled a handful of upcoming author events, including the much-anticipated conversation between authors Cheryl Strayed and Rebecca Solnit, which had been set for March 18 at Revolution Hall. Still no word on the Shamrock Run though, even though St. Patrick's Day festivities have been cancelled in Dublin.
AND FINALLY: If you've been staring at the empty shelves at Target willing the sad bottles of sunscreen and bug spray to turn into hand sanitizer, consider heading to Shine Distillery, where employees are making home-brew hand-san to give out to customers.
Shine Distillery in N. Portland is now bottling hand sanitizer to give to customers. The owner said they already used the concoction to clean around the place anyway! It’s made from a byproduct of the alcohol they bottle. 80% alcohol, xanthan gum, and a little water. pic.twitter.com/OnGuBIs0WM— Audrey Weil (@audreytweil) March 10, 2020
NO NEW CASES: As per The Oregonian, no new patients were reported in Oregon on Monday, but local schools are bracing for more widespread cases. The state issued new guidelines for schools, saying that widespread school closures would only be considered as a measure of last resort, given that many students rely on schools for basic needs, like food.
AIRLINE TRAVEL CURTAILED: The Portland Business Journal reports that flights out of PDX are being cut back, with fewer flights to Tokyo, Honolulu and other destinations due to the coronavirus-related drop in demand.
DEPARTMENT OF MISINFORMATION: Out in Harney County, Oregon Public Broadcasting reports that an official at the local clinic has been spreading misinformation via her own social media pages, suggesting that herbal supplements can curb the spread of coronavirus. (In fact, they absolutely can not.)
WASH YOUR HANDS: But you knew that already. Make it more fun with this neat hand-washing infographic generator set to your favorite tune and developed by a teen from the UK.