Gov. Brown orders social slowdown in five counties over COVID spike

Oregon Capital Bureau

Five Oregon counties must have a "social pause" for two weeks to fight a spike in COVID-19 infections that led to a record 805 new cases on Thursday and nearly as many Friday.

“We are seeing in real time how this virus can quickly snowball out of control," Brown said at an afternoon press conference. "We cannot let up now, in fact we have to go on the offense."

Multnomah, Marion, Jackson, Malheur and Umatilla counties are under the new restrictions, which are applied to larger counties that have over 200 cases per 100,000 people. Counties of fewer than 30,000 people can have no more than 60 cases over a two-week period.

In order to allow businesses to prepare, the "pause" will begin Nov. 11 and last through Nov. 25 — the Wednesday before the Thanksgiving holiday.

Restrictions include:

• Businesses are asked to allow employees to work from home. 

• Reducing restaurant capacity to fewer than 50 people, including customers and staff. A table can have no more than six customers.

• Reducing the maximum capacity of other indoor activities to 50 people. The governor gave gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, ice rinks, indoor sports facilities, pools, and museums as examples).

• A halt to indoor visits of people at long-term health care facilities.

• Limit gatherings in households to six people or fewer if it includes people from outside your household.

• Residents of the counties should reduce the frequency of social gatherings and keep the same six people in their social circle.

None of the restrictions apply to religious institutions, Brown said.

The surge in cases in Oregon reflects a national and worldwide upward trend. Through Friday, Oregon has reported 48,608 cases and 716 deaths.

Nationwide, there have been 9.7 million, with 235,761 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

Worldwide, there have been over 49.6 million cases and 1.24 million deaths, the center said.

"This is not like the flu," said Dean Sidelinger, the state's chief expert on infectious diseases. "There is a 20 times higher death rate than the flu." 

Additional actions — including business closures — could be ordered if the  the spike in COVID-19 cases isn't brought under control.

"I don't want to do that," Brown said, urging for voluntary compliance, adding she knew "the actions I took in March again later in the year have been really harsh on our businesses."

Baker, Union, Washington, Clackamas, and Linn counties are also close to the limits, Brown said. Their status will be reviewed as new information comes in. Additional action could come as early as next week.

The new lists replace what was previously the Governor's Watch List of counties. 

Brown called on Congress and President Trump to provide aid to states and their residents to replace funds that will stop at the end of the year. She called for another $600 weekly benefit in enhanced Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation.

"It is incumbent on our federal government to get their act together and to assist," she said. 

Oregon is currently averaging 578 new COVID-19 cases a day, with 12.5% of tests for the virus coming back as positive. Health officials have said a 5% rate is needed for the virus to be kept in check.

On Friday, the Oregon Health Authority reported 770 new cases, Multnomah County reported 199 new cases, the most in the state. Washington County had 122 cases.

Six more deaths were reported, for a total of 716.

There were 38 new cases in Deschutes County, 37 in Umatilla County and 5 in Clatsop County.

Other county case totals: Baker (4), Benton (17), Clackamas (13), Columbia (5), Coos (6), Crook (5), Curry (6), Douglas (13), Grant (7), Harney (5), Hood River (1), Jackson (83), Jefferson (7), Josephine (5), Klamath (5), Lake (1), Lane (40), Lincoln (3), Linn 10), Malheur (16), Marion (77), Morrow (4), Polk (15), Union (8), and Yamhill (15).

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