Gov. orders shutdown of state parks; Portland-area leaders want stricter orders
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Gov. orders shutdown of state parks; Portland-area leaders want stricter orders

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Gov. Kate Brown

Gov. Kate Brown

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is working on a multi-pronged mandate to slow the spread of coronavirus, but she is not expected to issue the full-fledged “stay-at-home” order that Portland-area officials want. 

Her actions include the closure of all state parks as of Monday. Current campers must leave by 1 p.m. Monday and day-use areas will close at 5 p.m.

“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,” Lisa Sumption, director of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, said in a press release. “We know this will cause a disruption, since we’re suspending service to everyone, even people who live near a park. Reducing contact between people is more important than recreation at the moment.”

The governor’s other expected actions reportedly include shutting down all businesses involving skin-to-skin contact between staff and customers, such as hair and nail salons; ordering retailers to enforce appropriate spacing between customers; and closing most or all government offices to the public. Brown said last week that she also was considering closing gyms and theaters.

The final order could yet change as deliberations are ongoing.

On Sunday, Brown issued an executive order temporarily blocking residential evictions in Oregon. “This is both a moral and a public health imperative. Keeping people in their homes is the right thing for Oregon families, and for preventing the further spread of COVID-19,” she said in a press release.

The chairs of the Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas county commissioners — who represent 1.8 million Oregonians — on Sunday sent a letter to Brown requesting even stronger action.

“We ask that you move boldly to protect the residents of this great state by issuing a clear Stay at Home, Stay Safe Executive Order,” said the letter from Washington County Chair Kathryn Harrington, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury and Clackamas County Chair Jim Bernard.

“As the Chairs of the most populous region in the state, we are preparing to be hit hardest. But here’s what we know: our public health officials, as well as our hospital systems, are telling us that the time to act is now.”

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said Friday that his city was prepared to unilaterally issue a stay-at-home order as early as Monday but preferred that it include other jurisdictions.

Other Portland-area mayors also have supported such a decree, as have some health organizations. However, there is contradictory statistical modeling about the pace of the virus’ spread in Oregon and whether existing “social distancing”  measures are sufficient. Those have included banning large gatherings of people and restricting restaurants, coffee shops and bars to only take-out orders or delivery.

Negotiations were going on through the weekend, involving state and local officials and key legislators.

The Legislature’s Joint Special Committee on Coronavirus Response meets again at 9 a.m. Monday to discuss proposals from the governor, lawmakers and the public. The tentative plan is for a one-day special legislative session this month to deal with the health and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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