UPDATE (March 17, 5:08 p.m. PT) – As the total number of cases continued to rise, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has extended the mandated school closure to April 28.
The closure was scheduled to end March 31.
Brown also ordered schools to pay regular employees through the closure. She also required them to provide “learning supports and supplemental services” to children and their families, a list that includes meals and child care for people who must work, such as health care providers and first responders.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Oregon has a total of 66 reported cases of the novel coronavirus. The Oregon Health Authority reported 18 new cases Tuesday.
Those new cases are in the following counties: Seven in Washington county, five in Linn County, four in Clackamas county and one each in Marion and Multnomah counties.
Lane County Public Health (LCPH) also announced the county’s first case Tuesday afternoon. The person is a 69-year-old man who lives in a private residence, according to LCPH.
The agency said the man’s case is thought to be community transmission. He is currently at home and is medically stable.
Four of the new cases are at the Oregon Veterans’ Home in Lebanon, according to the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs. That brings the total number of cases at the home to 14 — 12 residents, a resident’s spouse and one employee.
The Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the OHA are prioritizing testing for residents and staff at the Veterans’ Home.
Nearly 70 people have died of the virus in the U.S. Most of those deaths have been in the Seattle area.
Oregon’s first death from the COVID-19 virus was in Multnomah County on Saturday. The person was a 70-year-old man who was being treated at the Portland Veterans’ Affairs Medical center.
The novel coronavirus, a relative of other viruses like SARS, was first identified in Wuhan, China, late last year.
Two Clark County COVID-19 Patients Die
Two coronavirus patients in Clark County, Washington, died Monday evening, according to Clark County Public Health.
The husband and wife, both in their 80s, lived at separate elder care facilities in Clark County. Health officials said they had not traveled, but had spent time together and somehow contracted COVID-19.
After they both died Monday night, Clark County Public Health Director Dr. Alan Melnick said their deaths speaks to the dangers of the virus here and now.
“I don’t know where they actively, what person or where they contracted it, but I am confident that they contracted it within Clark County,” Melnick said. “That’s why we’re saying it’s out there, it’s here in our community.”
Health officials said they’re monitoring anyone who had contact with the couple, but have not found anyone showing symptoms yet.
The elderly couple were the first two coronavirus related deaths in Southwest Washington. Two other cases have been confirmed in Clark County: a woman in her 40s who isn’t hospitalized, and a man in his 70s being treated at PeaceHealth Southwest.
Multnomah County Announces Evictions Moratorium
Multnomah County Commission Chair Deborah Kafoury announced at a Tuesday morning press conference that she will place a moratorium on rental evictions across the county.
People will have six months to pay their back due rent after the coronavirus emergency ends.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said Tuesday she is not currently considering enacting the same moratorium statewide.
“We are not considering that option at this point in time, but obviously, again, we are in a global pandemic and all options are on the table,” Brown said. “As you know, we have a housing crisis already in the state and I want to make sure that doesn’t get worse.”
Small Business Administration Expands Help
Small businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic in eight Oregon counties and 32 Washington counties can now apply for disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
It’s the first time the loans have been made available to businesses damaged by a pandemic, according to Jeremy Field, administrator of the SBA’s Pacific Northwest office. The loans are more commonly used for economic hardship caused by drought, severe storms or flooding.
Businesses in Gilliam, Hood River, Morrow, Sherman, Umatilla, Wasco, Harney and Lake counties in Oregon are now eligible for the emergency loans, known as economic injury disaster loans or EIDLs. These low-interest loans provide up to $2 million to help small businesses cope with a temporary blow to revenue. The assistance can be used for fixed debts, payroll and other expenses.
Small businesses in the eight Oregon counties became eligible for the loans when the SBA declared economic disasters in neighboring counties in Washington and Nevada.
On Tuesday, the SBA also relaxed its criteria for states and territories seeking economic injury declarations related to COVID-19. Those declarations open the door for businesses to apply for disaster assistance loans. Under the new criteria, a state is only required to show that five small businesses in an entire state “have suffered substantial economic injury” due to the spread of the coronavirus.
That streamlines the process for small businesses across a state to get access to relief. The SBA said it expects additional disaster assistance declarations for Oregon will follow.
Oregon And Washington Close Bars And Restaurants
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced Monday that she is banning seated dining statewide at bars and restaurants and prohibiting gatherings of more than 25 people in attempts to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Restaurants can continue take-out and delivery options and the prohibition on gatherings exempts grocery stores and retail outlets. The ban begins Tuesday and is scheduled to last at least four weeks.
Brown said violating her executive order is a misdemeanor.
She also urged other businesses, like gyms, to temporarily close.
“Can your business do the equivalent of restaurant takeout?” Brown said Monday.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee enacted similar measures late Sunday.
As of Tuesday morning there are 50 COVID-19 related deaths in Washington. Forty-three of those are in King County, four in Snohomish County, and one in Grant County.
Clark County reported two deaths that occurred Monday evening.
KUOW reports a doctor at Evergreen Health is in critical condition with COVID-19.
There are 904 cases of the virus in Washington as of Tuesday morning, according to the Washington Department of Health. All Washington counties have at least one confirmed case.
Oregon Courts Limit Hearings
Oregon Supreme Court Justice Martha Walters further limited court hearings Monday, postponing jury trials and hearings starting March 19 and until at least March 27, with some exceptions.
The exceptions include people in jail who have a right to a speedy trial, guardianship and family law cases, treatment court and civil commitment hearings. The Oregon Court of Appeals has canceled oral arguments scheduled March 17-27.
Some attorneys who spoke to OPB on background expressed disappointment in the chief justice for not acting faster to postpone all but the most essential court functions.
“The nature of this public health emergency has led me to order the postponement of most trials and court hearings,” Walters said. “We will do our best to provide people their day in court when we can safely do so, and we will pursue options for continuing our work without requiring in-person appearances, but, at the present time, limiting the number of people coming into our courtrooms and courthouses is paramount.”
Increased Restrictions On Long-term Care Facilities
Oregon Gov. Brown announced Tuesday that the Oregon Department of Human Services and Oregon Health Authority are increasing restrictions on long-term care facilities in attempts to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The restrictions are effective immediately and apply to nursing facilities, residential care facilities, adult foster homes and group homes for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“The updated restrictions limit all visitors to residents except essential medical and emergency personnel,” Brown said.
People who are “in the end stages of life” can also receive visitors, she said.
Oregon Coronavirus Economic Advisory Council
“To stabilize our communities and businesses I’ve convened a coronavirus economic advisory council to help minimize the average impact this virus will have on our economy,” Brown announced during a Tuesday morning media teleconference.
The council is set to meet for the first time Tuesday and Brown said it consists of business leaders, neighbor representatives, state agency directors and economists.
“The goal of the council is to look at the variety of tools immediately available to provide relief to businesses and support for workers,” Brown said. “The conversations will also help our state legislators and congress in targeting legislation that will help our businesses and workers in need throughout the state.”
Increased Testing Capacity Coming, Says Brown
Gov. Brown also announced Tuesday increased COVID-19 testing capacity on the national level.
“We are expecting testing capacity to ramp up substantially in the next three weeks,” Brown said.
During a White House briefing Monday, Brown said she was informed that 1 million tests should be available this week nationally, 2 million the following week and 5 million the week after that.
“I know that there are 12 states with drive-thru capacity. That’s certainly something we’re considering here,” Brown said. “And you should see our testing capacity ramp up, I won’t say exponentially but, substantially this week.”
Update On Grand Princess Cruise Ship
Brown said Tuesday that all Oregonians who were on the Grand Princess cruise ship, that was idling off the coast of California, are either already home or on their way home.
“Forty-two of 49 of Oregonian of Princess cruise passengers are back at home,” Brown said. “We’re treating them as travelers. We’re asking them to self-isolate.”
The remaining five passengers had RVs in California and are making their way back home with their vehicles, Brown said.
PREVIOUS NEWS RELEASE
Oregon governor instituted ban on gatherings of more than 250 people
PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Governor Kate Brown discussed the strategies behind a set of new rules meant to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus when she holds a press conference in Portland Thursday morning.
“I want to clarify that this guidance applies to organized events, but does not apply to places where other large numbers of people gather such as stores, shopping centers or schools,” she said. “Building on this school guidance, my administration released earlier this week that schools stay open. We are adding guidelines that virtually all school activities and gatherings should be cancelled including field trips parent meetings and competitions. These measures have been recommended by public health experts.
Brown said consideration of school closures will be a last resort.
“Let me be clear — coronavirus is in our communities. We should be prepared for thousands of cases in Oregon,” she said. “These actions ‘I’m taking today have two main goals: to slow the transmission of this disease and to preserve hospital capacity for those who need it most.”
Brown said taking these steps can help save lives.
“This disease does not discriminate,” she said. “My commitment to you today is I will do everything in my power to keep Oregon families healthy and safe.”
Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury stepped up to the podium after Brown spoke to discuss further steps the county has taken.
Multnomah will be keeping winter shelter beds open and be offering hotel vouchers to prevent overcrowding. Resources have been committed to keep as many people as healthy as possible for as long as possible, according to Kafoury.
At the press conference, Mayor Ted Wheeler announced he had declared a state of emergency for the city of Portland.
“Due to COVID-19’s progression on the west coast, I believe it is in the best interest of pubic health to declare a state of emergency at this time,” said Wheeler. It gives us the city additional authority to properly address the threat of infection and harm. It also gives us the tools we need to support the county, the state and our own city employees.”
Mayor Wheeler announced the city will not shut off water service in the case of late payments during the state of emergency. The city has decided to do this to ensure everyone has access to the utilities they needs to stay healthy and to not worry in case of financial hardship.
On the economic front, the city is working to help small and large business alike to recoup losses due to the outbreak.
“I’ve also directed a team at the city to generate ideas for a stimulus package and will work with Prosper Portland to convene a COVID-19 economic impact task force to analyze other ways we can be of help.”
Thousands of city employees are being “aggressively protected,” according to Wheeler. The city is increasing options for working from home, cancelling non-essential work gatherings and travel for meetings or conferences, along with encouraging those feeling ill to stay home.
“We see, we hear and we understand the anxiety and fears that people are expressing,” he said. “But at a time when it is tempting to act out in a state of panic or fear, I want to say this loud and clear: all of us here, from the state to the region to the county to the city, we are working around the clock to make sure your health and your safety are protected. We are making every decision with that priority in mind.”
Wednesday night, the governor announced new measures that affect large gatherings, schools, workplaces and long-term care and assisted-living facilities.
- Large gatherings: All large gatherings over 250 people will be canceled statewide effective immediately for four weeks. A gathering is defined as any event in a space in which appropriate social distancing of a minimum of three feet cannot be maintained.
- Schools: In addition to previous guidance issued on March 8, 2020 to keep schools open, all non-essential school-associated gatherings and group activities should be canceled — such as group parent meetings, field trips, and competitions.
- Workplace: Recommended implementation of distancing measures including an increased physical space between employees in offices and worksites, limited in-person meetings, limited travel, and staggered work schedules where possible.
- Long-Term Care and Assisted Living: Strict limitations announced this week by the Oregon Health Authority and Department of Human Services remain in place.
Already, many events have been canceled or postponed indefinitely. Elementary and high schools continue to monitor and work closely with health officials. Area colleges are adjusting and many are going to a distance-learning program, with classes and meetings online.
The NBA suspended its season. The NCAA Tournament, high school athletics and other extra curricular school activities have been modified to go on without fans in the stands.
So far, 21 cases of the novel-coronavirus have been confirmed in Oregon, while the number of presumptive positive cases in the U.S. is more than 1,000. More than 30 deaths have been reported, with the majority in Washington state; however, none has been reported in Oregon yet.