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The original item was published from 3/20/2020 8:08:13 PM to 3/21/2020 8:05:02 PM.

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Public Health

Posted on: March 20, 2020

[ARCHIVED] Gov. Brown announces new social distancing guidelines

Oregon leaders: Stay home unless it’s essential. It’s time to sacrifice to save lives

By Everton Bailey Jr. | The Oregonian/OregonLive

The state of Oregon and the city of Portland are working together to step up and reinforce their message that Oregonians should stay home except for essential activities, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler announced Friday evening. They stressed that painful limits on normal activities are needed to save lives in the face of a spreading coronavirus pandemic.

Brown said the new policy is known as “stay home, stay healthy.”

Wheeler explained it is not to be called “shelter in place,” a misleading term that suggests a complete lock-down, which is not what officials are calling for.

The directive will still allow Oregonians to go to grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and do other activities to maintain physical and mental health such as exercising, officials said. But it would ban people from leaving home to meet with friends and family for non-urgent reasons, such as going to the movies or having a party.

Oregonians should not play soccer, basketball, frisbee or other games involving body contact or shared surfaces with people other than immediate family, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury said.

She said police and other law enforcement officials will not be deployed to enforce the restrictions at this time. But she called out the social irresponsibility of Oregonians who, in a time when non-essential work places have been shut down or moved to working at home, would invite or gather with a group to party.

The governor used a somber tone: “The storm is coming but we still have time to change its course. Stay home and stay healthy.”

“I am directing Oregonians (starting) tonight to stay home to stay healthy," she said. "Social distancing, done well, can save lives.”

The new directive is largely an amplification of existing limits including no onsite drinking or dining at bars and restaurants, a ban on gatherings of more than 25 people and a strong warning to stay at least six feet from other people.

Wheeler said it is to “stay inside your house unless absolutely necessary,” before listing off a long list of exemptions from going for a hike to caring for a relative to going to essential jobs.

Oregon will issue a new order on Monday that orders non-essential businesses to close, officials said. But the scope of what businesses are essential is broad and so far amorphous, they indicated.

Oregon’s amplified plan for the statewide restrictions follows California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to order even more restrictive measures he refered to as shelter-in-place on Thursday. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee so far has not followed suit, despite overseeing the state at the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak.

Kafoury said she hopes that on Monday the state will issue a more widespread ban requiring non-essential businesses to close.

Brown for days resisted calls to issue a more restrictive directive, instead urging Oregonians to follow the “aggressive” orders she already issued. On Friday, she said “take the stay-home-to-save-lives directive seriously.”

On Thursday she pleaded for the public to observe social distancing, saying “you will save lives and one of those lives could be your own.” But at the same time Brown directed her staff to prepare for potential additional restrictions by determining which businesses and government functions should qualify as essential and remain open during a shelter-in-place-style order.

She told reporters Friday morning that if there was evidence that Oregonians weren’t following suggestions to stay at least six feet from each other then she would “have to take more restrictive measures.”

Public health officials from five counties in the Portland area cautioned Thursday that forcing people to remain in their homes as much as possible could be difficult to enforce and that cooping people up in their homes rather than allowing them to go outside or engage in activities they consider essential would be counter to their physical and mental health.

Portland had drafted its own shelter-in-place policy before Friday’s news conference.

Washington as of Friday morning had more than 1,500 confirmed coronavirus cases that have so far killed 83 people. California has more than 1,100 confirmed cases and 23 deaths. Oregon has confirmed 115 cases of coronavirus and four people have died.

— Everton Bailey Jr.

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