Business, CORONAVIRUS, Oregon

Executive order issued for statewide ‘freeze’ to combat COVID-19

Face masks. Photo: Chas Hundley

Oregon’s “freeze” period to combat the rising cases of the coronavirus begins tomorrow, Wednesday November 18, and will last through Wednesday, December 2, a period of 15 days unless the order is extended. 

Under Governor Kate Brown’s Executive Order 20-65, released Tuesday afternoon, a number of social gathering restrictions, business closures and restrictions, and other measures will be in place after voluntary measures to restrict the spread of the virus failed. 

“I know Oregonians have made tremendous sacrifices throughout this pandemic and that these new, temporary restrictions may seem daunting,” said Brown. “But, we are at a breaking point. If we don’t take further action, we risk continued alarming spikes in infections and hospitalizations, and we risk the lives of our neighbors and loved ones. I also know that Oregonians come together in times of need, and we owe it to each other to take these measures seriously. It is up to all of us to work together to get this virus under control.”

While Brown has repeatedly emphasized that enforcement of the measures will be done on an education first basis, violators of the measures could face fines and even jail time if they do not heed the state mandate. 

In an email to the Banks Post, Washington County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Sergeant Danny DiPietro echoed that sentiment, saying that the sheriff’s office would first seek compliance through education if a deputy notes an infraction of the new rules under executive order 20-65. 

“In extreme cases where people are at risk and education does not restore safety, enforcement is an option of last resort. An individual could be arrested and receive a citation in lieu of arrest for violating any of the measures,” he said.

Sgt. Robert Rookhuÿzen, another spokesperson for the sheriff’s office, said that their office was not aware of any arrests or citations by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office since the onset of the pandemic.

Please know the Washington County Sheriff’s Office’s ultimate goal is to help community members stay safe,” DiPietro said.

The measures included in the executive order are:

— Limiting social get-togethers in or out-of-doors to no more than six individuals total from no more than two households.

— Limiting churches and other faith-based organizations to 25 or less people indoors or 50 people outdoors.

— Restricting bars, restaurants, wineries and other food establishments to take-out and delivery only 

— Closing gyms and other fitness organizations

— Closing indoor and outdoor recreational facilities, such as pools and sports courts, museums, indoor entertainment facilities such as movie theaters, and closing zoos, gardens, aquariums, and more. 

— Limiting grocery stores, pharmacies, retail stores, and malls to no more than 75% capacity and encouraging curbside pick-up

— Closing venues that host indoor and outdoor events

— Requiring businesses to mandate work-from-home measures when possible, and closing offices to the general public. 

— Halting indoor visits at long-term care facilities. 

— Restricting funerals and memorial services to 25 people if held indoors or 50 if held outdoors

The measures have been met with criticism by elected officials, especially from Republican officials. In a press release issued on Monday, House District 32 state representative-elect Suzanne Weber — who takes office in January — took aim at the governor’s order. 

“COVID-19 is a serious health threat and we all need to do our part, but once again all of Oregon, and especially small business owners, are being saddled with some of the most restrictive rules in America.” Weber said. “I certainly understand that some hotspots in the state require additional measures, but to impose these restrictions statewide will destroy businesses, destroy families and ruin the lives of countless people in rural Northwest Oregon.”

Outgoing House District 32 state representative Tiffiny Mitchell expressed support for the measures while acknowledging the economic burden that will follow in an email to the Banks Post. 

“While I cannot diminish the painful impact another economic shutdown will cause District 32,  the health of our state’s economy and control of the virus go hand-in-hand,” Mitchell said. “To minimize harm, it is critical that the state and federal government step in to assist small businesses at this time. With the promise of a vaccine on the horizon, my hope is that we can all dig deep to comply with the order to get things under control again, engage in responsible behavior like mask wearing and not gathering socially with those outside our homes once the order is lifted, and hopefully see some return to normality in mid-2021. The emphasis on personal responsibility to engage in those safe behaviors is key.  We cannot continue to let that slip.”

Chas Hundley is the editor of the Banks Post and sister news publications the Gales Creek Journal and the Salmonberry Magazine. He grew up in Gales Creek and has a cat.

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