Oregon governor Kate Brown speaks at a press conference the afternoon of March 16, 2020. Dave Killen/The Oregonian
This article was originally published by the Oregonian/OregonLive, one of more than a dozen news organizations throughout the state sharing their coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak to help inform Oregonians about this evolving health issue.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said the state is at a ‘crossroads’ Tuesday as she extended by 60 days a state of emergency over the coronavirus pandemic, urging residents to take personal responsibility for slowing the spread.
With identified infections reaching all-time daily highs and hospitalizations climbing, Brown extended the state of emergency for a second time, this time through Sept. 4.
The move doesn’t change Oregon’s phased reopening, but ensures the continuation of Brown’s executive orders and broad powers for state public health and emergency management officials during the pandemic. And while the move had been expected, Brown used the opportunity to place the burden for remaining open on residents.
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“Now, we again find ourselves at a crossroads as a state,” Brown said in a statement. “The individual choices each of us makes will decide whether Oregon either flattens the curve of new COVID-19 infections, or sees a devastating spike in cases that overwhelms our hospital capacity in the next month.”
The governor’s statement urged residents to wear face coverings in public, wash hands and stay home when sick. But Brown did not address her earlier decisions to allow counties to begin reopening May 15. Brown approved reopening for some jurisdictions that did not meet the state’s initial requirements for contact tracers and she allowed Multnomah County to reopen even though the county did not see declining hospitalization numbers.
Oregon through Tuesday has reported 8,656 confirmed or presumed coronavirus infections, with the daily average over the past week hovering around 200. The state announced three more deaths Tuesday, pushing the total to 207.
Oregon has fared better than many other states but a recent state forecast has projected the potential for exponential growth by mid-July.
“We have a chance, now, before the Fourth of July weekend, to make sure that Oregon’s COVID-19 numbers don’t follow the same skyrocketing trajectory of states like Texas or Florida or Arizona,” said Brown, who this week issued a statewide requirement for masks in public places, effective Wednesday.
“Oregon, you have a choice,” Brown said. “You can help to save lives again. What happens next is up to all of us.”
Here’s Brown’s full statement:
“When I first declared a state of emergency due to the coronavirus, there were 14 cases of COVID-19 in Oregon. Today, there have been over 8,600 cases, with over a quarter of those cases identified in the previous two weeks of June. While hospitalizations remain relatively low, we have seen how rapidly those numbers can climb. And, sadly, 207 Oregonians have lost their lives to this disease. Without a doubt, COVID-19 continues to pose a real and present threat to Oregonians in communities across the state, from Malheur County to Umatilla to Lincoln.
“In the months since those first cases were discovered, we have shored up our supplies of personal protective equipment, worked with counties to hire contact tracers, and––despite the failures of the federal government to supply Oregon with an equitable amount of testing materials––we have expanded our statewide testing capability. And, thanks to the tremendous sacrifices Oregonians made by staying home in the spring, we prevented 1,500 hospitalizations and over 70,000 COVID-19 infections.
”Now, we again find ourselves at a crossroads as a state. The individual choices each of us makes will decide whether Oregon either flattens the curve of new COVID-19 infections, or sees a devastating spike in cases that overwhelms our hospital capacity in the next month.
”If we all follow the advice of doctors––if you wear a face covering in public, if you wash your hands, if you cover your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze, if you stay home when you are sick––together, we can keep our friends and loved ones healthy and safe.
”If too many Oregonians continue to ignore these precautions, we could see an exponential growth in cases, and newly reopened communities and businesses could close again. We have a chance, now, before the Fourth of July weekend, to make sure that Oregon’s COVID-19 numbers don’t follow the same skyrocketing trajectory of states like Texas or Florida or Arizona.
”Oregon, you have a choice. You can help to save lives again. What happens next is up to all of us.”