REMARKS AS PREPARED
Governor Kate Brown
Coronavirus Press Conference: Reopening Plan
June 3, 2020
Thank you for joining us today. I am joined by Pat Allen, Director of the Oregon Health Authority, and Dr. Dean Sidelinger, our state epidemiologist.
Today I will lay out the framework that we will use as we approach Phase Two of my Safer and Stronger Oregon plan. Then Pat will provide an update on the contact tracing teams that are being deployed around the state as well as the latest updates on the state’s testing capacity.
Dr. Sidelinger will give an overview of the specific requirements for entering Phase Two.
It’s been ten weeks since I announced Oregon’s Stay Home, Save Lives Order. Many of us expected -- and hoped -- that this would be a short detour from our everyday lives. That life would quickly return to normal.
But as the weeks have come and gone, we find ourselves adapting to a new normal. People all over the globe now understand that we will continue living with the threat of the virus until there is widely-available treatment or vaccine. And unfortunately, that is going to take months. And months. Not weeks or days.
When you compare Oregon to many other states, it’s clear we have been very successful at flattening the curve of transmission of the virus.
That’s because Oregonians look out for one another. As my colleague Governor Cuomo said, Oregonians are both kind and smart.
Today, most of us live in communities where people are venturing out a bit. We do so cautiously, looking out for friends, family and neighbors.
We are wearing face coverings in many work settings and when out in public. We are keeping social circles small and staying local. We are covering our coughs, washing hands for 20 seconds with soap and water. And we are staying home when sick.
I want to say thank you to each and every Oregonian who has made tremendous sacrifices to protect the health and safety of our communities.
Your leadership -- being both kind and smart -- is why we have been able to start the reopening process.
I’ve mentioned before that I grew up in Minnesota, where every winter, as kids, we’d strap on our skates and venture out onto the ice of a local pond. We learned at an early age to step carefully and cautiously.
That's what we are doing across Oregon. Moving together. Testing the ice each time we take a step forward. One step at a time.
It’s this careful and cautious approach that shows the true character of our state. Our care and consideration for our friends, family, and neighbors. This cautious approach is keeping many vulnerable Oregonians safe during the pandemic.
I know it’s frustrating that reopening has to move slowly. I know our economy has taken an extraordinary blow.
But let me be clear: This cautious approach is saving lives all across the state of Oregon.
Today, 35 counties, home to roughly 80 percent of the state population, are in Phase One of our Safe and Strong Oregon Reopening Plan.
Director Allen and Dr. Sidelinger will provide some more background about how local and state public health professionals are collaborating to address testing, contact tracing and isolation as needed.
One piece I do want to highlight is the work we are doing to invest in culturally-specific testing and contact tracing capacity. The pandemic has shown how far short we are from eliminating health inequity in this state. The impacts of the coronavirus have fallen especially hard on communities of color.
OHA is training providers to collect race and ethnicity data, and following-up when this data is missing. We have been setting up community-based testing sites in Portland, Salem and Woodburn. And contracting directly with trusted community based organizations -- particularly in communities of color -- to provide contact tracing, wrap around supports and education.
These are important steps forward and there are more to follow.
Now, let’s talk about Phase Two.
We will continue taking a regional approach. Counties can be approved to enter Phase Two if they have been in Phase One for at least 21 days and are succeeding in controlling the spread of the virus.
Dr. Sidelinger will outline the specific criteria we will be using to evaluate when each county may enter Phase Two. There are 31 counties that can now apply to enter Phase Two beginning this Friday.
Counties that are approved to move into Phase Two will be able to relax some of the restrictions that have been in place in Phase 1, and some sectors will be able to reopen. In Phase Two communities, we will be:
● Extending the open hours for bars and restaurants to midnight and implementing other specific guidelines
● We are shifting from requiring - to strongly recommending - remote work for offices.
● Allowing venues like bowling alleys and arcades to reopen and some recreational sports to resume. All subject to public health guidance.
● Allowing pools to reopen under physical distancing and sanitation guidelines.
● Allowing venues such as movie theaters to operate again. And our social, civic and faith based gatherings can meet in larger, physically distanced groups.
In addition, regardless of county phase, the Oregon Health Authority is issuing updated guidance for zoos, museums and outdoor gardens to allow them to open statewide.
And, I’m happy to say our collegiate athletes will return to train by mid-June, under specific health protocols to keep them healthy.
I know this is a lot of information. You can read everything online at “Coronavirus - DOT - Oregon - DOT - Gov.”
The Oregon Health Authority will review all the relevant county data tomorrow and I will announce on Thursday the initial counties that can move into Phase Two, allowing those counties to move forward as soon as Friday.
A final reminder: Any reopening comes with risk. That’s just a fact of life right now. We need to reduce the risk that comes with reopening. So, fellow Oregonians, you have further opportunity to show that you are looking out for your friends, family and neighbors.
1. Wear a face covering.
2. Keep your distance.
3. Avoid large gatherings.
4. Keep it local.
5. Wash your hands, cover your cough, and please, please, please stay home when you’re sick.
Regarding face coverings: At the state level they are very strongly recommended. For employees in many businesses they are required. And, I want to state clearly that I fully support local jurisdictions, particularly cities and counties with larger density and populations, who want to pass ordinances requiring the public to wear face coverings in other settings.
Let me say one other thing, I held a press conference Monday to add my voice to the clarion call we are hearing across America for racial justice and police accountability.
I count myself as one of the many white politicians whose good intentions haven’t done enough to tackle the scourge of systemic racism.
I was pleased to see several very thoughtful proposals for reform issued by the legislature’s People of Color Caucus this week. I look forward to working with legislators to get these proposals to my desk so I can sign them as soon as possible.
It’s also important to note that the unrest and protests happening across Oregon and the country come amidst a global pandemic that has sickened and killed Black, Latinx, Pacific Islander, and other communities of color at disproportionate rates.
And as we work to reopen the economy and build a safe and strong Oregon, I am committed to putting our historically underserved communities at the forefront of our recovery plan.
Now I’d like to ask Oregon Health Authority Director Pat Allen to give us an update on the contact tracing teams that are being deployed around the state as well as the latest updates on the state’s testing capacity.