Media Room

REMARKS AS PREPARED

Governor Kate Brown
Counties Admitted into Phase I
May 14, 2020

Good morning and thank you for joining us. 

We are here today to share the latest updates about our response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to outline several new guidelines. We will also share news about the counties that have qualified to enter Phase One of our reopening plan to build a safe and strong Oregon. 

I am joined by Pat Allen, Director of the Oregon Health Authority, and Dr. Dean Sidelinger, our state epidemiologist. 

It has been over seven weeks since I announced Oregon’s Stay Home, Save Lives order. 

We have stayed physically distant from friends and family, postponed weddings, missed out on concerts, and canceled graduation parties. My heart goes out to the class of 2020.

As businesses have closed their doors to protect their employees and their customers, so many Oregonians have lost jobs and income.

This has been extraordinarily difficult. For all of us. But it is saving lives. 

Already, these sacrifices have prevented as many as 70,000 COVID-19 infections, and 1,500 hospitalizations in Oregon.

Our success this far gives me confidence as we take these next steps toward reopening. 

Yesterday we released new statewide guidance for childcare. Soon we will provide statewide guidance for public transit operations and youth summer camps and summer school programs, and on the operation of gyms in Phase One counties. 

Full details are available on our website at Coronavirus.Oregon.gov. 

In addition, I want to remind all Oregonians that last week we issued updated guidance for retail businesses throughout the state. Most retail businesses were never required to close, but many did. Thank you.  

More retailers are gradually reopening under safe, physical distancing protocols. This includes main street shops, furniture stores, and other retailers that can implement physical distancing.

One other note about statewide rules: People who usually work in an office, and have been working from home during the pandemic, must continue to work from home. This is incredibly important to limit the spread of the disease. Thank you to our business owners and employees following these rules. 

Now let’s talk about Oregon’s regional approach to Phase One reopening.  Three counties have not yet applied for reopening. They are Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas Counties.

We received applications from 33 counties seeking to enter Phase One reopening. We reviewed these applications for completeness, posted them online right away, and forwarded them to the Oregon Health Authority for further review. 

OHA’s team of medical and public health experts reviewed each application. In some cases we asked for clarifying information. 

After a thorough and detailed review, I have approved 28 of these applications. In each of these counties we will continue to monitor testing rates, effectiveness at contract tracing and isolation of new cases, hospitalization rates and other metrics that are required to remain open in Phase One. 

The counties that have been approved for Phase One are: 

Baker, Benton, Clatsop, Columbia, Coos, Crook, Curry, Deschutes, Douglas, Gilliam, Grant, Harney, Hood River, Jackson, Josephine, Klamath, Lake, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Malheur, Sherman, Tillamook, Union, Wallowa, Wasco, Wheeler, and Yamhill.

This is good news. 

I also have to announce that at this time, there are two counties that applied for, but do not currently meet, the criteria for Phase One opening. 

These are Marion and Polk Counties.  We will revisit the status of these two counties on a weekly basis.

I will let Dr. Sidelinger and OHA Director Pat Allen address the specific challenges facing Marion and Polk Counties. 

I want Oregonians to know that we will continue to work closely with local public health and elected officials in these communities to address the spread of the virus. I am committed to reevaluating their applications each week in the hopes that each of these counties can meet the criteria for Phase One reopening soon. 

The applications of three counties -- Jefferson, Umatilla and Morrow -- are still under review.  We have asked them for additional information. County leaders are working closely with us and providing that information.

We will make any decisions public as soon as possible. 

It is important to emphasize that in all of these cases, the county leaders submitted detailed applications. The County Commissioners pressed and advocated for their counties to be opened. 

But my job is to make hard decisions, even when they are unpopular. And when it comes to the health and safety of Oregonians, the buck stops here.

Overall, I was incredibly impressed by the work that counties put into their applications. The prerequisites that we laid out were an excellent roadmap for counties to be prepared for future challenges. We are all much better prepared now than we were before going through this exercise. Reviewing these applications reinforced the fact that these were the right requirements, and that we must remain vigilant in the coming weeks.

Starting tomorrow, counties that are approved to enter Phase One can begin the limited reopening of the following sectors under specific safety guidelines:

Restaurants and bars in these counties will be allowed to open for sit-down service so long as they maintain six feet distance between parties, limit parties to a maximum of 10 people, require all employees to wear face coverings, and end on-site consumption by 10pm.

Personal care businesses, including barbers and salons, may open in these counties so long as they screen clients prior to service, limit visits to scheduled appointments, record their client list, maintain physical distance between clients, and require providers to wear face coverings.

Gyms in these counties may be open in a limited capacity -- so long as they can maintain a physical distance of six feet between gym users, close all showers and pools, and have strong cleaning protocols in place.

Finally, in these counties we will also be allowing in-person gatherings of up to 25 people for any purpose so long as physical distancing is maintained.

Now let me be clear:  Some people will hear these rules and see the list of counties entering Phase One and say we are still being too restrictive. Others will hear the exact same information and say we are moving too quickly to reopen the economy.

I’ve been in this job long enough to know I’m not here to make everyone happy.  And if I tried to please everyone, well, then nothing would get done. 

I am focused on protecting the health and safety of Oregonians, while understanding that job losses have a negative impact on public health -- both physical and emotional health.
 
The shared goals of good public health and a strong economy are intimately connected. It’s not an either -- or scenario.

As I said last week, as we reopen parts of our economy, we know and expect that there may be an uptick in new coronavirus cases. Reopening any part of our state comes with risk. 

This virus is still very dangerous.  Until there is a reliable treatment or a vaccine, unfortunately, we will not be able to go back to life as we knew it. Not here in Oregon, or frankly anywhere.

All counties entering Phase One will need to stay in that phase for at least three weeks before any further loosening of restrictions.  And frankly, people need to know that if there is a significant spike in cases in a community -- a spike that cannot be addressed and contained via contact tracing and quarantine -- that we may need to put the Stay at Home rules back in place in order to contain the virus.  

I know this is a tough reality to face. We are venturing out onto the ice and we need to step carefully and cautiously.

This is yet another reason why everyone across the state should continue to practice physical distancing and wear face coverings like these.

Each day, more and more Oregonians are making face coverings, or getting one from a neighbor. Whether it’s a bandana, or a repurposed quilter’s fabric, or a dust mask found in the garage, we wear these face coverings because we are looking out for ourselves, our family, and our neighbors. 

Thank you. Now I will turn it over to Oregon Health Authority Director Pat Allen.​​