REMARKS AS PREPARED
Governor Kate Brown
Press Conference - Face Coverings, Reopening Announcement
June 18, 2020
Good morning and thank you for joining us. I am here with Pat Allen, Director of the Oregon Health Authority and Dr. Dean Sidelinger, our state epidemiologist.
I’m going to start today by turning it over to Director Allen.
Last week I issued a statewide pause on all county reopening applications because of rising numbers in both urban and rural Oregon.
The Oregon Health Authority reviewed data from across the state and I have consulted with independent health experts, business leaders and local elected officials.
Thank you for pausing with me, I know this was hard for businesses.
We now have a better sense of the sources of new infections. Case counts are rising largely because of workplace outbreaks, congregate care, social gatherings, and some community spread.
Meanwhile, the businesses that have implemented the strict health and safety standards we have laid out are successfully protecting their customers and employees from spreading the virus.
I have confidence that businesses in Multnomah County have the capacity to implement these same health and safety standards.
The rising case counts, however, remain very concerning.
As we learn more about the disease, we are refining our strategies to prevent its spread. This means increased testing, strictly enforcing health and safety standards, a new face covering requirement and calling on the public to remain cautious.
Yesterday, I announced the following decisions:
First, I am moving Marion, Polk, and Hood River Counties to Phase 2 beginning tomorrow, Friday, June 19.
Second, I am allowing Multnomah County to move to Phase 1 status starting Friday, June 19.
As Director Allen mentioned, I made this decision -- in part -- based on data that indicated new hospital admission rates were not rising.
I heard late yesterday from the OHA team about the glitch in the hospitalization data I had reviewed. The updated data showed an uptick in new hospital admissions in Multnomah County.
I asked Dr. Sidelinger, our state epidemiologist, for his guidance. He recommended we proceed forward, cautiously as always. And that’s what we’re doing: proceeding cautiously.
Businesses in Multnomah County that reopen will need to implement the same strict health and safety practices that we have in place in the rest of the state.
However, starting on next Wednesday June 24, I will be instituting a requirement to wear face coverings while in indoor, public spaces for the following counties: Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, Hood River, Marion, Polk and Lincoln Counties.
A county not listed, that wishes to have this guidance applied in that county, may request to opt in at any time.
As we learn more about the disease, evidence continues to mount that face coverings play a critical role in reducing transmission. And as we adapt to living with this disease for the foreseeable future, face coverings need to become a part of our daily lives.
Detailed face covering requirement guidance will be available shortly. It will be a requirement in these seven counties for indoor public spaces like a grocery store or a shop.
Currently, employees in these businesses are already required to wear face coverings. The new rule now applies this standard to customers and visitors of those businesses.
There are exceptions. For example, a person with a medical condition that makes it hard to breathe or other disability that prevents the individual from wearing a face covering, as well as children under the age of 12, will not be subject to this mandate.
And, no, that doesn’t mean that you have to wear a mask while you eat at a restaurant or drink a cup of coffee. And no, you won’t get arrested or get a ticket for not wearing a face covering.
However, this is a requirement and it is enforceable. This requirement is a key part of how we can gradually open our economy and be able to go out to eat or browse at a book store or shop at a boutique.
We have to live with this disease for a while. And that is going to require adjusting our habits -- taking the simple step of covering our nose and mouth in spaces where we interact with others.
Let me tell you why I wear a face covering:
● I wear it to protect the doctors and nurses working day and night in hospitals and clinics around the state.
● I wear it to protect my elderly neighbors.
● I wear it to protect kids in cancer treatment and people with compromised immune systems.
● I wear it to protect the grocery store clerk and the pizza delivery gal.
● I wear it because I don’t want to accidentally kill someone.
It’s really that simple. Face coverings save lives.
● A face covering doesn’t have to be a medical grade N-95 mask.
● It can be something you sew at home like this one.
● It can be a bandana.
● You can turn a t-shirt into face covering.
● And we’ll be working with local leaders and community groups to help people and businesses get access to free masks.
This requirement begins next week so Oregonians have some time to get prepared.
Now let me close with a few words about what comes next.
The next few weeks will be difficult. We are stepping out on the ice. The entire state, as of tomorrow, will be stepping out onto the ice. Together.
We are better prepared than we were in early March. We have increased PPE supplies, much more widespread testing, and many more contact tracers.
However, if hospitalizations spike too quickly, if the capacity of our healthcare system is threatened, we will be forced to revert to tighter restrictions.
It all comes down to you. It comes down to each and every one of us.
What you do every day will determine whether our economy can stay open or if we need to go back to the way things were in the spring.
Local businesses will only be able to stay open if each of us does our part. The coffee shop, your favorite restaurant, your gym, that brewery down the street… They can only stay open if you stay safe.
Let me say that again:
Stay safe to stay open.
● If you’re sick, stay home.
● If you go out, wear a face covering.
● Keep 6-feet of distance.
● Avoid crowds.
● Limit non-essential travel and stay in your local community.
● And wash, wash, wash your hands.
Your actions will determine our future.