REMARKS AS PREPARED
Governor Kate Brown
July 13, 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.
We are here today to sound the alarm.
The COVID-19 disease is spreading rapidly across Oregon. Each and every one of us needs to take action -- immediate action -- to slow the spread of the disease.
Let me share a few sobering facts:
● We reported more cases in the past week than we did in the entire month of May.
● The last time we had less than 100 cases in a single day was more than a month ago.
● Half of all cases are from people under the age of 40 and one third of all cases are from people under the age of 30.
● Right now, people in their 20s and 30s are far and away the most likely group to get sick with COVID-19.
● We also announced the second death of an Oregonian in their 30s.
We have done so much. We have come so far. We have sacrificed so deeply. We cannot let this virus get the best of us.
This spring we came together by staying apart. We were tremendously successful. As spring turned to summer, we began to reopen businesses and venture out a bit.
Today we are sounding the alarm because we are at risk of allowing the virus to spiral out of control. This is what we saw in New York this spring. It’s what we are seeing today in Texas, Arizona and Florida.
The question now is whether Oregon will be the next New York or the next Texas.
This pandemic shows how closely our lives are intertwined.
● If I don’t wear a face covering, I put my friend at risk.
● If he doesn’t cover his cough, he puts the grocery store clerk at risk.
● If she doesn’t wash her hands, she puts her high school daughter at risk.
● If her daughter doesn’t keep a physical distance from friends, she puts her neighbors at risk.
● If her neighbor hangs out with friends at an indoor house party, he puts every single one of his friends at risk.
● And one of those friends has a grandmother in a nursing home who has not been able to see her family in months because the disease is simply too rampant and too dangerous to allow visitors to nursing homes.
Somewhere else along that chain of relationships, somewhere among the social connections that hold us together, people will get sick with COVID-19. And people will die.
The virus is extremely contagious. And many people don’t show symptoms for days.
In that time you can come into contact with dozens or, if you’re not careful, hundreds of other people in your social circle and community.
That’s why the three W’s are so important:
● Wear a face covering
● Watch your distance, and
● Wash, wash, wash your hands
As Director Allen and Dr. Sidelinger said on Friday, we have seen increased spread of the disease connected to several kinds of hotspots.
One is workplaces, particularly agriculture and food processing in rural Oregon. State and public health officials are doing everything possible to contain these outbreaks.
Another is assisted living facilities, nursing homes and prisons. And state officials, front-line workers and business owners are tackling these challenges day in and day out.
The third is social get-togethers. House parties. Dinner parties. Fraternity and bachelorette parties.
It’s when we let our guard down that the virus takes full advantage.
Today I am announcing two new steps to slow the spread of the virus.
First, I am instituting a statewide ban on indoor social get-togethers of more than 10 people.
I am mandating that social get-togethers like dinner parties, birthday parties, potlucks, and book clubs that take place indoors cannot exceed 10 people.
This new rule does not change the operation of businesses or churches at this time.
I also want to acknowledge that there is a lot of conversation about restaurants and bars. Places like Texas have chosen to close them entirely or allow outdoor dining only.
As of right now, those businesses that are implementing and enforcing safety rules -- face coverings, physical distancing and sanitation -- do not appear to be sources of significant transmission.
I hope I don’t have to go the route of Texas and California and close bars and restaurants, but nothing is off the table.
Second, I am expanding Oregon’s face covering requirement. Already Oregonians must wear face coverings in indoor public spaces.
Starting on Wednesday July 15, face coverings will also be required outdoors if you cannot maintain a physical distance.
Any time that you are outdoors, cannot maintain a physical distance of 6 feet, and you are with people you don’t live with, please, please, please, put on your face covering.
With any new mandate, there is always the question of enforcement. With face coverings now required outdoors, enforcement will continue to rely on businesses to help implement this rule.
If a restaurant has outdoor seating for example, or if a grocery store has a line out front, or if a venue is hosting an event, businesses will have to include face coverings outdoors as part of their operational plan, just as they have for indoor spaces.
We have set up a statewide Enforcement Task Force. Throughout reopening, we have been concentrating on an education first approach -- helping businesses across the state to follow the rules.
Unfortunately, not everyone is willing to work with us and sometimes our team needs to intervene in order to make sure Oregonians are safe.
Over the 4th of July holiday weekend, for example, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, working in concert with OSHA, visited 800 businesses across the state in an effort to ensure compliance.
For those businesses that are not following the rules, there will be serious consequences, including citations, fines and ultimately, closing down businesses that refuse to protect their employees and customers.
I have also directed my team to meet with business leaders to identify any and all other safety protocols that can be put in place immediately to slow the spread of the disease.
We need to do absolutely everything we can to reduce transmission in ways that do not require us to close down businesses again.
Let’s be honest, state enforcement of limits on the size of indoor social get-togethers will be difficult. I’m not going to set up the party police.
However, the proof here will be in the numbers. Either people will adhere to this requirement and become a positive force for stopping COVID-19, or I will be forced to take more restrictive measures.
Finally, I want the press and the public to note that already so many Oregonians are wearing face coverings and limiting their in-person social activities.
This is hard. This is really hard. It is lasting much longer and this virus is much tougher to beat than any of us would ever wish.
It may still be possible for us to keep bars and restaurants and shops open; to gather again in larger groups; to continue to hike, camp and go to parks.
It all depends on you. Your choices determine our future.
If we don’t slow the spread of the virus, we will have no choice but to force widespread and difficult closures again.
Wear a face covering, watch your distance, and wash, wash, wash your hands.
We are truly all in this together.