REMARKS AS PREPARED
Governor Kate Brown
Press Conference - Thanksgiving
November 25, 2020
As we head into the holiday weekend, I wanted to give an update on the surge of COVID-19 cases in Oregon. I’m joined virtually today by:
● Pat Allen, Director of the Oregon Health Authority;
● Dr. Dean Sidelinger, our State Epidemiologist; and
● Dr. David Zonies, Associate Chief Medical Officer at the Oregon Health & Science University.
Thanksgiving weekend is here. It’s a time of year many of us cherish, myself included. And yet as we enter month 10 of what feels like a never-ending pandemic, it’s hard not to mourn the loss of large holiday celebrations and dinners with family and friends.
But here we are.
Just today we have more than 1,100 new cases and sadly, 20 deaths.
We now find ourselves in an even more difficult place than we were back in March when COVID-19 first emerged in Oregon.
In the spring, much was unknown about this virus. We weren’t sure if we had enough PPE to protect our doctors and nurses. And we didn’t fully understand how to prevent its spread.
Today, we know so much more.
However, we also face the reality that COVID-19 is rampant in our communities.
It is rampant across the entire state of Oregon.
And we are all tired. Tired of not being able to see our friends and teachers at school. Tired of missing loved ones we can’t see in order to protect them. Tired of staying up late, worrying about bills, or rent, or the family business.
Aspects of the pandemic that were novel in the Spring – like learning how to bake bread or having virtual happy hours with friends — are wearing on all of us now. Especially with holidays, which are about sharing a meal and being together.
“COVID fatigue” is a real thing.
It’s been a long year — and one that has been exceptionally challenging for Oregonians. Not only have we been dealing with this pandemic; we also suffered through a heartbreaking and historic wildfire season. So many families have lost so much this year.
Unfortunately, now, more than ever, is the time we must double down on our efforts to stop COVID from spreading. Let me tell you why:
First, the situation is extremely dire.
Our hospitals are stretched, and Oregonians are dying. That may not mean as much to you if you haven’t experienced the virus firsthand. But I don’t want your experience with COVID to be losing someone you love, or you, yourself being turned away from a hospital when you need medical care.
Not everyone dies from COVID-19, that is true. But trust me, this is not a virus you want to get. Even young people’s lives can be devastated by the virus. We continue to learn about the long-term impacts of this disease: extreme tiredness and fatigue. Loss of taste and smell. Permanent lung damage.
One of the most difficult aspects of COVID-19 is that your choices impact others. We saw this with the 65 people who made the decision to attend an indoor wedding in Maine. Those decisions led to 176 cases of COVID and 7 deaths. The most tragic thing about this is that those seven people who died did NOT even attend the wedding. Yet they still lost their lives.
When people don’t respect how serious this virus is, and when they act against the recommendations of doctors and public health experts, not only are they putting themselves at risk, they’re putting ALL of us at risk.
I promise you this isn’t forever. It’s just for now. By making sacrifices these holidays to protect our friends and families, we can make sure no one is missing when we gather around our dining tables next year.
Making smart choices now — to wear a mask, to limit our social gatherings, to stay home when sick — those choices will get us out of this horrible situation faster. And smart choices bring us closer to normal life, closer to reopening our businesses and keeping them open. Closer to getting our kids back in the classroom, and staying there. I don’t know about you, but the thought of returning to life as we remember it before COVID is very motivating to me.
So, with that, I will say this. Please make smart choices this holiday weekend that will protect you, your family and your neighbors. Irresponsible behavior over Thanksgiving, at best, will only make this pandemic last longer. At worst, it will send one of your loved ones to the ICU.
The statewide 2-Week Freeze is complete next week. However, due to extensive COVID-19 spread in our communities, there are at least 21 counties — including our most populous counties, like Multnomah — that are facing extreme risk of virus spread and will need to continue with strict health and safety measures, similar to the Freeze, through most of December.
My hope is that Oregonians in these counties take this news seriously and commit to hunkering down for the next several weeks.
For all counties in Oregon, we are introducing a data-driven framework intended to protect Oregonians by putting appropriate safety measures in place, dependent on a county’s risk to this disease — ranging from low risk to extreme risk. It is important to note that there is no zero-risk category. Until COVID-19 vaccines are widely available, health and safety precautions will remain in place so that schools, businesses and communities can reopen, and stay open.
So, before I turn it over to Dr. Sidelinger to share details of this new framework, I want to say this.
Thank you to every single Oregonian that continues to do the right thing by taking the appropriate safety precautions. I know it’s hard. You are sacrificing a lot.
I sincerely hope that sacrifices this holiday season will be rewarded with stories shared over dinner tables next holiday season about how happy we are that 2020 and COVID are over!
Let's keep each other safe.
With that, I will turn it over to Dr. Sidelinger...