REMARKS AS PREPARED
Governor Kate Brown
Reopening Oregon Phase 1
May 7, 2020
Good morning and thank you.
I’m here today to share new details on my plan for reopening Oregon, and the safety measures we’re putting in place to help move Oregon forward.
Joining me is Pat Allen, Director of the Oregon Health Authority, and Dr. Renee Edwards from Oregon Health & Science University — she serves on my Medical Advisory Panel. And Dr. Dean Sidelinger, our state epidemiologist.
It’s been just over two months since Oregon reported our first case of COVID-19. Since that first case, we’ve joined the world in facing this historic pandemic head on.
We have taken extraordinary measures to protect our communities as we’ve fought this virus, shuttering parts of our economy in an effort to save lives.
Today, thanks to millions of Oregonians following the strict physical distancing orders I put in place, I am happy to say these sacrifices have prevented as many as 70,000 COVID-19 infections, and 1,500 hospitalizations in Oregon.
We are on track in meeting the goals that doctors and public health experts have laid out for us. And that means we now have the opportunity to begin rebuilding a safe and strong Oregon.
● We have stabilized COVID-19 hospitalizations statewide — in fact, we hit a record low this past week with fewer than 100 coronavirus hospitalizations across the state.
● We are increasing and enhancing supply chains for personal protective equipment. We still don’t have everything we need, but things are improving.
● We have finalized our statewide testing and contact tracing strategy. We have been ramping up those programs rapidly so we can safely and quickly track, trace and isolate new cases.
From the very onset of this crisis, I’ve said that data and science would inform my decisions. And science and data remain my guideposts as we begin the reopening of Oregon.
But let me be very clear: these choices are not easy; as we reopen parts of our economy, we know and expect that there may be an uptick in new coronavirus cases. That’s why we have to be prepared in every single corner of the state, because as we’ve seen, an outbreak can occur anywhere.
Reopening any part of our state comes with risk. This virus is still very dangerous, and it still poses a great threat. Until there is a vaccine, unfortunately, we will not be able to go back to life as we knew it. Not here in Oregon, or frankly anywhere.
I know this can be a tough reality to face.
However, I am inspired by the ways Oregonians have taken on a shared responsibility to protect each other through this crisis. It is really a testament to our generosity and compassion that we are where we are.
These measures combined with the talents of our extraordinary doctors, nurses and health professionals have made Oregon a comparatively safe harbor during this pandemic.
I want to be absolutely clear with each and every one of you: physical distancing is, and will, remain a part of our lives for many months to come. Face coverings are, and will, remain a part of our lives for many months to come. Hand washing and good hygiene are, and will remain, life-saving daily practices.
We must help protect our hardworking grocery store clerks by wearing face coverings. We must continue to use videoconferencing or telephone calls to connect with our grandparents. We must continue to connect with our friends and family, even as we remain apart.
By continuing to limit our physical interactions overall, and with science as our guide, today I am announcing the first details for the first phase of a step-by-step reopening of our state.
This framework takes into account the unique ways the virus has impacted different parts of Oregon. Here’s what it looks like:
First, we have established a detailed set of prerequisites that any county who wants to begin reopening must meet. These thresholds will help counties keep people as safe as possible as we rebuild. They are also achievable.
I have been briefing county commissioners across the state over the past week on the details of these requirements, and the Oregon Health Authority is providing support in meeting them.
For counties that meet the state’s requirements to move into “Phase 1” of reopening, the following sectors are eligible to reopen following specific safety guidelines:
● Restaurants and bars in these communities may open for sit-down service, but only with adequate physical distancing and the wearing of face coverings by employees. We encourage customers to also wear face coverings — but of course, not while they’re eating.
● Personal care businesses, such as salons, barber shops, and gyms may open in a very limited way. We will require physical distancing and increased sanitation, as well as a series of additional guidelines, like wearing face coverings and gloves at salons. Salons must serve customers by appointment only and maintain records for contact tracing.
● Retail businesses can also open using physical distancing. We ask that they encourage this through proper signage, one-way flow in aisles, and using tape markings to delineate space.
● Local gatherings can increase in size to 25, again, with physical distancing.
Some counties will be able to move into this phase before others. Once in Phase 1, each county must remain for a minimum of 21 days, so that we can monitor whether there’s an unsafe uptick in the virus.
If at that point, the county still meets the prerequisites, and has not seen increased hospitalizations and emergency department admissions for COVID-like illness, then we can assess whether they are ready to move forward into the next phase.
The details of Phase 2 will be finalized shortly, but given what we know right now, our expectations are to allow for somewhat larger gatherings and more work in office settings.
I do have to share some difficult news: large gatherings, including live sporting events with audiences, concerts, festivals, and conventions will not be able to return until we have a reliable treatment or prevention, like a vaccine. The Oregon Health Authority is advising that any large gathering, at least through September, should either be cancelled or significantly modified.
I know this is really hard. I too will miss visiting our fairs and festivals this year.
Starting tomorrow we will begin accepting applications from counties looking to enter Phase 1. These applications will be reviewed quickly by the Oregon Health Authority, with a goal of notifying counties that meet the requirements that they are eligible to enter Phase 1 as early as Friday, May 15.
In addition to this framework for Phase 1 of reopening, I am announcing strong recommendations on the use of face coverings.
And next week we will be issuing guidelines on the expansion of options for child care, summer school, summer camps and summer youth programs. These guidelines are being developed in partnership with doctors and public health experts.
We know childcare is essential to allowing parents to get back to work and education is the bedrock of our society.
I want to close by saying that as this process of reopening begins, I again ask Oregonians to come together and be smart.
Please follow the safety measures we are putting in place to help these businesses reopen — we’ve had the best doctors and public health experts guide us on how to safely and gradually reopen Oregon in a safe and strong way.
It’s up to us to follow their advice if we want to keep Oregon moving forward.
With that, I will kick it to Dr. Edwards.