By Sara Cline / The Associated Press/Report for America
SALEM, Ore. — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Friday announced a statewide two-week “freeze” which will limit restaurants and bars to take-out only and close gyms, indoor and outdoor recreational facilities during that period.
The freeze will be in effect from Nov. 18 through Dec. 2 and aims to limit group activities and slow the spread of COVID-19. The state is experiencing a spike in coronavirus infections and has reached record high positivity rates so far in November.
“If we do not act immediately, we will soon reach a breaking point,” Brown said in a video posted on social media Thursday.
She has long warned about implementing tighter restrictions if Oregon’s cases did not decrease. The latest set of restrictions are the most stringent since the start of the pandemic.
As part of the freeze, grocery stores, pharmacies and retail stores are limited to a maximum capacity of 75%. Faith-based organizations will also have their capacity reduced to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors.
However, other facilities — gyms and fitness centers, museums, pools, sports courts, movie theaters, zoos, gardens, aquariums and venues — will have to close their doors completely.
Restaurants and bars, which had a capacity limit of 50-100 people depending on the county and curfew of 10 p.m., will now be limited to take-out only.
All businesses will be required to close their offices to the public and mandate work-from-home “to the greatest extent possible,” Brown said.
Lastly, both indoor and outdoor social get-togethers are limited to six people, total, from no more than two households. In the past, Brown has described social get-together measures as “self-enforced.”
“These risk reduction measures are critical in limiting the spread of COVID-19, reducing risk in communities more vulnerable to serious illness and death, and helping conserve hospital capacity so that all Oregonians can continue to have access to quality care,” the governor’s office said Friday.
The freeze does not apply to barber shops, hair salons, congregate homeless sheltering, outdoor recreation and sports, youth programs, childcare, and K-12 schools that are currently open.
Brown and the governors of California and Washington issued travel advisories Friday urging residents to avoid non-essential out-of-state travel and asking people to self-quarantine for 14 days after arriving from another state or country.
“COVID-19 does not stop at state lines,” Brown said. “As hospitals across the West are stretched to capacity, we must take steps to ensure travelers are not bringing this disease home with them.”
Coronavirus cases in Oregon have been increasing since mid-September and began to surge at an “alarming rate” in November.
On Thursday, Oregon recorded 1,122 new confirmed or presumptive cases of COVID-19, the first time it had surpassed 1,000 cases. The total number of cases since the start of the pandemic is nearly 54,000. The death toll is 746.
The percent of people testing positive for the virus was nearly 12% statewide, more than double what it was in the summer, according to Oregon Health Authority data.
For the past two weeks, officials have expressed concerns about nearing hospital capacity in the state.
“There are limitations to what Oregon’s healthcare system can handle,” Dana Hargunani, the health authority’s chief medical officer, said Tuesday.
The Oregon Health Authority reported a record of 303 coronavirus patients in hospitals Friday — an increase of 81% since the end of October.
Several major hospitals in Portland have begun curtailing elective surgeries this week amid the surge.
Cline is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.