Police in Oregon's sixth-largest city signaled Monday, March 23, they will take a cautious approach to enforcing recent executive orders issued by Gov. Kate Brown aimed at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Beaverton Police Chief Ronda Groshong said in a statement that her officers are prepared to arrest or cite people for disobeying orders to stay at home and not gather in large groups, but they're not looking to do so unless they have to.
"Education is our preferred response," Groshong declared. "Our goal is for everyone to understand the importance of complying with this order. Fines or arrests will come as a last resort, but they will come if people are blatantly disregarding the order."
Brown issued her most stringent order yet on Monday as cases of COVID-19, the potentially serious illness caused by the novel coronavirus, continue to mount in Oregon and other states. The order requires Oregonians to stay at home unless they need to report to work in person; have to go to a store, pharmacy or restaurant; or are exercising or walking a pet outdoors.
Brown also ordered a wide range of "non-essential" businesses to close and limited outdoor recreation by closing playgrounds and athletic courts.
The Beaverton Police Department said in a statement after Brown issued her emergency order Monday that police are "relying on people to do the right thing."
"Stay at home and stay healthy as the governor has requested," Groshong said, appropriating a slogan Brown has used to promote social distancing during the outbreak. "We are all in this together."
Beaverton has nearly 100,000 residents and sprawls across much of eastern Washington County. The shutdown has affected Beaverton schools, libraries, parks and recreational facilities, and many businesses, including hair and nail salons, gyms and workout studios, and some retail stores, as well as bars and restaurants, which are temporarily barred from allowing diners to consume food and drink on the premises.
Brown said Monday she is unsure when the stay-at-home order will be lifted. Estimates differ for when COVID-19 cases will peak in Oregon and how long social distancing will need to be maintained to minimize loss of life and the impact to the health system.
Five Oregonians with COVID-19 have died since the outbreak began on Feb. 28. Washington County has the most cases in the state, although public health officials say there are likely many more undiagnosed cases across Oregon.
By Mark Miller
Washington County Editor
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