What are Washington County leaders doing for Thanksgiving?
With an unusual Thanksgiving holiday upon us, many Oregonians are figuring out how to celebrate the holiday in a safe and responsible way.
On Friday, Nov. 13, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown ordered people to stop gathering in groups larger than six at least until early December. No more than two households should be represented at any gathering, indoor or outdoor, during the "two-week freeze" that began Wednesday, Nov. 18.
Brown said those violating the emergency order could face a misdemeanor citation or even arrest.
The two-week freeze is intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Cases have risen rapidly in Oregon and throughout much of North America, and there is growing alarm among public health officials and healthcare workers about a corresponding rise in serious cases that could overwhelm hospitals. Hospitals are already nearing capacity due to the surge in cases.
Tootie Smith, chair-elect of the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners, has made headlines by stating on Facebook Saturday, Nov. 14, that she intends to celebrate Thanksgiving with "as many family and friends as I can find" and going on Fox News earlier this week to denounce Brown's orders, comparing them to slavery.
We asked local leaders in Washington County how they intend to celebrate Thanksgiving this year.
• Washington County Chair Kathryn Harrington: "Until a few weeks ago, I was planning to travel with my husband, safely down to Tucson, Arizona, for the week, to hike outdoors and visit, safely, with some best friends. But once the governor and state public health advisors put in place a travel advisory, we canceled those plans. We are instead going to have a nice dinner at home, perhaps go for a long walk outside wearing masks to work off a little pie! I will likely have video and phone calls with family members and other friends. I am looking forward to a lot of social media posts on Thanksgiving dinners, posts without politics for a change! Beyond that I hope to go for a bicycle ride and spend as much time outdoors as I can. And of course, I have seasonally themed, fabric face coverings to finish sewing up, to help do my part to bring a little joy into people's days."
Harrington added: "I am acting to do my part to reduce the spread of this infectious disease and help alleviate the pressure on our healthcare system. In addition, starting on Monday ... I have been working exclusively at home, on video apps, the phone and email. I miss being physically with other people, but this is the most effective strategy for now. I do not want to become a statistic. I do not want to be put on a respirator."
• Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett: "My wife and I plan a quiet Thanksgiving dinner with our dog, Gus. Directives to limit social gatherings is a difficult ask for all of us. Especially this time of year. Public health experts and contact tracers are seeing much of the current COVID-19 outbreak stems from family gatherings. Our extended Sheriff's Office family has experienced loss from COVID-19, and it's devastating. While not ideal, people can still connect with family virtually, open windows if indoors, and meet for walks outdoors, as I plan to do with my mother this weekend. Taking measures that align with the governor's order simply lowers deaths from COVID-19, is pro-health and pro-community."
The Sheriff's Office additionally noted: "In reference to the recent 'two-week freeze' Governor Brown implemented, the Washington County Sheriff's Office's primary goal is compliance through education. If a deputy comes across a violation of a new measure implemented by the governor, the deputy's first step will be to educate the individual(s) of the measure they are violating. In extreme cases where people are at risk and education does not restore safety, enforcement is an option of last resort. An individual could be arrested and receive a citation in lieu of arrest for violating any of the measures. Please know the Washington County Sheriff's Office's ultimate goal is to help community members stay safe."
• Hillsboro Mayor Steve Callaway: "Normally we host four generations at our house and this year there may just be two of us…not generations, but people! We are still finalizing details. I expect that we may enjoy two dinners this year, one with our daughter and her family (of four), which is six people/two households, and another dinner with our son and his wife, which is four people/two households. We always love the leftovers on Friday, so it's still great food and special company, just spread over a couple of days. While some years, there are political discussions at Thanksgiving dinner, but I'm not interested in framing this as a political discussion about Thanksgiving dinner. It's about health and safety. So we will adhere to the recommendations from healthcare professionals and scientists and the governor.
"Among those things I am thankful for are health and family. So I am willing to do my part to maintain my and my family's health, as well as the health of others, so we can celebrate Thanksgiving together for many years to come. Over 250,000 Americans have died from COVID, and I will be mindful of their families and friends who would give anything to have one more meal with them.
"I have heard of some families where they are preparing their dishes at home and then dropping them off at each other's house, so everybody still gets to enjoy the special dishes and traditional food. Almost like a DoorDash for the families. While we won't gather with the typical group in person, I am sure we will connect with extended family via phone and Facetime. My 92-year-old dad lives in California and we talk almost daily, so I'll call him."
Callaway also encouraged residents to "grab your mask and head out the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It's Small Business Saturday, and I would encourage everybody to support our local small businesses with holiday and gift purchases. Please shop Hillsboro! Please shop local! If you buy online, make sure it's supporting our local economy. It's not baseball season, but you can buy Hops apparel online and ticket packages. Buy from our local artists at Sequoia or Walters. Go to the Hillsboro Chamber website and discover a new Hillsboro business to support. Remember that our local restaurants are part of the small business community and we should make sure to buy takeout food to help them stay afloat. Please support the local merchants and business owners who support all the local fundraisers, auctions, schools and teams."
• Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle: "Very quietly following the guidelines that the governor's asked us to follow, which means we'll see a couple of grandkids, and others will do it virtually. ... Our one and only tradition is a family dinner. Both vegetarian and turkey."
Doyle added: "I guess the only thing you can really do is get into a spot where you get some video and you can actually see people. We've gotten used to that with some friends on like a Friday night. We'll call up and chitchat for an hour and a half. It is the way it is. If you care at all about emergency room workers and hospital workers, you will do everything you can do not to contract COVID. The hospitals are overrun. I just read a text from a worker, and it's just breaks your heart. When you see how much agony the healthcare folks are going through, we've got to remember this is real."
Like Callaway, Doyle is encouraging residents to support local restaurants during the holiday as well.
• Beaverton Mayor-elect Lacey Beaty: "We are spending Thanksgiving at home with my husband and daughter. We are joining Adapt's (my gym) livestream workout in the morning. Supporting the governor's freeze and not seeing extended family."
Beaty, who served as director of the Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Clinic's school-based health centers from 2014 to 2019, added: "It's our favorite holiday tradition. While sad to not be in person, glad they are overcoming to have people attend at home."
• Tigard Mayor Jason Snider: "My wife, myself, and our three children will be spending Thanksgiving at our house without any others. We typically host 10-15 family members — so everyone is disappointed, but we all understand and want to make sure our elderly family members, in particular, are protected and safe."
Snider, who works as a practice director at Kaiser Permanent Northwest, added: "As a full-time health care leader with a clinical background, I am particularly disappointed with Smith's 'stance' (as you called it), the poor example it sets for others, and the ongoing risk her Thanksgiving event will pose to the community. The basic principles of disease transmission are empirically proven and so are the methods to prevent it."
• Tualatin Mayor Frank Bubenik: "My wife and I usually host a Thanksgiving dinner for about 20 friends and family but are canceling it this year. It will just be the two of us celebrating Thanksgiving. There will be a few Zoom meetings to bring us together virtually, though."
Bubenik, whose city extends into Clackamas County, also reacted to Smith's remarks: "I do not agree with her decision and think it is a poor choice. As local leaders, we are to set the example and should follow the recommended protocols in order to lower the rate of infection and save lives."
• Forest Grove Mayor Pete Truax: "We had plans to drive down to Las Vegas to visit our granddaughters, and that's probably going to be on hold."
He — like most — is tiring of the restrictions of the past eight months, but he understands the meaning behind them, and he appreciates the difficulty of Brown's decision.
"I'm sure it was a difficult call, but it's our job to honor the commitments and the orders that the governor has passed down," Truax said. "I'm not going to be one of those people to stand out there and criticize the decision because I don't have the information or outside input she does. I'm just going to advise the citizens of Forest Grove that we stay at home, stay safe, wear our masks and practice social distancing."
He went on to speak to the meaning of the upcoming holiday, but reiterated the importance of being safe during what has become a very unsafe time.
"Obviously, Thanksgiving is a chance to meet with family, and that's tough this year," Truax said. "I think people will try to do the best they can, whether that's by Zoom or in small gatherings of immediate family, but I think someone said, 'we practice social distancing at Thanksgiving so we can meet at Christmas.' And someplace other than the ICU."
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