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Amidst COVID-19 concerns, city makes preemptive decision to secure resources, protect vulnerable population

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER KEIZUR - Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis declares State of Emergency.Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis announced Thursday morning that the city is declaring a State of Emergency because of concerns surrounding COVID-19.

The decision is a preemptive means to secure state and federal resources that can help the city in coming weeks or months. The decision that mirrors a similar declaration made by the city of Portland as COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus.

Gresham also will comply with directions from Gov. Kate Brown by canceling all non-essential meetings through the first week of April, at which time city leadership will reevaluate the ever-fluctuating situation. The Gresham Lilac Run has been postponed, and this weekend's Passport Day has been canceled. Citizen advisory group and committee meetings also have been canceled.

"While this is a pandemic, for most it will just feel like a cold," Bemis said. "We ask our vulnerable population to take strong precautions by washing hands and avoiding crowded public spaces."

Any city of Gresham-associated mass gatherings or events by third-party groups will continue to receive city financial support, but Gresham employees are being told not to attend. The city will take a 60-day hiatus from shutting off water and sewer service for non-payments on bills.

Gresham is coordinating with local nursing homes and faith organizations, and suggests people tune in to online sermons rather than attend services. The city also is in communication with local school districts and Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce to coordinate a response.

"We are going to put our heads together to figure out how this will impact our community," Bemis said.

Within city buildings, an increased measure of cleaning has been implemented. Front desks and office spaces in City Hall have hand sanitizer available. Frontline employees like police officers have portable hand sanitizer and masks.

Gresham leadership voiced concerns about the impact COVID-19 could have on the business community. Bemis said he has directed staff to look into any tools that could help sustain small businesses suffering from a drop in customers.

Bemis said he understands some will see this as an overreaction from city leadership, but that taking these measures helps Gresham stay ahead of the outbreak.

"I am concerned for people who fall in the target spot," Bemis said. "This is a preemptive measure, so we have all the tools available to us. I want to be ready."


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