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The following commentary is an open letter to Gov. Kate Brown, written by Troutdale Mayor Randy Lauer, who says science supports the idea of allowing outdoor entertainment events.

RANDY LAUERDear Governor Brown:

I am writing you today to express my deep concern for the businesses in our community. In particular, one of our largest employers, McMenamins Edgefield, is being devastated by the current COVID regulations.

Of its almost 50 properties in the Northwest, this is one of their most regionally significant and amenity diverse.

The outdoor concerts they hold every summer attract musicians and attendees from all over the world. Every summer the concerts bring hundreds of thousands of customers to their business, and they also patronize countless other Troutdale businesses.

Outdoor events with internationally, and locally, famous artists don't just happen quickly. Concerts have to be planned months, and in some cases, years in advance.

Your current regulations, even if Multnomah County was in the "Lower Risk" category, only allows 300 attendees at most; a number that makes any event at McMenamins cost prohibitive.

Not only is the very viability of McMenamins, an employer of thousands of Oregonians, threatened by your policies, but so is the existence of many other businesses that support the concert industry. Without concerts in Oregon for a second year in a row, this would most certainly lead to the loss of most high level promoters in Oregon. Oregon concerts will then be controlled by large national firms that charge more money and don't care about Oregonians.

I am asking you to join many other states and be more forward thinking in your regulations, and pro-active, in saving Oregon's businesses. Without you deciding as soon as possible to establish more relaxed rules for outdoor events this summer, another beautiful season in Oregon will go by without such events.

Failure to act quickly will likely kill many Oregon businesses and cause the unemployment of thousands of Oregonians.

I am not unmindful of science and the facts. I am actually asking you to "follow the science" and the facts in opening up outdoor events this summer.

First, Oregon has one of the lowest rates of COVID infection in the nation. According to the CDC, Oregonians have an infection rate less than half the national average. Throughout the pandemic Oregon has ranked as one of the bottom two or three states in the whole nation. Oregonians are less than half as likely to catch COVID as most any other state.

You may argue that is "proof" of the value of your stringent rules, but considering other states, hard to prove empirically. Maybe it is more about the wisdom of Oregonians, and it is time to trust them more.

Secondly, the science is clear, COVID is rarely "caught" outdoors. Numerous studies have shown that people are 15 to 20 times less likely to be infected when outdoors. When combined with the low COVID numbers overall in Oregon, outdoor events are very safe if masks are worn, surfaces are cleaned, and people practice social distancing.

Finally, by July, all of the indications are that over 50% of Americans will have been vaccinated. Everyone in the high-risk categories will be protected. Many more will also be immune from past exposure.

And, most importantly, those remaining unprotected by antibodies, now less than 50% of the population, are in the lowest risk categories.

Waiting until 70% of Oregonians have been vaccinated instead, before allowing outdoor events, will not have an appreciable impact on Oregonians' health. Science tells us, even if people within that additional 20 percent margin get infected, they will have a very minimal risk of significant medical issues, and the vast majority will have no symptoms whatsoever. These are the people most likely to attend an outdoor musical event.

I know your job is hard, and you get a large amount of data and science, much of it conflicting. But it is time to move toward "normalcy." Oregon needs to have an economy after COVID, and all our citizens need to have jobs when this is over, including those in the entertainment professions.

Please don't be the governor that presides over the devastation of portions of Oregon's economy to achieve very limited protections for Oregonians.

Please, at least, allow outdoor gatherings for events now, for this summer, if the event employs responsible standards. It is important that planning be allowed to proceed now, even if, God forbid, a resurgence of the virus requires later cancellation.

Thank you for your anticipated help. Please contact me if you would like to discuss this critical issue further.

Mayor Randy Lauer

City of Troutdale


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