Oregon Gov. Kate Brown told reporters Tuesday, March 24, that she had to "balance competing demands" of the economy and public safety before she decided to issue her strict March 23 stay-at-home order.
In a conference call with reporters, Brown said the state's medical facilities would need a lot more resources than they have to fight the COVID-19 virus. In terms of resources across the state — such as personal protective equipment and hospital beds — Brown said there was still not enough, but she that she was extremely grateful for those braving the crisis in health care.
"We are so incredibly grateful for healthcare workers across the state. Thank you, thank you, thank you," said Brown. "You are literally putting your lives on the line to keep Oregonians safe and we are grateful."
Brown's Executive Order 20-12 directs everyone to stay at home except for trips to grocery stores or other vital business. It also adds a batch of new businesses that must temporarily close to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
"I am cautioning legislators to be extremely fiscally prudent. I am extremely concerned about our ability to administer basic services in the next six months to a year."
In the Tuesday conference call, Brown discussed the measures she's taking and answered questions about her stricter social distancing order. "The reason we did our executive order the way we did is because I want to save lives and save peoples livelihoods," Brown told reporters. "I'm not interested in unnecessarily closing businesses if we don't need to do that. My goal is to balance those competing demands."
Brown said about 25% of her initial request for more resources from the federal government would be fulfilled. But, she is committed to doing anything she can to make sure health care workers have what they need.
Brown also said that the state is relaxing medical board rules to allow retired physicians to reactivate their licenses. "The bottom line is we have far more needs than we have resources," she said. "As you are aware, the economy is tumbling down. I am cautioning legislators to be extremely fiscally prudent. I am extremely concerned about our ability to administer basic services in the next six months to a year."
What the president said
Brown said a late-March special legislative sessions would focus on adequate resources for COVID-19. She said the state needs $250 million for an adequate response — and the state still needs to address funding for the upcoming fire season.
Brown also talked about President Trump's idea to lift social distancing restrictions by Easter (Sunday, April 12; far ahead of the time medical experts agreed it would be prudent to ease restrictions). The president said Monday that "we cannot let the cure be worse than the problem."
"I honestly don't know what the president's authority is to supersede my executive order. I will have our legal team do a little research," Brown said. "When I was on the phone with him earlier this week he said these difficult decisions are in the hands of governors, so I would expect it would stay that way."
Police in every office building?
She also addressed questions about people and businesses who aren't complying with her stay-at-home order. Brown said she "can't have police in every office in the state" enforcing the order. She is relying on people taking personal responsibility.
In a March 23 statement, Brown said her decision to execute the order was fueled by the crowds that were seen on the Oregon Coast and elsewhere during the weekend's nice weather. "I started by asking Oregonians to stay home and practice social distancing," Brown said in the release. "Then I urged the public to follow these recommendations. Instead, thousands crowded the beaches of our coastal communities, our trails, our parks and our city streets, potentially spreading COVID-19 and endangering the lives of others across the state. Now, I'm ordering it. To save lives and protect our community."
Responding to questions about confusion over which businesses are closed, Brown said she felt the order was very clear. Any business not ordered to close is allowed to remain open as long as it complies by the social distancing rules.
She wrote the order after speaking with governors around the country. "We're being more prescriptive than a lot of other states because we wanted people to have clarity," Brown said. "The reality is that governors all over the nation are wrestling with how to do this. We were able to learn from other states and watch the confusion that happened."
KOIN 6 News is a Portland Tribune news partner.
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