Jefferson County reopening being reviewed
The state needs more information from Jefferson County before deciding if it's allowed to reopen some businesses and allow small gatherings, Gov. Kate Brown said at a 10 a.m. press conference Thursday, May 14.
Of 33 counties that applied to begin the first phase of reopening, 28 were approved, including Deschutes and Crook counties. Two — Marion and Polk counties — were rejected.
Jefferson, Morrow and Umatilla counties are still under review, Brown said.
"We have asked them for additional information," Brown said. "We'll make any decisions public as soon as possible."
Just after the conference, Jefferson County Public Health Director Michael Baker said county officials are waiting for more details, and he is waiting for a call from the Oregon Health Authority.
Board of Commissioners President Kelly Simmelink said the county spoke with Gov. Brown's staff at 8:40 a.m. Thursday.
"During that call, the state for the first time since submission of our 'reopen'plan (on May 8th), added that they need more detailed data regarding contact tracing of active cases," Simmelink said.
"The state indicated they will review the response we gave and provide feedback before the end of the day," he continued. "Please know that we are working every possible angle and fully cooperating."
Brown said at press conference that she understood some people will be relieved by the easing of some restrictions, and others will be worried.
Brown said she will issue a new executive order "very soon" to make travel restrictions clearer.
"My job is to make hard decisions, even when they are unpopular, and when it comes to the health and safety of Oregonians, the buck stops here," she said.
Brown emphasized that the measures Oregonians have been following have saved lives, and even with an ease of restrictions in the 28 counties, people need to wear face masks and adhere to the guidelines.
"We know and expect that there may be an uptake in new coronavirus cases," she said. "... We will not be able to go back to life as we knew it, not here in Oregon or anywhere."
Pat Allen, director of the Oregon Health Authority, said he knew the news would be hard for those unable to reopen immediately.
"Regardless of where you live, my message to all Oregonians remains the same: We are all in this pandemic together," he said.
The percentage of positive tests continues to decline, he said.
He encouraged people to continue to take the precautions they heard at the beginning of the pandemic: Stay home if you're sick and cover your cough. He also encouraged people to wear face masks.
Those who are older or have underlying medical conditions shouldn't go out, he said.
"If you're a consumer, respect physical distancing ... and avoid unnecessary travel," he said.
Those who are contacted by contact tracers should follow directions, and people who have tested positive should answer questions honestly, he said.
He also said OHA has defined red flags, and if there is a spike in cases, restrictions will be put back in place.
When asked if people from counties that are locked down are allowed to travel to places that are reopened, Brown said people from Portland metro area should stay home.
"Reopening is a team sport," Allen said. "It's not going to work if people don't follow the rules ... We need everybody on the team to do their part."
Brown said she hopes that all schools in the state will be able to open in the fall.
"But as Dr. (Anthony) Fauci has said, 'The disease controls the timing.' We don't control the timing," she said.
Dean Sidelinger, the state's epidemiologist, said guidelines will be put in place.
"We know that children are relatively spared," he said, but some staff and some students with medical conditions may be at risk.
"It's not going to look like it did last fall," Sidelinger said. There may be some hybrid instruction, with distance and in-person instruction.
"We want to get them back into school as safely as we can," he said.
"This is really, really hard, but we know that if we can't continue to beat back the virus, then we're going to have to implement restriction measures again. And I don't think any Oregonian wants to go backward," Brown said. "... We're all in this together."
She said that while there are some businesses operating in violation of her orders, "that does not reflect the majority."
Those who continue to break the orders will face fines, she said.
She encouraged people to tell someone if they are getting too close or ask them to wear a mask if they should be wearing one.
She said she would not be asking law enforcement to stop cars going to the coast, but she will encourage Oregonians to consider others.
Sidelinger said cell phone data shows that most Oregonians have been following the orders.
People who are sick have been doing what contact tracers tell them to, he said, and while there are measures in place to force compliance, they haven't been necessary.
Farmworkers and minorities
Brown said farmworkers and minorities have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and she said those communities will be "at the forefront of our recovery work."
She said agricultural workers are essential, and the state is investing in resources for housing, adequate funding and sanitation facilities, as well as education and outreach. She said she is also working to make sure farmworkers can get money if they need to stay home because they are sick.
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