State parks and campgrounds will close Monday, March 23, by order of Oregon Gov. Kate Brown.
Oregon previously planned to close campgrounds temporarily starting on April 3. The temporary closures come due to concerns over the spread of the novel coronavirus, which causes a disease called COVID-19.
"We would have preferred an orderly shutdown of the system and to remain open for daytime visits, but our concern for the effects on rural health care systems requires us to move up and expand our plans," said Lisa Sumption, director of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, in a statement released Sunday afternoon, March 22. "We know this will cause a disruption, since we're suspending service to everyone, even people who live near a park. Reducing contact between people is more important than recreation at the moment."
Media reports and photos Saturday, March 21, showed many people flocked to Oregon's ocean beaches, as well as state parks in the Columbia River Gorge, despite state officials urging people to avoid congregating and stay home if they can.
Brown criticized the crowds on Twitter Sunday morning.
"On Friday night, I asked all Oregonians, on the eve of spring break, to stay home and stay healthy," Brown Tweeted. "Unfortunately, our trails and beaches were packed this weekend. I want to be absolutely clear, you are endangering all Oregonians when not following social distancing orders."
The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department alluded to the issues Brown raised in announcing the temporary closures Sunday afternoon.
"With new guidance from the governor, and clear signs that travelers are not following advice to avoid full parks, a statewide state park closure is necessary," the statement noted.
The closure does not apply to beaches. However, the Parks and Recreation Department warned it can close beaches at its discretion and will do so if officials determine people aren't following social distancing guidelines.
Day-use area closures will begin at 5 p.m. Monday. Campers are being told to check out by 1 p.m.
Oregon still isn't under a statewide remain-at-home order, as a growing number of cities and states around the country are.
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said earlier Sunday that he plans to issue a stay-at-home order for his city on Monday if there is no statewide order in place by then. Other regional mayors have called on Brown to issue a statewide order as well.
Brown and other state and local officials have asked people to maintain six feet of separation from one another in public to avoid spreading the coronavirus. People are also encouraged to wash their hands frequently and disinfect surfaces.
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