Gov. Brown: My order trumps president's call to reopen U.S.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said Tuesday, March 24, that President Donald Trump's desire to scale back social distancing measures to benefit the economy as soon as possible highlights the tradeoff leaders across the country face as they attempt to control the spread of coronavirus,
"I am not interested in unnecessarily closing down businesses and taking jobs if we don't need to do that," said Brown, a Democrat who on Monday, March 23, issued an order further restricting public activity in the state including shutting down recreational travel and businesses such as malls, tattoo parlors and barber shops. "The goal of my executive order was to balance those competing demands … While I don't agree with what the president said and how he said it, I think that's what he was trying to say."
Trump said during a March 24 Fox News virtual town hall that he "would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter," April 12. That contradicts the guidance of many health experts, including in his administration, who have urged governors to keep current measures in place longer and enact even stricter rules to limit social interaction and prevent the rapid spread of the virus.
Brown's latest executive order directs people to stay home except for essential activities such as grocery shopping. It will remain in place indefinitely, she said. She previously ordered schools to remain closed through April 28.
As for whether Trump can supersede the governor's executive orders, Brown said she did not know and would have to ask her lawyers. "My priority is keeping Oregonians safe and making sure that we are ensuring that we protect Oregon lives and Oregon livelihoods," Brown said. "When I was on the phone with (Trump) earlier this week, he clearly said that these difficult decisions are in the hands of governors. So I would expect that it stay that way."
Brown said she will base her eventual decision to lift Oregon's social distancing measures on the guidance of hospital officials, epidemiologists and physicians. She acknowledged that the uncertainty of not knowing when life in Oregon will start getting back to normal is "really, really hard."
As lawmakers prepare for a special session as soon as next week, the governor said she wants them to approve "roughly in the neighborhood of $250 million" to aid the state's response to COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus. Lawmakers should also set aside some additional wildfire fighting money for the Oregon Department of Forestry because "our fire season is not too far away," Brown said.
"The bottom line, however, is we have far more needs than we have resources," Brown said. "As you are well aware, the economy is tumbling down and we don't know what that will look like until we have the May" state revenue forecast.
Another topic Brown addressed in her March 24 telephone call with reporters was whether the 2021 world track and field championships in Eugene might be pushed back, given the postponement of the summer 2020 Olympics in Japan. "I would anticipate we'll hear an announcement about the delay of the world athletic games as well," Brown said.
This article was provided to Pamplin Media Group by The Oregonian/OregonLive as part of a new collaborative covering the novel coronavirus.
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