Multnomah County Commissioner Sharon Meieran says her recent trip to the Big Island of Hawaii posed little to no threat of spreading the novel coronavirus.
Though Meieran cites her negative COVID-19 test, double mask and social distancing as effective mitigation against any health risk — the second-term official and practicing ER doc admits that she failed to anticipate the "political repercussions" of the two-week vacation.
"I really am sorry and regret what this has become, and I should have thought it through more," she said on Nov. 24. "Not because of any COVID risk, but because of the whole distraction."
Meieran's vacation was first spotted by KGW News, which reported that the balmy condo in the background of Meieran's videofeed during virtual board meetings had stirred rumblings of discontent from county workers. Washington County Commissioner Dick Schouten and Commissioner Jerry Wiley have respectively traveled to Hawaii and Mexico in recent days, KGW investigative journalist Kyle Iboshi reported.
Meieran, who represents downtown Portland and the Central Eastside on the County Commission, said she likely knows who made the complaint, describing it as "political."
But it's also true that Meieran's own words can be used against her.
As recently as Nov. 12, Meieran was telling Willamette Week that Oregon needed to return to a full-scale shutdown akin to the stay-at-home orders imposed in March — even though she was already on holiday.
"We need a real shutdown, and this is something I would pursue in Multnomah County if the governor does not do it at the state level," she told the paper.
In the phone interview, Meieran suggested that her calls to shut down were consistent with facts showing most of the viral spread was attributable to everyday activities like shopping for groceries or a stroll through the mall.
Meieran pointed to a Harvard study showing a greater risk of catching COVID at the supermarket than while flying — due to the filters, mandatory mask wearing and disinfection protocols instituted on planes.
"I don't think it's hypocritical to advocate strenuously for public health protocols and plans that will help save lives," she said. "I did all the things that were required, and there was a lot to do. It mitigates risk."
Meieran said she had been yearning to return to Hawaii after the election subsided, but only snapped up the tickets in mid-October, after the island state dropped automatic quarantine rules for visitors who submitted a negative COVID test result 72 hours before traveling.
Meieran said she did so, and that it happened before Gov. Kate Brown had implemented a West Coast travel advisory on Nov. 13. KGW reported that Meieran's husband, emergency room physician Fred Cirillo, joined her in Hawaii after the advice was in effect, however.
Hawaii has reported nearly 17,500 cases of coronavirus and 231 deaths as of press time.
"I doubled masked, with an N95, and didn't eat or drink" on the flight, Meieran said. "It felt much safer than going to a mall in Oregon for a few hours."
Meieran and her husband boarded a five-hour flight home on Nov. 24, as planned.
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