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Kate Brown says school reopening is her priority, and will impose new restrictions if COVID-19 numbers don't drop.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Gov. Kate Brown is threatening new restrictions if coronavirus numbers don't improve.At the current rate of transmission officials say it could be seven months or more before in-person schooling can resume, and Gov. Kate Brown on Friday, Aug. 21, said she was prepared to impose new restrictions if things don't improve.

Defending her past response to the pandemic as a balancing act, Brown said, "unfortunately, it's still not enough. Our infection rate is still too high to get all of our kids safely back in classrooms at most of our schools this fall."

She noted that Oregon's COVID-19 mortality rate is one of the lowest in the country, but said the current infection rate was still too high. To hasten opening of schools around Oregon for in-person instruction, Brown said she was prepared to impose restrictions on travel in and out of Oregon, and additional restrictions on businesses. She asked that local officials and people around Oregon do more.

"Local community leaders, county officials and businesses, and all Oregonians can step up their efforts to implement and enforce our existing guidelines, face coverings, physical distancing, sanitation, contact tracing and compliance with isolation and quarantine," Brown said.

If not, she "can implement further business restrictions and travel restrictions for people entering Oregon, or returning from trips outside the state ... The data indicates that either one of these strategies will work. Either one will drive down the spread of the virus more quickly. Either one gives us a fighting chance to open up in-person instruction ... in much of the state later this fall."

Brown said she was directing her message to local elected officials, business leaders and others. "If we cannot improve our trajectory over the rest of the month," she said, "unfortunately I will need to add more restrictions."

Under the latest projections, she said, it looks to be about 200 days before schools can reopen for classroom instruction. But with significant improvements that figure can be cut as low as six weeks.

Currently the state is reporting about 300 new infections confirmed by testing each day. She said that number needs to drop by 80 percent, to about 60 per day.

Oregon health officials in the same press conference said that the latest modeling report indicates that the state continues to hold steady in transmission rates, with each case of coronavirus leading to one more.

That reproduction rate needs to drop from 1 to 0.75, they said.

Despite a new modeling report showing no improvement in the past two weeks, Oregon Health Authority Director Pat Allen said he thought the modeling report is lagging the situation. He cited encouraging signs in recent weeks that he said show improvement, such as a drop in confirmed cases and in the rate of positive coronavirus tests.

To read the latest modeling report, click here.


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