Witt: Legislative action as virus circulates
The Legislature's Joint Special Coronavirus Response Committee convened in Salem on Wednesday, March 18. The committee will be identifying actions to support economic relief and household stability for low-income workers and small businesses who are at risk of being significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. They will be monitoring Oregon's ongoing public health response, and producing budget and policy recommendations for consideration at a Legislative Special Session, to be convened when this committee has developed an emergency response package to address the statewide impacts of the coronavirus.
We are in uncharted territory when it comes to dealing with the COVID-19 virus pandemic. But Oregon has established a unified COVID-19 Response Center, using the incident management system that has been designed to respond to emergency situations. The Oregon Health Authority is coordinating the response, working with hospitals and health care providers focusing on testing capabilities, hospital capacity, health care workers and the supply of personal protective equipment.
Gov. Kate Brown has declared an emergency, closed public schools through April 28, is prohibiting gatherings of 25 people, banned on-site dining in bars and restaurants limiting them to takeout sales and delivery and has convened a Coronavirus Economic Advisory Council. The COVID-19 pandemic is unlike anything we have experienced in our lifetime, and the governor is working in this rapidly changing environment to take the steps necessary to protect Oregonians.
I will be joining with my colleagues to support actions that protect our families and communities, trying to mitigate the negative impacts on our vulnerable populations, low-wage earners and all sizes of business. Right now we need to work to protect our first responders, make sure the food supply chain is uninterrupted, and our health care workers have the personal protective equipment they need to safely do their jobs.
COVID-19 will impact every community, every industry, and businesses of all sizes. Most sectors of the economy are already impacted, and those impacts will continue for weeks, months, and possibly longer. Workers are already being laid off in large numbers, so lawmakers will be focusing on housing, food, health care, and taking steps to preserve the economy. Oregon's state budget depends on payroll taxes, and so we will be examining and working on the most effective immediate, short-term and longer needs for the economic well-being of all Oregonians.
Our first immediate need is to keep people safe and everyone needs to do their part. Remain calm and pay attention to the guidelines coming out of the Governor's office. Take care of yourself, don't expose yourself to this virus. You have control of your own health; by observing social distancing guidelines and staying at home as much as possible, you can avoid contracting and spreading COVID-19. Older adults and people who have underlying medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes or lung disease are at higher risk for serious illness. But even if you are not in a high-risk category, you have a responsibility to be equally careful not to contract and spread the virus. There is no vaccine and no medication for the coronavirus, so you need to take action to avoid contracting this virus.
The Oregon Health Authority is providing daily updates on COVID-19, if you would like more information you can visit their COVID-19 webpage at www.oregon.gov/oha.
Because of this situation, I have cancelled my in-person town halls. Instead, I ask that you please join me this Saturday, March 21, at 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Facebook for a live town hall.
The Capitol Building is currently closed to the public, but we monitor our email and phone daily and we are here to assist my constituents. If you need help on a state issue or have a concern regarding a state agency, contact my office and we will see what can be done.
Please take care of yourself and each other. Be safe.
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