Executive order creates statewide ‘freeze’

Among the restrictions accompanying the governor’s latest executive order is the requirement for restaurants to serve take-out and delivery only while most personal services remain open under COVID-19 safety guidelines.

The latest restrictions come in the wake of a continued COVID-19 surge throughout Oregon

Governor Kate Brown solidified her statewide “two-week freeze” policy in an executive order on Tuesday following her announcement last week of the strategy to stem the increasing spread of COVID-19.

“Actions taken now will help prevent lives from being lost — not just from COVID-19, but from other diseases or accidents that lead people to need hospital-level care, which they would not be able to get if hospital beds and hospital staff are fully occupied with COVID-19 patients,” said Brown. “The situation is dire and requires and urgent, immediate and decisive response to quell the current surge in COVID-19 infections, before it is too late.”

On Tuesday, Oregon Health Authority (OHA) reported 935 new confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 in a 24-hour period, bringing the state total to 58,570. Daily case rates were as low as 200-300 per day in September.

Fewer than 10 cases have been reported in both 97424 and 97426 ZIP codes in the past two weeks.

The two-week freeze under Executive Order 20-65 went into effect Nov. 18 and continues until at least Dec. 2 and includes:

• Limiting restaurants to delivery and take-out only

• Limiting retail, grocery stores and pharmacies to 75 percent capacity while strongly encouraging curbside pickup

• Closing gyms, fitness organizations and venues that host indoor and outdoor events

• Limiting funeral services and faith-based venues to a maximum of 25 people indoors or 50 outdoors

• Requiring remote work if at all possible for all businesses

In addition, at-home and social gatherings are limited to a maximum of six people from no more than two households.

The governor acknowledged that the timing of the imposed limit on social gatherings just a week before Thanksgiving would complicate many families’ plans for the national holiday.

“I know it doesn’t look like the Thanksgiving holiday we’ve all been planning for weeks and I know it’s really, really hard,” she said. “But unfortunately, it’s a necessity right now.”

Brown has also asked for Oregonians to wear a mask at all times, whether indoors or outdoors, except when eating or drinking.

Meanwhile, emergency response activities, shelter and meal programs serving vulnerable populations and homeless encampments are exempt from the requirements of the executive order, though they must continue to comply to OHA guidance.

Higher education, schools, childcare and youth programs will continue under Oregon Department of Education and OHA guidelines.

Transportation services were not addressed in the executive order, however, Gov. Brown, California Governor Gavin Newsom and Washington Governor Jay Inslee last week issued travel advisories in a coordinated move between the three states. The travel advisory urges a 14-day quarantines for all inter-state and international travel and asks residents to stay local.

“COVID-19 does not stop at state lines,” Brown said. “As hospitals across the West are stretched to capacity, we must take steps to ensure travelers are not bringing this disease home with them. If you do not need to travel, you shouldn’t. This will be hard, especially with Thanksgiving around the corner. But the best way to keep your family safe is to stay close to home.”

The measures in Executive Order 20-65 are enforceable by law upon both individuals and businesses, however, the governor is urging voluntary compliance and said she expects law enforcement to use an education-first approach.

During a Nov. 13 press conference, Gov. Brown stated she has directed the Oregon State Police Superintendent Terri Davie to begin working with local law enforcement.

“[Executive orders] are enforceable by law,” she said. “I will be asking our Oregon State Police to work collaboratively with local law enforcement to enforce the limits on social gatherings.”

As an enforceable law, violators may be convicted of a Class C misdemeanor, which is punishable by 30 days in jail, a fine of $1,250 or both.

On Tuesday, the Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association, the Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police and the Oregon State Police released a joint statement encouraging Oregonians to comply with the governor’s executive order during the two-week freeze.

“As your fellow community members, please join us in adhering to the governor’s executive order during the two-week coronavirus freeze,” read the statement. “As your Oregon law enforcement professionals, our primary objective throughout the coronavirus pandemic has been to take an education-first approach and to seek voluntary compliance with each executive order. We recognize the inconvenience the pandemic and subsequent restrictions have caused all of us. We also know that the risk to our most vulnerable populations is extremely high at this time and we urge everyone to follow these restrictions in order to protect them.”

The Cottage Grove Police Department (CGPD) has also indicated it will seek compliance of the executive order through education first.

“We would only take enforcement action if there was something that was really flagrant and really a problem,” said CGPD Chief Scott Shepherd.

CGPD has not had to resort to enforcement of the governor’s executive orders regarding COVID-19 restrictions this year, Shepherd added.

Local Response

As a result of the announcement of the statewide freeze, the City of Cottage Grove has implemented its own restrictions effective Nov. 16 through Dec. 4.

City buildings will be closed to all public access with the exception of Middlefield Pro Shop, which will have limited capacity.

The Cottage Grove Public Library computer access services will also be closed, though curbside library materials will continue to be available.

No public in-building attendance will be available for meetings. All guests will need to attend meetings virtually by visiting the city’s webpage for meeting link information. 

To reduce risk of exposures, several city staff positions are transitioning to work from home and transportation is limited to one city employee per city vehicle.

The city also partnered with the Chamber of Commerce and Cottage Grove Downtown this week to hold virtual meetings addressing the challenges to local businesses as a result of the two-week freeze.

“We fully understand the frustration of going through another closure and are worried how that could impact our businesses,” said City Manager Richard Meyers, who helped host the meetings.

Representatives from some local businesses attended a virtual meeting on Tuesday where participants brainstormed ideas to adapt to the restrictions.

“We need to get the word out there that Cottage Grove is not closed. Our businesses are not closed,” said Chamber of Commerce CEO/President Shauna Neigh. “We’ve heard from a good amount of businesses that they’re keeping the same hours.”

Meyers suggested revisiting the idea of curbside pick-ups, though noted that the method lacked the benefit of allowing customers to browse purchasing options.

Neigh recommended that businesses put together and send the Chamber a 30– to 50-second video of business’ merchandise, which will be posted on social media.

On Tuesday, Gov. Brown also announced the commitment of $55 million in financial assistance to support Oregon businesses which have been impacted by COVID-19 restrictions.

In a press release, the governor’s office indicated that the funds will be allocated to counties to distribute to businesses who have been financially impacted — with a priority for the hospitality industry, businesses impacted by the freeze, small businesses, and women, Black, Indigenous, people of color and tribal-owned businesses.

Each county will be receiving a base of $500,000 plus a per capita allocation of the remainder of the funds. 

The counties will be responsible for deciding how businesses apply to receive funds and communicating the application process to businesses.

The governor’s office anticipates that funds will be distributed to counties within the next several weeks.

During the two-week freeze, the City of Cottage Grove urges residents to contact public bodies remotely for services.

To set appointments for planning, zoning and building issues, call the Public Works and Development Department at 541-942-3340.

Contact the Finance Department at 541-942-3346 for assistance with water or sewer service.

To arrange curbside materials with the library, contact by phone at 541-942-3828 or email at [email protected]

Visit the library’s webpage at www.cottage grove.org/library to access the library card catalog.

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