Gov. Kate Brown issued Executive Order 20-12 on March 23, ordering Oregonians to stay at home to the maximum extent possible and added more businesses to a growing list of establishments that must remain closed to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 in Oregon.
The move comes as the state’s count of coronavirus cases continues to rise, totaling 209 confirmed cases as of press time, which includes five positive tests and one death in Lane County.
“This order is designed to flatten the curve over the coming weeks, preserving scarce hospital space and equipment. It will also ensure that any place of business that remains operational does its part to enforce social distancing rules,” said Brown. “It is designed to be more sustainable over time, to allow Oregonians to keep their jobs when their work does not add to the growth of COVID-19 in Oregon.”
The order is effective immediately, and remains in effect until ended by the governor.
Brown issued the order after learning that crowds had gathered over the weekend at tourist destinations such as Smith Rock State Park, the Columbia River Gorge and the state’s coast despite prior directions to limit social gatherings.
“I started by asking Oregonians to stay home and practice social distancing,” stated Brown. “Then I urged the public to follow these recommendations. Instead, thousands crowded the beaches of our coastal communities, our trails, our parks and our city streets, potentially spreading COVID-19 and endangering the lives of others across the state. Now, I’m ordering it. To save lives and protect our community.”
Under the order, individuals are directed to stay home unless absolutely necessary. The restriction applies to non-essential social and recreational gatherings, regardless of size, if a distance of at least six feet between individuals cannot be maintained.
In cases where people must leave their residences, the governor’s order states that social distancing of six feet must be maintained unless with members of one’s immediate household.
Oregonians are directed to restrict travel to obtaining or providing food, shelter, essential consumer needs, education, health care or emergency services.
The order does state, however, that Oregonians may still go outside for recreational activities such as walking and hiking, but limit those excursions to non-contact activities. Where non-contact is not possible to maintain, such activities are prohibited.
Effective immediately, all private and public campgrounds are to be closed, though the order does not prohibit camp hosts or veterans from remaining in state campgrounds, nor does it extend to RV parks and other housing.
The order does extend to pools, skate parks, outdoor sports courts and playground equipment areas.
The City of Cottage Grove has thus closed its playgrounds and tennis and basketball courts, though “the parks will remain open for people to be able to walk through for now as long as they are practicing safe social distancing,” said City Manager Richard Meyers.
Middlefield Golf Course, too, has been closed until further notice.
“We believe that is consistent with the intent of the governor’s message,” said Meyers.
Although the governor’s office has reportedly clarified that golf is considered a “hiking or walking activity,” the city made the decision to close the golf course because it does not deem the activity an “essential” service as detailed by the executive order.
The golf course will continue to be maintained and used for effluent discharge.
The list of closed businesses has been expanded under the new executive order to include those for which close personal contact is difficult or impossible to avoid. Establishments such as amusement parks, barber shops and hair solons, bowling alleys, dance studios, furniture stores, gyms, spas, theaters, youth clubs and several more were included in the closure list.
Of these businesses, however, those which provide food, groceries, health care, medical, pharmacy or pet store services are not prohibited from operating.
In keeping with the governor’s executive order issued last week, restaurants, bars, cafes and food courts will remain closed to on-site consumption of food or drink, but are allowed to continue take-out or delivery services.
All other businesses not subject to the closure are ordered to enforce social distancing policies consistent with guidance from OHA. Except for businesses offering grocery, health care, medical or pharmacy services, those out of compliance will be closed until social distancing policies are implemented.
To the extent it is maximally possible, all businesses and nonprofit entities with offices are also ordered to facilitate telework and work-at-home options for employees. If such options are unavailable, establishments are required to create and enforce social distancing policies.
Childcare facilities are allowed to remain open as long as “stable” groups of 10 or fewer children are maintained, meaning the group must consist of the same children each day. Classrooms must not be accessed by children outside the stable group.
These facilities must also prioritize the childcare needs of first responders, emergency workers and health care professionals, followed by critical operations staff and essential personnel.
Those childcare facilities which cannot meet requirements are ordered to close from March 25 through April 28 unless otherwise ordered by the governor.
All state executive branch offices and buildings, too, have been ordered to close to the public and provide public services by phone and online during regular business hours while necessary in-person interactions are to be conducted with social distancing measures in mind.
The executive order does not apply, however, to offices and buildings owned or occupied by the state legislative and judicial branches, federal government, local governments or tribal governments. Even so, such government bodies are “strongly encouraged” to adopt policies in line with the executive order.
In considering this, Cottage Grove has closed City Hall to the public, though certain city services will continue with social distancing in mind and some staff will be teleworking to help resume normal operations.
“We’ve looked at it from the standpoint of what the intent of her order was,” said Meyers. “But we are here still … if there’s anything that needs to happen, [people] can call and make appointments.”
Meetings which are subject to public meeting law will be offered online and those who do not have access to the internet may show up to the council chambers in City Hall to speak into through a microphone provided by the city. Attendance in the council chambers is limited to 10 individuals.
The Community Center and Cottage Grove Public Library, originally closed until March 30, are now indefinitely closed until the governor’s order is rescinded. So, too, with the Cottage Grove Armory, which was initially intended to be closed until April 14.
The executive order states that failure to comply with its provisions constitutes an “imminent threat” and creates an “immediate danger to public health,” therefore subject to a Class C Misdemeanor.
While the Cottage Grove Police Department will be enforcing certain closures and public conduct, Police Chief Scott Shepherd said it would not be a heavy-handed approach.
“We’re going to be doing education, not citation,” he said. “We’re looking for compliance. We’re looking for people to do what the governor’s ordered in a respectful way.”
However, enforcing certain directives of the order, Shepherd said, would not be feasible.
“As far as traveling back and forth goes, I really don’t think we’re equipped or able to monitor those kinds of things,” he said. “Hopefully folks take to heart what the governor is trying to do in trying to get people to reduce the amount of exposure they have or expose other people to.”