By TED TAYLOR
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
Gov. Kate Brown on Friday said she will once again tighten restrictions on some businesses if Oregonians don’t step up their COVID safety compliance by wearing masks and continuing to social distance.
The goal, she said, is to reduce COVID cases throughout the state so school kids can return to the classroom sooner rather than later this fall.
“If we cannot improve our trajectory over the rest of the month by increasing compliance, I will need to add more restrictions,” she said. “When it comes to controlling the virus, we have the tools. We need you – we need everyone to use them.”
Brown said she will consider closing restaurants and bars – or allowing only takeout and outdoor dining. Additionally, she will consider quarantines for people visiting Oregon from hot spot states and for Oregonians returning from vacations around the country.
There is no travel ban planned for the Labor Day holiday weekend. She set no firm timetable on when further restrictions might happen.
“It’s a decision, by all of us working together, we can prevent,” she said in a virtual press conference from Salem.
Brown said the state is reporting about 300 COVID cases each day, well above the 60 per day needed for schools to reopen to students.
“We need to see much more rapid decline in case numbers and we need to see it quickly,” she said.
State Health Officer Dr. Dean Sidelinger said new COVID transmission is slowing and there has been a pattern of decline since July 4th.
“While our COVID-19 data shows we are doing better than many other states, the virus continues to be a significant threat in our communities,” he said. “And we’re not close to keeping the infection rate at a level we’d need to reopen schools across Oregon.”
Schools across the state will begin the year with comprehensive distance learning options for students as counties work to lower infection rates.
Locally, Bend-La Pine has committed to an online model for at least the first six weeks of the year.
Redmond says it will review the health metrics for Deschutes County after three weeks to determine if they’re able to bring back kids in grades K-3.
Locally, COVID cases appear to have declined significantly this week.
Deschutes County has reported just 22 COVID cases since Sunday and is trending toward what would be the fewest cases in any week since mid-June.
And Crook County reported zero new cases four days this week.
Brown said she would lean on local governments and businesses themselves to drive home the message on wearing masks, social distancing and other guidelines that are helping to slow the spread of the virus.
She said local governments need to “get creative” in enforcing face-covering and social distancing rules.
In July, the Bend City Council issued a new administrative order that would impose a civil infraction penalty up to $500 to those violating the state’s mask mandates.
Under the order, fines would be $100 for the first infraction, $200 for a second and $500 for a third.
Brown said it was imperative municipalities set a good example, adding that she’s heard from communities where law enforcement is choosing not to wear face coverings.
“This is absolutely unacceptable,” she said.
Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen said the data shows what Oregonians are doing to stop the spread of the virus is working.
“Everyone needs to do what we’re doing – harder,” Allen said. “And cause that decrease that’s occurring right now to steepen.”
Allen said the state secured more than 400,000 tests which will allow clinics to add more than 20,000 tests per week on average.