Deschutes County commissioners on Monday appeared frustrated in their first meeting since the governor announced at two-week statewide freeze to slow the spread of COVID-19.
After a COVID update from county health leaders, commissioners Phil Henderson and Patti Adair discussed whether any counties were taking action against the governor’s order, announced last week.
Adair cited a Clackamas County commissioner who said on Facebook she planned to host a Thanksgiving dinner for as many people as she could find.
“I think we all feel the same way; no one asked us what the governor should do,” Henderson said.
Said Adair: “Nobody asked us. The governor wasn’t even on our call Friday afternoon when all the commissioners were furious that she made this a blanket shutdown for our state.”
Local cases dipped slightly last week, but are still well above what the county had been experiencing over the summer and early fall.
The county reported 187 cases last week, down from 192 the week before.
Cases have been steadily climbing in Deschutes County since early September when there were fewer than 20 for a three-week stretch.
Henderson, who lost a bid for re-election earlier this month, questioned the seriousness of the virus.
“I have trouble understanding why this particular illness is being treated different than anything in my 65 years of life,” he said. “I have trouble understanding why we’re changing everything. In the whole history of humankind, there’s been way worse things than this that didn’t do this and yet we’re doing this to the detriment of so many things.”
Adair went on to say the “true pandemic was in 1918” when more Americans died from the flu than in combat during World War I.
She then repeated requests for everyone to wear a mask, keep their distance, and wash their hands.
“People are getting tired of the message and you only get to live once,” she said.
Commissioner Tony Debone also questioned the governor’s strict new measures and said it was part of a bigger question of the “ethics and guidance of leadership during a pandemic.”
He applauded the county health department’s actions of simply providing the data and the recommending best practices.
“But then the governor’s office has always really gone to this one size fits all solution, we’re going to take these rights away, we’re going to stop your businesses because the population’s health is a higher priority than your free will to run a business,” he said.
Soon after the county health department’s update – with new numbers on hospitalizations, case counts, and test positivity rates – Henderson said he still hasn’t seen the data to back up a shutdown.
“Why should people continue…other than the governor says we have to… what keeps you putting your mask on, what keeps you distancing,” he said. “Because if it’s important to do, we should do it, but we don’t have very many numbers to see that. I’m just trying to understand that.”