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Governor restores 'critical restrictions' to stem COVID-19 rise

Oregon will restrict or close many businesses, curtail activities and put a six-person limit on gatherings, including Thanksgiving, under a statewide “Two-Week Freeze” starting Wednesday in an effort to stem rising COVID-19 infection rates, Gov. Kate Brown announced Friday.

“These risk reduction measures are critical,” Brown said in a statement.

The action by executive order comes the day after Oregon reported a record-smashing 1,122 new cases Thursday, including 4 deaths.

The number of people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 is 303, the first time the state has breached the 300-patient mark since the pandemic crisis hit Oregon in February.

Under the plan effective Nov. 18 to Dec. 2:

  • Take-out only from restaurants and bars
  • Close all gyms and fitness organizations.
  • Close indoor recreational and entertainment facilities, including theaters, museums, pools, sports courts and hosting venues.
  • Close outdoor recreational facilities, zoos, gardens, aquariums, entertainment activities, including pools and hosting venues.
  • Faith-based gatherings are limited to 25 people indoors or 50 people outdoors.
  • Prohibits indoor visits to long-term care facilities.
  • Limits grocery stores and pharmacies to 75% capacity and encourages curbside pick-up.
  • Limits retail stores and retail malls — both indoor and outdoor — to a 75% capacity and encourages curbside pick-up.
  • Requires all businesses mandate work-from-home to the greatest extent possible and close offices to the public.

The restrictions came with several exemptions:

“The Two-Week Freeze does not apply to or change current health and safety protocols for personal services (such as barber shops, hair salons, and non-medical massage therapy),” Brown said.

It also does not affect congregate homeless sheltering, outdoor recreation and sports, youth programs, childcare, K-12 schools, K-12 sports currently allowed, current Division 1 and professional athletics exemptions, and higher education.

All the exemptions would continue operating under previous guidance issued by the Oregon Health Authority.

The Oregon Health Authority will be issue additional guidance within the next week. Sectors without specific prohibitions or guidance must operate under previous directives.

Brown and the governors of California and Washington earlier on Friday issued identical travel advisories.

Travelers going out of state are urged to quarantine for 14 days upon their return home.

Brown was scheduled to discuss other actions she is taking at a noon press conference.

While Oregon is still experiencing less overall impact from the virus than other states, the current rapid rise is already stretching hospital availability in the Portland area and showing strain elsewhere in the state.

Brown has already placed a two-week pause on social activities in nine counties, beginning Nov. 11 and had said adding additional counties was a future option.

Delaying elective surgeries in some areas where hospital beds are becoming more difficult has already been instituted at three major hospital providers based in the Portland area: Legacy Health, Oregon Health & Science University and Kaiser Permanente Northwest. Check with your doctor or medical center for their status.

Under the three-state plan announced Friday morning, “non-essential travel” should be cancelled or delayed.

The advisory define essential travel as travel for work and study, critical infrastructure support, economic services and supply chains, health, immediate medical care, and safety and security.

Visitors entering or returning from the three states should minimize their exposure to others for 14 days after arriving from another state. In the case of the three states, the advisory would mean an Oregonian traveling to California or Washington should quarantine for 14 days on their arrival and then another 14 days upon return.

The governors of the three states reiterated early requests that residents not risk out-of-state travel for the Thanksgiving holiday.

“COVID-19 does not stop at state lines,” Brown said in a statement. “As hospitals across the West are stretched to capacity, we must take steps to ensure travelers are not bringing this disease home with them.”

The three-state advisory also recommends individuals limit their interactions to their immediate household.

The United States registered 150,000 cases on Thursday, a new record. Current hospitalizations for Covid-19 hit a new record of 67,096 on Thursday, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

California on Thursday became the second state to surpass one million case. Texas is the other. Nationwide, 10.6 million people have been infected and 242,918 people have died, according to the Johns Hopkins Coranavirus Resource Center.

Worldwide, more than 53 million people have been infected and 1.3 million have died. the center said. As of Thursday’s report, an estimated 53,779 people have been infected in Oregon, with 746 deaths.

Pfizer-BioNTech announced this week that preliminary results of a vaccine under development had a 90 percent effective rate. Additional tests and reviews will be required, but the company hopes to start shipping vaccine by the end of the year. However, it will likely take several months for the vaccine to become widely available.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, writing in The Hill political website, said this week the vaccine development was good news, but there were still many hurdles to get it to people around the globe.

“If everything goes perfectly with this vaccine, there is still a Herculean vaccine distribution task that lies ahead,” Adalja wrote. “This vaccine, and several other candidates, are two-dose vaccines that require both doses for full effect.”