Governor Kate Brown today issued the following statement regarding planned defiance of her Executive Orders, which have reduced the spread of COVID-19 across Oregon:
“Oregon’s health and safety measures are in place to protect Oregonians, save lives, and keep our hospitals and health care workers from becoming overwhelmed by COVID-19. Oregonians have made incredible sacrifices throughout this pandemic and, now, many communities across Oregon are reducing the spread of COVID-19 and moving into risk levels that allow restaurants and businesses to reopen to at least some indoor service.
“If businesses reopen too early and instead create new spikes in COVID-19 cases, the actions of a few business owners could set entire communities back and keep them in the Extreme Risk category for even longer.
“It’s unfortunate and irresponsible that some local politicians are choosing to willfully mislead business owners into jeopardizing public health and risking fines, instead of working with their communities to help stop the spread of COVID-19 so that we can reopen businesses, schools, and more quickly return to normal life.
“Let me be clear: Local elected officials do not have the authority under Oregon law to disregard my emergency orders or to authorize anyone else to do so. Any businesses that reopen in violation of state risk level requirements for their county will be subject to fines and enforcement. Undoubtedly, those same local elected officials who are encouraging businesses to fully reopen and flagrantly disregard public health are unlikely to have the backs of businesses when faced with fines and penalties, nor are they likely to be willing to be held responsible for the public health impacts their actions create.
“I am urging all Oregon businesses to put the health of their communities first by following the guidance we have in place for their counties. A large majority of businesses continue to do the right thing to protect their communities. However, when Oregonians don’t take COVID-19 seriously, and don’t take steps to reduce the spread of the disease, they put all of us at risk.
“I have directed Oregon OSHA and the OLCC to deploy all available resources to ensure businesses are in compliance. I expect enforcement agencies to continue to use an education first approach, but Oregonians need to understand that these rules are enforceable under law. For businesses that refuse to comply, OSHA and OLCC staff are empowered to take administrative action including issuing citations, fines, and Red Warning Notices if necessary.
“Oregon has led in our response to COVID-19, and help is on the way for struggling businesses. I proposed new resources for rent relief for businesses in the third special session, and I expect a new round of federal aid to be delivered soon. We can’t waiver in our response to the virus now, when the end is finally in sight and resources are on the way. We are better than this. As we head into the new year, I am asking all Oregonians, yet again, to commit to making smart choices and to take seriously their individual responsibilities during a public health emergency.”
Clackamas County Commission Chair Jim Bernard was critical of Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam's call for businesses to open dining rooms despite the Governor's Executive Order. Here's Bernard's statement:
I am dismayed by the unsubstantiated claims by Sandy Mayor Stan Pulliam to the press relating to the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the Sandy area.
Data related to COVID-19 cases in Clackamas County has been available to the public. We are always willing to discuss and share COVID-19 data with community leaders.
We understand that everyone is tired of this global pandemic. We understand that businesses who remain restricted or closed want to open and that they have been hit hard over the last several months. We share the desire to reopen. Yet reopening must be balanced with keeping our communities safe.
Unsubstantiated claims about data tampering or padding erodes public trust, fosters fear in the community and is insulting to the public health officials, healthcare workers and public servants who are working tirelessly to keep you and your community safe. What would Clackamas County’s motive be to tampering with data? We gain noting and certainly have not wished to cause businesses to fail.
Public Health officials have the duty to truthfully share information and facts related to diseases in the communities they serve. It is unfair to target the ethics of an agency or the people who serve the community when the truth is something that is undesirable and painful.
We must work together to work towards reopening and recovery. Spreading unsubstantiated claims within the community only leads to further division.
We can see the end of this pandemic ahead. Please continue to keep up the good work in keeping your family and neighbors safe from COVID-19.