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Gov. Kate Brown speaks at a news conference March 16, 2020, in Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus)
By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 23 March 2020

govorders stayhomePORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Gov. Kate Brown ordered Oregonians to stay home Monday and banned all non-essential gatherings and travel to try to slow the spread of the new coronavirus after crowds of people descended on the state's beach towns and hiking trails over the weekend despite pleas to stay home.

The crowds prompted several coastal towns to order non-residents out and shut down hotels and short-term rentals. More than two dozen mayors of cities in the Portland metropolitan area also petitioned Brown over the weekend to take stricter action on social distancing.

New York, California, Illinois and other states have also told people to stay in their homes.

Brown said she was particularly upset to see Oregonians flocking to places such as Smith Rock State Park and the Columbia River Gorge. 

"I started by asking Oregonians to stay home and practice social distancing.

"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," she said Monday.

"Now, I'm ordering it. To save lives and protect our community." 

Oregon has had five deaths from COVID-19 and 191 confirmed cases, including 30 new cases which were reported Monday.  

Monday's order closes businesses where close personal contact is unavoidable, such as arcades, barbershops, hair salons, nail salons, gyms and fitness studios, skating rinks, theaters and yoga studios. Also closed are outdoor playgrounds, sport courts and public and private campgrounds. It also closes malls and retail complexes, bowling alleys, pool halls, swimming pools and amusement parks. 

Essential retail businesses

Essential retail businesses that remain open, such as grocery stores and pharmacies, must enforce social distancing measures of six feet or more between customers, Brown said. Bars, restaurants and coffee shops can continue to serve takeout and delivery but will remain closed for dine-in service.

Hiking trails will remain open but the order gives the state authority to close them immediately if crowds of people show up that prevent social distancing of six feet, Nik Blosser, Brown's chief of staff, said in a phone interview Monday.

“We're not unilaterally closing every trail or park. But we now have the authority to pretty quickly close them if people don't observe those guidelines,” he said.

Violation of the order is a misdemeanor, although state officials said they were relying on Oregonians to comply on their own.

The order also outlines new guidelines for child care facilities. Daycares must keep children in groups of 10 or fewer students to limit the number of contacts. Daycare facilities that remain open must also prioritize the children of first responders, doctors, nurses and other critical medical workers when accepting children for care. 

"None of us have ever been through this before, and that means there is no way to know exactly what lies ahead. We don't know yet when this outbreak will end, or what changes this will bring for our state and for our country," she said.

"But I want to make sure that we've done all we can to end it as quickly as possible." 

The move came after Brown held a confusing press conference on Friday - on the eve of what would have been spring break - to urge people to stay home, but stopped short of issuing an executive order. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said over the weekend that he hoped for broad, statewide action but was ready to issue a citywide stay-at-home order Monday if that did not happen. 

Schools are closed until April 28, all bars and restaurants closed except for carryout and delivery and authorities have cancelled non-emergency medical procedures, surgeries and tests to free up bed space for an anticipated wave of coronavirus patients.

On Sunday, Brown also issued a temporary moratorium on residential evictions for failure to pay rent. The governor said she was looking for a way to help landlords meet their financial obligations as well.

Associated Press Writer Andrew Selsky in Salem, Oregon contributed to this report.

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