Oregon continues to make progress this week in the fight against COVID-19 (Coronavirus), state leaders announced today.
During a Sept. 4 press conference, Oregon Governor Kate Brown was joined by Oregon Health Authority (OHA) Director Pat Allen and Dr. Dean Sidelinger, health officer and state epidemiologist, to discuss the current virus trends ahead of Labor Day weekend.
Prior to the update, Gov. Brown addressed the ongoing protests in Portland regarding racial equity and police accountability. Gov. Brown said she has continued to speak with community leaders and they continue to make progress, citing the passing of six police accountability bills in Oregon during June.
Those bills included outlawing the use of respiratory restricting restraints, duty to report and intervene in response to misconduct, transparency of police discipline records, protecting freedom of speech and assembly from excessive force, committee on transparent policing and use of force reform and discipline guidelines and arbitration decisions.
“For those who have experienced racism and discrimination first hand, I know that slow and steady progress toward justice doesn’t feel fast enough… it isn’t,” Gov. Brown said. “Like many of you, I too am angry that black and brown Oregonians continue to fear for their lives and for their families. These accomplishments are just a start, but it’s progress in a relatively short period of time.”
Gov. Brown said she has come up with a plan to organize a community forum to invite protest organizers, community leaders and others to work toward racial justice and police reform. The forum will begin meeting in the coming days.
“I’ve listed all these activities I’ve been working on with community leaders because achieving racial justice and accountability for law enforcement is my goal here,” Gov. Brown said.
As a part of the plan, Gov. Brown said they will continue to focus on allowing free speech while also putting a halt to arson and violence in Portland.
“The violence must stop, period,” Gov. Brown said. “Our country’s worst moments have been defined by fear and hatred, and our greatest moments are defined by peace, understanding and justice. The only way through this is if we work together.”
Flattening the Virus Curve
OHA director Pat Allen said the state is on a clear downtrend of daily COVID-19 cases statewide. In the latest data, OHA reported a 30 percent drop in weekly cases as compared to the peak of the pandemic in Oregon.
“That’s a really encouraging sign and it’s validation that more people are taking seriously the guidance to wear face coverings, practice physical distancing and to limit gatherings,” Allen said.
Efforts of Oregonians are working, says Allen, but they will need to keep up the pressure in order to open school classrooms for students and allow businesses to recover from the closures. Allen said social gatherings continue to be main cause of spreading the virus.
“We simply cannot celebrate Labor Day, and all the holidays coming up in the fall and winter, the way we have celebrated them in the past,” Allen said.
Gov. Brown urged Oregonians to make smart choices when it comes to virus this weekend, stating that three times Oregon has seen spikes in COVID-19 after a holiday weekend since the pandemic began.
“I ask you, as you make your plans for Labor Day, please don’t let your fatigue with these restrictions take away from our collective goal or reducing infection and preventing deaths,” Gov. Brown said. “The more we all follow good safety practices, the safer you and your family will be.”
Both Gov. Brown and Allen hope Oregonians will stay local as much as possible and stay in small groups this weekend. If you do plan to be in a group, health officials are recommending you do so outside. Health officials also encourage everyone to keep a six foot distance, wear a face covering when physical distance cannot be maintain, and continually wash your hands.
Oregon has accounted for over 27,000 COVID-19 cases and 475 deaths so far. However, last week marked the fourth consecutive week that case totals have dropped, at a 8.6 percent drop from the previous week.
Testing positivity is also down to 4.4 percent, the first time since June that it has been below five percent. Below five percent is the figure needed to reopen classrooms. Allen said they are encouraged by the figures, but wants Oregonian not to lessen up.
“Any lapse in our collective vigilance or in our individual judgement can have far ranging impacts on us, our families and our communities,” Allen said. “It’s not just about flattening the curve, it’s about keeping it flat.”
Dr. Sidelinger spoke about the newest OHA modeling that has also provided some encouraging signs. The modeling shows that each case is generating less than one other case, which is a reason for the daily case number decrease. However, Dr. Sidelinger said there is still work to be done.
“The virus is extremely contagious, spreads very quickly and it wouldn’t take much for cases to spike again,” Dr. Sidelinger said.
At the current transmission rate, Dr. Sidelinger said they could see a substantial drop in daily case numbers by the end of September. As a result of the progress, the state is looking at reopening some lower risk activities, such as public pools and playgrounds. But the continued progress will depend on others’ individual efforts to follow the safety guidelines.
“It’s on every one of us to maintain the progress we’ve made to stop COVID-19 and together I know we can do it and get through this holiday weekend and keep the pressure up on COVID-19 in Oregon,” Dr. Sidelinger said.