Draft Guidelines Offer A Picture Of What A Reopened Oregon Would Look Like
Face masks might be a ticket of entry to your favorite restaurant.
You could be asked for contact information while paying at the corner boutique.
Karaoke? Out of the question.
As Oregon begins to seriously consider what gradually reopening the state’s economy might look like, these are a few of the details that jump out in early proposals state officials are circulating among stakeholders.
The documents — clearly marked “DRAFT” — offer potential guidelines businesses in the retail, restaurant and child care sectors might have to comply with in order to reopen. They also offer general guidance for the public and for employers.
The result: A picture of a society that is no surprise in the context of the last two months, and yet almost unrecognizable from life before COVID-19 took over American life.
Employers, business owners and the public in general will be directed to steadfastly follow a 6-foot social distancing rule that has become a centerpiece of public interactions. As today, people will be encouraged to wear face masks while out and about — but they could become a requirement for patronizing some shops or restaurants.
“Store management should consult with their legal counsel to determine whether or not such a requirement can be enforced and whether they will provide cloth face coverings for those who do not bring their own,” read draft guidelines for the retail sector.
Under the proposed rules, restaurants could be limited to 50% of normal maximum occupancy, while retail shops could set their own limits as long as they ensure proper social distancing. Retail establishments might be encouraged to use specifically designated entrances and exits to assure a “one-way flow.”
At restaurants, single service condiments and disposable menus are likely to be encouraged. If not practicable, condiment containers and menus would have to be thoroughly disinfected after each use, along with tables and chairs used by departing diners.
Employers of all stripes might be asked to screen employees and visitors alike for fevers or respiratory symptoms. And, one document suggests, they should “consider keeping a record of name, contact information and date/time of visit… for purposes of contact tracing if needed.”
Child care centers, meanwhile, could be given strict limits for how many children can be looked after in a given room, with a mandate that those groups be “stable,” meaning roughly the same kids day in, day out.
People over the age of 60 or with underlying medical conditions would be urged to remain in their homes.
While still in draft form, the proposed guidelines — some of which were first reported by The Oregonian/OregonLive on Wednesday — offer the most detailed account yet of what Oregon could look like as it emerges from its forced economic slumber.
“Generally speaking, the goal is to develop guidance for these business sectors that will keep employees and patrons safe from COVID-19 as we work to gradually and safely reopen Oregon,” Liz Merah, a spokeswoman for Gov. Kate Brown, said Thursday. “These are draft documents only, and are subject to change.”
Publicly, Brown has offered her vision for reopening the state only in broad strokes, discussing the factors that she will look for in deciding whether Oregon is ready. Those include data showing the spread of the disease is decreasing, stepped-up testing, and the ability to quickly identify potential flare-ups of COVID-19 and quarantine possible cases.
The governor has indicated that changes to her emergency orders restricting business activity and personal movement are likely to come piecemeal, with specific industries and less-impacted areas being released first. A first, major step will occur Friday when a weeks-long ban on elective procedures in hospitals and other medical facilities is set to lift.
Brown and her staff have offered more specifics on a likely reopening framework to lawmakers and stakeholders in private meetings. Last week, a presentation from Brown’s office leaked publicly, offering a notion of what separate “phases” of reopening in the economy might look like.
The presentation mirrored a framework floated by the White House and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nearly word for word, though included modifications. For instance, theaters and gyms were allowed to open under the initial phase of the federal framework, but would likely remain closed in Oregon’s version.
The plan also listed criteria that would be necessary before Brown would lift restrictions on a specific county. Beyond requirements like testing ability and declining cases that the governor had already set out, they included sign off from hospital officials, the county public health officer and a vote from a county’s governing body “certifying [personal protective equipment] for first responders is sufficient.”
Brown’s staff stressed that the framework was still being refined.
The governor is whittling down her criteria for reopening as pressure mounts for the state to resume at least some currently banned economic activity.
Four counties — Harney, Umatilla, Baker and Douglas — have sent the governor letters requesting resumption of economic activities. Those counties account for 69 of the 2,446 positive COVID-19 cases the Oregon Health Authority had reported as of Wednesday morning. None have recorded deaths due to the disease.
According to Merah, the Douglas County letter had endorsements from four additional counties: Coos, Curry, Jackson and Josephine. Those counties represent an additional 86 cases and one death.
Lawmakers from some of the counties applying for eased restrictions are growing restless.
“Governor Brown has had the Baker County plan for a week already, but has yet to approve this plan to allow Baker County to immediately begin implementation and reopening,” state Sen. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, and state Rep. Mark Owens, R-Crane, said in a statement Wednesday. “Our communities and small businesses are hurting, and this plan is a positive step for all. We urge the Governor to act now and do not delay this any further, please support the implementation of the process you have laid out.”
More tangible pressure could come this weekend when a group dubbing itself Oregon Uniting for Liberty has scheduled a Saturday demonstration at the Capitol calling on Brown to “reopen Oregon.”
The rally, if held, would be similar to demonstrations held in other states in recent weeks. As of Thursday morning, 674 people had signaled they planned to attend.
Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting