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Live updates: Oregon Gov. Brown says travel restriction conversations are ‘ongoing’

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said Friday in a call with media that conversations about travel restrictions due to coronavirus spread are ongoing, but that she has not made any concrete decisions.

Brown said she has been in touch with Dan Joyce, chair of Malheur County, which shares a border with Idaho, as well as Idaho Gov. Brad Little.

“My understanding is that the decisions about COVID-19 restrictions in Idaho are being left to county commissioners,” Brown said. “So I had a conversation earlier this week with Chair Joyce about him working collaboratively with his neighbors about appropriate restrictions in Malheur County and connection Idaho counties.”

Regarding restricting travel from other states to Oregon, Brown said “conversations are still ongoing.”

“I’m continuing to have conversations with health experts and my medical advisory panel to really analyze how travel is impacting transmission,” Brown said. “These are really complex issues that require a lot of conversation and that’s what we’re having right now.”

She continued: “I know that some states, particularly on the East Coast, have imposed mandatory quarantine when you arrive from hot spots or return home from hot spots. Those are certainly all under consideration, but I haven’t made a final decision at this point.”

Oregon passed 20,000 COVID-19 infections Thursday, and the number of people diagnosed with the coronavirus keeps growing. The Oregon Health Authority announced 423 new confirmed and presumptive COVID-19 diagnoses Friday and nine new deaths.

The bulk of the new cases were in the Willamette Valley region with 110 in Multnomah County, 53 in Washington County and 57 in Marion County. Additionally, Umatilla County reported 53 new cases.

Since the start of the pandemic, 20,636 people have tested positive for or are presumed to have the virus in Oregon, and 348 people are known to have died with it.

New state guidelines say it would be unsafe for most schools in Washington to reopen this fall, and officials in Clark and Cowlitz counties say they are now parsing that data ahead of pivotal decisions.

School boards throughout Southwest Washington have not officially decided whether to return students to classrooms — and risk spreading the coronavirus — or to keep them home to learn online.

Clark County, Washington, is edging closer to its 2,000th coronavirus case. The county reported 45 new positive tests Wednesday, bringing total diagnoses to 1,991. The number of people who have died of the virus held steady at 40.

Statewide, 60,084 people in Washington have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, and 1,624 have died, according to the latest data available from the state.

Umatilla County has been harder hit by the coronavirus than any other county in Oregon. But a decision by Gov. Kate Brown to return the county to the most stringent level of COVID-19 restrictions prompted protests in Pendleton this week.

The East Oregonian reports that about 30 protesters gathered in the Umatilla County Courthouse on Wednesday — eschewing masks, and standing less than 6 feet apart — to voice their displeasure with the governor’s restrictions.

“Everybody knows people are dying and people can be carriers, but you can’t stop life because people might die,” protest organizer HollyJo Beers, who is running to become a county commissioner, told the newspaper.

According to the Oregon Health Authority, 267 of every 10,000 Umatilla County residents have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the highest infection rate in the state. (Statewide, there have been 48 diagnoses for every 10,000 people.) Door-to-door testing found that as many as 17% of residents of Hermiston could be infected with the virus.

Unlike those in other states and countries besieged by the coronavirus pandemic, Oregon’s indoor eating and drinking establishments don’t appear to be risky places to catch COVID-19 — with a heavy emphasis on “appear.”

“The fact is, we aren’t really quantifying it,” said Ann Thomas, a senior health advisor at the Oregon Health Authority. She said there’s a simple reason Oregon has little data on restaurant transmission: Overtaxed contact tracers and case investigators rarely have time to ask.

Other states have linked an uptick in cases among youth to rule-defying social gatherings. But they’ve also pegged another culprit: indoor bars and restaurants frequented by young adults. In Oregon, 20-somethings account for 21% of Oregon’s coronavirus cases — more than any other age group.

But it’s hard to know if indoor dining plays a role here.

Oregon leaders couldn’t get a majority of the state’s Legislative Emergency Board to agree to spend $105 million on purchases of personal protective equipment for health care providers, emergency responders and other workers who need protection from the coronavirus.

Several lawmakers from both parties on the emergency board – which rules on budget issues when the Legislature isn’t in session – complained that their counties and cities have been left in the lurch when it comes to getting a fair share of the $1.4 billion the state has received in federal aid.

“The counties want to know,” said Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, “‘can we have money to spend on our priorities, not the appropriations that the state deems we need?‘”

Gov. Kate Brown has called legislators back to Salem for a special session Monday, and it appears that legislative leaders will take up the issue of the money for the protective equipment then. House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, warned that the state has been moving ahead for months on buying the gear to distribute at the local level and “somebody is going to pay for that from somewhere.”

Copyright 2020 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Courtney Sherwood
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