Oregon health officials reported almost 1,100 more cases of COVID-19 Saturday, the latest sign of a spike that prompted Gov. Kate Brown to place the entire state under a two week “freeze” starting Wednesday.
Along with 1,097 more cases, the Oregon Health Authority reported another six deaths; since the pandemic began eight months ago, 759 Oregonians have died from the virus.
Brown and state health leaders are very worried about what the next few weeks, particularly the Thanksgiving holiday, could bring. Colder weather has forced many people back inside. State officials say too many people are having social gatherings with people outside their coronavirus bubbles, and they want residents to stay home and limit the size of holiday festivities.
“Our case investigations have linked a significant portion of cases to social interactions,” Dean Sidelinger, state epidemiologist, said Friday. “People are often not wearing masks, not keeping our distance or taking other precautions.”
The two-week freeze announced Friday limits restaurants and bars to take out service only, closes gyms and other indoor gathering spots and limits stores to 75% capacity. It allows child care facilities, schools, hair stylists and some other personal care services to remain open with proper social distancing practices.
The freeze will last longer in some parts of the state. Multnomah County, for example, faces at least four weeks of restrictions.
State health officials are concerned the rise in cases, along with spikes in other nearby states, will overwhelm Oregon hospitals. Some businesses have pushed back against the new rules, noting that health officials pointedly have not blamed bars and restaurants, for example, for the surge.
Cultural institutions required to close under the new guidelines began making their plans Saturday. The Oregon Historical Society closed Saturday. The Portland Art Museum and the Portland Japanese Gardens both announced that they will close Wednesday until the restrictions are lifted.