UPDATE (March 13, 7:39 a.m. PT) – The Oregon Health Authority reported nine new cases of COVID-19 Thursday afternoon and evening, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 30 across nine counties.
Clackamas County identified its first case in a man between the ages of 35 and 54, who was a close contact with a previous case.
The two other new cases were identified in Washington County in women older than 55, with no known close contacts.
Washington County now has a total of 10 cases.
OHA identified six cases of novel coronavirus at a veterans home in Lebanon, after announcing two cases at the home earlier on Wednesday. Five of those affected are men over 75 years of age. After finding the first two cases, OHA announced plans to test all 151 residents at the facility, as well as staff. According to health experts, COVID-19 is especially dangerous for people over 60, or with underlying health conditions.
The two earlier cases of COVID-19 in the facility were men over the age of 80.
The COVID-19 virus, a relative of other viruses like SARS, was first identified in Wuhan, China, late last year.
Nearly 40 people have died in the U.S. from the virus. Most of those deaths have been in the Seattle area.
No More Public Gatherings
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced late Wednesday night the banning of all public gatherings of more than 250 people for four weeks, effective immediately until April 8. It does not include stores, shopping centers or schools.
At a press briefing Thursday, Brown reiterated that schools will remain open but non-essential school gatherings including parent meetings, field trips and competitions should be canceled.
For workplaces, Brown recommended increasing physical space between employees in offices and limiting work-related travel and staggering work schedules.
“Coronavirus is in our community. We should be prepared for thousands of cases in Oregon,” Brown said at the briefing.
Brown said public school closures are considered a last resort. “It’s critically important for our children to remain in school and get the education they need.”
Brown said she’d be pulling together a group of business representatives to discuss how businesses will ride out the effects of the virus.
Dr. Dean Sidelinger with the Oregon Health Authority estimates there could currently be between 150 to 250 novel coronavirus cases in the state. He said without limiting social interactions, that number could reach up to 75,000 by mid-May.
Sidelinger said testing is still being prioritized for people at a higher risk of exposure or people who are hospitalized. The current testing capacity at the Oregon Public Health Lab is 80 tests per day, with the possibility for more through commercial laboratories.
Quest Diagnostics, one commercial laboratory, is conducting testing for the whole country from its lab in San Juan Capistrano, California.
That lab does not have specific numbers for the amount of tests it has processed for Oregon, but for the country as a whole Quest Diagnostics said in a statement that it anticipates it will have performed “several thousands of tests for patients by the end of this week.”
Quest said it is working on performing testing at other labs. Once that happens, “[w]e expect to be able to perform tens of thousands of tests a week within the next six weeks,” the company said.
Hospitals are expected to be able to conduct tests in about a week, Sidelinger said.
“We are concerned frankly about our testing capacity,” Brown said. The federal government is the only one who can heighten that capacity, she said.
OHA announced it has deployed a “strike team” to test all 150 patients and 225 staff at a nursing home for veterans in Lebanon. Two residents, men in their 80s, tested positive for COVID-19 Wednesday night.
Oregon Health Authority director Patrick Allen emphasized the need for older people or those with underlying health conditions should be staying home as much as possible.
Allen spoke to a global shortage of hygiene products such as hand sanitizer. “Especially because a lot of that manufacturing takes places in China. It’s a huge demand issue as well as a supply issue,” said Allen.
Gov. Brown closes schools statewide
Late Thursday night, Gov. Kate Brown announced all K-12 public schools in the state of Oregon will be closed Monday through the end of March.
The school closure announcement comes on the heels of Brown’s decision to ban public gatherings of more than 250 people for four weeks.
The governor said a lot of concern was also voiced for teachers over the age of 60 with underlying medical issues.
School board members at the Tigard-Tualatin School District voted Thursday night to close school Friday, in response to growing concerns about potential spread of the coronavirus. The district will close all 16 of its schools until Tuesday March 31.
“We understand the hardship this decision will cause for many of our families,” said Superintendent Dr. Sue Rieke-Smith in a statement released after the vote. “Our Board leads this decision with the health and safety of our staff, students and their families as our top priority.”
The district is providing digital devices to all students in grades 6-12 for them to do “academic work,” though the district said remote learning options would be developed “in the future.” The district is encouraging parents of younger students to read with their kids during the hiatus.
Portland Declares State Of Emergency
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler announced a state of emergency for the city of Portland. Wheeler said the Water Bureau will not shut off utility services for those who can’t pay their bills.
“We’ve suspended service disruptions of Water Bureau and Environmental Services” to assist everyone in the city, Wheeler said at the press briefing.
Pacific Power also announced Thursday that it would temporarily suspend disconnections and late fees for customers who can’t pay their utility bills in Oregon, Washington and California. The utility said that’s in response to states of emergency across the West Coast.
Criminal Justice System Slows
Multnomah County Circuit Court announced Thursday that it’s postponing “many trials and other court proceedings,” amid the COVID-19 outbreak, and is keeping people away from court facilities unless they have an “essential matter” that can’t be done over the phone.
The county is also allowing deferrals for jurors who feel sick or are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Court facilities and courthouses have adopted heightened cleaning and social distancing measures.
Starting Friday, the Oregon Department of Corrections will also restrict all visitors and nonessential staff for 30 days across all its prisons to prevent the continued spread of COVID-19. So far, there are no confirmed cases in the prisons.
The decision to close all 14 facilities is unprecedented. Officials says the prisons are porous institutions with vulnerable people where an outbreak could spread quickly.
The Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution in Pendleton is already closed to visitors because of an influenza outbreak.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday that all public and private K-12 schools in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties will close for the next six weeks. That closure will impact 43 school districts throughout the three counties, according to Inslee’s office.
Schools will close from March 15 through April 24.
“We do not take these decisions lightly and I am fully aware of the various impacts this has on families and communities,” Inslee said during a Thursday press conference in Olympia. “Today’s decision has a full range of implications from learning plans and childcare, to free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch, just to name a few.”
He continued: “I anticipate this will cause ripple effects throughout our state. But we can’t afford not to do it. We must ensure that we slow the spread of the virus.”
Inslee also announced Wednesday his own state’s social distancing measures, banning large events in three Puget Sound-area counties.
At least 29 people have died in the U.S. from the virus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Twenty-six deaths have been reported in the Seattle area as of Wednesday, according to Seattle and King County Public Health.
As of Thursday morning there are 366 reported coronavirus cases in Washington, according to the Washington Department of Health.
Officials in Clark County, Washington, also banned gatherings larger than 250 people on Friday. The county only has one confirmed case of COVID-19, but said it took the measure “in an abundance of caution.” Public health officials there did not advise school closures.
Adidas To Shut Down Portland Campus
Adidas announced it would be shutting down its Portland Village and Montgomery Park office locations for two days, through Friday, March 13, after two adidas employees in Portland had come into close contact with someone who had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.
“As a precautionary measure, those adidas employees are at home in self-quarantine,” the company said in a statement. “We are also notifying employees who may have been in contact.”
Employees will work from home in the meantime while a deep cleaning is done at the facilities, adidas said.
OSAA Cancels State Basketball Championships
The Oregon School Activities Association has canceled state basketball championships along with dance/drill championships amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Tournaments were already underway this week in Portland (6A), Corvallis (5A) and Forest Grove (4A).
The OSAA had announced late Wednesday that tournaments would proceed without spectators to adhere to Gov. Kate Brown’s ban on large gatherings, only to cancel them the next day.
The OSAA first canceled the 5A tournament just before 10:30 a.m., about three hours before games were set to begin at Gill Coliseum.
NCAA Cancels Men’s And Women’s Basketball Tournaments
The NCAA announced on Thursday afternoon that it would cancel its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. The announcement comes after many conferences, including the PAC-12, announced the cancellation of their championship tournaments.
“This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to the spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year,” the NCAA said in a statement.
Portland was scheduled to host the women’s regional, while the men’s regional games were in Spokane.
Major League Soccer Disruption
Major League Soccer announced Thursday that it is suspending the season for 30 days because of the coronavirus.
That means the Portland Timbers will miss matches this Sunday at the New England Revolution, at home March 22 against LAFC, March 28 at the Philadelphia Union and April 4 at the Houston Dynamo.
The Portland Thorns FC of the National Women’s Soccer League announced it has canceled the club’s preseason tournament, scheduled for March 29 to April 4.
In a statement, the clubs said tickets purchased for postponed events are good for the new date of the match. With regard to canceled games, the Timbers and Thorns FC will reach out to fans with next steps.
Universities Shifting Online
The University of Oregon announced it would cancel any gathering of more than 50 people starting Sunday, March 15, and that students will be taking their winter term final exams remotely.
UO students will spend at least the first three weeks of spring term, beginning March 30, learning remotely. Oregon State University also announced plans Wednesday for online learning.
Spring classes at OSU, UO and Portland State University will remain online until at least mid-April.
Oregon has joined a growing list of more than 150 colleges around the country to cancel in-person classes because of the ongoing COVID-19 virus outbreak, according to a list aggregated by Georgetown University professor Brian Alexander.
In response to Oregon’s temporary restrictions on public gatherings, organizations announced widespread event cancelations. Portland Center Stage announced it would be canceling or rescheduling all performances through April 8.
Powell’s Books announced it would be suspending all event programming through the end of April, effectively immediately.
The Oregon Symphony has canceled all events scheduled at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall through April 6.
Correction (March 13, 2020): An earlier version of this story incorrectly included a scheduled Portland Timbers match as one that had been suspended. The Timbers’ home match April 11 against FC Dallas remains on the club’s schedule.