UPDATE (March 16, 10:12 a.m.) - Gov. Kate Brown is weighing closing bars and restaurants, but isn’t yet ready to make that decision.
Brown told reporters Monday morning that while she wants Oregonians to take the virus seriously, she’s still debating how to implement new social distancing rules. The governor faces increasing calls from health care professionals to do more to reduce large gatherings.
“This is the beginning, and we have to support each other,” she said. “A lot of the specific policies I have announced and will announce soon are greatly important. There’s no vaccine. There’s no medicine for coronavirus. And we know the virus is in our communities. The only thing we know to do is slow the transmission through social distancing and expand and support hospital capacity to support the sick.
“… Following the guidelines on social distancing is a matter of life and death.”
Whatever the Oregon governor decides will follow the decision made by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. He announced Sunday night that bars and restaurants should close. Washington has seen more than 700 cases and 40 deaths from COVID-19.
Brown said she’ll have a major announcement on hospital capacity later Monday.
Portland City Employees Told To Work From Home
Starting Tuesday, the city of Portland wants non-essential city employees to work from home to help slow the spread of COVID-19. This rule will be in place through the state of emergency declared by Mayor Ted Wheeler, which is currently scheduled to last until March 26, though that could be extended.
Essential staff include City Council members, bureau directors, and those crafting the city’s response to COVID-19. They can still use city facilities, according to an email sent out to city employees.
As of Monday afternoon, the city council is still planning to meet Wednesday for their regular weekly session. However, meetings on the city budget, which were scheduled for Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, have been postponed.
Number Of Cases Grows
Clark County officials announced a fourth new case of coronavirus Monday morning. A Lewis County resident was also diagnosed with the virus, public health officials said, bringing the total in Washington state to more than 770.
As of Sunday afternoon, Oregon had a total of 39 reported cases of the novel coronavirus, with new cases in Yamhill, Deschutes and Linn counties.
According to the Oregon Health Authority, the Yamhill and Deschutes cases are believed to be community acquired.
The Linn County case is a staff member at the Oregon Veterans’ Home in Lebanon, which has nine residents who have tested positive as of Sunday afternoon. The staff member has remained in isolation in accordance with infection prevention protocols and public health guidelines, according to the OHA.
The Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the OHA are prioritizing testing for residents and staff at the Veterans’ Home.
Ten of the state’s 39 cases are linked to the Veterans’ Home in Lebanon.
There were 182 pending COVID-19 tests in Oregon as of Sunday afternoon.
More than 60 people have died of the virus in the U.S. Most of those deaths have been in the Seattle area.
Oregon’s first death from COVID-19 in Multnomah County Saturday – the person was a 70-year-old man who was being treated at the Portland Veterans’ Affairs Medical center.
The novel coronavirus, a relative of other viruses like SARS, was first identified in Wuhan, China, late last year.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced late Thursday that all K-12 public schools in the state of Oregon will be closed through the end of March. That came just a day after her ban on public gatherings of more than 250 people for four weeks.
“I want to be very clear: sending Oregon children home will not stop the spread of the coronavirus,” Brown said in a statement. “While children are home, when at all possible, they should not be in the care of older adults or those with underlying health issues that are most at risk from COVID-19.”
School districts preparing food for children during closures
All schools statewide will close as of Monday, March 16, leaving many students who usually receive meals in school needing food aid.
School districts are offering “grab-and-go” meals at no cost for children 18 and under. Meals will be provided Monday through Friday depending on location, and on March 30th and 31st. Some school districts are also offering meals through the regularly scheduled spring break. Schools districts will offer meals at varied times and locations:
Portland’s alternative weekly newspapers take a hit
Willamette Week reports that its print circulation has been slashed in half from 50,000 to 25,000 newspapers, citing that readers are less likely to pick up the paper in bars or venues amid the coronavirus outbreak.
“We will ramp back up when it makes sense, and when people are attending the places we distribute,” said editor and publisher Mark Zusman.
According to Willamette Week, many reporters continue to work from home.
For the Portland Mercury, some reporters were temporarily laid off Saturday with the publication switching to an online-only format.
“We’ve temporarily laid off 10 members of our beloved staff,” Steven Humphrey, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper, wrote in a blog post.
The staff layoffs span editorial, calendar, sales and circulation, Humphrey wrote. Managers also had salary cuts, he said.
Humphrey said the paper has the intention of “eventually bringing everyone back.”
“Will the Mercury be back in full force after all this has returned to normal? I think so. I hope so,” Humphrey wrote.
Oregon Ski Areas Close
Multiple Oregon ski resorts have announced closures through the next week in efforts to keep staff and guests safe.
Mt. Bachelor officials announced Saturday that it would shut down all operations Sunday, through March 22.
Mt. Hood Meadows and Timberline on Mount Hood followed suit Sunday morning, announcing they’ll close at 4 p.m. Sunday, and remain closed through March 22.
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Dear Timberline Guests, Skiers and Snowboarders, We have made the very difficult decision to suspend Timberline Ski Area Operations until March 23rd. As the coronavirus COVID-19 situation evolves, RLK and Company is pausing operations to evaluate options and protocols for the remainder of the 2019/2020 ski season. All ski operations will cease and the Wy’East Day Lodge will close today, Sunday March 15th, 4:00pm. We will monitor and reassess during the coming week with the intention of resuming ski operations Monday March 23rd. The Hotel, including the Cascade Dining Room, Ram’s Head Bar, and Wy’East Gallery remain open. We encourage anyone who is showing flu like symptoms to remain at home. Hotel customers can be rebooked or refunded depending on their desire and situation. Timberline season pass customers can expect days added to the end of this season. Ski School customers with reservations next week can reschedule for a future date or get a refund. There will undoubtedly be many unforeseen customer requests and special circumstances. We will have staff available and responsive to email and phone communications in the coming days. Please stay healthy and calm. Timberline is proud of our great team we will come together for the best possible outcome. This is truly an unprecedented situation and a very difficult time. We will get through it and we will be better for it. Sincerely, Jeff Kohnstamm President/Area Operator
Powell’s Books, Multnomah County Libraries Close
Powell’s Books announced Sunday morning on social media it will be closing its five Portland-area locations effective immediately.
“At this time we feel we cannot honor the social distancing guidelines presented by the CDC.”
The new coronavirus is spreading across the Pacific Northwest. Here some basic things to know:
• Coronavirus is more severe and more contagious than the flu. Take it seriously but don’t panic.
• The elderly and immune-compromised are most at-risk, but everyone can get sick.
• If you are sick stay home, self-quarantine and call your doctor.
• Practice social distancing. Avoid large gatherings, or small gatherings in tight spaces. At-risk people and people with underlying conditions should stay at home.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Hand sanitizer is a backup option.
• Cough into a sleeve. Wash hands after coughing. Avoid touching your face.
• Sterilize things you touch often, like computers, phones, keys, and tablets.
• If you have prescriptions, call your doctor and ask for a 3-month supply in case of drug shortages.
Store locations will remain closed through March 31, when Powell’s will reevaluate the length of the closures. As of Sunday, its online store remains open.
That follows news announced Friday that all Multnomah County libraries will be closed until further notice. The library system said patrons shouldn’t return books, and late fees will be eliminated during the closure. Online resources like downloadable ebooks and audiobooks are still accessible, and library WiFi is still accessible from outside the buildings.
KUOW reports as of Saturday afternoon, the Washington Department of Health has announced 40 COVID-19 related deaths. Thirty-five of those are in King County, four in Snohomish County and one in Grant County.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced Friday that all public and private K-12 schools in Washington will be closed 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.”
There were 642 reported coronavirus cases in Washington as of Saturday afternoon, according to the Washington Department of Health.
Supermarkets, retailers cut back hours
Supermarket and department store chains throughout the Pacific Northwest are adjusting to growing demand as people buy produce and essentials in droves.
WinCo announced it would be cutting hours to ensure its stores can safely clean and restock items.
“As we experience higher than normal demand on a variety of products, we are working around the clock to not only keep our stores open, but also clean and as stocked as possible,” the chain said in a statement.
WinCo also said the store will not be accepting returns of products over-purchased because of the pandemic, including water, toilet paper and cold medicine.
“Please purchase only what you need. We will continue to address quality concerns as always, and on a case by case basis.”
Some Walmart stores, including their produce-focused Neighborhood Markets, have reduced hours to 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. until further notice to account for cleaning and stocking products.
For all Trader Joe’s locations starting Monday, stores will be open 9 a.m. until 7 p.m.