Gov. Kate Brown is weighing closing bars and restaurants, but has so far stopped short of demanding it.
“I’m looking for an Oregon way to do this," Brown said Sunday night. "We are looking at that for an option."
She's debating a curfew instead of a blanket demand that food-related businesses close, she said.
The governor said she spoke to Gov. Jay Inslee, of Washington state – where there have been more than 700 cases and 40 deaths – and noted Inslee had not yet closed all bars and restaurants. Moments after Brown's call, Inslee did announce he was ordering all bars and restaurants to close except for takeout and delivery.
Other states, including California, Ohio, Illinois and Massachusetts, have also closed bars and restaurants to slow the virus. The CDC revised its social distancing guidelines Sunday, urging people to avoid gatherings with more than 50 people. Brown has barred gatherings of more than 250 people.
She's worried about the impact coronavirus will have on Oregon's economy and on the service industry.
"We're talking about a lot of very small businesses … These types of decisions will have a real impact on these businesses," she said of the possibility of a closure.
The governor is scheduled to hold another call with reporters on Monday morning. Her advisor said they are weighing a nuanced way to craft policy to encourage social distancing, but without hitting businesses who will already be threatened by the coronavirus outbreak. She said she talked Sunday with leaders in Portland and Multnomah County, where most bars and restaurants were open through the weekend, and will talk to elected officials from around Oregon Sunday night and Monday.
As of Sunday, Oregon had 36 reported cases of the novel coronavirus. The state had its first death from the virus over the weekend, a 70-year-old man who was being treated at the Portland Veterans' Affairs Medical Center.
On Sunday, the governor's staff said private testing labs are starting to come online, which could help speed of the number of tests being done. Brown said the state is still short hospital supplies, such as ventilators and masks.
Gov. Brown's call with reporters came on the same day her predecessor, former Gov. John Kitzhaber, a physician, said the state is "behind the curve" in its response. Officials believe hundreds of cases of COVID-19 are currently undetected in Oregon. The virus could spread to as many as 75,000 Oregonians within a period of months, according to some estimates.
The Portland Tribune reported data from Kaiser Family Foundation suggests Oregon has the lowest number of hospital beds per 1,000 residents of any state.
There were 225 pending COVID-19 tests in Oregon as of Sunday morning. More than 60 people have died of the virus in the United States, most of those in the Seattle area. The novel coronavirus, a relative of other viruses like SARS, was first identified in Wuhan, China, late last year.
On Thursday, Brown announced 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.
The past week has seen a flurry of closure announcements, including libraries, community centers and some stores. Some restaurants began shifting to takeout or drive through service or closing entirely over the weekend, but many in Oregon and Southwest Washington continued to venture out for meals or drinks despite repeated calls from health officials for increased efforts at social distancing.
Several Oregon ski resorts closed, including Mt. Hood Meadows and Timberline on Mount Hood.
And Powell’s Books closed its five Portland-area locations.
This post may be updated.