UPDATE (March 17, 10:04 p.m. PT) - As the total number of cases continued to rise, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has extended the mandated school closure to April 28.
The closure was scheduled to end March 31.
As of Tuesday night, Oregon has a total of 67 reported cases of the novel coronavirus.
Among those new cases, seven are in Washington county, five in Linn County, four in Clackamas County, and one each in Marion and Multnomah counties.
Lane County Public Health (LCPH) also announced the county’s first two cases Tuesday. A 69-year-old man who caught the virus through community transmission is at home and medically stable.
And a 60-year-old woman brought to PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend on March 14 died that night. Her coronavirus test came back positive Tuesday night. The medical examiner has not determined her cause of death yet, but health officials described the positive test as “concerning.”
Four of the new cases Tuesday were at the Oregon Veterans’ Home in Lebanon, according to the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs. That brings the total number of cases at the home to 14 — 12 residents, a resident’s spouse and one employee.
The Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the OHA are prioritizing testing for residents and staff at the Veterans’ Home.
Nearly 70 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 the COVID-19 virus was in Multnomah County on 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.
Two Clark County COVID-19 Patients Die
Two coronavirus patients in Clark County, Washington, died Monday evening, according to Clark County Public Health.
The husband and wife, both in their 80s, lived at separate elder care facilities in Clark County. Health officials said they had not traveled, but had spent time together and somehow contracted COVID-19.
After they both died Monday night, Clark County Public Health Director Dr. Alan Melnick said their deaths speaks to the dangers of the virus here and now.
“I don’t know where they actively, what person or where they contracted it, but I am confident that they contracted it within Clark County,” Melnick said. “That’s why we’re saying it’s out there, it’s here in our community.”
Health officials said they’re monitoring anyone who had contact with the couple, but have not found anyone showing symptoms yet.
The elderly couple were the first two coronavirus related deaths in Southwest Washington. Two other cases have been confirmed in Clark County: a woman in her 40s who isn’t hospitalized, and a man in his 70s being treated at PeaceHealth Southwest.
Multnomah County Announces Evictions Moratorium
Multnomah County Commission Chair Deborah Kafoury announced at a Tuesday morning press conference that she will place a moratorium on rental evictions across the county.
People will have six months to pay their back due rent after the coronavirus emergency ends.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said Tuesday she is not currently considering enacting the same moratorium statewide.
“We are not considering that option at this point in time, but obviously, again, we are in a global pandemic and all options are on the table,” Brown said. “As you know, we have a housing crisis already in the state and I want to make sure that doesn’t get worse.”
Small Business Administration Expands Help
Small businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic in eight Oregon counties and 32 Washington counties can now apply for disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
It’s the first time the loans have been made available to businesses damaged by a pandemic, according to Jeremy Field, administrator of the SBA’s Pacific Northwest office. The loans are more commonly used for economic hardship caused by drought, severe storms or flooding.
Businesses in Gilliam, Hood River, Morrow, Sherman, Umatilla, Wasco, Harney and Lake counties in Oregon are now eligible for the emergency loans, known as economic injury disaster loans or EIDLs. These low-interest loans provide up to $2 million to help small businesses cope with a temporary blow to revenue. The assistance can be used for fixed debts, payroll and other expenses.
Small businesses in the eight Oregon counties became eligible for the loans when the SBA declared economic disasters in neighboring counties in Washington and Nevada.
On Tuesday, the SBA also relaxed its criteria for states and territories seeking economic injury declarations related to COVID-19. Those declarations open the door for businesses to apply for disaster assistance loans. Under the new criteria, a state is only required to show that five small businesses in an entire state “have suffered substantial economic injury” due to the spread of the coronavirus.
That streamlines the process for small businesses across a state to get access to relief. The SBA said it expects additional disaster assistance declarations for Oregon will follow.
Oregon And Washington Close Bars And Restaurants
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced Monday that she is banning seated dining statewide at bars and restaurants and prohibiting gatherings of more than 25 people in attempts to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Restaurants can continue take-out and delivery options and the prohibition on gatherings exempts grocery stores and retail outlets. The ban begins Tuesday and is scheduled to last at least four weeks.
Brown said violating her executive order is a misdemeanor.
She also urged other businesses, like gyms, to temporarily close.
“Can your business do the equivalent of restaurant takeout?” Brown said Monday.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee enacted similar measures late Sunday.
As of Tuesday morning there are 50 COVID-19 related deaths in Washington. Forty-three of those are in King County, four in Snohomish County, and one in Grant County.
Clark County reported two deaths that occurred Monday evening.
KUOW reports a doctor at Evergreen Health is in critical condition with COVID-19.
There are 904 cases of the virus in Washington as of Tuesday morning, according to the Washington Department of Health. All Washington counties have at least one confirmed case.
Oregon Courts Limit Hearings
Oregon Supreme Court Justice Martha Walters further limited court hearings Monday, postponing jury trials and hearings starting March 19 and until at least March 27, with some exceptions.
The exceptions include people in jail who have a right to a speedy trial, guardianship and family law cases, treatment court and civil commitment hearings. The Oregon Court of Appeals has canceled oral arguments scheduled March 17-27.
Some attorneys who spoke to OPB on background expressed disappointment in the chief justice for not acting faster to postpone all but the most essential court functions.
“The nature of this public health emergency has led me to order the postponement of most trials and court hearings,” Walters said. “We will do our best to provide people their day in court when we can safely do so, and we will pursue options for continuing our work without requiring in-person appearances, but, at the present time, limiting the number of people coming into our courtrooms and courthouses is paramount.”
Increased Restrictions On Long-term Care Facilities
Oregon Gov. Brown announced Tuesday that the Oregon Department of Human Services and Oregon Health Authority are increasing restrictions on long-term care facilities in attempts to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The restrictions are effective immediately and apply to nursing facilities, residential care facilities, adult foster homes and group homes for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“The updated restrictions limit all visitors to residents except essential medical and emergency personnel,” Brown said.
People who are “in the end stages of life” can also receive visitors, she said.
Oregon Coronavirus Economic Advisory Council
“To stabilize our communities and businesses I’ve convened a coronavirus economic advisory council to help minimize the average impact this virus will have on our economy,” Brown announced during a Tuesday morning media teleconference.
The council is set to meet for the first time Tuesday and Brown said it consists of business leaders, neighbor representatives, state agency directors and economists.
“The goal of the council is to look at the variety of tools immediately available to provide relief to businesses and support for workers,” Brown said. “The conversations will also help our state legislators and congress in targeting legislation that will help our businesses and workers in need throughout the state.”
Increased Testing Capacity Coming, Says Brown
Gov. Brown also announced Tuesday increased COVID-19 testing capacity on the national level.
“We are expecting testing capacity to ramp up substantially in the next three weeks,” Brown said.
During a White House briefing Monday, Brown said she was informed that 1 million tests should be available this week nationally, 2 million the following week and 5 million the week after that.
“I know that there are 12 states with drive-thru capacity. That’s certainly something we’re considering here,” Brown said. “And you should see our testing capacity ramp up, I won’t say exponentially but, substantially this week.”
Update On Grand Princess Cruise Ship
Brown said Tuesday that all Oregonians who were on the Grand Princess cruise ship, that was idling off the coast of California, are either already home or on their way home.
“Forty-two of 49 of Oregonian of Princess cruise passengers are back at home,” Brown said. “We’re treating them as travelers. We’re asking them to self-isolate.”
The remaining five passengers had RVs in California and are making their way back home with their vehicles, Brown said.