SALEM — Oregon will restrict or close many businesses, curtail activities and put a six-person limit on gatherings, including Thanksgiving, under a statewide “two-week freeze” starting Wednesday, Nov. 18, in an effort to stem rising COVID-19 infection rates, Gov. Kate Brown announced Friday, Nov. 13.
“These risk-reduction measures are critical,” Brown said in a statement.
The action by executive order comes the day after Oregon reported a record 1,122 new cases Thursday, including four deaths. Case totals have remained high since that record-setting mark, most recently with 935 cases and 13 deaths reported by the Oregon Health Authority Tuesday.
Last week also was the first time the state has breached the 300-patient mark since the pandemic hit Oregon in February.
Restrictions under the plan, effective Nov. 18 to Dec. 2, include:
• Take-out only from restaurants and bars.
• Close all gyms and fitness organizations.
• Close indoor recreational and entertainment facilities, including theaters, museums, pools, sports courts and hosting venues.
• Close outdoor recreational facilities, zoos, gardens, aquariums, entertainment activities, including pools and hosting venues.
• Faith-based gatherings are limited to 25 people indoors or 50 people outdoors.
• Prohibits indoor visits to long-term care facilities.
• Limits grocery stores and pharmacies to 75% capacity and encourages curbside pick-up.
• Limits retail stores and retail malls — both indoor and outdoor — to a 75% capacity and encourages curbside pick-up.
• Requires all businesses mandate work-from-home to the greatest extent possible and close offices to the public.
The restrictions came with several exemptions:
“The two-week freeze does not apply to or change current health and safety protocols for personal services (such as barber shops, hair salons, and nonmedical massage therapy),” Brown said.
It also does not affect congregate homeless sheltering, outdoor recreation and sports, youth programs, child care, K-12 schools, K-12 sports currently allowed, current Division 1 and professional athletics exemptions, and higher education.
All the exemptions would continue operating under previous guidance issued by the Oregon Health Authority.
The Oregon Health Authority is expected to issue additional guidance this week. Sectors without specific prohibitions or guidance must operate under previous directives.
Brown and the governors of California and Washington earlier on Friday issued identical travel advisories.
Travelers going out of state are urged to quarantine for 14 days upon their return home.
While Oregon is still experiencing less overall impact from the virus than other states, the current rapid rise is already stretching hospital availability in the Portland area and showing strain elsewhere in the state.
Brown had already placed a two-week pause on social activities in nine counties beginning Nov. 11 and had said adding additional counties was a future option.
Delaying elective surgeries in some areas where hospital beds are becoming more difficult has already been instituted at three major hospital providers based in the Portland area: Legacy Health, Oregon Health & Science University and Kaiser Permanente Northwest.
Under the three-state plan announced Friday morning, “nonessential travel” should be canceled or delayed.
The advisory defines essential travel as travel for work and study, critical infrastructure support, economic services and supply chains, health, immediate medical care and safety and security.
Visitors entering or returning from the three states should minimize their exposure to others for 14 days after arriving from another state. In the case of the three states, the advisory would mean an Oregonian traveling to California or Washington should quarantine for 14 days on their arrival and then another 14 days upon return.
The governors of the three states reiterated early requests that residents not risk out-of-state travel for the Thanksgiving holiday.
“COVID-19 does not stop at state lines,” Brown said in a statement. “As hospitals across the West are stretched to capacity, we must take steps to ensure travelers are not bringing this disease home with them.”
The three-state advisory also recommends individuals limit their interactions to their immediate household.
The United States registered 149,000 cases on Monday, and current hospitalizations for COVID-19 hit a new record of more than 73,000 on Monday, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
California last week became the second state to surpass one million case. Texas is the other. Nationwide, 11.2 million people have been infected and 247,437 people have died, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
Overall totals in Oregon through Monday are at 58,570 cases and 778 deaths. Close to 1 million people in the state have been tested for COVID-19 at a positive test rate of 5.8%. The current mortality rate of known cases in Oregon is 1.33%.
Worldwide, more than 54.56 million people have been infected and 1.32 million have died.
In Wallowa County one new case was reported on Tuesday. There have been 70 cases total in the county since the start of the pandemic. The county’s positive test rate out of 1,455 tests is 4.6%.
Pfizer-BioNTech announced last week that preliminary results of a vaccine under development had a 90% effective rate. Additional tests and reviews will be required, but the company hopes to start shipping vaccine by the end of the year. However, it will likely take several months for the vaccine to become widely available.
Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease expert with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, writing in the political website The Hill, said this week the vaccine development was good news, but there were still many hurdles to get it to people around the globe.
“If everything goes perfectly with this vaccine, there is still a Herculean vaccine distribution task that lies ahead,” Adalja wrote. “This vaccine, and several other candidates, are two-dose vaccines that require both doses for full effect.”
This story has been updated.