Restaurants in Oregon could be forced to operate under curfews or close entirely as Oregon Gov. Kate Brown considers new restrictions to slow the spread of the new coronavirus that already has upended life across the state.

As of Monday, March 16, all restaurants in Washington state will be closed, except for take-out service, according to a press release Sunday evening from Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's office.

Brown said in a call with reporters Sunday evening that she would decide Monday on what action to take regarding restaurants.

She said her options range from a curfew to “a total shutdown.”

One of her concerns, she said, was ensuring that public safety and health care workers “have access to restaurant food over the next several weeks.”

Authorities in Ohio, Illinois and Massachusetts already have ordered statewide closures of bars and restaurants. In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday ordered closed pubs, bars and wineries but allowed restaurants to remain open if they reduce capacity and enforce social distancing.

Brown said she consulted with medical and health experts and elected officials on a conference call Sunday. She said she planned to consult additional elected officials before deciding. She has scheduled a news conference for 10 a.m. Monday, March 16. She said she expects the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to announce its own guidance on the topic.

She said that Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the state health officer, reminded her that “when people drink in bars, particularly in the later hours, folks forget about social distancing.”

That term generally advises people to be no closer than 6 feet to avoid coming into contact with someone who is infected. The incubation period for COVID-19 is 14 days, meaning that people could be infected for days before suffering symptoms.

“From my perspective, a curfew made a lot of sense” as an option, Brown said.

The governor said she was sharply aware of the economic impact of any decision regarding restaurants and bars, often a key source of jobs in communities across Oregon. They employ an estimated 155,000.

“We’re talking about a lot of very small businesses,” Brown said. “In terms of Oregon’s hospitality industry and small businesses, we’re trying to figure out a way that they can survive through the next several weeks.”

The decision on restaurants will come after Brown has issued a string of directives to limit the exposure of Oregonians to infected individuals and to slow down the spread of COVID-19 before it overwhelms medical and other resources. She has ordered restrictions on visits to the 30,000 Oregonians living in nursing homes and assisted care and residential care facilities and shuttered every school in the state, an order that takes effect Monday, March 16, and idles 580,000 public school students.

Les Zaitz is editor of Salem Reporter and the Malheur Enterprise. Email: les@salemreporter.com

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