November 14: Save lives: For the next 4+ weeks, stay home, cancel social plans, telework

Dear friends and neighbors,

In the time since I emailed you on Thursday about the two-week pause on social activities, we set another new record of positive COVID-19 cases in both Oregon and Multnomah County. This surge in cases is threatening to overwhelm our local hospitals.

In response, the governor on Nov. 13 issued further measures for all Oregon counties. For Multnomah County residents, this means that we should plan to stay home as much as possible for a minimum of four weeks, at least until Wednesday, Dec. 16.

Limit your outings to essential tasks: getting groceries, picking up medication or caring for others. When you are outside, maintain 6 feet of distance between you and anyone who is not part of your immediate household. Work from home whenever possible.

And perhaps most importantly, please cancel your social plans immediately. COVID-19 thrives on proximity. We can effectively slow the spread by depriving the virus of contact between those carrying the virus and those who aren’t.

These measures will also allow Multnomah County to strategically direct our limited resources toward our efforts to help those who are most impacted by the virus, including long-term care residents and staff, people who work in conditions that put them at a higher risk of transmission, and members of Black, Indigenous or other communities of color.

These next four weeks, and possibly beyond, will be difficult for everyone, especially as many of us face the task of adapting or cancelling Thanksgiving plans. But the cost of not taking these steps is too high to risk. Our models show that we will see thousands more cases per week by the end of November if we don’t implement these measures now, stretching our hospitals beyond their capacity and taking up resources for hospitals’ other life-saving functions.

I also know that our local businesses and restaurants will feel a unique and particularly heavy burden. I am working with our Government Relations team to push the Oregon Legislature to call a special session as soon as possible to discuss legislation that could help small businesses and employees weather this storm, including the renewal of a commercial eviction moratorium, expansion of unemployment benefits and other supportive measures. 

Further, the federal government continues its shocking silence: while the Republican leadership in the Senate has yet to make a serious effort at providing relief to renters, homeowners, small business owners and local governments, the presidential administration has punted its responsibility to provide states with meaningful support and guidance. Still, Multnomah County will do all we can, with all we have, to protect the health and well-being of our community.

What we do now directly affects what we will — or won't — be able to do later this winter. With the community's full cooperation over the next four weeks, we can give ourselves the best chance at slowing the spread and protecting each other's health, our hospital capacity and the safety of essential frontline workers.

This is our opportunity to take aggressive action against the surge. Let’s make it worth the effort.

Please stay safe and stay healthy,

Deborah Kafoury
Multnomah County Chair