Dear friends and neighbors,
It has been 31 days since Governor Kate Brown issued her statewide Stay Home, Stay Safe order. For many of us, we’ve been socially isolating for even longer than that.
The stress of this unprecedented situation is acute, and we are all feeling it. People have lost jobs, incomes, savings. We’ve lost connections and community. We’re worried about our health, the health of loved ones, and the well-being of our healthcare system. Walks, grocery shopping, and outings take on newfound (and unwelcome) stress. Those of us with children are dealing with confined spaces, online learning, and cramped quarters. Those on the frontlines - be they doctors or food service workers - face newfound demands and constant worry.
This. Is. A. Lot.
Yet what we are doing is working to stem the spread of COVID-19. And if we can stay with it - continue to socially isolate, don masks, and wash our hands and surfaces - we can further decrease the number of people with the virus. But our world will not be the same; nor should it be.
This crisis has further exposed societal problems that must be addressed: inadequate paid leave and unemployment protections; a lack of government support for small businesses; inequitable worker protections; income inequality; fragility in our food systems; a lack of investment in public health research and disaster preparedness; and a systematic degradation of what government can and should do for its people.
Last week, I hosted a virtual town hall featuring U.S. Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, state Representative Andrea Salinas, Portland City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty, and tri-county public health officer Dr. Jennifer Vines.
Scores of people participated and dozens of questions were submitted to the panelists - questions about personal protective equipment (PPE); testing, face masks, vaccinations, and antibodies; small business assistance; child care needs; mental health services; rent forgiveness; and more.
It was already obvious, but became more so hearing from constituents that night, that people are knowledgeable about this pandemic, yearning for answers, and motivated to see broader change.
Coming out of this crisis provides us with an opportunity to reenvision our social safety net and reimagine how government works and what it provides. The unemployment rate is heading toward Depression-era levels, and just as we emerged from the Great Depression as a different nation - with social security, strengthened labor laws, employer provided healthcare, and more - we should emerge from this crisis different, and better, as well.
That’s what I’ll be fighting for, and I hope you’ll join me.