March 17, 2020

I invited members of the media to today’s press conference with public health officers and elected leaders to reach as many people as possible with fast-moving news, as we have done throughout this outbreak. During the press conference, individuals interrupted the event and threatened to cough on the Mayor of Portland and other people in the room, including public health staff and journalists.

I realize that people have a wealth of ideas about what we should be doing to respond to COVID-19. Those conversations are necessary and they are important to hear. We welcome dialogue and policy discussions. 

But that’s not what happened today. Disruptive and threatening behavior is harmful, counterproductive, and could be criminal. Threatening to give people COVID and then repeatedly coughing in the face of a young security guard and reporters who have to show up to do their job is shocking and unacceptable.

I know people are under stress, but we know from Seattle, Italy and our own Oregon case counts that this outbreak is only going to get worse. Three people have died in the Metro area in the last three days of this virus. No one is immune. And scaring people to make your point won’t save any lives.  

-- Julie Sullivan-Springhetti, Multnomah County Communications Director