March 12, 2020

Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury and Health Officer Dr. Jennifer Vines released the following statement at 5:30 p.m. today:

We can see what is coming. Italy, Seattle, New York. Kids do not appear to suffer severe disease, but we believe that early school closures, in addition to the physical distancing measures announced today, is our best chance to slow the spread of the virus. We also know that the community is asking for direction on this question as soon as possible. 

We worked closely with the state on recommendations to limit mass gatherings so we would have a unified response. And now, we are ready to work with parents, school districts and the state to be prepared for this drastic measure.

Because of existing social inequities, we know that school closures will affect people differently. We have thousands of kids who rely on school meals, and many who have no access to virtual learning. If or when we take this step, it would come with planning around kids who need a safe place to be during the day and kids whose parents are healthcare workers who will need to be at work. Those consequences are real but we cannot back down from tough conversations when the stakes are so high.