March 21, 2020

Gov. Kate Brown, together with Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury, announced Friday evening that they are working on an order and public education campaign for people to “Stay Home and Stay Safe’’ to slow spread of the coronavirus.

Chair Deborah Kafoury tells residents to stay home. "Temporary disappointment and inconvenience are the price we pay for health and safety."

On the eve of what would typically be spring break, the elected leaders are working together to develop new physical distancing direction for businesses and individuals.

“We have put into place aggressive physical distancing orders to protect you, our neighbors and our most vulnerable, to protect Oregonians,” Brown said. “But these measures don’t work unless ​we all ​follow them every single day.”

Next week Gov. Brown said the public could expect more clarity regarding businesses not included in last week’s order restricting group sizes and limiting restaurants to take-out and delivery. Brown said the addendum to her March 16 order would include other “consumer-facing’’ businesses where people come into close proximity, such as movie theatres and gyms.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler joined in the Governor’s plea in asking residents to stay at home, “unless it’s absolutely necessary to be out.”

People have used the term “shelter in place” to describe public health directives issued in other states that individuals isolate from others.

“I’ve used it, and other jurisdictions have used it,” he said, of the term. But that term makes people think of nuclear fallout. Or seeking immediate shelter during an earthquake. 

“That’s not what this is,” he said. “You will still be able to go to the grocery store, or get gas, or walk your dog, or take care of your aging parent, or go for a hike.” 

Chair Deborah Kafoury said the power of physical distancing orders depends entirely on the public’s willingness to distance themselves. Many have taken the plea to heart. Even those who can barely afford to do so, have taken extreme measures to slow the spread of this virus.

But as we enter spring break and the sun has come out, people naturally want to get out. Including her family.

“I love to be outside. I love to see friends, I love to shop,” she said.  But we can’t do that right now — at least not in the ways that we’re used to.”

For many, the practice of physical distancing is unclear, and Kafoury said she hopes new guidance expected next week would help make it more clear. 

“This crisis means we can’t have parties or crowd into check-out lines and parking lots,” she said. “And as much as we love Forest Park or the Portland Waterfront, we have to avoid crowded trails and clustering in public parks when there isn’t enough space.”

To stop the spread of this virus, residents will need to take the guidance seriously: 

  • Spend time only with members of your households and closest contacts

  • Stay close to home

  • Avoid group games like frisbee, basketball or soccer with people who are not in your household or your closest contacts.

  • Maintain about six feet of distance from anyone outside your immediate circle while walking, jogging or biking outside.

“This is not the spring break any of us were expecting,’’ she said. “But we are in a moment where temporary disappointment and inconvenience are the price we pay for health and safety.”