Jul 13, 2020
Oregon Governor Kate Brown Press Conference Transcript July 13
On July 13, Oregon Governor Kate Brown gave a COVID-19 press conference. Brown announced a ban on indoor social gatherings of more than 10 people, and an outdoor mask mandate. Read the full coronavirus news briefing speech here.
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Kate Brown: (02:18)
(silence) Good morning, everyone. Thank you all for joining us today. I’m here with Pat Allen director of the Oregon Health Authority and Dr. Dean Sidelinger our state epidemiologists. We’re here today to sound the alarm. The COVID-19 disease is spreading rapidly across the entire state of Oregon and each and every one of us needs to take action, immediate action to slow the spread of this disease. Let me share a few sobering facts. We reported more cases in the past week than we did during the entire month of May. The last time we had a 100 cases in a single day was more than a month ago. Half of all cases are from people under the age of 40. And one third of all cases are from people under the age of 30.
Kate Brown: (03:19)
Right now, people in their 20s and 30s are far and away the most likely group to get sick with COVID-19. We also announced the second death of an Oregonian in their 30s. We have done so much. We have come so far. We have sacrificed so deeply. We cannot let this virus get the best of us. This spring, we came together by literally staying apart. We were tremendously successful. As spring turned into summer, we began to reopen our businesses and venture out a little bit. Today. We are sounding the alarm because we are at risk of allowing the virus to spiral out of control. This is what we saw in New York this spring. And it’s what we’re seeing today in Texas, Florida, and Arizona. The question now is whether Oregon will be the next New York or the next Texas.
Kate Brown: (04:29)
The pandemic shows how closely our lives are intertwined. If I don’t wear a face covering, I put my friend at risk. If he doesn’t cover his cough, he puts the grocery store clerk at risk. If she doesn’t wash her hands, she puts her high school daughter at risk. If her daughter doesn’t keep a physical distance from friends, she puts her neighbors at risk. If her neighbor hangs out with friends at an indoor house party, he puts every single one of his friends at risk. And one of those friends has a grandmother in a nursing home who’s not been able to see her family in months because the disease is simply too rampant and too dangerous to allow visitors at our nursing homes.
Kate Brown: (05:22)
Somewhere else, along the chain of relationships, somewhere among the social connections that hold us together, people will get sick with COVID-19 and many people will die. The virus is extremely contagious and many people don’t show symptoms for days. In that time, you can come into contact with dozens, or if you’re not careful, hundreds of other people in your social circles and your community. That’s why the three Ws are so important. Wear a face covering, watch your distance, and wash, wash, wash your hands. As director Allen and Dr. Sidelinger said on Friday. We have seen increased spread of the disease connected to several kinds of hotspots.
Kate Brown: (06:18)
One is workplaces, particularly agricultural and food processing in rural Oregon. State and public health officials are doing everything possible to contain these outbreaks. Another is assisted living facilities, nursing homes and prisons, and state officials, our frontline workers and business owners are tackling these challenges day in and day out. The third is social get togethers, house parties, dinner parties, fraternity, and bachelorette parties. It’s when we let our guard down that the virus takes full advantage.
Kate Brown: (07:02)
Today, I’m announcing two steps to slow the spread of the virus. First, I am instituting a statewide ban on indoor social get togethers of more than 10 people. I am mandating that social get togethers like potlucks, dinner parties, birthday parties, and book clubs that take place in doors cannot exceed 10 people. This new rule does not change the operation of businesses or churches at this time.
Kate Brown: (07:45)
I also want to acknowledge that there’s a lot of conversation about restaurants and bars. Places like Texas have chosen to close them entirely or only allow outdoor dining. As of right now, these businesses that are implementing and enforcing our safety rules, face coverings, physical distancing, and sanitation do not appear to be the sources of significant transmission. I hope I don’t have to go the route of Texas and California and close bars and restaurants, but nothing, nothing is off the table.
Kate Brown: (08:24)
Second, I’m expanding Oregon’s face covering requirement. Already, Oregonians must wear face coverings in indoor public spaces. Starting on Wednesday, July 15th face coverings will also be required outdoors. If you can’t maintain a physical distance, anytime that you are outdoors, cannot maintain a physical distance of six feet. And you are with people you don’t live with. Please, please, please put on your face covering. With any new mandate, there’s always the question of enforcement. With face coverings now required outdoors enforcement will continue to rely on businesses to help implement this really important rule. If a restaurant has outdoor seating, for example, or if a grocery store has a line out front, or if a venue is hosting an event, businesses will have to include face coverings outdoors as part of their operational plan. Just as they have for indoor space basis.
Kate Brown: (09:37)
We have set up statewide enforcement task force. Throughout the reopening, we’ve been concentrating on an education first approach, helping businesses across the state to follow these rules. Unfortunately, not everyone is willing to work with us and sometimes our team needs to intervene in order to make sure that all Oregonians are safe. Over the 4th of July holiday weekend, for example, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission working in concert with OSHA visited 800 businesses across the state in an effort to ensure compliance. For those businesses that are not following the rules, there will be serious consequences, including citations, fines, and ultimately closing down businesses that refuse to protect their employees and their customers.
Kate Brown: (10:34)
I’ve also directed my team to meet with business leaders, to identify any and all other safety protocols that can be put in place immediately to slow the spread of the disease. We need to do absolutely everything we can to reduce transmissions in ways that do not require us to close down businesses again. Let’s be honest, state enforcement of limits on the size of indoor social get togethers will be difficult. I’m not going to set up the party police. However, the proof here will be in the numbers. Either people will adhere to this requirement and become a positive force for stopping COVID-19, or I will be forced to take more restrictive measures. No one wants that.
Kate Brown: (11:33)
Finally, I want the press and the public to note that already so many Oregonians are wearing faze coverings and limiting their in-person social gatherings. Thank you. Thank you. I know this is hard. It’s really hard. It’s lasting much longer, and the virus is much tougher to beat than any of us would ever wish. It may still be possible for us to keep bars and restaurants and shops open to gather again in larger groups, to continue to hike camp and go to parks. But it all depends on you. Your choices determine our future. If we don’t slow the spread of the virus, we will have no choice, but to force widespread and difficult closures again.
Kate Brown: (12:26)
So please wear a face covering, watch your physical distance and wash, wash, wash your hands. We are truly all in this together, and now I’m pleased to turn it over to director of the Oregon Health Authority, Pat Allen.
Pat Allen: (12:45)
Thank you, Governor Brown. And thanks for joining us this morning. I want to thank Governor Brown for taking the steps that she’s outlined today. These new guidelines respond to the gravity of the situation we see developing in Oregon, right now. The rate of COVID-19 transmission is accelerating. New cases are projected to triple in the next six weeks. That means more people will get sick. Many will become seriously ill. And our health care system is at risk of becoming overwhelmed. Indoor group social gatherings are fueling much of the spread. Since Oregon began reopening, we’ve seen new clusters and outbreaks of COVID-19 when people get together inside, especially in small social gatherings with family and friends.
Pat Allen: (13:32)
We’ve seen outbreaks spurred by graduations, birthday parties, weddings, bachelor parties, fraternity parties, exercise classes, holiday celebrations around Memorial Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Easter. And we’re now watching to see what may come from the 4th of July. And it’s understandable that these occur you’re with family and friends, and that feels inherently safe. And so people think less about taking the precautions that they need to protect themselves and their friends and family from COVID-19.
Pat Allen: (14:04)
We can still drive down infection rates and suppress COVID-19 in Oregon. Oregonians flattened the curve by staying home, yet we know that’s not a sustainable longterm strategy. Here’s what we do know. We can blunt the spread of COVID-19 by taking simple steps in our everyday lives that make it hard for the virus to spread. Don’t gather indoors. Today, we’re announcing limits on indoor social gatherings of more than 10 people. I want to urge all Oregonians to follow the governor’s directive. Wear masks and other facial coverings. Emerging evidence continues to show masks, curb community spread by protecting others from a virus you may carry and be unaware of. Stay six feet apart, physical distancing is still one of the most effective tools to prevent COVID-19 from spreading. If you begin to feel sick, stay home and away from other people. The only way we can stop COVID-19 in its tracks is by isolating ourselves.
Pat Allen: (15:03)
The only way we can stop COVID-19 in its tracks is by isolating ourselves if we’re ill and finally answer the call. If you hear from a contact tracer, answer his or her call. Take their advice on how to protect yourself and those around you.
Pat Allen: (15:15)
As I’ve been saying repeatedly over the last couple of months, reopening the state doesn’t mean going back to the way things were before. It means doing more things than we could during shutdown, but having to do them differently and these five things are what that means.
Pat Allen: (15:31)
We all want life to return to normal. We all want to spend time with family and friends but we cannot let COVID-19 get out of control in Oregon and overwhelm our healthcare system and the way we’ve seen it happen in other states. We have the power to stop COVID-19 in its tracks. It comes down to each of us. Thank you for taking steps in your own lives to suppress COVID-19 in your community and protect yourself and the people and the people you love. Thank you. Doctor Sidelinger.
Doctor Sidelinger: (16:04)
Thank you. Governor Brown, Director Allen.
Doctor Sidelinger: (16:07)
Let me start by saying when we present numbers and data, we know that each of these numbers represents our neighbors and my thoughts go out to all our fellow Oregonians who have been impacted by COVID-19.
Doctor Sidelinger: (16:18)
As we talk about the numbers overall, we know that some of our communities are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, including our neighbors from our communities of color and we’re continuing to work with them, to partner to increase testing in these communities.
Doctor Sidelinger: (16:32)
As we reported last week, our modeling shows troubling scenarios. As of several weeks ago, we knew that if transmission did not begin to reduce, we’d rapidly see increasing infection numbers moving towards exponential growth. The model shows that we’ve reached a point where even if we saw a 10% reduction in transmission from the current rates, we’d continue to see increases in our case numbers week over week.
Doctor Sidelinger: (16:59)
In essence, our models show that the disease is spreading more and more quickly and our efforts to get Oregonians to modify their behaviors, have not been as successful as we needed to keep the curve flattened. But keep in mind, the results indicate that transmission has increased since reopening and if transmission roommates at current levels, we could expect exponential growth.
Doctor Sidelinger: (17:20)
The model scenarios suggests that increasing or decreasing transmission by only 25 percentage points would have a large effect on the number of infections. However, a reduction by 25 percentage points still puts us in a path where we see increased growth.
Doctor Sidelinger: (17:34)
These models don’t reflect the actions taken by the governor and Oregonians following her orders over the last two weeks. They’re not reflected in these estimates, so we can still make a change. We need to work together to reduce the spread. We all have a role in protecting ourselves, our families, our neighbors, and broader communities. We must bend the curve again and change the trajectory of the disease in Oregon. There are actions each of us can take to help accomplish this. In addition to the new measures announced today, there are other actions we can all take to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Doctor Sidelinger: (18:09)
If you can move your activities outside, do so. The disease spreads less easily outdoors and you get to enjoy more of the Oregon summer. If you run a business and can serve customers outside, do it. Avoid groups of more than 10 and if you’re unexpectedly in a group of 10, think hard about whether that’s a good idea. Is that a good choice for you? Try and move it outside, stay six feet apart and cover your face.
Doctor Sidelinger: (18:36)
Even when you’re not getting together with friends and families, of course follow our standard requests; maintain six feet of physical distance, where a face covering went outside the house, practice good hand hygiene and wash your hands. Avoid any gatherings would non-household members, if you can and if you start to have symptoms, even mild ones, consult with your medical provider to determine instructions on how to care for yourself and your household members and also whether or not you need to be tested.
Doctor Sidelinger: (19:05)
And lastly, if you get a call from public health, answer the phone, answer their questions. Our public health investigators and contact tracers are key partners for us in controlling this disease and they need your help.
Doctor Sidelinger: (19:19)
None of us want to get to a situation where we don’t have hospital capacity and quality healthcare because infections are largely out of control. The time for all of us to take action is now and we can flatten this curve together. We’ve done it once. We’ll do it again. Governor.
Kate Brown: (19:35)
Thank you, Doctor Sidelinger. I think we’re ready for questions.
Speaker 1: (19:40)
[inaudible 00:19:41], Governor’s office. [inaudible 00:19:45] Just press zero again to get in line to ask a question. We’ll start out with LaShay Wesley from KATU. Go ahead LaShay.
LaShay Wesley: (19:52)
Hi. Good morning. I was wondering if the face covering mandate’s helping to slow the spread of the virus? Is the data reflecting this yet and then my second question is, excuse me. Exercise classes have been linked to some cases. Is this state thinking about closing these types of classes?
Kate Brown: (20:13)
Doctor Sidelinger, do you want to take that one?
Doctor Sidelinger: (20:14)
Thank you, LaShay. I think the question about face coverings is difficult. We know that when they’re worn by people, they can prevent the spread of disease. The spread that we’ve seen in Oregon recently is due in large part to workplace outbreaks and even with face coverings and other steps that employers have taken, some of these facilities can still facilitate the spread of disease. So we continue to work with our employers to keep up their guard and provide protections for their employees.
Doctor Sidelinger: (20:44)
The disease can also spread easily in social situations and as Director Allen said, when we get together with our friends and family, we often let our guard down and wearing a mask when we’re sitting, talking to our best friend, talking to a relative we haven’t seen in a while, can seem uncomfortable and can seem unnatural. But during this time when COVID is spreading in Oregon and across the United States, it’s important that we continue to take these steps to prevent the spread.
Doctor Sidelinger: (21:11)
So the face covering mandate that went into effect for all Oregonians going into indoor public places started on July 1st. There was limited data and some of our modeling, as I said, to see the impact of that on our future cases. We hope that as we do additional models, we’ll see that taken into account in the most recent data. But we do ask that all of our Oregonians follow these executive orders, wear their face coverings when they’re inside in public places and outside where they can’t maintain physical distancing, because doing that is a sign of respect and a sign of protection for all of those around you and all of us working together can flatten this curve again.
Speaker 2: (21:54)
So the second part of the question regarding exercise classes. The governor a little bit ago, said everything is on the table and I think everything is on the table. We’ll continue to follow the data and take whatever steps and make recommendations to the governor that we think are necessary to slow the spread.
Kate Brown: (22:12)
Thank you, LaShay.
Speaker 1: (22:14)
Thanks LaShay. Next up we have Antonio Sierra from the East Oregonian.
Antonio Sierra: (22:22)
Hi. So real quick, Eastern Oregon, including Umatilla, Morrow counties has seen a spike in cases over the past few weeks. With the Umatilla county government, suggesting a frontline worker safety net program, they considering any regionally specific remedies to slow the spread of COVID-19?
Kate Brown: (22:41)
Thanks Antonio for the question and I really appreciate the collaborative efforts from the local counties that have been put on a watch list.
Kate Brown: (22:50)
We have certainly reached out to work with them to make sure that they have the support and services that they need to tackle the virus and for each County it’s looked a little different and I’ll let Director Allen.
Pat Allen: (23:03)
We do approach these circumstances regionally when that’s appropriate. Last week, I was on a phone call together with Public Health Director, Lillian Shirley with county commissioners in Morrow and Umatilla counties, given that they have a shared workforce and communities that border each other, to talk together about the different kinds of circumstances that they have and any kind of strategies that we could pursue in common.
Pat Allen: (23:32)
Still each County is unique and we need to be able to support their specific needs. Similarly, in the early days of the Umatilla County outbreak, the area was a regional response with mutual aid going to Union County, excuse me, in support of that outbreak. So where we can and where it makes sense, we do try to work regionally.
Speaker 1: (23:56)
Thanks, Antonio. Next up we have Dirk VanderHart from OPB. Go ahead, Dirk.
Dirk VanderHart: (24:03)
Thanks. Governor, you mentioned that there has been a public education aspect to enforcement so far, but you are sort of promising that consequences will follow.
Dirk VanderHart: (24:14)
How many citations have been issued by the two agencies that are doing this enforcement to date? Do you have any idea? I mean, have there been citations issued?
Kate Brown: (24:22)
So Dirk, I appreciate the question. I am asking our businesses across the state to partner with the state of Oregon to enforce these face covering restrictions.
Kate Brown: (24:35)
As I mentioned, OLCC and OSHA, over the 4th of July holiday weekend, visited over 800 businesses across the state. I don’t have a specific answer to your citation question and we’ll get that information for you.
Kate Brown: (24:50)
But honestly, I’m also asking Oregonians across the state to take personal responsibility for wearing face coverings. I know from the photographs I’ve seen and folks that I’m talking to, that the vast majority of Oregonians are wearing their face coverings. They understand that it helps reduce the transmission of the disease, that it keeps your friends, your family members and your community members safe and virus free.
Kate Brown: (25:25)
So I really, really appreciate the efforts of Oregonians going the extra mile and getting your face coverings on as you’re going outside. I know this is really… Go ahead.
Dirk VanderHart: (25:42)
Oh, sorry. I just wanted to offer a quick follow-up. You know, you have said you don’t want police sort of citing people with misdemeanors for breaking the rules. Obviously though, when with an out and about type thing, I mean, that becomes more the pertinent enforcement. You didn’t mention anything about that today. So are you still looking for, just to be clear, a solely business focused enforcement? Is that it’s the sole enforcement you’re looking to at this point for the outside order?
Kate Brown: (26:07)
We are continuing to work with the business community to ensure that they are enforcing the face covering mandate and as I said, we will take steps as appropriate, including fines on businesses that are not complying with the order.
Speaker 1: (26:25)
Dirk VanderHart: (26:26)
Speaker 1: (26:27)
Next up we have Brenna Kelly with KPTV. Go ahead, Brenna.
Brenna Kelly: (26:33)
Hi, good morning. My question is regarding gatherings. Counties in Phase Two are having gatherings of up to 100 people. For example, the Pickles in [inaudible 00:26:42] sold tickets for a hundred people to watch baseball in the stands. Is this smart at this point?
Kate Brown: (26:49)
That’s a great question. I’m going to turn it over to our epidemiologists. Again, we’re asking Oregonians to be very careful when they’re out in public and that’s a really good circumstance where I would hope that Oregonians there would be wearing their face coverings, to be kind and smart and thoughtful of your neighbors and your community members. Dr. Sidelinger.
Doctor Sidelinger: (27:12)
Thank you, Governor Brown, and thank you for the question.
Doctor Sidelinger: (27:12)
I think what we’re doing with our guidance, our recommendations, the executive orders, is trying to get people to reduce the risk. Being outside is safer than being inside. Keeping six feet of distance is safer than less than six feet. Using a face covering is safer than no face covering at all. As we increase the size of people getting together, that can increase the potential for transmission.
Doctor Sidelinger: (27:40)
So for the new announcements today, it’s really limited to gatherings indoors of 10 or more people. This is something that we’ve seen spread from holiday parties, graduation parties and other things, since reopening began in May. So by instituting this, we hope that people will take those steps to protect themselves their best friends and family who are gathering together. For an example like the Pickles for they’re joining together, outside in a larger group to watch a baseball game, there are guidelines in place that the organization, that the Pickles are following, that other organizations are following, to protect the people who come to that area. The employees, the customers, the people that are watching the baseball game , so that they can do so in a safe way.
Doctor Sidelinger: (28:25)
So, these are targeted approaches that we’re looking at, decreasing the spread we’re currently seeing in our community and we hope that Oregonians will come together and follow these and that we will see reduced cases in the coming weeks as a result of all of our actions.
Pat Allen: (28:41)
If I could just add quickly, it really is this issue of not doing things always the way that we did them before. Being able to go to an athletic event, or I had a call from a friend whose kid was going to be in a lacrosse tournament in a Phase Two county and I told him, I wasn’t so concerned about the lacrosse tournament but I was concerned about all the families getting together for pizza after. It’s those kinds of things where you want to act like it was before the virus, where you really have to think through, how are you going to do that so that it remains safe?
Pat Allen: (29:13)
What I understood from the Pickles event in the media was that people were in fact distanced and wearing masks and met the gathering limits and I think that’s the way you have to think through every kind of an event that falls within the guidance that we’ve provided.
Kate Brown: (29:27)
I just have to add, this is really, really hard. This is a culture change and it’s a difficult one but I think it’s so critically important that we all step up and wear our face coverings, maintain our physical distance and wash our hands if we want to slow the transmission of the virus.
Kate Brown: (29:47)
I don’t want to close down our favorite restaurants, our favorite brew pubs. I want to keep our stores open. It’s up to each and every one of us to do the right thing and slow the transmission down.
Speaker 1: (30:01)
Thanks, Brenna. Next up…
Speaker 1: (30:03)
Thanks Brenna. Next up, we have a written question from Claire [Withacomb 00:30:06] with the Statesman Journal. Claire asks, what advice does the Governor have for businesses whose patrons aren’t abiding by the mask mandate, especially if employees don’t feel comfortable confronting patrons?
Kate Brown: (30:16)
Well, certainly I want to encourage, and the vast majority of businesses across the state have been working with us collaboratively to ensure that the face covering requirement has been complied with, along with other safety protocol that we have put in place. We know, and the reason why we’re taking these steps today is that the vast majority of businesses are in compliance. For those businesses that are struggling to comply with these safety requirements, please know that we’re meeting with a number of the business sectors this week and we will be working with you and your representatives to ensure that you have the tools that you need.
Speaker 1: (31:03)
Thanks, Claire. Next up we have Dan Goldberg with Politico. Go ahead Dan.
Dirk VanderHart: (31:11)
Hi. Thank you so much for doing this. I had a quick question. Is there something that you need as your numbers increase from the Federal Government? Is there anything you’re looking for?
Kate Brown: (31:23)
That’s a really good question. I think it’s fair to say that no good deed goes unpunished and Oregon has done, frankly, a remarkable job. I put in early and aggressive physical distancing measures and Oregonians have made tremendous sacrifices. As a result, we have one of the lowest infection rates in the country. We have been in touch with federal authorities, asking for additional assistance around testing. We want to make sure that we maintain Oregon as a low prevalence state, and we could certainly use an assist from our federal partners at this point in time.
Speaker 1: (32:12)
Thanks Dan. Thank you. Next up we’ve got Kennedy from KECI. Go ahead Kennedy.
Good morning. My question is this, at the present time, what is the plan for reopening schools this fall and really getting students back into the classroom setting?
Kate Brown: (32:31)
Look, that’s a really great question. I know one of my top priorities is making sure that we get our kids in school or at least access to an education around the entire state. Our closure was a statewide, it was a statewide and we’re working more locally to make sure that our schools can reopen safely in a way that protects the health and safety of students and our teachers and our staff in our school districts around the state.
Kate Brown: (33:04)
I began our healthy schools reopening process. We have a number of experts at the table, including a local public health epidemiologists, like Dr. Sidelinger and educational experts along with parents and a few students on the council, all working to make sure that we have the tools that we need to make this happen safely, but I have to tell Oregonians, it’s going to look very differently. The Department of Education has released extensive guidelines. Essentially, schools can happen in person can happen in line or online, or there can be some sort of hybrid, but we want to make sure that it’s done safely. It’s so critically important that our kids get back in school.
Speaker 1: (33:56)
Thanks Kennedy. Next up, we have Rachel [Monnohan 00:34:01] from [inaudible 00:04:03]. We’re getting a little bit of feedback here.
Is this better?
Speaker 1: (34:15)
You said that your priority, you’re concerned with getting kids back to school or at least instruction for the fall. There has been some public health officials who say that it’s necessary to close bars, at least, if not restaurants in order to shut down the disease. Should Oregonians interpret your decision not to do that as prioritizing economic security over school reopenings?
Kate Brown: (34:55)
Absolutely not. My top priorities ensuring the health and safety of Oregonians across the entire state. In terms of other measures, shutting down businesses and bars and restaurants, obviously we are taking these steps right now in hopes that we don’t need to do that. As I said, all options are on the table. Should the transmission of the virus continue to increase, we will certainly look at those types of measures.
How soon will you look at those things, those measures?
Kate Brown: (35:33)
We’re looking every day at the numbers and all the different factors that we’re considering in these decisions. As you know, Rachel, I’m meeting with my medical advisory panel on a weekly basis. I reach out to the individual members to check in. I am talking with the Oregon Health Authority on a regular basis and I know they’re consulting with their teams regularly.
Pat Allen: (35:57)
If I can add one short piece.
Kate Brown: (35:58)
Pat Allen: (36:00)
It’s also important to note that what open means is different in different places. In terms of bars, you can’t actually go to a bar in Oregon today. Bar areas are all closed. We’ve also got capacity limitations and distancing limitations that make a shoulder to shoulder nightclub kind of an environment completely impossible in the state and that’s what OLCC has been looking at and enforcing. That sometimes is different than what open might mean in other States around that life.
Speaker 1: (36:28)
Thanks Rachel. Next up, we’ve got, I think, Pat Duress from TGW. Go ahead, Pat. Is this Pat on the line?
Yes, thank you. Yes, can you hear me now?
Speaker 1: (36:45)
Yes. Go ahead.
Okay, thank you. Sorry about that. Governor, a two part question and they’re not connected. The first one is, driving throughout the city as the weather has gotten nicer, we see lots and lots of outdoor basketball games going on, tournaments. Is anybody going to police those or are those okay? That’s question one. Then question two, just looking for your reaction to a federal law enforcement and the protestors over the weekend. Thank you.
Kate Brown: (37:17)
I am not going to be the basketball police or the party police. I’m asking Oregonians to take personal responsibility. If you cannot maintain a six feet of distance while you are outside, please, please, please wear a face covering. Again, please limit your indoor social gatherings to under 10 people. I don’t know if Dr. Sidelinger wants to add something about the safety of basketball games outside.
Doctor Sidelinger: (37:47)
Thank you for that. I think as we get outside and enjoy the Oregon summers, we need to do so in a safe way. For many of the activities we can do, we can maintain that six feet of physical distance from those who are not in our household. As we begin to return to sports, we ask that limiting, that contact sports really are not safe at this time and other sports are safer. As much as possible, trying to maintain that physical distance. Wear a face covering if you can, even during physical exertion. That’s perfectly safe for most individuals. Just learn to do so comfortably. If you’re out and you see your friends not doing that, call them on it, talk to them about it so that they know the rules and they know the safety rules. They may not be as educated as you.
Kate Brown: (38:31)
Pat, in terms of your second question. You get a two bites at the apple because I happen to have a pen this morning. The street violence in Portland absolutely needs to stop. It is distraction from the critical work head to eradicate racism from our justice system and from our systems and institutions altogether. Trump troops in Portland are definitely not the answer. As we saw, this only escalates the tension and we need a dialogue and deescalation.
Speaker 1: (39:08)
Speaker 1: (39:10)
Next up, we have Hillary [Bureau 00:39:11] with the Oregonian. Go ahead, Hillary.
Hi Governor. Thanks for taking my question. One of the big sources of outbreak, this has been discussed, is employers. There’s nothing from what I’m hearing in these new requirements today to address that. Are there specific things that you’re thinking about to try and reduce the workplace outbreaks and agricultural outbreaks?
Kate Brown: (39:44)
Thanks, Hillary, for the question. We are certainly working to balance lives with livelihoods and using a surgical approach to avoid unnecessary harm to our businesses and sectors of the economy. We’re obviously working with and following the recommendations of doctors and health experts about interventions needed to address specific outbreaks in industries around the state. We’re working with those industries to adapt and obviously working with individuals to adapt to the disease. In terms of specifics, I’ll turn it over to Director Allen.
Pat Allen: (40:23)
Yeah, the one thing I would comment on is we identify workplace outbreaks because they’re easy to see and because an outbreak can spread in a workplace, but it’s also important to remember that the outbreak didn’t just spring up magically in that workplace. It came from outside the workplace, into the community. The things that we’re talking about doing right now around trying to slow the spread in the community due to social gatherings and lack of mask wearing will also, we believe, help reduce the number of workplace outbreaks because it’s an interconnected cycle. An infection starts in a community, moves into a workplace, spreads in a workplace, moves back out to the community and we want to break that chain at multiple places. This is really aimed as a tool that tries to reduce the prevalence of the disease overall.
Doctor Sidelinger: (41:07)
Okay. Can I add?
Kate Brown: (41:09)
Thanks you for that. I just had a question about testing [crosstalk 00:41:13] earlier.
Kate Brown: (41:14)
Hillary, can you hang on? [crosstalk 00:41:16] Hillary. Can you hang on with that question? Dr. Sidelinger had an additional follow up to Director Allen.
Doctor Sidelinger: (41:23)
I just want to talk about our workplace outbreaks. I will say the vast majority of the employers that we work with that are local public health authorities work with are doing the right things to protect the health of their employees, the health of their customers. Because you hear of a workplace outbreak doesn’t mean that things are necessarily wrong, but many of these settings, they happen indoors. You can’t move food processing outdoors. The physical distancing, you can’t get people further apart. They take steps. They use face coverings. Even in spite of that, we can see spread in these workplaces. We hope to continue that partnership with our workplaces, with our Oregon Department of Agriculture, who’s reached out to these businesses and provided education, provided guidance together with OHA on how to respond to workplace safety and our regular partners at Oregon OSHA, who help us as well.
Doctor Sidelinger: (42:15)
This is a team sport and we’re working together to prevent those outbreaks. As director Allen said, many of the actions we take in the community can help prevent introduction of disease into these settings where they can spread relatively easy, even with precautions in place.
Kate Brown: (42:31)
She had a question about testing.
Doctor Sidelinger: (42:32)
Okay. Thanks for that. I just wanted to circle back on the testing because it had come up earlier. Governor, you had said that we need help from the feds on testing. Can you elaborate on that a little bit because the reporting has been at Oregon is using drastically less testing than the capacity that we have available?
Kate Brown: (42:54)
I’ll let Dr. Sidelinger or Director Allen talk about the capacity. We know that in order to reduce the transmission of the virus, we have over time substantially increased our testing capacity. We need to substantially increase that again. We have asked the Federal Government for additional, frankly, resources, funding and additional supplies so we can meet that need. We think it’s critically important in these communities around the state where we’re seeing outbreaks to more rapidly test and more extensively test in targeted ways.
Pat Allen: (43:36)
I can speak a little bit more to that.
Kate Brown: (43:37)
Pat Allen: (43:38)
The fact is, we’ve been testing over the last month, I would say, closer and closer to the capacity that we have in the state to do testing. Our testing over the last several weeks has averaged in the range of 30,000 to 35,000 tests a week. The fact of the matter is, supply chain issues are creeping back into the testing landscape. By our most recent estimate, we have about 8,000 of those tests per week that are now at risk to supply chain disruptions.
Pat Allen: (44:10)
These are disruptions of all over the system, from reagents to pipette tips, to collection kits, to kits that process multiple tests at a time across different kinds of platforms and effecting different entities who do testing. It’s not surprising with the huge, huge increase in disease around the rest of the country, the demand elsewhere, again, as the Governor indicated, we’re a little bit of a victim of our own success. We fall out of the prioritization list if it’s based solely on how much disease is there, because we’re one of the lowest infection rate States in the country. We’re testing very close to our capacity and that capacity is being diminished by these supply chain issues.
Speaker 1: (44:58)
Speaker 1: (44:58)
Up next, we’ve got Les [Sites 00:45:02] with the Malheur Enterprise. Go ahead, Les.
Speaker 1: (45:03)
Next, Governor, you’ve got Les Zaitz with the Malheur Enterprise. Go ahead, Les.
Les Zaitz: (45:06)
Yeah. Governor, for weeks now, you have pleaded with Oregonians to follow social distancing, to wear masks. You’ve been layering on, week by week, two mandates. But yet we are a state where the cases of COVID-19 seem to be surging out of control. That suggests that the message of you and your administration just is not taking hold. Why do you think that is? And I have a second question.
Kate Brown: (45:33)
Thanks, Les. What I will say is this, I know that the vast majority of Oregonians are complying with the restrictions that we have put in place, particularly wearing the face coverings, making sure that you are limiting your social gatherings. And what is clear is that we have a few outliers.
Kate Brown: (45:56)
And the efforts we are taking today is to tackle those circumstances where folks are doing large indoor house parties. They could be a bachelorette party or a fraternity party or a graduation party. And I’m saying to Oregonians that these large indoor gatherings are literally putting lives at risk. And we need everyone, all of us, to enforce and comply with the increased social gathering limits.
Les Zaitz: (46:35)
Okay. Second question, Governor. As Dr. Sidelinger mentioned, cases could triple within the next six weeks, which puts us right at the start of the school year. At what point do you make a go or no go decision on whether schools can physically return?
Kate Brown: (46:55)
Was that question for me or Dr. Sidelinger? Here’s what I would say [crosstalk 00:47:00], Les. Here’s what I would say, Les. When we closed down schools, we took a statewide approach, very much a centralized approach. And we’re obviously seeing outbreaks of the disease in communities around the state. My priority is to make sure that every student, regardless of the zip code they live in, have access to a high quality education and that they have access to the school-based services that will set them up for lifelong success.
Kate Brown: (47:28)
At the same time, we obviously have to ensure that Oregon students, our teachers, and our support professionals, and parents and caregivers remain safe. And so we are working with experts, we are working with teachers, and we’re working with superintendents around the state. The reopening process will take a much more granular, targeted, localized approach, and I think that makes sense.
Kate Brown: (47:59)
We’re obviously put in place guidelines for all of the school districts to follow. And frankly, it also includes private schools as well. And then public schools need to take extra steps to ensure the safety of their students and teachers and staff and families connected to the schools.
Kate Brown: (48:20)
And so this is new for all of us. We are working very hard. I mentioned my Healthy Schools Council. We’re working with them and meeting regularly. We’re working with local public health. We’re asking districts to work with their local public health. It’s probably going to look different in different districts. Some schools may be able to safely reopen in the fall, some may have to go to a hybrid model, some in classroom and some online, and some school districts may have to go to fully online.
Kate Brown: (48:56)
But what is so important, I think, is that we all work together to ensure that our kids get the best education they can under these very challenging circumstances. Dr. Sidelinger, do you have anything to [crosstalk 00:49:09] add? Go ahead, Les.
Les Zaitz: (49:11)
Well, Governor, if I may follow up on that, I appreciate all of that and that’s not anything that you haven’t said before. But again, the calendar is getting pretty short here. Is there no point at which the state would step up and say, because of the COVID cases around the state, and particularly in those counties there’s a watch list, that you cannot return to physical buildings?
Kate Brown: (49:36)
Look [crosstalk 00:49:38].
Les Zaitz: (49:38)
… the teachers and parents and administrators are all working to get to the opening, but it seems to me that the community deserves some sense of, “Here’s the bright line of when we make a go, no go decision.”
Kate Brown: (49:51)
Look, Les, as you said, the local school districts are working with their school boards, their community members, with local public health. We are doing everything we can to work to make sure that schools can open in the fall. As I said, this is going to look different in different communities around the state.
Kate Brown: (50:11)
At some point, might we need to shut all of our schools down? I don’t know what that point would be at this point in time. So I don’t want to give you a bright red line when I don’t have one. But I think we have to try a community wide, a targeted approach to at least get some of our school districts open. My hope is that all of our school districts can open.
Kate Brown: (50:37)
Director Allen, you’re on a school board. Do you have anything that you want to add?
Pat Allen: (50:41)
The only thing I would add, not so much from a school board perspective, but just from an advising you perspective with respect to health, is that so much of what we know changes about this disease week by week, day by day even. And I think that’s why we’ve hesitated in a lot of areas to articulate bright red lines, because things have changed so much. Look at the age shift in cases as an example. It would be an entirely different circumstance today if we had the number of cases we did continuing to focus on the elderly people in long-term care and those kinds of things. It’s very different to have that same number of cases in people in their twenties and thirties. There’s emerging research every day about how the disease affects kids, how it’s transmitted from kids to others, those kinds of things.
Pat Allen: (51:28)
And so while it’s certainly possible there’s going to be a point where we come to you and say, “We think we shouldn’t proceed,” it’s really, really hard based on what we know today to articulate exactly what that point would be.
Speaker 1: (51:41)
Thanks, Les. Next up, we’ve just got a few more minutes left, so we’ll try and get through the last few questions here. Next up is Julia Silverman with Portland Monthly. Go ahead, Julia.
Hi there. Thanks for taking the question. And it’s another schools one. I hope that’s okay. I’m having trouble reconciling the ban on the indoor gathering of 10 or less with reopening schools. My children go to Portland Public Schools and their fifth grade class has 32 kids in it. Even if you go into a cohort, I just don’t understand. Can you help me clarify that?
And then just to follow up on Les’s question, you said, Governor, last time we took a statewide approach, this time, it will be more granular and targeted. Does that mean that we will see some school districts opening while others are mandated to stay closed? Thank you very much.
Kate Brown: (52:39)
Thank you, Julia. And I’m going to turn your question, which is a really good one, over to Dr. Sidelinger.
Doctor Sidelinger: (52:43)
Thank you, Governor. I think the Oregon Department of Education, Oregon Health Authority have been working closely together all spring and through the summer to provide guidance to our local school boards and to our local public health authorities on how to safely reopen schools. That guidance has continued to be looked at and will be updated.
Doctor Sidelinger: (53:04)
Part of that guidance is to have schools develop plans that reflect their physical buildings, their community, their access to teachers, and other resources to open schools in a way that’s safe for the children, for the faculty, and for the staff in those schools. That is going to look different in different schools, depending on the resources, the buildings, and other things that they have available. They will write those plans and share those plans with local public health so that they are on the same page going forward.
Doctor Sidelinger: (53:38)
They will look at the disease spread in their community and how it’s being transmitted and make decisions about whether students and teachers and staff can safely return to school buildings, can some of them safely return with the addition of hybrid learning with some learning online, and some will remain completely online. Those conversations are happening in communities. Those conversations are robust. And the thing to remember is that everyone who’s coming to the table is doing so with the safety of the school community in mind. And that’s going to look different in different communities based on the spread, based on the plans that they’ve made, based on what they’re working with. And we will support that.
Doctor Sidelinger: (54:18)
Again, the closing of schools came across the board for all schools in Oregon. As we open up, we hope that school districts will open up depending on their community circumstances in a way that’s safest for everyone who’s attending there. And that could look very different in an urban district like Portland Public Schools than in some of our rural districts that have seen very little spread.
Doctor Sidelinger: (54:39)
So I’m with you as a pediatrician, I’m with you as a parent that we need to do everything we can to create a safe environment in those schools. The actions that we’re taking today that the Governor announced are targeted actions about social gatherings when people get together, because we know that is driving some of the spread in our communities. So these actions are putting some guidance, some additional rules in place to try and make sure that those are safe.
Doctor Sidelinger: (55:05)
When it comes to opening schools, we have a lot of guidance. That guidance from the federal government, from our neighboring states, from organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics is informing what we’re doing. And we continue to update that so that that guidance is in place to ensure safety. And that’s why it’s a little different than the social get-together limits that we announced today.
Speaker 1: (55:31)
Thanks, Julia. Next up, we have Shaun Hall with the Grants Pass Daily Courier. Go ahead, Shaun.
Hi, Governor. My question is this. What might you say about city councilors or county commissioners who meet and don’t wear their masks during meetings?
Kate Brown: (55:55)
Thanks for the question. I just want to encourage everyone in Oregon, and I know the vast majority of Oregonians are complying with face covering requirements and social distancing requirements, and of course, washing hands requirements, but just want to encourage all of our elected officials across the state to set an example for your fellow Oregonians, to be kind, to be smart, and to be very considerate of your constituents. You are a role model. You set the tone and your actions really do matter.
Kate Brown: (56:31)
And the challenge with the virus is that each and every one of our actions matters in totality. We’re truly all in this together. And so continue to maintain, watch your social distance, continue to wear your face covering, and of course, wash, wash, wash your hands.
Speaker 1: (56:54)
Thanks, Shaun. Last question we have in the queue is Mila Mimica with KGW. Go ahead, Mila.
Hi, Governor. Thank you so much. I was wondering if you can just loop back to the federal agents back in Portland. Where does the buck stop with that? Is that going to be the mayor? Is that going to be you standing up to President Trump? What is your response to that? Are you going to play a hand in letting these people stay in Portland or getting them out of the city?
Kate Brown: (57:22)
Look, my interactions with the president are extremely limited, but I did hear him on a phone call a couple of weeks ago demanding a very violent response, even when there were peaceful protesters. I don’t believe that President Trump ordering troops to the streets in Portland is the solution to the challenges we’re facing. And I would ask Portlanders to not take the bait.
Speaker 1: (57:54)
Thanks, Mila. That was the last question we have in the queue. So thanks so much, everyone, for joining us today.