Jul 22, 2020
Oregon Governor Kate Brown Press Conference Transcript July 22
Oregon Governor Kate Brown gave a COVID-19 press conference on July 22. She announced an expansion of COVID-19 restrictions. Read the full coronavirus news briefing speech here.
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Gov. Kate Brown: (05:03)
Are you ready Dr. Dean? Okay. All right. Good morning, everyone. Thank you all so much for joining us today. I want to take a moment to thank everyone who’s sending me homemade masks from Sydney to Kathy in Salem to Roberta in Pendleton. Thank you. We really appreciate your efforts. I’m here today with Dr. Dean Sidelinger, our state epidemiologist. We held a press conference more than a week ago to sound the alarm. Oregon, we ventured out onto the ice together, and that ice has begun to crack. Before we fall through the ice, we need to take additional steps to protect ourselves and our communities. Oregonians have been doing great work to wear face coverings and being very creative about them, I must say. And we’re certainly adjusting our lifestyles in response to the pandemic. So far that has allowed us to avoid becoming the next New York or the next Texas.
Gov. Kate Brown: (06:13)
That said, the COVID-19 virus is continuing to spread too quickly across Oregon. So it’s time for further actions to stop the spread of this disease. Keep in mind, this is not an on or off switch. This disease is something that for the time being we must learn to live with. However, when we see the numbers rise, we must respond in turn. We must dim the lights. We must scale back, limit our interactions, take more precautions. To that end, I’m making several changes to Oregon’s rules and guidelines on the pandemic. These will all be effective Friday, July 24th and these are statewide rules. First, at the recommendation of medical experts at the Oregon Health Authority and my medical advisory panel, I am expanding the face covering requirement to include younger children. All children ages five and older must wear face coverings in public indoor spaces and outdoors where physical distancing cannot be maintained. If your child is five or older, you will need to help them wear a face covering to protect themselves and others.
Gov. Kate Brown: (07:39)
We will keep in place the existing recommendation, not a requirement for face coverings for children between the ages of two and five. This requirement will be consistent with our guidance for schools. Later today, the Oregon Department of Education will release it’s updated, Ready Schools, Safe Learners Guidelines that includes this particular change amongst others. As we continue to learn that transmission of the disease is reduced with face coverings, we are also removing exceptions, including when inside gyms, even when exercising. Secondly, I am lowering the gathering size limits for indoor venues, such as larger restaurants, bars, community centers, churches, and other houses of worship, movie theaters and gyms from a maximum of 250 people down to 100. This reduction will begin on Friday as well. The outdoor venue cap will be maintained at 250 at this time.
Gov. Kate Brown: (08:56)
We know that indoor gatherings pose a much higher risk than outdoors and large groups can easily become superspreader events if safety precautions are not followed, we need to avoid this in order to save lives. My order of limiting indoor social get togethers to 10 people remains in place statewide. Finally, in phase two counties, restaurants and bars are currently able to serve food and alcohol until midnight. Starting this Friday, service will end at 10:00 PM statewide. Some people are going to hear this announcement and think these restrictions don’t go far enough. They’ll say we should completely close all restaurants and bars or move them to outdoor service only. They are legitimately worried about their family members, their friends, and of course their neighbors.
Gov. Kate Brown: (09:58)
Others are going to hear the news and think these restrictions go too far and are too onerous. I know that every business that has to close earlier or serve fewer customers will have to contend with even tighter margins to stay afloat. But here’s what I want Oregonians to know, I don’t make these decisions lightly and there are no easy choices. It’s up to all of us to do our part, to look out for one another. Oregon, we are going to get through this together. There are a few more things that I want to mention briefly. First, I anticipate that we will provide an update to the county watch lists in the next couple of days. Several counties on the watch list continue to experience very rapid spread of the disease while others may be in a position to be taken off the list because they are seeing.
Gov. Kate Brown: (11:03)
… may be in a position to be taken off the list because they are seeing fewer sporadic cases and fewer cases overall than at the peak of their local outbreaks. Unfortunately, we may also need to add a few other counties to the watch list. We will provide this update to you and to county leaders as soon as it’s available. Second, we are seeing a number of cases due to tourism. I will be taking action to address this soon and my office is talking with neighboring states about this issue. I’ve already directed my team and the Oregon Health Authority to evaluate the process for restricting tourist travel into Oregon from the states with high infection rates, or requiring mandatory quarantine for people coming here from hotspots. Together, we are taking these steps to protect Oregon, to dim the lights, to slow the spread. I do, fortunately, have one piece of good news.
Gov. Kate Brown: (12:08)
We are starting to allow outdoor visits to residents of longterm care facilities, where there is no evidence of the virus. Let me be clear. These are outdoor visits only and only in facilities where there are not COVID-19 cases. You can get more information about visiting your loved ones at the Oregon Department of Human Services website. Finally, I just want to mention before closing about schools. Experts at the Oregon Health Authority and the Oregon Department of Education have been working literally around the clock with local public health professionals to draft clear metrics for school reopening. We expect to release these metrics in the next several days to help districts and school boards, both large and small make these difficult decisions. But one thing is very clear, school in the fall will not look like a normal year.
Gov. Kate Brown: (13:14)
Many, if not most Oregon students, are in districts that will focus on online distance learning or have a hybrid model of some online education and limited in-person classroom time. Whether or not kids return to school buildings this fall, we absolutely must provide the very best education possible for every single Oregon student. I’m working with public health officials to make sure that the school experience is safe. And I am pushing our school officials to make sure our underserved and marginalized students, our kids color and our low income kids get the support services and opportunities they need. This is all hard. It’s really hard. It is lasting much longer, and this virus is much tougher to beat than any of us would ever wish. The COVID-19 virus is extremely contagious. Many more young people are contacting the disease and many, many people don’t show symptoms for days.
Gov. Kate Brown: (14:33)
In that time, you can come into contact with dozens, or if you’re not careful, hundreds of other people in your social circle and your community. That’s why the three W’s are so very important. Wear a face covering, watch your social distance, and of course, wash, wash, wash your hands. It still may be possible for us to keep our restaurants and shops open, to gather in groups, to continue to hike, camp and get out into state parks, but it all depends on you. Your choices determine our future. If we don’t slow the spread of the virus, I will have no choice but to force widespread and difficult closures again. We are truly all in this together. Thank you, and I’m happy to turn it over to Dr. Dean Sidelinger.
Dr. Dean S.: (15:34)
Thank you, Governor Brown. I want to take a few minutes to talk about why these measures are necessary to put the brakes on COVID-19 here in Oregon. Our models told us that we would see more infections, more hospitalizations, and tragically more deaths when we reopened, and that’s what we continue to see. So here’s where we stand today. Yesterday, the number of confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 in Oregon topped 15,000. Today, we’re reporting an additional 264 cases. For the last week in Oregon, we recorded over 2,400 cases of COVID-19, a 26% increase from the previous week. In addition, we reported seven deaths yesterday, which matched our all time high from the worst days of the pandemic. Today, we’re adding two to that tragic total. And for our most recent week seven day period, we recorded 25 COVID-19 deaths compared to 22 the previous week. These are our fellow Oregonians and my hearts go out to their families and friends for the loss of their loved ones.
Dr. Dean S.: (16:48)
Hospitalizations continue to rise, but not as fast as our new infections. In part, because we’re seeing more cases of COVID-19 amongst younger people who tend to be healthier going into the illness and have milder symptoms. Our treatments and our hospitals continue to improve. Today, Oregon hospitals have an adequate number of ICU beds and ventilators to serve the people who have COVID-19 and others who are seeking care, but we can’t ignore the looming danger. If left unchecked, Oregon is on a trajectory to overwhelm our health care system with coronaviruses in the future. We’ve avoided the grim experiences of our neighbors in New York, Miami, and Houston. In those places, hospitals have been swamped with COVID-19 admissions and doctors and nurses have been overwhelmed, forced to make heartbreaking decisions to triage patients into various lifesaving treatment, but it’s a dark possibility we can still prevent.
Dr. Dean S.: (17:44)
By all of us changing our behavior in fairly simple ways, we can prevent this tragedy in Oregon. So what’s driving the disease in Oregon right now? Well, the good news is those large outbreaks in workplaces and longterm care facilities are accounting for a diminishing proportion of cases. We have more resources to assist with isolation and quarantine. We know that for people to stay home and limit the spread of the disease, they often need help with shelter, food and other necessities. But the bad news is our sporadic cases are growing. These are people who became infected with COVID-19 and we don’t know where they got it. This is evidence of community spread. As of last week, almost half our cases in Oregon can’t be traced to a known source, which means the virus is circulating even more than we’d hoped and it’s diffused and largely undetected in many communities.
Dr. Dean S.: (18:35)
Our contact tracing and public health investigation system is under strain. Last week, case investigators were only able to initiate timely contact with 93% of new cases within 24 hours. That’s below our goal of 95%, but still represents a tremendous amount of effort and great work that our local public health, tribal health and state colleagues are continuing to do to respond to this pandemic. That dip adds urgency to our efforts to bolster our investigation and contact tracing capacity across the state, which will help us in containing community spread. But how do we suppress the transmission of COVID-19 and drive our rates back down? The steps that Governor Brown announced today will build on the previous measures we have in Oregon. They’re designed to slow the community spread, especially those clusters of people getting together to see families and friends.
Dr. Dean S.: (19:28)
We hope to curb the virus in places where new infections are most likely to occur and address our hotspot counties, where COVID-19 cases are heavily concentrated and spreading rapidly. In particular, we’re concerned about several of our rural and Eastern Oregon counties that have our highest rates of cases in community spread right now. I appreciate Governor Brown taking these steps today; reducing the gathering sizes and venues from 250 to 100. Even phase two counties, it means that fewer people will come together in confined spaces. This reduces the super spreader events we’ve seen in the state and around the nation, and the farther apart we are, the harder it is for the virus to get from one person to another. Our new face covering requirements are going to protect Oregonians. We learn more and more about this important tool every day.
Dr. Dean S.: (20:17)
They slow the spread of COVID-19, they protect the people around you, and there’s more evidence that they offer protection to you as well. They filter out virus particles that can cause infection. Among today’s actions, we’re extending the face covering guidance to children five and above, and this will lessen the risks of those around young children. The 10:00 PM curfew on all restaurants and bars will help to limit some of the time people can spend socializing together. I appreciate, as has Governor Brown, the efforts that so many of our bars and restaurants have made to provide a safer experience to their customers, but a uniform curfew curtails the amount of time people can interact and will have fewer opportunities to spread. So without a vaccine or a more effective treatment, these social mitigation strategies are the best tools we have to slow the spread of coronavirus in Oregon.
Dr. Dean S.: (21:07)
We’ll continue to evaluate our tools and our options until we can check the growth of transmission rates in our state and bring COVID-19 back under control. But I need to end with a familiar and urgent reminder that stopping COVID-19 in Oregon isn’t just about my job or Governor Brown’s job, it’s the job of every single person in Oregon and we all have to keep at it. You can help by doing these very specific steps; wear a mask. If you leave the house and you’re going to come into contact with other people, have your face covered. Don’t get together with friends or families in groups of more than 10 people and avoid large groups as much as you can. Stay six feet away from others who don’t live in your household, wash your hands frequently, at least 20 seconds, and don’t touch your face. And if you begin to feel sick, stay home away from other people. Call your provider about next steps. The only way we can stop COVID-19-
Dr. Dean S.: (22:03)
… care provider about next steps. The only way we can stop COVID-19 in its tracks is by isolating ourselves if we’re ill, and answer the call. If your phone rings and someone from public health is asking you questions about when you became ill or who you’re in contact with, cooperate with them. Give them the information they need and be a part of slowing the spread. Living through this COVID-19 pandemic is hard. Some of our fellow Oregonians have been much more impacted than others. Our Black, African American and African immigrant neighbors, our Latinx neighbors, our Pacific Islander neighbors and our Native American neighbors have been impacted more than others in the state.
Dr. Dean S.: (22:41)
We’re adjusting to the daily risks we face from the virus, and this is disruptive. We experienced worry and uncertainty about things, and it can be exhausting. We have the power to stop COVID-19 in his tracks without shutting down our entire state. In Oregon, we proved we could put coronavirus on the run once before. We must do it again. So thank you for doing your part to protect yourself, your family, your friends and neighbors and your coworkers. Your health depends on everyone around you, and the health of everyone around you depends on your actions. So we’ll get through this together, and thank you.
Governor Kate Brown: (23:20)
Thank you, Dr. Sidelinger. I think we’re ready for questions at this point.
Charles Boyle: (23:24)
Hey, everyone. Charles Boyle from the governor’s office. Just go ahead and press zero to get into the question queue. We have a restricted schedule today, so we won’t be able to get through as many questions, but we’ll try to get to as many as we can. Up first, we’ve got Lauren Dake with OPB. Go ahead, Lauren.
Lauren Dake: (23:44)
Hi governor. Thank you for taking this question. I’m going to shift quickly to a question about the protests. There’s been a lot of attention, rightly so, on the federal tactics that we’ve seen, but Portland Police and other Oregon State Police have used similar tactics in the past. I’m curious what big picture thoughts you have right now on how you’re going to address police violence at protests by law enforcement officials. Also, are you talking to Mayor Ted Wheeler about that?
Governor Kate Brown: (24:16)
In answer to your question, yes. I’m talking to Mayor Wheeler and other local elected officials, as well as community leaders about what’s happening in Portland. In terms of my thoughts, the property destruction and the arson need to stop. It is a distraction from the critically important work that we all need to do together to work towards eradicating racism in our criminal justice system, in our law enforcement, in our education system, in our healthcare system. Just today, I am meeting with law enforcement officials and community leaders to start to begin the conversation about what does a new system of training for law enforcement across the entire state look like? We can look at best practices around the country and frankly in other nations around the world that can lead to better outcomes and a higher level of public safety. These are the conversations that need to be taking place. This is the type of work that we need to be doing.
Charles Boyle: (25:30)
Thanks, Lauren. Next up, we have a question from Lisa Baylick with KOIN. Lisa writes, “With so many people still not wearing masks getting together with friends and family groups, at what point do you think there will be Ballou believability by everyone that this is a serious health threat in Oregon?”
Governor Kate Brown: (25:47)
Lisa, that’s a really good question. Obviously, one of the challenges that we are facing at the state level is, until recently, very mixed messages from the Trump Administration about the science and data behind face coverings. What I do know is this is that Oregonians are smart and innovative and creative and from making their own face coverings to using face shields, Oregonians are going above and beyond to not only protect their community members and their neighbors and their family members, but themselves as well. The science is changing, and I’m going to turn it over to our state epidemiologists to talk about that, but one thing is really, really clear. We know that wearing masks save lives and reduces the transmission of the virus. I appreciate all Oregonians who are participating in this very important action and encourage those who are not to take action immediately.
Dr. Dean S.: (26:55)
Thank you, Governor Brown. I think as we learn more about the use of face coverings, we’re seeing that they are an effective tool in slowing the spread of COVID-19. Even when you don’t know you’re sick, you can spread the virus to others, and covering your face can make those around you safer. And there’s emerging evidence that they offer a level of protection to yourself, so wearing that mask is not only a selfish thing to do because it protects you, but it’s a generous thing to do because it protects those around you. It doesn’t substitute for other protections we all need to take, avoiding large gatherings, keeping our physical distance when we’re out in public with those not in our household and washing our hands, but these fairly simple things can really make a huge difference. So we hope that we’ll continue to see more and more Oregonians heating this advice, and I think we do.
Charles Boyle: (27:46)
Next up, we have Simon Gutierrez with KPTV. Go ahead Simon.
Simon Gutierrez: (27:52)
Hi there. Question for Dr. Sidelinger, I believe. Can you hear me okay?
Governor Kate Brown: (27:57)
Simon Gutierrez: (27:59)
Okay. Curious about the guidance on kids and face masks. We heard previously that kids aren’t suspected of being big spreaders of the virus. Is there new evidence that children are spreading COVID-19?
Dr. Dean S.: (28:14)
Thank you for that question. I think some of the latest evidence we have comes from Korea, who’s had experience with hundreds of thousands of students back in school, and what it appears is that children 10 and over appear to spread the disease as easily as adults, but that children under 10 are less likely to spread this disease. This adds to the evidence we have that children are less likely to have symptoms, less likely to be sick themselves, but still these younger children can be infected with COVID-19. These younger children live in families. These younger children are often taken care of by older adults, grandparents, and other individuals who are at risk for more serious complications, so having children from five to 12 who are able, with some coaching from their caregivers and some practice where face coverings, offer an extra level of protection, even though they’re less likely to spread the disease. That’s what we want, everyone in Oregonian doing their part, even some of our littlest, newest members of Oregon.
Governor Kate Brown: (29:18)
And Simon, I just have to say, I want to say thank you in advance for the parents, the grandparents, guardians, and childcare providers that are going to help us with this new policy. Obviously, I cannot be everywhere all at once, and it’s really important, and I am incredibly grateful that parents are willing to step up and help us with this really important task.
Charles Boyle: (29:47)
Thanks Simon. Next up, we have Lashay Wesley with K2. Go ahead, Lashay.
Lashay Wesley: (29:55)
Hi. Governor Brown, how will the state enforce the travel restriction? And this question is for Dr. Sidelinger. Can you give us a little bit more information about an outbreak involving a [inaudible 00:30:07] sports team, and is that outbreak informing decisions about school reopenings?
Governor Kate Brown: (30:14)
Look, just to be perfectly clear, we’re still in conversations with our partners in the region about the travel restrictions, but I want to be really clear that the focus will be on tourists coming from hotspots and other parts of the country. We are wanting to make sure that travel restrictions are practical and pragmatic. We know that it’s critically important to keep supply chains intact, and of course we don’t want to restrict travel for employment purposes, for work, so we’re talking with our neighbors hoping to come up with a pragmatic solution in the next couple of days, and we’ll be announcing it as soon as we’ve reached an agreement.
Dr. Dean S.: (31:03)
And thank you, Lashay, for that question about sports and the spread of disease. While, I can’t comment specifically on the outbreak in Hood River, what we do know is that we’ve seen outbreaks amongst children playing sports. We’ve seen cases and outbreaks in collegiate sports and professional sports. We have recommendations here in Oregon for the return to recreational activities and sports that have safety top of mind, that have things that coaches can do, things that participants and parents can do to try to limit the spread of disease in these settings.
Dr. Dean S.: (31:38)
Some sports, contact sports like football, wrestling, and other things where people come into continued close contacts aren’t on the list right now in Oregon, but for other sports, if they can be played outside, if practice can be changed to limit the contact between individuals, if individuals who are showing signs of COVID-19 stay home, we can limit the spread within these settings and make them safer. But as we bring people together, we do know that we will see risk of spread from one person to another. We’re developing guidance in alignment with ODE that can say what the sports look like that’s associated with K-12’s schools and what the sports look like in other venues like clubs sports and things, so that we can keep kids in those settings, safe coaches and the adults in those settings, and adults who get together to play sports as safe as possible.
Charles Boyle: (32:30)
Thanks, Lashay. Next up, we have Ivy Green with The Oregonian. Go ahead, Ivy.
Ivy Green: (32:35)
Thank you, governor. I wanted to ask you if you would consider holding press conferences and question and answer sessions with reporters more frequently. Other governors, Governor Cuomo of New York held daily briefings for more than a hundred days. I feel like there’s a lot of questions we have, and we’re just not able to get answers through email and would like to hear directly from you. Would you consider that?
Governor Kate Brown: (33:01)
Thank you, Ivy. As you might …
Would you consider that?
Governor Kate Brown: (33:03)
Thank you, Imy. As you might recall-
Governor Kate Brown: (33:04)
Thank you Imy. As you might recall, at some point during the pandemic, we were doing daily press avails. No offense to Governor Cuomo, but we don’t quite have the communications team that he has. I’ll certainly take it back to my team and see if we can’t ramp up our availability.
Speaker 1: (33:28)
Thanks Imy. Imy, do you have another question?
I was just saying it doesn’t even have to be daily, but even twice a week or on a more regular basis, because I feel like there’s a lot of interest.
Governor Kate Brown: (33:45)
Okay. Thank you.
Speaker 1: (33:46)
Thanks, Imy. Next up we have Kristen [inaudible 00:33:46] with KGW. Go ahead, Kristen.
Hi. Thank you for taking my question. Governor Brown, this is for you. There are thousands of Oregon teachers who formed a group called Oregon For A Safe Return to Campus. And there’s about 9,000 members. And they’re asking for something very simple, very clear, I should say. They want 14 days of no new cases before you would open up school. What do you think of this?
Governor Kate Brown: (34:15)
So, I will just say to parents across the state, school reopening is going to look different than it has in the past. And whether or not kids return to school buildings, we have to provide the best education to all of our kids regardless of who they are or where they live in the state. We are working with our teachers, our parents, our school officials, with local public health and with medical experts to determine how we can do this safely. We have to protect the health and safety of our children, of our teachers and our professional staff. We are working to develop public health metrics that schools across the state will need to use to determine when districts can conduct in-person education safely. And I’ll let Dr. Sidlinger speak to the specifics of the request.
Dr. Dean S.: (35:23)
Thank you, governor Brown. I think like governor Brown and this group of teachers, the safe return of students, teachers and staff into school settings is a priority for me as a public health professional and as a pediatrician. We know that getting kids in front of a trained teacher to receive quality education can really make an impact on those children, but we need to do it safely. We can’t have schools severely impacted by COVID-19 amongst students or teachers or staff. And we have to have them confident of the steps that schools are taking to make it safe. The Oregon Department of Education guidance, which was developed in consultation with the Oregon health authority, offer some real protections for all individuals who return to school, whether in a hybrid model or fully back to school. What we know from other countries that have successfully returned students, teachers and staff to school is that they had low rates of virus circulating in the community.
Dr. Dean S.: (36:22)
We’re looking at what are the rates that would really limit the spread into schools, and then how do we support schools with the cases identified? Because the safety of everyone on campus is at the utmost importance. But so is getting kids back to quality education, even if that looks different. Yes, comprehensive distance learning works for many, but it often fails some groups of students, our youngest students, our poorer students, and some of our rural students. So we need to do everything we can to try and have a safe return to school. And part of that is looking at the disease spread in the community, doing outreach to groups, teachers, parents, school boards, public health partners, about how to do this safely.
Speaker 1: (37:06)
Thanks Kristen. We have time for just a couple more questions. So we’ll go next to Sam Steins with Pamphlet Media. Go ahead, Sam.
Hi, governor. Clackamas County commissioners have talked for the past few weeks about expressing a desire to be decoupled from their Metro neighbors. I know that Washington County commissioners have also kind of discussed this. Is there a future if either of those counties are going down in their objection numbers on all of those criteria that you might consider decoupling them? Or is the Metro region so tight knit that that’s not a reality?
Governor Kate Brown: (37:39)
As I’ve said before, the Metro region is clearly a region, and folks don’t stop at the Multnomah County border when they want to go to a restaurant or go shopping in Clackamas County, or folks that live in Washington County may be traveling to Clackamas County for their work. So, it’s very much economically and culturally integrated. I think what I would say is this, and that is we are all going to have to do a better job of are taking responsibility for our personal actions, wearing face coverings, watching, maintaining our physical distance and washing our hands if we want to get the virus rates down. I’m particularly concerned, the beginning of the school year is only a few weeks away, and we want to make sure that our children can stay safe and get a good education. And we have got to get the virus rates down if we’re going to hope to get children back in the classrooms.
Speaker 1: (38:48)
Thanks Sam. Last question today, we have Claire [inaudible 00:38:52] with the Statesman Journal. Go ahead, Claire.
Good morning, governor. I want to ask the question about the protests as well. Are you considering or vetting any specific action to address federal agent actions in Portland of late?
Governor Kate Brown: (39:14)
Look, we are looking at all the tools that we have to tackle this issue. I appreciate the leadership of the attorney general filing a lawsuit on Friday. My understanding that that is in front of the federal courts this morning. But let me be very clear with Oregonians. When I spoke with the director of the Department of Homeland Security last week, I told him to go home and to take his federal troops with him. This is a democracy, not a dictatorship. We cannot have secret police abducting people into and putting them in unmarked vehicles. I cannot believe I have to say that to the president of the United States. I know that Oregonians are outraged. Americans should be appalled.
Speaker 1: (40:10)
Thanks, Claire. That’s all the time we have for questions today, but thank you everyone for joining us.