Sep 4, 2020
Oregon Governor Kate Brown Press Conference Transcript September 4: Portland Protests
Oregon Governor Kate Brown held a press conference on September 4 to discuss coronavirus updates and the violence in Portland. Read the transcript of her briefing here.
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Gov. Kate Brown: (00:00)
Community leaders from around the state have attempted to rise to that call. Here’s what we’ve done so far. We passed six bills, improving police accountability, limiting police use of choke holds, limiting the use of tear gas by law enforcement for crowd control, and limiting the ability of an arbitrator to overturn police discipline. We passed the historic Oregon Cares Fund for Black Relief and Resiliency dedicating $62 million to support black individuals, non-profits and businesses, who’ve been hit extremely hard during the pandemic. We established dedicated funding at the Oregon Health Authority for community-based organizations to further support our communities of color, tribal communities, and vulnerable populations across the state during the pandemic. I established the Public Safety and Training Standards Task Force, they’re working to develop recommendations to re-envision law enforcement training and create new standards to hold law enforcement accountable, and improve the training processes and standards for law enforcement officers statewide.
Gov. Kate Brown: (01:22)
Finally, I launched a statewide Racial Justice Council to center racial equity and future budget and policy decisions. The Racial Justice Council will lead the effort in this state to dismantle the structures of racism that have created disparities in all of our systems: education, healthcare, housing, and homelessness, economic opportunity, and yes, criminal justice systems. For those who have experienced racism and discrimination firsthand, I know that slow and steady progress toward justice doesn’t feel fast enough, it isn’t. Like many of you, I too am angry that black and brown Oregonians continue to fear for their lives and for their families. These accomplishments are just a start, but it’s progress in a relatively short period of time.
Gov. Kate Brown: (02:26)
I and other elected leaders need to continue to be held accountable for reducing the economic and health disparities in our state and in our society. We have to create the space for healing and conversation so we can achieve racial justice. That’s why, included in my plan to bring peace to Portland, is a community forum where I’m inviting protest organizers and community leaders to a forum where we’ll work toward racial justice and police reform. The forum was start meeting in the coming days.
Gov. Kate Brown: (03:07)
I’ve listed all of these activities I’ve been working on with community leaders because achieving racial justice and accountability for law enforcement is my goal here. At the very same time, last weekend, I announced details of a Unified Law Enforcement Plan to protect free speech and bring violence and arson to an end in Portland. There needs to be a community-wide effort to stop the violence because the violence must stop, period. So we must do both things, we must be tireless in our pursuit of racial justice, we must be tireless in our pursuit of accountability for law enforcement. And we must also work together with responsible law enforcement to end violence and arson in Portland, and this needs to happen immediately.
Gov. Kate Brown: (04:09)
Our country’s worst moments have been defined by fear and hatred and our greatest moments are defined by peace, understanding and justice. The only way through this is if we work together, that’s true of racial justice and it’s certainly true of the pandemic that we have been facing now for the past six months. As we head into the long weekend, I do want to remind Oregonians across the state to make smart choices when it comes to COVID-19. We’ve seen three times now, how get togethers among family and friends during holiday weekends have led to surges and COVID-19 infections and taking our progress backward. It happened after Mother’s Day weekend, it happened after Memorial Day and after July 4th, where we saw upticks and COVID-19 cases. So I ask you, as you make your plans for Labor Day, please don’t let your fatigue with these restrictions take us away from our collective goal of reducing infection and preventing deaths. We’re truly all in this together, the more we all follow good safety practices, the safer you and your family will be.
Gov. Kate Brown: (05:35)
I’ve also heard from students across the state, they want to get back to school. My central goal is to reopen in-class learning for all of our children. If we continue to make smart choices, we will get there, I know it. We will also be able to keep our businesses open. So this weekend, please stay local as much as possible. Stay small, we know gatherings can dangerously spread COVID-19, especially among those without symptoms who unknowingly spread the disease. Stay outside, if you want to get together with others in a small group, do it outdoors, your risk of getting infected is lower. I obviously know it’s really hot out right now. Stay safe by covering your face, wear a face covering or a mask, it will protect you and the people around you. And support your local businesses, it’s one of the best things you can do for our economy and our fellow Oregonians right now.
Gov. Kate Brown: (06:46)
Before I turn it over to Director Allen and Dr. Sidelinger to talk further about these safety precautions and where Oregon is in fighting COVID-19. I also want to remind Oregonians that it’s, unfortunately, also fire season as well. This will be an unseasonably hot week, please act responsibly when outdoors to prevent wildfires, please follow burn bans and practice fire safety. It will keep our homes, our lands, and our firefighters safe, and it will preserve the beauty and bounty of Oregon. Thank you and with that, I’m going to turn it over to Director Allen.
Dir. Allen: (07:28)
Thank you, Governor Brown. Again, I’m Patrick Allen, Director of the Oregon Health Authority. I’d like to provide an update today on where we are in the pandemic and our response to it and then I’ll turn things over to Dr. Dean Sidelinger, our State Epidemiologist, to provide an update on the latest COVID-19 model. We enter the Labor Day weekend on a clear downtrend in daily COVID-19 cases throughout the state. Since the peak of the pandemic in mid July, we have experienced a 30% drop in weekly cases. That’s a really encouraging sign and it’s validation that more people are taking seriously, the guidance to wear face coverings, to practice physical distancing, and to limit gatherings. Our collective efforts appear to be slowing the spread of the virus for the time being, but we need to keep up the pressure for much longer if we hope to reopen schools for classroom instruction and see our businesses and communities recover. That will require adapting to the reality that COVID-19 continues to lurk among us for the foreseeable future.
Dir. Allen: (08:27)
We continue to see social gatherings as one of the primary ways this disease spreads. The choices we make, not only affect us and our families, but our neighbors and our communities. We simply cannot celebrate this Labor Day and all the holidays coming up in the fall and winter, the way we have celebrated them in the past. Since we reopened the state, we’ve seen increases in daily case numbers after holidays, particularly after Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, and the 4th of July, as the governor observed. We cannot have that happen again. Not after the hard work we’ve put into slowing the virus and certainly not if we want to set ourselves up for success this fall and winter, when flu season returns. We urge you to stay close to home this holiday weekend, to hang out with your family members and to catch up virtually with extended family and friends. Let’s keep up the pressure, we’re making a difference.
Dir. Allen: (09:25)
Now, I’ll give you a quick overview on the status of the virus in Oregon. Today we’ve recorded 27,601 confirmed and presumed cases of COVID-19, including 268 today. Sadly, we’re reporting five additional deaths, bringing our statewide total to 475. We offer our condolences to the families who have lost a loved one to the disease. We are continuing to see a decline in daily cases of COVID-19, last week marked the fourth consecutive week over week drop. For the week of Monday, August 24th through Sunday, August 30th, the Health Authority reported 1,558 new cases, down from 1,704 the previous week. That’s a decline of 8.6% from the previous week. Sadly, there were more deaths reported during that week, a total of 39, up from 32 the prior week. Meanwhile, the percentage of positive tests dropped to 4.4% marking the first time since late June that number has been below 5%. We hope we can keep it at that 5% threshold and potentially be able to resume in-person K through 12 education sooner, rather than later.
Dir. Allen: (10:58)
These promising trends suggest that after months of playing defense, we’re on a path towards sustainably flattening the curve of COVID-19. But as I said earlier, we cannot relent. Recent history shows that any lapse in our collective vigilance or in our individual judgment can have far ranging impacts on us, our families, and our communities. It’s not just about flattening the curve, it’s about keeping it flat. So again, please wear a face covering when outside or indoors, when you can’t maintain six feet of physical distance. If you have a small family gathering, consider hosting it outdoors rather than indoors, wash your hands frequently. With that, let me turn things over to Dr. Sidelinger.
Dr. Sidelinger: (11:43)
Thank you, Director Allen. Today, we released our latest modeling, which shows that although we’re making progress against COVID-19, we can not let up. While many of the changes we made seem simple, limiting our gathering sizes, keeping our distance, and covering our faces, they have tremendous impacts on our [inaudible 00:12:03] health, our social lives and our economy, but we must continue the hard work. The model we released today shows that the current rate of transmission has fallen to a point where each case is generating less than one other case. In fact, it shows each case is generating 0.9 other cases, this is known as the reproductive number. For this reason, daily case numbers are dropping. This is tremendous progress, but it will only continue if we keep up the pressure. We cannot ease up and let social gatherings on Labor Day send our rates back up. The virus is extremely contagious, spreads very quickly, and it wouldn’t take much for cases to spike again.
Dr. Sidelinger: (12:45)
When we modeled scenarios, we looked at if transmission continues as it is with people following the precautions and the guidance that is out there. If that happens, we know that by September 24th, the new daily cases would drop from 410 from today’s 560, resulting in us learning about 150 of those cases each day. That’s a tremendous improvement. There would be six severe cases, those are cases that would require admission to the hospital. As I said, this reproduction number is 0.9 and that means our cases will continue to drop, but only if Oregonians continue our physical distancing, continuing to wear our face coverings, and continue to practice the earlier safety guidance. But if we get more people to follow this guidance, then we could see the rate of transmission drop by another 5%. by September 24th, we’d see 240 daily cases, we’d diagnose about 90 of those. That’s less than a hundred cases reported a day. Only five cases would be admitted to the hospital each day. Our reproductive number would be at 0.77, that means cases would impact significantly less people each time. But if we stop practicing these guidance or people get lax, if we see Labor Day being celebrated-
Dr. Sidelinger: (14:03)
… or people get lax. If we see Labor Day being celebrated in unsafe ways or other gatherings happen, we could see a rise in cases. If the current transmission were to rise by just 5% from our current levels, our reproductive number would be over one to 1.05, our daily cases would rise to 790 with the 180 being diagnosed each day and an additional 11 people would be hospitalized each day. So the takeaway from our model this week is very clear. We’ve made great progress through hard work and sacrifice, but those gains are tenuous. As a result of the progress, we’re gradually looking at reopening some lower risk activities, such as reopening public pools and playgrounds. We’re moving forward with science and safety in mind. And whether we can keep sectors open and operating in a safe manner depends on all of us continuing to practice the precautions we know to keep COVID-19 at bay.
Dr. Sidelinger: (14:58)
There is so much at stake if we fail to keep up the pressure. As Governor Brown and Director Allen have noted, this holiday weekend could erase all those gains if people celebrate in unsafe ways. So again, we urge you to enjoy the holiday safely. Celebrate with your household, stay close to home, wear your mask or your face covering and wash your hands frequently. Oregonians are ingenious, and by now, we all know how to find new and creative ways to stay safe. It’s on every one of us to maintain the progress we’ve made against COVID-19. And together, I know we can do it. We can get through this holiday weekend and keep the pressure up on COVID-19 in Oregon.
Governor Brown: (15:37)
Thank you, Dr. Sidelinger. I think we’re ready to take questions.
Speaker 1: (15:41)
Our first question today will be from Lindsay Nadrich with KOIN 6 News. Go ahead, Lindsay.
Lindsay Nadrich: (15:48)
Hey. Can you hear me?
Speaker 1: (15:50)
Governor Brown: (15:50)
Lindsay Nadrich: (15:51)
Okay. Thank you. I have two questions if I could, one for Dr. Sidelinger maybe. Wondering if the drop in positive tests, does that have anything to do with doing less testing or funding being cut for testing? Is that the reason we’re seeing a drop at all? And then I have a separate question for Governor Brown if I could. I don’t know if you want me to ask that now or after.
Dr. Sidelinger: (16:15)
I’ll answer this question, and then you can ask your question for Governor Brown.
Lindsay Nadrich: (16:20)
Dr. Sidelinger: (16:20)
Our testing continues to be a challenge. We can’t do all the testing we’d like, but with the decrease in percent positive tests, I think that indicates that overall we have enough tests to test broadly in Oregon. We’re seeing decrease in cases, we’re seeing decreases in hospitalizations, and all of those are signs that the disease is spreading less here in the community. Taking that data and using the research we know about the spread of the virus, the model shows us that that decrease should continue if we keep up the pressure we have. We are continually looking for additional tests, additional ways to get tests to the communities that need it most, knowing that certain segments of our community, our communities of color, our tribal neighbors here in Oregon, are disproportionately impacted. And we want to do everything to get our tests to them, to get tests available to them when they need them. And we’ll continue that pressure. But that percent positivity doesn’t indicate that where I’m not picking up cases because we’re not testing. We truly are making a difference here in Oregon, and cases are decreasing.
Lindsay Nadrich: (17:27)
Thank you. And Governor Brown, I was just wondering if you could comment on your unified law enforcement plan. We saw Clackamas, Washington and Gresham all decline. A lot of people are wondering, why weren’t they involved more in the planning process before your plan came out, and what happened now that they have said, “We are not sending resources directly to help Portland Police”?
Governor Brown: (17:47)
Well, thank you for the question. And I appreciate the context of the situation. Superintendent Hampton did reach out to local law enforcement communities’ sheriffs before we released the plan. But this is an all-hands-on-deck moment, and I think we would all agree that we need to work collectively to stop the violence in Portland. And I am incredibly grateful for the efforts of the Portland Police Bureau and the Oregon State Troopers or Oregon State Police. And at the same time, appreciate the way that other jurisdictions, including Washington and Clackamas County, continue to help out by providing coverage to fill in for OSP.
Speaker 1: (18:39)
Lindsay Nadrich: (18:41)
Speaker 1: (18:42)
Next up, we have Jerry Howard with NewsWatch 12. Go ahead, Jerry.
Jerry Howard: (18:48)
Sure. And this question is across the board for the panel. A couple of questions. One, do you expect any changes to trends and guidelines to the balance of the year? Will anything really change until 2021? And is there anything in particular in southern Oregon that is a special issue or a concern for the state?
Governor Brown: (19:13)
So Jerry, I’ll start out. Obviously, this is a 100-year pandemic. We are faced with unprecedented challenges in terms of this particular pandemic, and there’s truly no guidebook or no playbook. My commitment to Oregonians is that I will prioritize their health and safety and that we will continue to use science and data in our decision-making. I have to say, in terms of any changes moving forward, as I said, we’re going to use the best science and data that we have, and that continues to evolve over time. I would just say generally speaking, I am hoping that we can substantially increase our testing capacity as we move into the school year. I think it’s critically important that we have expanded testing capacity to protect our students, our teachers and our professional staff. We obviously want to get our kids into school as quickly as possible, into the classroom I should say. Many of them are already starting, but we want to get our kids back into the classroom. And over time, it is my hope that in order to make that happen successfully that we will substantially increase our testing capacity.
Dir. Allen: (20:33)
May I add to that?
Governor Brown: (20:33)
Sure. Director Allen.
Dir. Allen: (20:36)
I guess I would say I would be shocked if nothing changed about our guidance or restrictions or anything else between now and the end of the year, one way or the other. That’s just not been the nature of this pandemic. As the governor observes, we learn more every single day and we try to be responsive to what we learn and try to accurately reflect the risks that we know. So I would fully expect there to be significant change potentially as we go forward. You also asked about southern Oregon specifically, and I would say absolutely we’re concerned about Southern Oregon. That’s why the governor put Jackson County on the watch list and why we’ve been working together with local public health in Jackson County to identify, as we have with other counties on the watch list, ways that we can provide additional resource-focused technical assistance and those kinds of things to help deal with the recent increases in cases in Jackson County specifically.
Speaker 1: (21:29)
Thanks, Jerry. Next up, we have Kelly with K2. Go ahead, Kelly.
Oh, thank you so much. Can you guys hear me?
Dir. Allen: (21:41)
Governor Brown: (21:41)
Perfect. Governor, this question is for you. In a number of cases, we’ve seen governors call for the National Guard to provide more resources to help police and quell the violence that stem from the protest like we’re seeing up here in Portland. Regardless of training, why are you not calling in the National Guard even when the mayor says he’s asked for your help in that regard?
Governor Brown: (22:09)
So just to be very, very clear, the mayor asked for assistance from the National Guard several weeks, perhaps months ago, and there were multiple reasons at the time why I rejected that request. In addition, we know that other states, I talked to Governor Walls in Minnesota, used the National Guard for a very limited period of time. I think it was over a 48 hour period of time. In terms of Oregon, I’m relying on our trained law enforcement, the Superintendent of the State Police, Travis Hampton, the Portland Police Chief, Chuck Lavelle. Travis, Superintendent Hampton would say that, A, we don’t need the national guard at this time and, B, that they are not trained for this work. What we need on the ground is trained law enforcement. And that’s why I created the uniform law enforcement plan to bring both local and state officials together behind a plan to keep people safe and to protect free speech rights.
And then my second question is, can you tell us about OSP being basically marginalized or about the ability to do a federal work and protection in that way and how that decision came about?
Governor Brown: (23:32)
Yes, it was for the period of time. You might recall, when we had federal officials on the streets of Portland, I made an agreement with the White House for them to remove these federal officials and for Oregon State Police to step in and assist. My understanding is that Oregon State Police were deputized for the purposes of protecting federal property at that time. If you have further questions, I would really encourage you to speak with Superintendent Hampton and his team at the Oregon State Police.
And just quick followup. Will you ask the president for help?
Governor Brown: (24:15)
I have asked the president for help many, many times. I have requested from the White House additional resources for personal protective equipment. We’ve asked the White House for additional testing supplies and capacity. And I continue to ask the White House every single day for additional financial assistance. As you know, the state and our local jurisdictions, our cities and counties, are struggling financially, just like families across the entire state. And it would be extremely helpful if Congress were to come together around a package to assist the states. My governors across the United States can’t agree on what color the sky is, but I can tell you to a governor, we would all agree that our states, our local jurisdictions and our tribes need additional financial assistance, and we need it now.
Speaker 1: (25:17)
Thanks, Kelly. Our next question comes from Gary Warner with EO Media. Go ahead, Gary.
Gary Warner: (25:23)
Yeah. Hi, Governor. Looking back at the rates that we’ve had so far, was there any point that we might’ve been able to have large outdoor events, like the Pendleton rodeo or Duck football games? And when did we really hit a spot where that just wasn’t going to happen? When did you know that those kind of things weren’t going to happen?
Governor Brown: (25:50)
Gary, I don’t know if I can answer the when. And maybe state epidemiologist can. But I just have to say to Oregonians, I know this is really, really hard. I know many of you love going to Autzen Stadium and watching our Oregon Ducks kick the Washington Huskies. I know many of us enjoy going to the Pendleton Round-Up. Honestly, it’s some of my favorite time and some of my favorite memories in Oregon. So I know that this is really, really hard. And in terms of when, I’ll turn it over to our state epidemiologist.
Dr. Sidelinger: (26:35)
Thank you. I think as we discussed reopening and exiting our Stay at Home, Save Lives through the month of April and reopening began in May, we knew that we would see increased transmission, and that did happen. As you’ve heard in the remarks earlier, we saw increased transmission occur with holiday gatherings, Mother’s Day and Memorial Day early in the summer and 4th of July later in the summer, and really saw tremendous increases in cases in the month of July, or at the end of June through the month of July, that continued. Those numbers went higher than we had hoped, higher than we maybe had expected. And so we weren’t able to open additional activities. We know that some of these activities, they seem safer. They gather people outside for a football game, for the rodeo. But they come with a lot of associations, people getting together to eat, to socialize in smaller, more close-knit groups and bring additional risk.
Dr. Sidelinger: (27:29)
So the governor made the difficult decisions that we would limit the gathering size across Oregon because that really helps the safety and the health of all of Oregonians. And we’ve seen that play out. We continue to have some of the lowest rates of states across the country. Oregonians have continued to make sacrifices, but we can continue to look forward to the day that we can return to the rodeo, to the Pendleton Round-Up, that we can continue to cheer on our favorite football team, whether it’s the Ducks or the Beavers, and that we can go back to some semblance of normal. But this fall and this winter isn’t the-
Dr. Sidelinger: (28:03)
… can go back to some semblance of normal, but this fall and this winter, isn’t the time for that. We continue to see fairly widespread disease in our community, even though we’ve done a great job. So we’ll have to think about our past activities, when we went to those, keep the memories alive and look forward to the future.
Governor Brown: (28:17)
Gary, I’ll just add in terms of the Pendleton Round-Up, my recollection, I had multiple conversations with the committee planning for the Pendleton Round-Up and the executive director and team. We talked about the multiple options that the Pendleton Round-Up had in terms of keeping people safe, but also celebrating the spirit. I think this was the 110th Round-Up. I could be wrong, somebody will send me a note. But it was the-
I think that’s true, yeah.
Governor Brown: (28:51)
It was the Pendleton Round-Up itself that made the decision to not hold the Round-Up this year. And I really appreciate their leadership and their work with the community.
Speaker 2: (29:03)
Speaker 2: (29:06)
Next up, we’ve got Erin Ross with OPB. Go ahead, Erin.
Erin Ross: (29:13)
Hi, Dean. Hi, Director Allen. My question for you is, it sounds like a couple of weeks ago, there was a lot of discussion about potentially closing indoor dining or looking at travel restrictions or things like that to curb the cases. But it sounds today like there’s consideration of reopening certain low-risk outdoor activities, like playgrounds and swimming pools.
Erin Ross: (29:38)
So I was curious if that’s still on the table, if that’s still something that’s being considered? [inaudible 00:29:45] to have schools open, or if it seems like currently, at the current trends, pools would be able to open without additional restrictions?
Dir. Allen: (29:52)
Yeah, thanks and I’ll go ahead and take that. I had a little bit of a hard time hearing all that for sure. But let me take a crack. I think the fundamental question is, and the governor has said repeatedly, everything is always on the table if it becomes evidence that a particular tool is the right tool to use to be able to control the spread of coronavirus.
Dir. Allen: (30:17)
You’re right about the fact that for the last number of weeks, there’s been discussion about whether a travel restriction would be the right step to take. I think what we’ve been able to demonstrate over the last month or so is that because of the actions of Oregonians, limiting their gatherings, wearing masks, and doing the other things that they need to do, that we’ve driven down the number of cases. And so that kind of a tool doesn’t appear to be necessary at this time. That could change and we could end up making different recommendations going forward, but that’s where we sit today.
Dir. Allen: (30:52)
I think as the cases go down, what we’re increasingly able to do is calibrate the guidance that we have to identify things that either we’ve always known are relatively low-risk, or we have since learned are low-risk, and make those easier to pursue. Playgrounds is a great example. We know a lot more about outdoor spread, we know a lot more about how risky surfaces are, those kinds of things. And as cases go down, it becomes easier to be able to make those decisions to allow those kinds of activities to occur.
Erin Ross: (31:28)
But there are no plans to limit additional indoor activities at this time?
Dir. Allen: (31:32)
No, that’s correct.
Speaker 2: (31:34)
Erin Ross: (31:34)
Speaker 2: (31:37)
Next up, we have Francine Kiefer with the Christian Science Monitor. Go ahead, Francine.
Francine Kiefer: (31:44)
Hi, Governor. Can you hear me?
Governor Brown: (31:45)
Yes, I can hear you.
Francine Kiefer: (31:48)
Great. Thanks. I’m interested in what your thoughts are about how to deal with the perpetrators of violence on the left and the right, in relation to the protests? Do you think that they are a matter just strictly for law enforcement, prosecution, arrest and so on? Or should they somehow be brought into the dialogue of community groups that you are looking to now to try and help get past the violence?
Governor Brown: (32:18)
I think that’s a really good question. I think it is a collective effort, and the reason why I wanted to make sure that we had a unified law enforcement plan is I wanted to make sure that all of our law enforcement partners at the state and local level were working together, and making sure that folks who are committing arson, property destruction, and person to person crimes are held accountable. I think that’s really, really important.
Governor Brown: (32:47)
The second piece though, which I also think is incredibly important is convening a table and having a conversation, a dialogue, about what changes need to be made in terms of law enforcement and ending racism in our criminal justice system in particular need to happen. And this would be focused obviously on the city of Portland.
Governor Brown: (33:10)
But the third piece, and I think it’s also really, really important, is having a collective cry that we all work together to end the violence in this city. As you saw, we had a number of folks and a number of organizations sign on to that, but I think the goal here is to build, as Dr. King would say, a beloved community, and that we want to create an Oregon where everyone can thrive. Everyone. That’s something that we have to co-create, that’s something that we have to re-envision, that’s something that we all have to work together on. And that’s work that I am absolutely committed to doing in my time as governor.
Francine Kiefer: (34:00)
Speaker 2: (34:00)
Thanks, Francine. Next up we have Aimee Green, with The Oregonian. Go ahead, Aimee.
Aimee Green: (34:08)
Yeah. Thank you. I have two questions. The first question has to do with reopening playgrounds and swimming pools. I heard you, Governor, talk about the importance, the priority being opening schools, classrooms again. Would playgrounds or swimming pools possibly open before in-person classes across the state?
Governor Brown: (34:28)
Thank you, Aimee. I believe that the Oregon Health Authority has released guidance for playgrounds and pool reopening, and I’m going to have dr. Sidelinger speak to that.
Dr. Sidelinger: (34:38)
Sure. Aimee, I believe the updated guidance on playgrounds and pools should be released today. As Director Allen stated earlier, we’ve learned a lot about the transmission of this virus in outdoor settings like playgrounds, and the surfaces on those playgrounds are much less risky than we thought early on in the disease.
Dr. Sidelinger: (34:56)
So these activities, which were already available in most of the state in our Phase II counties, are being added to statewide guidance to improve access across the state for those who haven’t had it before. Similar to pools, we know that swimming is safe. It’s what happens around the pool, the locker room, gathering at the end of the lanes for sports teams, and we’ve updated our guidance to provide safety there for the people participating.
Dr. Sidelinger: (35:23)
We also have to remember that across many parts of Oregon in small remote and rural communities, students have already returned safely to school. We have students from some of our youngest students to even students across the grades that have returned safely. And we don’t anticipate that having people participate in swimming, be able to bring their kids to the playground, is going to slow our progress to getting even more Oregon students and their teachers safely back to school.
Governor Brown: (35:51)
Aimee, the only other thing that I would add is, as the virus continues, we continue to refine our approach as we get more information and more data. I think what is really clear, and I think what we would collectively ask of Oregonians today, again, is that we know that informal social gatherings are super spreader events, that having a backyard barbecue to celebrate your aunt’s 90th birthday can be very, very challenging and increase the risks of spreading the virus. That’s why we’re asking people to do a number of things. To keep it small, to keep it outdoors and to wear face coverings if you can’t socially distance.
Speaker 2: (36:53)
Thanks, Aimee. We have-
Aimee Green: (36:53)
Speaker 2: (36:53)
Oh, sorry. Did you have more [crosstalk 00:36:53]-
Aimee Green: (36:53)
Can I just ask my second question?
Governor Brown: (36:55)
Aimee Green: (36:56)
Yeah, thank you. I have been asked this again and again by readers, by members of the public. One of the greatest and ongoing disappointments they’re telling me, is that they feel there’s a lack of public information released about who COVID-19 is affecting and how it’s being spread.
Aimee Green: (37:15)
They say, “Why can’t we know more about who is becoming infected and how they’re becoming infected? Without violating privacy laws by identifying individuals, but providing more detailed aggregate information, why doesn’t the state tell us specifically what underlying conditions are killing people? Is it heart disease, obesity, diabetes? Why aren’t we learning about the circumstances where people are becoming infected? When you know, can you specifically tell us? Identify the business, identify the workplace, say that it was a social gathering.”
Aimee Green: (37:48)
Sharing this information would be of great interest to people because it would help them assess what kind of risks the disease poses in their lives, and base their life decisions off of that. Governor, would you be more willing to allow for the release of this information?
Governor Brown: (38:05)
Thank you. Aimee, I’m going to turn that over to Director Allen. And I will just tell you, states have taken very different approaches in terms of what information is released and what is not. Oregon has erred on the side of transparency. As you mentioned, obviously this is always a balancing act. And while we want to make sure that Oregonians across the state have the information they need in order to protect themselves, we also need to be able to protect individuals’ medical privacy.
Governor Brown: (38:37)
Dir. Allen: (38:38)
Thanks. So I’d make a few comments about that. First of all, I think we have a wealth of information along the lines of what you’re talking about that we make available every day, every week, every month. We are one of a minority of states that have an A+ rating from the COVID Tracking Project run by Atlantic Monthly, that gathers data across all of the states.
Dir. Allen: (38:59)
We have been [inaudible 00:39:00] and clear about the risks to Oregonians and what those things are that have an impact on transmitting the coronavirus. We keep coming here every week, talking about social gatherings, talking about get togethers, talking about congregating in groups, and the fact that that is high-risk behavior and is one of the leading causes of transmitting the disease. So I just don’t know how we can be clearer about that.
Dir. Allen: (39:25)
I’ll let Dr. Sidelinger talk a little bit more about-
Aimee Green: (39:28)
Governor Brown: (39:28)
Dir. Allen: (39:30)
Let me just finish the thought real quick, and then you can follow up. In terms of co-occurring diseases or contributing factors, I think what we have tried to say, is because we’ve been successful in Oregon and the number of deaths is really small, Oregon-only data about specific individuals, specific contributing factors, is not very useful to people, and that the data that CDC publishes is much more comprehensive and more useful for people to have an assessment of their own personal risk of an underlying cause. That’s what we said clear back in, I think it was May when we began to, when we moved away from trying to release that information.
Dir. Allen: (40:13)
The last thing I’ll say, and then you can follow up or I can turn it to Dr. Sidelinger, is we have tried to provide a lot of information about specific cases, more than public health professionals are generally comfortable with. There comes a point when if you provide enough specific detail about specific individuals, you are, for all intents and purposes, identifying that individual. And in a pandemic, people are still entitled to their own medical privacy. So I think we’re trying to, as the governor says, run that balance in a way that we provide Oregonians with information that they can use to protect themselves, while still making sure that people are entitled to privacy.
Dir. Allen: (40:57)
Dr. Sidelinger, do you want to talk about the CDC information on underlying causes?
Dr. Sidelinger: (41:01)
Yeah, thank you for that. As Director Allen stated, we have fairly low case rates here in Oregon. Our fatality rate is amongst the lowest in the country. And even our hospitalizations, while at a large number, it’s hard for us to say everything we can about the virus. Which is why Oregon is one of several states that has participated, even before COVID, in influenza surveillance. We share in depth chart reviews from hospitals and healthcare systems across the Portland Metro area, covering a large percentage of the Oregon population on the underlying conditions behind hospitalizations and deaths. This data contributes to that CDC data set that Director Allen stated.
Dr. Sidelinger: (41:46)
I think by bringing our data together with other states, we can show what are those underlying conditions that put people more at risk. Things obesity, which we know is one of the highest risks. People with two or more underlying conditions are at greater risk, so diabetes and lung disease together. And-
Dr. Sidelinger: (42:03)
… diabetes and lung disease together. And Oregon data, our in-depth chart reviews that we’re doing are contributing to that. And by putting our efforts there contributing to the bigger picture so that we can get a more clear-cut answer about what puts people at risk is providing safety, providing information to help Oregonians make decisions, rather than some initial information that we are doing fairly rapidly to get information out to the public about those underlying conditions, but maybe wasn’t as complete as we would like.
Dr. Sidelinger: (42:33)
We’re able to focus our efforts, contribute to the national picture, and provide people clear decision making skills or opportunities.
Speaker 3: (42:41)
Thanks, [inaudible 00:00:42]. We have time for just a few more questions. So the next question we have is a written question from Andrew Selsky with AP. Andrew asks governor. What’d you have on efforts to track down Michael Forest Reinoehl on the warrant issued against him for a homicide and his killing yesterday. And are you concerned that clashes against protesters and counter protesters in Portland will escalate and become more deadly?
Governor Brown: (43:05)
So I don’t have any more specific information about Mr. Reinoehl and I would encourage … sorry. I would encourage Andrew does speak directly with OSP, the Oregon State Police, as well as federal authorities. In terms of the violence in the streets of Portland, I continue to remain concerned. That’s why at the request of community leaders, we have issued a collective call to end the violence, to end the property destruction, the arson, and the person to person violence in the streets. This violence is a distraction from the critically important work that we need to do to eradicate racism and build a better Oregon for everyone. At the same time, I know that every body must be held accountable and it’s really clear, at least to me, that we have not always held our law enforcement officials accountable. That must change. At the same time, we need responsible law enforcement to help keep our communities safe. And I hope that we can come together as a community, as a state, to work to end the violence in streets of Portland and to build a better Oregon for everyone.
Speaker 3: (44:32)
Thanks, Andrew. Next up we have Alex Zielinski with Portland Mercury. Go ahead, Alex.
Speaker 3: (44:42)
Alex, are you there?
Alex Zielinski: (44:46)
Yeah. Can you hear me?
Speaker 3: (44:47)
Yes, go ahead.
Alex Zielinski: (44:49)
Hello? Okay. Thank you. Yeah, Governor, you just mentioned the importance of holding everyone accountable for violence especially … not especially, but uniquely also law enforcement members. I’m curious what that looks like if the tools that you see in the state both locally and statewide to hold officers accountable for violence, person to person violence, against protestors are working. And if not, where do you see change needing to begin? Is in the criminal system or is it in kind of another tool?
Governor Brown: (45:30)
Yes. All of the above. As I mentioned at the outset, we’ve passed six bills in the last few weeks to improve police accountability. Limiting the police use of choke holds, limiting use of tear gas and limiting the ability of an arbitrator to overturn police discipline. In addition to that, I established the public safety and training standards task force. This is really, really important work. And the goal here is to develop recommendations to re-envision how we train law enforcement in the state. The Department of Public Safety Standards and Training overseas training for all of the law enforcement officials within the state of Oregon. And I think it is time that we re-examine how we train these officials. So short term, change the law, longer term, obviously, deal with, how do we look at law enforcement training differently that would produce better outcomes and truly keep all of our communities safe?
Governor Brown: (46:45)
We’re going to have to look at best practices, not only across the country, but frankly, across the world. And that’s going to take some time. I expect that there may be some recommendations for the 21 session, but it may be 22 as well. In addition, I convened the racial justice council. They will be focused on the broader spectrum of criminal justice reform. The legislature and I, my administration, have taken some steps, but I would consider them baby steps to eradicating racism in our criminal justice system. And it’s multiple, and I could have this conversation for hours with you. It includes changing the faces of our judiciary. It includes changing or criminal penalties in statute.
Governor Brown: (47:40)
As an example, two years ago, one year ago, we reduced the penalty for a possession of a controlled substance from a felony to a misdemeanor because we knew that African-American and Latinx men were specifically impacted by that. So it includes that work. It includes how are we looking at our bail system? Are there better, fair ways that we could do this? So it is all of these pieces. There needs to be action, there needs to be action quickly, and there needs to be longer prolonged collective work. So it’s going to take time and I realize … go ahead.
Alex Zielinski: (48:24)
I’m sorry. So those are all really strong reforms that are going to be proposed kind of down the road, but I’m curious kind of what officers who have assaulted protesters, members of the public and attacked [inaudible 00:48:35], if you think they need to be held accountable for those actions and a lot what way?
Governor Brown: (48:39)
Absolutely. And I do believe that the change in statute to the police arbitration legislation will assist with that. And that is the other piece of why I’m convening, frankly, local officials and community members to have a conversation about what changes can be made immediately.
Speaker 3: (49:04)
Thanks, Alex. We have time for just two more questions. So we’re going to go the next. It just says, Jim here with Portland Tribune, are you there?
Speaker 3: (49:14)
My basic question was already asked, but as the followup was, I’d like you to clarify the contacts that the Oregon state police had with the sheriffs in the surrounding counties. They have said they were not contacted in advance before the unified plan was announced. And you were saying that they were, so would you go back over how they were contacted and what they said?
Governor Brown: (49:39)
My understanding, I had a conversation with Superintendent Travis Hampton. My understanding is that he reached out to both of their teams. I don’t know if he spoke directly to the sheriffs, but he did talk with the teams. This is work honestly, that we ha do through mutual aid agreements and have done for years. And what I will say is this, I really appreciate the efforts of our local law enforcement outside the city of Portland to assist our Oregon state troopers. I hope that that continues and I hope that we can continue to build stronger partnerships with them.
Speaker 3: (50:20)
Thanks, Jim. Last question today is from Galen Ettlin with KGW. Go ahead, Galen.
Galen Ettlin: (50:28)
Yes. Thank you so much. Good morning, Governor. We’ve had some viewers asked why your anti-violence statement this week about ongoing unrest in Portland mentioned white supremacy, but did not also include mention of groups like Antifa and other bad actors. Why was that? And also, what is your response to city Commissioners Chloe Eudaly and Jo Ann Hardesty not signing onto that anti-violence statement?
Governor Brown: (50:49)
So the first question is why did I specifically hold out white supremacists organizations? Because my goal, my vision for a future Oregon is to build a better Oregon where everyone can thrive, and that means eradicating racism. And so my understanding of these organizations is they’re based on hate. And I think it makes it really difficult for us to build what Dr. King would call, a beloved community. In terms of the two commissioners, I don’t know why. I know that Commissioner Hardesty was unavailable this week.
Speaker 3: (51:29)
And Galen, I can just add that Commissioner Eudaly did sign onto the letter this morning. So that happened after we send out the press release.
Galen Ettlin: (51:36)
Excellent. Thank you very much. And just to follow up. Would you plan to address issues with Antifa as well?
Governor Brown: (51:42)
We will continue to work with the community to make sure that folks understand that our goal here is to stop the violence directed toward property, to stop the arson and obviously, stop the person to person violence that’s happening. Yes.
Galen Ettlin: (52:00)
Speaker 3: (52:00)
That’s all the time we have for questions today. Thanks everyone.