Political pressure is increasing on Gov. Kate Brown to ease the stay-home order that has kept most Oregonians homebound and averted the worst outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A new projection issued today by a widely followed model says Oregon could be ready to reopen by the end of May.
"After May 25, 2020, relaxing social distancing may be possible with containment strategies that include testing, contact tracing, isolation, and limiting gathering size," says an April 17 model by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.
The IMHE model has been one of the most cited during the COVID-19 pandemic, even as its projections have fluctuated wildly and drawn criticism from epidemiologists.
It now estimates that Oregon is just two days away from hitting its peak daily number of deaths. (Oregon announced six new deaths today, bringing the statewide total to 70.)
The Oregon Health Authority issued its own model this afternoon. Two of its key findings: Oregonians reduced transmission of COVID-19 by 60 percent after March 23, when Brown issued her stay-home order. And state health officials believe 7,600 Oregonians have contracted COVID-19, even though only 1,600 cases have been diagnosed.
Brown has discussed easing her stay-home order gradually, in a coordinated effort with the governors of California and Washington. She has said Oregon still lacks sufficient COVID-19 tests, personal protective equipment like masks, and a contact tracing system that would allow officials to closely watch the disease's spread. In other words, the conditions the IMHE model describes for containing the virus don't exist yet—even if the number of deaths remain low thanks to everybody staying inside.
But right-wing protesters plan to rally at the Oregon Capitol in Salem on May 1 and 2 in defiance of Brown's ban on groups.
President Donald Trump this morning encouraged an insurrection by right-wing groups chafing at stay-home orders. "Liberate Minnesota! Liberate Michigan!" the president wrote in all caps on Twitter.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee denounced Trump today. "The president is fomenting domestic rebellion and spreading lies even while his own administration says the virus is real and deadly, and that we have a long way to go before restrictions can be lifted.
"I hope that someday we can look at today's meltdown as something to be pitied, rather than condemned," Inslee continued. "But we don't have that luxury today. There is too much at stake."
Brown has yet to issue a statement on the matter, and her office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.