Hours before Gov. Kate Brown announced a statewide "freeze" that closes some businesses for upward of four weeks beginning Nov. 18, Oregon's Coronavirus Recovery Business Coalition urged her in a letter Nov. 13 to consider alternatives.
Sandra McDonough, president and CEO of Oregon Business & Industry, said shutting down the state weeks ahead of the holiday season could be more damaging to the economy than the initial shutdown in the spring.
"When the first shutdown happened last March, we had the promise of federal unemployment support and small business assistance," McDonough said. "That is not the case today. Business closures now mean families across Oregon will lose their incomes right as the holiday season commences, and businesses that rely on holiday sales will face a grim future."
The coalition, made up of more than 30 business associations across the state, outlined five actions the governor could take that the businesses believed would mitigate the spread of the virus without tanking the economy.
Those actions included rolling out a comprehensive public awareness campaign, convening a task force of "experts who can think outside of the box" to address community spread, establishing an economic advisory panel made up of business owners, and quickly setting up a comprehensive vaccine distribution plan with guidance from businesses.
It doesn't appear that Gov. Brown heeded their advice.
In announcing new restrictions Friday, Brown said Oregon has continually broken its previous COVID-19 records for the past several weeks: The Oregon Health Authority announced 1,076 new cases today, marking the second day in a row with more than 1,000 new cases statewide.
"We've seen an alarming spike in both cases and hospitalizations," Brown said Friday. "The majority of these cases stem from sporadic community spread, which means the virus is out there. It is out there lurking amongst us, both visible and not."
Brown's new restrictions limit grocery and retail stores to 75% of capacity, close gyms and fitness centers, and shut down indoor and outdoor recreation facilities, including museums, zoos, aquariums and pools, as well as venues that host both indoor and outdoor events.
In most counties, the freeze will last for two weeks. In places like Multnomah County, where there has been a stronger spike in COVID cases, the freeze could last for four weeks.