The City of Portland Is Preparing a Shelter in Place Order

Such a move would increase pressure to observe social distancing to slow the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city of Portland is considering a shelter in place policy, similar to the policy that counties in Northern California imposed on 7 million people in the Bay Area on March 16.

Portland's policy, developed by Mayor Ted Wheeler's office, is currently in draft form. It's about 10 pages long, but its effect would be to order all Portland residents to stay in their homes, except for trips to work for those workers deemed essential; trips to grocery stores or medical facilities; and exercise, provided people maintain 6 feet of distance between themselves and others. (Homeless residents would be exempted but urged to seek government resources to prevent them from getting ill.)

Wheeler's office declined to comment on the draft policy, but WW has learned the city circulated it to Multnomah County officials. As WW previously reported, Wheeler and County Chair Deborah Kafoury have pushed aggressively for various policies aimed at slowing the spread of the epidemic, prodding Gov. Kate Brown to move more rigorously.

The purpose of the shelter in place order is to close down non-essential government offices and businesses and impress upon the population the necessity of social distancing in slowing the pandemic.

"With this order in place, you will still be able to get food, care for relatives, run necessary errands and conduct the essential parts of your life," Dr Grant Colfax, director of the San Francisco department of public health, told The Guardian newspaper yesterday. "You will still be able to walk your dog or go on a hike alone or with someone you live with or even with another person as long as you keep six feet between you."

Several countries, including China, Italy, Spain and France, have issued such orders. Some medical officials in Oregon have urged movement toward such a policy in conference calls with elected officials, but officials have been reluctant here, as they have been in other states, such as New York, to restrict citizens' mobility.

Multnomah County spokeswoman Julie Sullivan-Springhetti says the county is working, too, on a variety of fronts but isn't focused on imposing a shelter in place policy.

"We are pushing social distancing hard," Sullivan-Springhetti says. "We are ramping up education for businesses on how they can stay open with a takeout model."

"We are helping get hospital systems ready for the surge and supporting child care work for essential workers," she adds.

A study produced March 16 by health researchers at Imperial College in London found that drastic measures will be required to suppress the COVID-19 pandemic.

"In the UK and US context, suppression will minimally require a combination of social distancing of the entire population, home isolation of cases and household quarantine of their family members," the study found. "This may need to be supplemented by school and university closures, though it should be recognised that such closures may have negative impacts on health systems."

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