Oregon Gov. Kate Brown tonight banned large gatherings in Oregon, cancelled all school athletic events, and advised as many people as possible to avoid in-person work meetings, to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
The governor banned events of more than 250 people—a cap that will cancel St. Patrick's Day events, rock concerts and athletic tournaments. The ban is effective immediately and lasts four weeks.
"Nobody is immune to this virus, it can touch everyone," said Brown in a statement. "We are seeing cases across multiple counties and age groups, and in people exposed through different circumstances. It's time for us all to do what we can to slow its spread and take care of one another."
Schools remain open. But she cancelled all non-essential school activities, including parent-teacher meetings, field trips and competitions. (As of Thursday night, Portland Public Schools was still planning on holding athletic events, but denying audience admission.) Brown recommended offices limit close contact between workers, and suggested staggered working schedules.
Brown also expanded the state's testing capabilities so outpatient clinicians can order COVID-19 tests through a commercial lab without needing authorization from the Oregon Health Authority. In addition, the state now has agreements with five hospital systems to conduct tests for coronavirus.
The governor announced the limit on crowds and increased testing capacity in written form tonight and will explain her decision at a press conference Thursday morning.
Oregon health officials have advised calm amid the spreading virus, and have been criticized sharply for a seeming lack of urgency. But the whirlwind events of the past 24 hours seemed to force the governor's hand.
As the coronavirus pandemic spread across the nation, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee banned mass gatherings, the NBA suspended its season, and the NCAA decided to bar fans from attending March Madness basketball tournament games. The University of Oregon moved its final exams and classes online, and Oregon State University and Portland State University largely followed suit.
Oregon is caught between California and Washington, which currently make up a third of the nation's cases.