Oregon Gov. Kate Brown this afternoon declared she would close bars and restaurants to all but takeout statewide and limit public gatherings to no more than 25 people for the next four weeks.
It's an extraordinary step as Oregon braces for the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus and attempts to mandate social distancing as a way to keep people from rapidly sharing the disease.
"In a global pandemic, days are like weeks, and every single hour changes," Brown said this afternoon. "These are incredibly difficult decisions for me."
The governor's executive order will be effective Tuesday, March 17. It will allow no on-site dining or drinking, but will permit takeout pickup. If establishment owners don't comply, they could face criminal charges.
The decision is the latest example of the governor's quick reversals in the midst of the novel coronavirus outbreak. As recently as 10 am this morning, she told reporters had reached no decision on closures.
At that time, she offered a mixed message: She warned people to engage in social distancing, but said she had talked to elected officials across the state and said she had made no decision on closures. "Restaurants in rural community are really important to seniors," Brown said then.
Since the Monday morning call, County Commissioner Sharon Meieran called for restaurants and bars to be shut down before St. Patrick's Day celebrations started.
"I feel very strongly, and a lot of others do, that we need to take the public health approach," Meieran told WW.
Washington, Ohio and Illinois are among the states that have already shut down bars and restaurants.
Those pushing for closures span the U.S. political spectrum. The Republican governor of Ohio made the decision to close restaurants and bars. The local chapter of the Portland Democratic Socialists of America pushed for the same.
This afternoon, Brown said she would issue an executive order effective tomorrow. She also urged that Oregonians limit gatherings to no more than 10, but she did not order that.
It's not clear yet whether the state will extend school closures beyond April 1. A decision on extending school closures is expected in the next couple of days, Brown says.
Also unclear is how the state will handle childcare. An announcement is expected on that in the next couple of days as well.
Portland area hospitals are coordinating care, supplies and staffing together and are shutting down all non-critical procedures. Oregon Health and Science University and Kaiser had already announced their plans to shut down elective procedures.